Episode 59: Writing Prompts to Escape the Rut


Today we’re going to pretend that I’m your assignment editor. Imagine, if you will, that I’m about 50, cantankerous, and have a collection of pencils with deep chomp marks. You, being one of my best writers, are getting the brunt of my deadline-is-coming-yesterday rampage (which is the only way I know how to show appreciation to those who do a good job). Below are the writing prompts I’ve presented (both fiction and nonfiction). The choice is yours.

Fiction Prompts

  • In a small Iowa town, the sun just wakes up when a disoriented man stumbles into a barber shop. He claims that someone is chasing him. The barber has barely had time to drop his broom when the rumble of a motorcycle seems to shake the whole shop. Questions: Is the man really being chased? Who is the person on the motorcycle? Is the barber really an ex-ninja who now lives in retirement?
  • The pastor of a megachurch in the South has five hours to prepare to give her testimony in a criminal case. Her problem is that the man being accused is her husband and a suspected child rapist. Questions: Is the charge legitimate? How will she prepare for her testimony? What will happen to their marriage?
  • When the rain starts to fall in Seattle—again—it finds Barry ready to throw away his dream of being a pilot. He’s studied and prepared for years, but a recent event has destroyed his confidence. Questions: What happened to make him want to give up? Does he?
  • You’ve just won a spot on the reality TV show Surviving at Sea. What you didn’t know is that you’d have no time to go home and say bye to your family before being thrust onto a small ship with six other castaways. Questions: How will you handle the pressure? What challenges do the producers throw at you and the crew? Does everyone survive? Who wins the challenge and how?

Nonfiction Prompts

  • First, find a piece of Americana (or the country you’re from) that seems to be fading away: an icon, a trend, a landmark. Write an article explaining the significance of the piece you’ve chosen, what’s happened to it, and what its passing means (bonus points if it’s personal to you). Questions: Why does this piece matter to American culture? What will fill the void? How has it affected you?
  • Describe your spiritual journey in life. Show us how you have found identity through the challenging circumstances that have come your way. Questions: Who and what shaped you? Where do you see yourself in another five years?
  • Everyone has a story. Find an interesting person who does not write and help him or her shape some aspect of the past or present into an article or nonfiction account. Tell about the journey to parenthood, failed relationships, past triumphs, or whatever matters to the person.

I hope that you’ll consider writing on the topics that you’re least comfortable with, as those are the ones that will stretch you. And if you feel brave, put your experiment on your blog and link to it from the comments.

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