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A Writing Prompt for the Braindead

writing prompt for the braindead

I may even be an expert on this topic…

Talked to any teachers lately? I have, and I can tell you that they are simultaneously seriously overworked and seriously excited as the school year comes to a close. In honor of that hair’s edge of consciousness, here is a writing prompt for the braindead.

Designing a writing prompt for the braindead is like setting up a marathon for the seriously dehydrated and exhausted…

If you’re still trying to write even when lack of brain power is making it hard, way to go! That’s dedication, and that’s what you need to become a writer! Mad props!

On the other hand, it ain’t gonna be easy. You’re operating a supercomputer with too little electricity. Underwater.

That’s why this writing exercise is a little different from the usual prompts. It’s intended to minimize the use of brainpower and maximize the end result. Here’s how it works:

  1. Look at your book shelf or movie collection. Or both.
  2. Pick 3 of your favorites. They could be similar or not. Or pick 3 at random. It really doesn’t matter.
  3. Write a brief plot outline for each. If you do it on the same piece of paper (landscape perhaps), then they’re easy to compare. And analysis is generally easier than creativity for a tired brain. If you’re really tired, make the outlines extra general (Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back. The end.)
  4. Pick one character from each. The main character from Movie 1, the sidekick from a book, and a love interest from Movie 2. However you want to do it.
  5. Make a new plot outline based on the 3 given. Mix and match based on the characters you chose.
  6. Write the story.

Step 6 is optional braindead-wise. You can always leave it for when you’re more conscious. Even if you do the first few steps, however, you’re still using your brain to explore plots and characterization.

And you might get an interesting story out of it. You’d be surprised. If you rename the characters and tweak them a little, once you start writing, the story can develop a life of its own. With a little editing (after the first draft’s done), you may not even be able to tell what stories you pulled from.

Plus, the first 5 steps have pretty minimal requirements brainpower-wise. With visual cues (the books and/or movies you look at), the memory area should be able to dredge up some details to pick and analyze. It’s like ordering out instead of cooking – sometimes, you’re tired enough it makes sense. You get to eat without expending too much more energy. And, of course, that’s the main idea behind a writing prompt for braindead people (metaphorically speaking).

Will it work? I don’t know. You tell me.

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A Spring Writing Prompt in 3 Acts

spring writing prompt for spring daisyWell, 3 parts. It’s not a play or theatrical piece (or cohesive whole), so “acts” may be a bit of hyperbole. But don’t worry – it’s definitely a spring writing prompt for exercising different skills.

3 Takes on a Writing Prompt for Spring

Technically, these are 3 different writing exercises that relate to the idea of Spring. After much debate, I finally decided to put them in order from most obvious to least obvious (probably), and the difficultly level runs fairly parallel to that, as well.

Personification

I say this is pretty obvious because it’s the natural response, especially since Spring is all about growing things (mostly, anyway). And when we’re trying to use something as inspiration, a straightforward artistic approach is to write from that object or creature’s perspective. Especially in poetry.

Here’s the down-and-dirty method:

  1. Pick a part of Spring. A seed, a flower, a caterpillar, a sunny day, a rainstorm, etc.
  2. Make that thing or creature your main character. You can name it or not, but as a main character, it needs to have a perspective, motivation, and personality.
  3. Tell that character’s story of Spring. What does Spring mean to that character?

If you want to vary this one and take it to the next level, try to expand on what stories you tell from that perspective. You could even do a sort of Canterbury Tales of Spring from all different points of view.

Metaphor

Now, let’s go one shade deeper. Instead of transforming an aspect of Spring into a character, take an action or characteristic of Spring and use it as a metaphor or theme. Think extended metaphor or allegory.

  1. Pick an action or characteristic of Spring. A seed fighting through its prison and bursting forth from the soil. Weeds and flowers struggling against each other for light and nutrients. And so on.
  2. Express that action in broad, figurative terms. Think big idea.
  3. Apply the big idea to an unrelated situation. People moving to a city, a child at school, a war, aliens, etc.
  4. Use the big idea to direct the plot. Plotting with post-its can be handy for this to make sure you stick to your big-idea arc. At least for the main points (like a framework).

This one can be as hard or as easy as you choose based on how close the metaphor is to the actual plot. Just remember that the further apart they are, the less likely the readers will get it (They might still enjoy it, but they may not realize it was a metaphor for a flower bud wilting in a vase.).

Mood

I’d call this one the advanced writing prompt simply because many people feel uncomfortable with mood and have less experience trying to write specifically to create atmosphere or reader reactions. It can be a challenge, and imagery and other literary devices go a long way in making it work.

This mood exercise is pretty straightforward, and if you read the 2 writing prompts above, the first step should feel vaguely familiar – a variation on a theme, if you will.

  1. Pick a scene or moment that epitomizes Spring. Something that makes you think of Spring or reminds you of it.
  2. Describe the energy or feeling of that scene.
  3. Pick another scene. It could be totally unrelated like a bustling city street, a sterile field, or a battle in space. Some people find writing mood easier with a lot of action, and others prefer the opposite. Pick one, and if you don’t like it, try the other.
  4. Write the scene you chose in step 3 using the feeling described in step 2. Try to give that scene the mood of Spring even if it doesn’t fit – or “shouldn’t” fit but actually does.

This one’s a little bit like the free verse writing prompt in that it may take several attempts before you get the affect you want. That’s fine. In fact, that’s good. Write more!

And there you have it. 3 writing prompts for Spring. So… ready for Summer yet? 😉

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Cultural Traditions + Technology = Interesting Trends: A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding

writing prompt for worldbuilding woman hijab cultural traditions + technology = interesting trendsI live in an area where there’s a good amount of cultural diversity, so when I go out, I see people from many different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc. Maybe because I grew up outside a small town where such diversity wasn’t (isn’t) common, or maybe because I’m a writer (and tend to notice different details than many people), but I’ve started noticing interesting side effects when cultural traditions meet and merge with technology. Simply put, cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

Here’s an example:

Cultural Tradition: Women wearing hijab or other cultural head-dresses that cover their entire heads except for their faces

Technology: Cellular phones, especially smart phones

Interesting Trends: Using the hijab to hold their cell phones, thereby giving them free use of their hands with no extra technology or effort

Is it just me, or is that a brilliant idea? You’re wearing it already, so why not make it useful? It’s a logical response. And common! I’ve seen a variety of women in different parts of the city doing the same thing. It’s an interesting trend that has resulted from the overlap of a cultural tradition and technology.

So (you know what I’m going to ask), how can we use that in our writing?

A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding with Traditions & Technology

Since you know all about the importance of traditions in worldbuilding, being a clever writer, you’ve already been brainstorming traditions for your world. Now, it’s time to apply the technology – and not only ways to complicate the plot with technology.

Here’s one method of attack for this, but, remember the formula: cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

  1. Brainstorm cultural traditions. It could be clothing, behaviors, rules, etc. The more options and the bigger variety, the better.
  2. Brainstorm technology. Don’t forget: technology doesn’t have to mean computer or electronics-related. Sailing ships are a level of technology. Swords, plows, cotton gins, and long bows are all different examples of technology. Heck, a stone was once advanced technology! So don’t limit yourself.
  3. Compare your lists and brainstorm ways they could intermingle. Is there a way to make the tradition an advantage for using the technology? Or vice versa? Does the current fashion in your world work really well for carrying / cleaning / concealing / climbing something?
  4. Adjust as needed. You might need to modify the tradition or technology to make them work better together, but looking at them together can give you ideas for how they can build on each other.

That’s not saying it’ll be easy, and it may not be as clearcut as the example I gave. Still, if the exercise makes the different pieces of your worldbuilding interact more, that makes them more realistic (good enough for me).

It can also…

  • add character quirks (Who said that everyone has to use this combination? It could be something only one person figured out – or maybe only one person sees it, and it becomes a trend.)
  • make your world more unique (Build it, and readers will come. Build it, interweave the parts in new and interesting ways, and they’ll come in droves – and rave about it to their friends. [That’s how fandoms are born.])
  • send your plot in less predictable directions (If your plot is driven by something that is more unique, it will be more unique in turn. If the plot ends up boring or clichéd even with this, then, check what’s driving your plot. Odds are, you went off course somewhere.)

So, say that you don’t manage to think of a clearly symbiotic relationship where the technology utilizes a tradition (although it could be as simple as a handy place to put your glasses). Try it in reverse (usually much easier). If nothing else, see how the two could work together.

What do you have to lose?

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Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Plank Page Pen Cup ready for Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Have tea. Will write.

This poetry writing prompt for free verse is really a tactic for overcoming free verse writing block. It’s particularly handy for people who are writing poetry on a schedule for the first time (the ones used to writing poetry only if the muse takes them), for those new to poetry and trying to dip their toes into free verse, and for any time when your brain just doesn’t want to write poetry.

Free Verse Writing Prompt

It’s pretty simple. All it really takes is a topic and some imagery. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a topic. What scene, moment, activity, career, person, etc. do you want to write about?
  2. Write a sentence or 2 describing it. Pick out the core traits or features you want to emphasize. This is still in the brainstorming section – it’s not necessarily a poem yet.
  3. List metaphors, similes, or other imagery that capture that impression, the essence of the subject. You’re looking for a more abstract, less literal way to describe one or more of the traits listed in step 2. Something that captures the idea or feeling of that trait but is also open to interpretation – it could mean something else.
  4. Take your favorite metaphor and write the first few lines of your poem.
  5. Keep going and try to match the mood/ambience of the first lines. If you get stuck, take the idea you’re working on and go back to step 2.
  6. Repeat as needed. Until it feels finished – you’ve painted enough of a picture to capture the motion, the moment.

Then, let it go. You’re finished.

Well, you probably need to pick a title, and after a while, that ends up the hardest part. Should I be literal and pick a name that summarizes the poem? Should I pick something that relates to the poem but that most people won’t get how it relates from reading the poem – or that has a relationship to the poem that is also open to interpretation? Should I take the easy out and call it “Untitled” or use the first line?

Ugh.

Worry about that later. Like someday when I do a naming writing prompt. When I have it all figured out (*loud guffaw*). For now, have some fun! Use this poetry writing prompt for free verse and write something interesting, entrancing, or tragic. Make the reader feel. Then, you can worry about the naming.