Writing Prompts for NaNoWriMo and Beyond
It's National Novel Writing Month, and as we take on the challenge, we're thinking about the creative process. For many writers, the most difficult part of writing is getting started. That's why writing prompts can be especially helpful. They provide a scenario, technique, or world as a jumping-off point to narrative. If you're feeling stuck or just want to try something new, check out the writing prompt resources and samples that we've gathered below. Have a favorite writing prompt of your own? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Miranda July’s short story "The Metal Bowl" is about a marriage and a secret that one partner brings to it, but the narrative ends up depending on the eponymous metal bowl. July’s story joins a tradition of short stories that hinge on a single (often surprisingly mundane) object, such as Lydia Davis’s "The Sock" and Aleksandar Hemon’s "The Accordion." Try writing your own short story or scene in which a nondescript object plays a crucial role.
For this prompt, consider all the different meanings of “faking it.” Think about identity, ambitions, and intentions. If your character is the only one who knows they’re faking, is it still considered “fake?” Does faking it ever become part of a personality? Look to history for inspiration here.
Think back to a moment where you’ve come to the end of the road with something important in your life—a relationship with a lover; moving out of your childhood home; graduation from school; etc. Write a scene wrapped around that moment, describing how you felt (good and bad) and how you closed the door on that chapter in your life.
At a remote outpost, a stranded crew have to survive the night before rescue arrives at dawn. Only the nights here last 3 Earth days, and an alien army of thousands is approaching.
Come up with a character that is so opposite to you that you couldn’t stand them if they were in the room with you. Give them beliefs that would get you into a heated debate, give them personality traits that would make you cringe, and a lifestyle that would make you sick. Go all out with this, and create the most horrible person that you can imagine. Jump into your character’s mind (this can be easier said than done) and find something about your character that gives a reason as to why they’re so villainous. We all have experiences that shape us, so determine what life-changing experiences your character went through. Try and see how they justify their actions, and why they are perfectly reasonable from their perspective. You might not necessarily 'like' them by the end of it, but you'll certainly understand them much better.
Write down ten things folks have told you or that you’ve overhead folks say that have impacted you, such as “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me” or “My father used to make us __” or “I think she’s an alcoholic” or “They used to hide gold in the baby’s diaper” or “She used to dream in German” … Choose one and either have your character say it, or have it said to them. It’s great for character development and writing dialogue.
“Don’t worry about me.” It was the second time he had said it, and when my phone rang later that night, I instantly knew who it was and what had happened.
Use these lines as the opening for a short story or scene in a novel. Who said these words? Who is calling? What happened that night? How many ways you can hear the opening line before committing to a plot?