Writing prompt from Euripides

The following quote has been attributed to Euripides:

Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.

Use this quote as inspiration to write a story.

Writing in sequences

Click on this link to an article by Chris Fujiwara on the life of Japanese actress Kinuyo Tanaka.

Read the first paragraph for context. Then take the first sentence of each of the eight remaining paragraphs, rephrase them to apply to a fictional character of your own and use each sentence as the basis for a sequence in an eight-sequence story.

A character overcoming a flaw with a strength

According to H. Thomas Milhorn in Writing Genre Fiction, a protagonist should have three attributes:

1) a need or want which translates into a story goal the character is willing to fight for (such as to gain possession of something,to get relief from something, to prevent something, or to get revenge for something
2) a strong point (such as courage, wisdom, persistence, or kindness) which confers on the character potential for triumph; and
3) a character flaw (such as alcoholism, prejudice, greed, gullibility, fear of heights, or fear of authority) that unless overcome may lead to the character's downfall.

Write a story in which your character has a need or want that develops into an active goal requiring them to overcome a major flaw using a major strong point.

Fusing inner experience with outer environment

Siegfried Kracauer has written:

Alfred Hitchcock [...] has set a grand pattern for thrillers indulging in sleuthing. What distinguishes him from the rest of film directors is not his superior know-how but, more, his unrivalled flair for psychophysical correspondences. Nobody is so completely at home in the dim border region where inner and outer events intermingle and fuse with each other.

Write a story in which a character has a mystery to solve, told in a way that explores 'the dim border region where inner and outer events intermingle and fuse with each other.'
Some stylistic possibilities include first-person distortion of environment in the telling, non-realistic comedic farce, or allegoric fantasy with a symbolic relation between character and setting.

Writing to an abstract theme

Ayn Rand has written:

A novel's theme is the general abstraction in relation to which the events serve as the concretes.
For instance, the theme of Gone With the Wind is: the impact of the Civil War on the South - the destruction of the Southern way of life, which vanished with the wind. The theme of Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt is the characterization of an average American small businessman.

Write a story in which the events serve as concretes for the theme "the impact on a 7 year year old boy of his dog going missing." Set the story in your nearest capital city.

Writing about teamwork

Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith have written, about business teams:

All effective teams develop rules of conduct at the outset to help them achieve their purpose and performance goals. The most crucial initial rules pertain to attendance (for example, "no interruptions to take phone calls"), discussion ("no sacred cows"), confidentiality ("the only things to leave this room are what we agree on"), analytic approach ("facts are friendly"), end-product orientation ("everyone gets assignments and does them"), constructive confrontation ("no finger pointing"), and, often the most important, contributions ("everyone does real work").

Write a story about a team in which one or more characters break one or more of the above rules, which has a negative effect on another member of the team.

Emphasising visual storytelling in your writing

Abby Finer & Deborah Pearlman have written, in regard to screenwriting:

Often, writers are so busy focusing on all of the other important elements that they tend to overlook what the audience might be watching while the dialogue is being spoken. Making a scene visually interesting will make your script look very polished. Place the characters in interesting situations while they engage in conversation.

Write a dialogue scene (prose or screenwriting) in which you engage the reader with visual description between the dialogue.

If you'd like to write a screenplay scene but don't know how to format it, you can download free screenwriting software from www.celtx.com, or a free trial version of Final Draft at www.finaldraft.com

Writing about remorse for a mistake

The following video poem,10,992 (posted on a Facebook group by Deangelo Whyms), is "a poem about mistakes." Part of it reads:

How true is it when I confess that I was mortally blessed by the manifestation of your presence,
and the luck to land in it,
the honor to stand in it,
and ironically when it came to your last breath,
the disgrace of having a hand in it?
I wonder if you could ever forgive a man for murder?


Write a story about a character who has made a mistake and, as much as they want to, they can't reverse it.

Writing about conflicting goals

Karl Iglesias has written:

Conflict is the essence of a dramatic scene. Without conflict, or the promise of conflict through anticipation and tension, a scene will be expository. This is fine if it's the type of scene you want to write, but it can't be a dramatic scene without conflict. Make sure the conflict is internal, external, or interpersonal rather than the superficial argumentative conflict, where two characters simply disagree, as in "Yes, no, yes, no, is so, is not, etc." Real conflict is not static argument. It's a clear obstacle to a goal with a smooth progression from beat to beat towards a climax.

Write a scene in which one character has a goal that they can't tell the other character about, and the other character has a goal which conflicts with the first character's and doesn't understand why the first character is raising obstacles against their goal.

Writing an implying paragraph

Mary Shelley began chapter 10 of Frankenstein with the following paragraph:

I spent the day roaming through the valley. I stood beside the sources of the Arveiron, which take their rise in a glacier, that with slow pace is advancing down from the summit of the hills, to barricade the valley. The abrupt sides of vast mountains were before me; the icy wall of the glacier overhung me; a few shattered pines were scattered around; and the solemn silence of this glorious presence-chamber of imperial Nature was broken only by brawling waves, or the fall of some vast fragment, the thunder sound of the avalanche, or the cracking reverberated along the mountains of the accumulated ice, which, through the silent working of immutable laws, was ever and anon rent and torn, as if it had been but a plaything in their hands. These sublime and magnificent scenes afforded me the greatest consolation that I was capable of receiving. They elevated me from all littleness of feeling and although they did not remove my grief, they subdued and tranquilized it. In some degree, also, they diverted my mind from the thoughts over which it had brooded for the last month.

Write a paragraph that implies events prior to the paragraph and introduces a character with an unsolved problem. Then write a point form outline of how the paragraph fits into a larger story.

Narrating with a peripheral character

Valerie Vogrin has written, in Writing Fiction:

Although the first person narrator is usually the protagonist, you may choose to have your first-person narrator be another person in the story. [...] The peripheral point of view is effective when the story's protagonist is blind to his or her own actions and when that blindness or its consequences are significant enough to strongly affect someone who stands outside the actions, as in The Great Gatsby.

Write a story using a narrator who is a peripheral character.

Writing an emotionally charged situation

Grace Akallo and J.H. McDonnell begin their novelised memoir Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for North Uganda's Children with:

The soil has become my blanket. This bed is warm and comfortable. Where am I? Maybe home? No, this is not home. It is quiet, only whispers of wind and the morning crickets. My foot hurts. I feel weak. What happened? I smell soil. This is strange.
Slowly the bitter memories flow back to me. I'm in Sudan, and I have been buried among the dead. Seven months after my capture, I am no longer myself.
When death illuminates my way, there is no sign of life. I have escaped death many times. Twice I tried to shoot myself, and I would have succeeded if a fellow captive had not snatched away the rifle.

Write a story that immerses the reader straight into an emotionally charged situation with your character. Make the situation something with short term immediate physical conflict and a long term major complication that needs to be overcome.

Setting your story in a real place

Visit maps.google.com and zoom right in on an area in or near Hobart, Australia.

Use what you see as inspiration to write a story set there about a character 10 years younger than you.

Begin your writing with a surprise

Aldous Huxley began his novel Brave New World with:

A squat grey building of only thirty-four storeys. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

This raises implications that contrast with the world around us. A thirty-four storey building is considered small. There is a World State. Readers find out a little later that the centre is for hatching and conditioning humans.

Write a surprising opening that provides fuel for elaborating on, and build it into a story as you elaborate on the implications you raise.

Writing and thought

In chapter 1 of The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker introduced the following key ideas:

1) The human mind can construe a particular scenario in multiple ways.
2) Each construal is based around a few basic ideas like "event," "cause," "change," and "intend."
3) These ideas can be extended metaphorically to other domains as when we count events as if they were objects or when we use space as a metaphor for time.
4) Each idea has distinctively human quirks that make it useful for reasoning about certain things, and that can lead to fallacies and confusions when we try to apply it more broadly.

Write a story about a character who construes a scenario in a particular way and metaphorically extends this construal to a domain in which it does not apply well. Develop this mismatch into a conflict that escalates to a major crisis between that charcater and another character.

On regret and forgiveness, using Cinema and Fiction

Click this link to go to the front page of Cinema and Fiction, then select the title of any of this month's posts to use any way you like as inspiration for a story about regret and forgiveness.

Writing about jealousy

Lajos Egri has described the theme of Othello as:

Jealousy destroys itself and the object of it's love.

Write a story with this theme.

Using song lyrics as a writing prompt

Some of the lyrics of the song What Else Is There? by Royksopp are:

The roads and getting nearer.
We cover distance but not together.
If I am the storm, if I am the wonder,
Will I have flashlights, nightmares, sudden explosions?

Write a story inspired by the above lyrics.

Writing about memories and records of experience

Akira Kurosawa has said:

I've forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn't do it out of nothing. For this reason, since the time I was a young man I have always kept a notebook handy when I read a book. I write down my reactions and what particularly moves me. I have stacks and stacks of these college notebooks, and when I go off to write a script these are what I read. Somewhere they always provide me with a point of breakthrough. Even for single lines of dialogue I have taken hints from these notebooks. So what I want to say is don't read books while lying down in bed.

Write a story that begins with your character facing a crisis and finding a hint of something in old diaries, photos or something similar that sheds new light on the crisis.

Using mannerisms to inspire character

Watch this video on Facebook and write a story about a character with similar mannerisms of body movement and speech to one of the people in the video.

Using very short fiction as a writing prompt

Click on this link, scroll down and select one of the 299 word 'very short novels' as a prompt for a story using the key word "conviction" however you like.

Writing about experience in a time and place of importance

The following video poem (embedded below), which has been called Anonymous Poem From Iran, starts off:

[A camera looks out into a dark urban neighbourhood. A scattered cacophony of voices call out from surrounding buildings and continue throughout the video. A woman's voice speaks:]

Friday the 19th of June 2009
Tomorrow, Saturday
Tomorrow is a day of destiny
Tonight, the cries of Allah-o Akbar
are heard louder and louder than the nights before
Where is this place?
Where is this place where every door is closed?
Where is this place where people are simply calling God?
Where is this place where the sounds of Allah-o Akbar gets louder and louder?

Choose a time and place of major importance to your character (and possibly of real life importance to readers) and situate your character in the middle of this and have them tell of their experience of being at that place at that time.

Using a Superbowl ad as a writing prompt

Click here, watch one of the 2010 Superbowl ads embedded on the page and use it however you like as a prompt to write about a family.

Writing about motivation to be kind

Ryan Niemiec and Danny Wedding have written:

Kindness is related to the psychological concept of generativity. Erik Erikson (1950) discusses generativity as the middle-aged adult's concern for the next generation and the drive of the adult to utilize his or her strength of care by providing successfully for others.

Write a story about a middle-aged adult with a strong personal motivation for assisting a younger person. The younger person is not aware of this strong motivation to begin with, but comes to learn of it by the end of the story.

Searching for writing inspiration

Go to cinemaandfictionlinks.blogspot.com, search for a word using the blogsearch box on the right and pick one of the results to use as inspiration for a story.

If you're stuck for a word, try: generous, betrayal, or vehicle.

Jodi Picoult and philosophical or rhetorical implications in writing

Jodi Picoult begins the first chapter of her novel Vanishing Acts with the following paragraph:

You can't exist in the world without leaving a piece of yourself behind. There are concrete paths like credit card receipts and appointment calendars and promises you've made to others. There are microscopic clues, like fingerprints, that stay invisible unless you know how to look for them. But even in the absence of any of this, there's scent. We live in a cloud that moves with us as we check email and jog and carpool. The whole time, we shed skin cells - forty thousand per minute - that rise on currents up our legs and under our chins.

Write your own story with an opening paragraph that:
1) begins with a philosophically or rhetorically loaded sentence; and
2) expands on this with the remainder of the paragraph in a way that hints at the overall theme or tone of the story to follow,
before following with the action of the story.

Writing about a date gone wrong

Click on this link and use one of the articles as inspiration to write a comedic story about a date gone wrong.

Writing about a wrongly accused character with a mystery to solve

Victoria Lynn Schmidt has summarised the plot of The Fugitive as:

Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Dr. Richard Kimble escapes from a prison bus and tries to find out why she was killed and who the murderer really was. He is fleeing a U.S. marshal while pursuing the truth.

Write a story about a character who is suspected of (and possibly punished for) something and then becomes motivated to find out what really happened.

Write to make people feel emotion

Alan Ball, quoted in the book Created By..., has said:

I want a writer who writes from his or her gut and writes about things that make you feel something. Think of something that makes you laugh, makes you cry, or makes you angry. Also, you have to have faith in yourself. If you stay true to what you believe in, all of it will shine through when I'm reading your work.

Write something about one character informing another that they are no longer welcome in a place, group, or personal relationship. Aim to get readers to feel a certain way about one or more of the characters.

Writing prompt inspired by Ralph Emerson

Ralph Emerson has written:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Use this quote however you like as inspiration for a story.

Characters and personality attribution

Stephen Kosslyn and Robin Rosenberg define personality as:

A set of behavioral, emotional, and cognitive tendencies that people display over time and across situations and that distinguish individuals from each other.

Write a story about a character who incorrectly attributes personality traits to another, and the other character who has had incorrect personality traits attributed to them.

Writing with a multiple-meaning title

The movie Accepted is about a character who is not accepted into university... so he makes up a fake university to pretend to his parents he was accepted into. Through a misunderstanding he finds himself accepting a crowd of students into his fake university, and they thrive on the acceptance he has extended to them that they haven't found elsewhere. Students even defect from a neighbouring university to be accepted for who they are. But ultimately the main character wants his parents to accept him for who he is.

Write a story that has a multiple-meaning title.

Writing prompt inspired by Confucius

The first saying of Confucius' Lun Yu (aka The Analects) reads:

To learn and to practise what is learned time and again is pleasure, is it not? To have friends come from afar is happiness, is it not? To be unperturbed when not appreciated by others is gentlemanly, is it not?

Write a story about a person who has had an appreciative friend come from afar but who is unable to enjoy the friend's arrival due to a loss of pleasure in continuing to practise what s/he has learned in life.

Lun Yu (aka The Analects) by Confucius