When I was a kid one of my favorite days of the year was back-to-school-supply shopping day. It’s not that I was impatient to actually begin school… I just loved all of those fresh notebooks, full of crisp and clean pages. I couldn’t wait to get them home and use my fancy new pens to fill them with words. But inevitably, I would turn the cover, poise my hand over the blank page and… nothing. No ideas. Not a single one.
I would settle for writing a few of my friends letters, detailing all of our plans for the upcoming school year and then… well, to be honest, sometimes I’d just write my name… like a hundred times. I wanted to write… something… anything… so, so bad, but I didn’t know what.
Any of this sound familiar? These days I have more ideas and more projects that I have time to develop, but that wasn’t always the case. Tanner Christensen, author of The Creativity Challenge, helped me figure out why this is the case. Tanner, lead product designer at Atlassian, former Facebook employee, independent developer of creativity apps, and founder of Creative Something helped me to understand that creativity is a muscle. The more you use it and stretch it, the stronger it grows. (P.S. Check out his blog ... it is hella-amazing. Inspiration, a pep talk and a kick in the you know what to get creating, all in one!)
Over the course of my adult life, I did just that.
I tried new creative writing endeavors.
...writing in journals
... for my blog
... using a variety of prompts
... pursuing story ideas in several age categories and genres
until eventually ideas came to me even when I was not even looking for them. It’s amazing (and sometimes frustrating that I don’t have time for them all!).
Sound appealing? Today I have prepared for you a creative writing prompt that will hopefully force you to flex your creativity muscles and also provide you plenty of fodder to fill the pages of your favorite notebook (new or not).
Ready? Set? Let’s write!
Before we begin, I want you to imagine that the story we are going to create is like a meal. The final result will be something delicious we can’t wait to sit down and devour. Of course we know that before a roast beef dinner with sides of mashed potatoes and glazed carrots was tongue-temptingly-appetizing, it was first just a shopping cart full of ingredients - single items set for sale on a grocery shelf. The same is true for our story elements. So before we write, we are going shopping.
The first item on our list is a situation. Randomly pick a number 1-6, or if you have a di handy, roll it, and record your number. Now, scroll down and see what situation matches your number. Force yourself to stick with your initial selection, even if something else looks appealing or seems easier. Remember, we are stretching our muscles, expanding our current skill set to include new ranges, topics, methods and techniques.
1- Your character discovers something mysterious
2- Your main character desperately wants to win a contest
3- A time machine malfunctions
4- Your character loses something very important
5- A UFO is seen hovering in the sky
6- A secret has just been spilled
Write down your situation and move to the next aisle.
Item #2, SETTING.
Browse through the images below and pick the landscape that looks most interesting to you. Keep in mind the situation you have already selected, it might help you make your choice.
Item #3, CHARACTER.
Quickly jot down the answers to these questions.
- Is your main character a male or a female?
- What is their most distinguishing physical feature?
- How would they be noticed in a crowd? Ex: Harry has his lightening bolt scar and glasses, Pippi Longstocking has her twin braids and plethora of freckles.)
- What is your character’s most distinguishing positive personality trait?
- What is your character’s most distinguishing negative personality trait?
- Visit OneStopForWriters.com for extensive trait listings to making the most of this trait in your writing!)
- What is your character’s prize possession?
- What is your character’s favorite hobby?
- I would encourage you to pick a hobby that you personally enjoy. Why? Because you already know all of the equipment, vocabulary, celebrities, history, and itty bitty interesting factoids of information about this hobby without doing a lick of research. Your knowledge of this sport/pastime/hobby will make this character seem really, real. What’s that you say? This particular hobby isn’t a great fit for your situation or setting? Pssst… we’re stretching creativity muscles here, remember? Reach a bit further… you can do it!)
Okay! Now you have all of the ingredients for your story!
Time to cook ‘em up! Use this random assortment of story elements to tell a story. It doesn't have to be long. Just jot down a scene or two. Then, sit back and admire your effort. A workout, and you didn’t even have to sweat (much)! The final project might not be the best thing you have ever written, but you can be satisfied knowing that you flexed your creativity muscles and created something new. The page is no longer blank and that in itself is an accomplishment. Bravo!
If you are willing to share, I’d love to read your culinary story concoction. If you’d like more writing prompts, you can check out my Story Seedlings products, or email me and I can send a few more your way.
P.S. I have a few spots in my Word Nerd Writing Workshop and Retreat taking place in August. You can check out all of the details HERE!