Thirteen Writing Prompts.
BY DAN WIENCEK
[Originally published May 4, 2006.]
Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man’s friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.
Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there, too.
Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.
Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.
A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying its eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn’t that fucked up? Write a short story about how fucked up that is.
Imagine if your favorite character from 19th-century fiction had been born without thumbs. Then write a short story about them winning the lottery.
Write a story that begins with a man throwing handfuls of $100 bills from a speeding car, and ends with a young girl urinating into a tin bucket.
A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.
Think of the most important secret your best friend has ever entrusted you with. Write a story in which you reveal it to everyone. Write it again from the point of view of your friend. Does she want to kill you? How does she imagine doing it? Would she use a gun, or something crueler and more savage, like a baseball bat with nails in it?
Popular music is often a good source of writing inspiration. Rewrite Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” as a play.
Write a short scene in which one character reduces another to uncontrollable sobs without touching him or speaking.
Your main character finds a box of scorched human hair. Whose is it? How did it get there?
A man has a terrifying dream in which he is being sawn in half. He wakes to find himself in the Indian Ocean, naked and clinging to a door; a hotel keycard is clenched in his teeth. Write what happens next.
To see the winning entries of a contest we held based on these writing prompts, go here.
SUGGESTED READSList: Short Story Prompts from a Man Who Needs $5000 by Tomorrow
by Zack Wortman (3/18/2014)
Another Example of the Illuminating Correspondence Between John Hodgman, Professional Literary Agent, and His Cousin, One ‘Josh,’ Who Aims to Be a Man of Letters
by John Hodgman (1/31/2000)
Five Under Five: Five Fiction Awards for Writers Under Five
by Todd Pruzan (12/15/1998)
RECENTLYList: Demands from California Delegation BernieBros to NOT Disrupt Hillary Clinton’s Acceptance Speech
by Christopher Monks and John Warner (7/28/2016)
Why I’m Supporting Donald Trump: Make America Grape Again
by Seth Fried (7/28/2016)
Let’s Have a Meeting to Plan Our Next Meeting
by Josh Freedman (7/28/2016)
POPULARList: Comforting Thoughts for #NeverHillary Bernie Supporters After Trump’s First Term
by David Kawalec (7/26/2016)
List: Who Said It? Donald Trump or Regina George?
by Amber Karlins (7/22/2016)
List: Final Schedule for the 2016 Republican National Convention
by John Moe (7/18/2016)