Writing Prompts – Helpful or a waste of time?

If you’ve been around the writing scene for a while, you will undoubtedly have come across the concept of writing prompts – those short and often vague suggestions that are meant to inspire a writer’s creativity. 

Some authors love them. Others can’t stand them. I’m not entirely sure which category I fall into, but I’ll be honest – I haven’t had much success with them. Sometimes I find a prompt that sounds fun and I get nowhere. Sometimes I’ll write a whole bunch and it’s complete crap. A lot of the time though, all they make me feel is guilty – like I’m wasting whatever precious writing time I have and ignoring the writing I’m “supposed” to be doing.

That said, there are times when a good writing prompt can help boost your creativity and recharge your writing when you’re struggling with writer’s block. But what is a good writing prompt? Those I’ve had the most fun with are: 

  • Character development prompts – where you have to show the evolution of a character from one state to its opposite (fearful to brave, trusting to sceptical etc.)
  • Dramatic prompts – where it’s 3am and… [insert dramatic event]
  • Multimedia prompts – where your cue comes from a picture or piece of classical music
  • Sensory prompts – that make use of all your senses and force you to experience the world in a different way 
  • Prompts that connect with your current project – imagined conversations with your characters (interview style), or retelling a certain scene from another characters perspective.

Especially this final type of prompt can be a lot of fun and for me they feel like less of a waste of time. I actually discover things about my characters or scenes I didn’t know before and sometimes these insights have made their way into my project and added depth or character where it was lacking.

At the end of the day, writing – whether it’s from a prompt or on your current work in progress, will get you one step further along the road to becoming a better author. So write! 

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