Emotions are the raw material for all creative writing (and quite a lot of nonfiction as well). Use one of the following prompts to delve into a strong emotion, writing as yourself, a fictional character, or a poetic persona. Let your exploration lead you toward the beginnings of a work of memoir, fiction or poetry. Some hint at a particular genre, others could be spun to fit multiple genres.
Amusement / Mirth
- The best prank I’ve ever pulled / heard about.
- How the court jester turned back an invading army.
- Ten terrible metaphors and/or similes
- Epic fail involving a skateboard, trampoline, or rope swing.
- Mischievous magical folk create havoc in a village one spring evening.
- Ten of the most ridiculous ways to kill off a character.
- I can’t keep a straight face when I see ____.
- A group of stand-up comics is taken hostage and must joke their way out of captivity.
- The most boring family event I can remember (or imagine)
- You are a spinster noblewoman in 1815 England.
- An athlete recovering from a concussion may not do, watch, or read anything to rest his/her injured brain.
- A child’s eye view of a wedding.
- You work as a lifeguard at a lap pool in a retirement home.
- The diary of a prisoner in solitary confinement.
- To marry your true love, you must attend weekly three-hour prayer meetings with your future in-laws for the next six months.
- The dullest person you have ever dated.
- An astronaut must live alone on a space station for a year.
Defeat / Discouragement
- A setback or failure from which you thought you would never recover.
- You missed the last bus/train/flight for the day.
- Your science fair invention works perfectly until the judges come to observe it.
- A false rumor causes everyone to shun you.
- In a team competition, your teammates suffer a series of injuries, one after another.
- Your corporate sponsor threatens to withdraw funding for a minor mistake.
- You can’t hold a job because of a crazy relative who makes trouble everywhere.
- A chronic illness makes it impossible to complete an important task.
- I have never been so embarrassed as when ____.
- A beauty queen gets a nosebleed/gas attack during a pageant.
- A dignitary comes for dinner and you/your child/your pet vomits on him/her.
- Your swimsuit gets gobbled up by the pool drainage system.
- Your parent with Tourette’s Syndrome chaperones the class trip/school dance.
- The bakery accidently sends a lewd bachelorette party cake for Nana’s 90th birthday party.
- The fart that changed my destiny.
- Your doting mother shows off your baby pictures/awkward adolescent pictures/dweeby polka-band pictures to a potential mate.
- You romantically connect with someone on a chance encounter, and the person asks for your number or gives you theirs.
- A woman who has suffered several miscarriages enters the 36th week of a healthy pregnancy.
- Describe the bodily sensations you have when you are hopeful.
- Interstellar explorers find what looks like a viable planet for colonization, capable of sustaining human life.
- A cancer patient begins an experimental treatment.
- Police get an anonymous tip about a cold case.
- The addict you love reaches their first anniversary of sobriety.
- A group of castaways finds a crate on the beach full of farming and fishing equipment.
- I could never tell ____.
- How someone with an eating disorder might think about his/her body.
- What deeply shameful experience could I more easily write myself free of if I gave it to a fictional character?
- What skeletons do my parents have in their closets?
- The day I realized there was something deeply wrong with me.
- What shameful secret might my antagonist hide at all costs?
- Deeply religious parents learn their child is leaving the faith because…
- You learn that your parent or grandparent was once a Nazi, a torturer, or slave dealer.
- A doctor makes a simple error that causes a patient to ____.
Pocket sized, with plenty of space to record your observations, this is a tool useful for writers of any genre.
Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Createspace / Book Depository
Which of these prompts appeal most to you? Why?