Writing about motivation fueled by scientific accomplishments

Astronaut Ron Garan has written, in his essay The Importance of Returning to the Moon:

Our children are our best investment for the future, and our space program is a tremendous motivator. Our Nation has seen a steady decline in the number of students studying math and science. The space program can help turn this trend around. I can personally attest to the ability of the space program to encourage students based on the fact that I enrolled in math and science courses and began the pursuit of an engineering degree the day after the first space shuttle mission landed. The creation of a permanent lunar base will inspire millions of young people toward higher education and help maintain our Nation’s technological leadership.

Write a story about a character who becomes motivated by a specific scientific accomplishment and, upon finishing university, gets headhunted for an important position only to discover that there is more to the situation than your character first thought.

Writing about your narrator's past

Read the following quote from an article on Horror Movie A Day and use it as inspiration for the beginning of a story told by someone in the present about their past, changing the name of the film or making it something other than a film being reminisced about.

I still remember begging my mom to take me to see Nightmare on Elm St 4: The Dream Master in theaters, but it was not to be - not only was it too nice out (I asked while we were in Maine at a summer campground/resort - I think sitting on the beach or by the lake would be far more preferable than driving 30 miles to the nearest theater for a movie called Nightmare on Elm St 4: The Dream Master), but at that point she was not taking me to R rated films. She’d rent them though, and thus like all good moms, rented the film for me when it hit VHS six months later (you see kids, back in my day, we’d have to WAIT to see a movie on video if we missed it in theaters, whereas nowadays anything over 3 months after its theatrical release is considered “too long").

Using Cinema and Fiction blogsearch results as inspiration

Go to the Cinema and Fiction Links page, type a word into the searchbox on the right and use one of the results as inspiration to write a story.

Search for whatever word you like. Some suggestions are elation, sorrow and motivated.

Writing to probe moral dilemmas

Mean Creek, set in a small US town near a river, has been described on the DVD blurb as "a chilling story that probes the moral dilemmas teens face in the pressure cooker of 21st century society."

Write a story which fits that description, set at a specific time and place.

Writing about possible worlds

Marie-Laure Ryan has written, about her article From Parallel Universes to Possible Worlds : Ontological Pluralism in Physics, Narratology and Narrative:

This essay explores how theoretical physics, narratology and narrative itself deal with the idea that reality consists of a plurality of worlds. In physics, the existence of parallel universes has been postulated on the cosmic level to describe what lies on the other side of black holes, and on the level of subatomic particles to avoid the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. In narratology, the philosophical idea of a plurality of possible worlds and the contrast between the actual and the possible provides a model of the cognitive pattern into which readers organize information in order to interpret it as a story. But the many-worlds interpretation of physics and the possible worlds (PW) model of narrative differ in their conception of the ontological status of the multiple worlds: in physics they are all actual, while narrative theory stresses the contrast between actuality and mere possibility.

Write a story using multiple 'possible worlds' to contrast different character choices or different versions of events told by characters.

Writing about psychological development

Virginia Axline, in her child therapy book Dibs in Search of Self, began the introduction with:

This is the story of the emergence of a strong, healthy personality in a previously deeply disturbed child.

Write a story which fits that description.

Writing about misunderstanding

Christopher Collins, in Poetry of the Mind's Eye: Literature and the Psychology of Imagination, wrote about a distinction between images a person can physically see and images in the mind such as a mental image developed while reading. He emphasised the need to separate and clarify such multiple meanings of words if they are to be used with precision, rather than be confounded by major ambiguity and miscommunications.

Write a story in which such lack of clarity leads to a misunderstanding that causes a problem between two characters.

Writing about reality

Bruno Latour, in Pandora's Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, has written:

There is no natural situation on earth in which someone could be asked this strangest of all questions: "Do you believe in reality?" To ask such a question one has to become so distant from reality that the fear of losing it entirely becomes plausible...

Write a story about a character who believes in reality and a character that doesn't, and how one character becomes convinced that the other is right.

Writing about being useful

Alethea Lewis began her novel Things by Their Right Names with:

Philosophers have said, and poets have sung, that every individual of the human race is distinguished by a leading passion peculiar to himself. Now, I have not been so neglected by Nature, as to be left without this appropriate mark of humanity. I too, like the rest of my species, have my ruling passion; and this passion is, the desire to be useful.
Of the means to attain this end, money, talents, and leisure, are the most powerful. Of talents I must not boast, of money I have not any, of leisure I have a great deal. It is my leisure, then, that I must dedicate to my fellow creatures.

Write a story about a character who desires to be useful and has an idea on how they will go about fulfilling that desire.

Starting a story amidst a crisis

Nkem Ivara began the short story Double Trouble on naijastories.com with:

"Koko, are you listening to me?" asked Atim as she realized that her cousin had not responded to anything she had said to her in the last few minutes. Looking up she noticed the faraway look in Koko's eyes and panicked "Koko, is it the baby? Are you in pain?" she questioned as she grabbed her cousin's hand and shook it. "Say something, anything. Oh! Abasi mbok"* she cried in Efik as she threw up her hands towards the sky.

Write a story that begins amidst a moment of crisis.

Writing about leadership

Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood, in Leadership Brand, have written:

We believe that individual leaders need to role model the brand they advocate to others. We observe what others do more than what they say. If a leader espouses one set of actions and does another, the ensuing hypocrisy undermines the leader's credibility. Leaders who build a brand but act in ways opposed to the brand will not be believable. Aligning personal brand to leadership brand authenticates and embeds the leadership brand.

Write a story about a character running an unusual business who sets out to align their personal life and their business life with a combined 'leadership brand'.

Writing a story synopsis

The first paragraph of a three paragraph synopsis for The Simpsons episode, The Boy Who Knew Too Much is:

Bart forges a note from Marge that excuses him early from school for a dental appointment. Principal Skinner reads the note and is suspicious. He tracks Bart through town. Bart escapes by jumping inside the passing car of Freddy Quimby, the Mayor's 18 year old nephew. Arriving at Freddy Quimby's birthday party, he hides beneath a table and witnesses an altercation between Freddy and a waiter.

Write a story synopsis in three paragraphs.
Use the first paragraph to set up a problem, the second to develop that problem and complications associated with it, and the third to resolve the problem in a satifying way.

Writing about a committed character with a mentor

F.X. Toole started his short story Million Dollar Baby with:

"Boxing is an unnatural act" whispered the voice. "Understand me on this, kid. In boxing everything is backwards to life. You want to move to the left, you don't step left, you push on the right toe, like this. To move right, you use the left toe, see?"
The old white man didn't look into your eyes, he looked clear through your eyes, to the inside of the back of your head.

Write a story about a mentor with specialised knowledge to impart and a character who wants this knowledge to help them achieve a goal they are firmly committed to.

Writing about creativity and curiosity

Ryan Niemiec and Danny Wedding, in Positive Psychology at the Movies, have written:

Creativity and curiosity are important cognitive strengths of character under the virtue of wisdom and knowledge. There is a clear mutually beneficial link between these two strengths: Curiosity is one ingredient of creativity, while a good strategy to build creativity is to be curious about one's environment. A number of high-quality American, independent, and international films depict characters who embody these strengths, face adversity by tapping into these resources, and build upon and improve these strengths as the film progresses.

Write a story in which a character shows curiosity about their environment, faces adversity through acting on this curosity, and builds upon and improves their creativity and curiosity as the story progresses.
Try focusing the character's curiosity and creativity on an area that is NOT creative arts.

Writing subtext

Pauline Kiernan, on her site Unique Screenwriting, has written:

The effect on an audience of all that is going on under the surface action is that it gets us intrigued. We have to do some work. We have to enter into an imaginative engagement with the story. It brings us close to the feelings of the characters and into the heart of their journey.

Write a story that begins with a scene in which the characters' goals and feelings are not stated but are conveyed through subtext.

Combining Cinema and Fiction writing prompts for inspiration

Select any two titles of writing prompts listed on the right side of this page and combine them in any way you like to provide inspiration for a story.

Writing about a character with a secret

Click on the link to the trailer for the film Dark Woods and use the trailer as inspiration to write a story about a character with a secret to hide and why they are hiding it.

Writing about a character with a pivotal role in events that effect many

In an article in Rorotoko, Kenneth Pinnow has written:

Suicide unsettled the Soviets because it raised practical and theoretical questions about the individual and challenged the regime’s transformational aspirations. To them it represented unbridled individualism and a remnant of bourgeois life whose continued presence threatened the revolutionary project. To contain and eventually eliminate this social disease the Soviet state sanctioned a variety of scientific and political efforts that sought to clarify, categorize, and control self-destruction. These included forensic-medical investigations into the body, nationwide statistical mappings of society, and a distinctive set of political practices that treated suicide as a sickness that was above all ideological.

Write a story about a character whose government has escalated attempts to control specific behaviours of citizens and the key role that your character plays in whether the policy is successfully implemented or not.

Writing comedic scenes

Click on the link to a post on Lee Goldberg's blog and use it as an example of a scene with a comedic back-and-forth dynamic to inspire your own story composed of such scenes.

Writing about abandonment

Cynthia Voigt started her novel Homecoming with:

The woman put her sad moon-face in at the window of the car. "You be good," she said. "You hear me? You little ones, mind what Dicey tells you. You hear?"
"Yes, momma" they said.
"That's all right then." She slung her purse over her shoulder and walked away, her stride made uneven by broken sandal thongs, thin elbows showing through holes in the oversized sweater, her jeans faded and baggy.

The woman has just left her children in a car park and does not come back.
Write a story that starts with a character in a position of responsibility leaving and, by doing so, causes your main characters an ongoing problem that they had not been prepared for.

Writing about a life-changing meeting

The blurb of Myne Whitman's novel, A Heart to Mend begins:

Gladys moves to live with an estranged aunt in Lagos and to continue her search for a job. Before long she lands the job of her dreams with the foremost oil company in the city and makes several new friends. She also gradually resolves the mystery of why her aunt previously cut all ties with their family. But the best part about her new life is meeting Edward Bestman.

Write a story that begins with a character who moves to a new place (long-term or short-term), solves a small initial mystery and meets a character who will change their life.

Writing with and about excitement

Ray Bradbury has written that "if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don't even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is - excited."

Write a story about a character, who is anything except a writer, and who lacks the kind of excitement mentioned above then discovers it. Add a strong extended conflict before or after the character develops this excitement.

Writing about ambition inspired by a play synopsis

Click on the link to www.singlelane.com/proplay, read a synopsis for one of the stage plays and use it as inspiration to write a story using the key word "ambition".

Writing about 'social construction'... of what?

Many people have made claims that various things are 'socially constructed.' Ian Hacking, in his book The Social Construction of What?, has asked what these things are supposedly constructed of.

Write a story about two characters; one who claims something is 'socially constructed' and the other who doesn't hold this opinion.

Writing inspired by Isaac Newton

Newton's fourth rule for reasoning in natural philosophy has been translated as:

In experimental philosophy we are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined, till such time as other phaenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions.

Write a story based on conflict between two characters; one who agrees with Newton above and one who does not.

Searching for inspiration

Go to the Cinema and Fiction Links page, use the blogsearch box on the right to search for a key word of your choice and use one of the results as inspiration for a story.

If you're stuck for a key word, try belonging, amazing or crisis.

Writing inspired by flash fiction

Click the link to www.flashfictionblog.com and use one of the flash fiction stories as inspiration to write your own original story using the key word "friendship".

Writing interesting dialogue scenes

According to Jennifer van Sijll:

Character-driven movies often fail to enlist cinematic tools defaulting to dialog instead. The scripts appear more like "radio plays" or what Hitchcock has called "talking photographs." But there are many character-driven films like The Piano, American Beauty, and Time of the Gypsies that succeed beautifully. These films, like Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, use the full complement of cinematic tools available.

Write a major dramatic scene involving dialogue that also makes ample use of non-dialogue cinematic or literary techniques.

If you're stuck for ideas, you could use a scene from the screenplay of one of the films mentioned above (or another film) as a guide. Screenplays are available to read free on sites like www.imsdb.com.

Writing about breaking a habit

Stephen Kosslyn and Robin Rosenberg have described a habit as:

A well-learned response that is carried out automatically (without conscious thought) when the appropriate stimulus is present.

Write a story about a character who has a habit that they come to consider as bad, and how they break that habit.

Writing about a character and some intrigue

A synopsis of Nikki Gemmell's novel Cleave reads:

Snip Freeman is a painter with a waitressing problem, a wanderer in search of her past. She'll visit a place, find a man and a studio and a scrap job, until the zing of uncertainty pulls her on. She is anchored nowhere, touches the earth lightly. Then she turns her back on a drowning man. And suddenly she has a reason to stay put...

Write a short synopsis that sets up a character and some intrigue, then write a story based on it.

Writing prompt inspired by Elizabeth Inchbald

Elizabeth Inchbald started her novel Nature and Art with:

At a time when the nobility of Britain were said, by the Poet Laureate, to admire and protect the arts, and were known by the whole nation to be the patrons of music - William and Henry, youths under twenty years of age, brothers, and the sons of a country shopkeeper who had lately died insolvent, set out on foot for London, in the hope of procuring by their industry a scanty subsistence.
As they walked out of their native town, each with a small bundle at his back, each observed the other drop several tears: but, upon the sudden meeting of their eyes, they both smiled with a degree of disdain at the weakness in which they had been caught.

Use the above as inspiration to write a story about two characters who begin with a shared circumstance before diverging and coming into conflict with one another.

Using setting as metaphor for the lives of your characters

Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun starts off with the paragraph:

The younger living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being. Its furnishings are typical and undistinguished and their primary feature now is that they have clearly had to accomodate the living of too many people for too many years - and they are tired. Still, we can see that at some time, a time probably no longer remembered by the family (except perhaps for MAMA), the furnishings of this room were actually selected with care and love and even hope - and brought to this apartment and arranged with taste and pride.

This paragraph can be thought of in terms of the setting being a metaphor for the lives of characters in the story.

Write a story beginning with a metaphorical comparison between the setting and the life of one or more characters in the story. The comparison could be made by a narrator, a character, implied by the choice of words and writing style, etc.

Writing inspired by a TV storyline

Click on the link to www.tv.com, select one of the shows displayed and use an episode synopsis for that show as inspiration for a story.

Writing about courage

Click on the link to the Japan Times Film Review page.

Select one of the film review titles and use it as inspiration to write a story about a character who learns to be courageous.