Can writing prompts inspire you to write a serious story, or are they mere mental calisthenics? Recently the El Paso Writers’ League tried an exercise with about two dozen people attending. As members arrived at the meeting, they drew slips of paper that assigned them to a pair of specific tables in succession. Each table had a card identifying it by topic or genre: mystery, historical, poetry, romance, and fantasy. People had a list of words they were to incorporate into a ten-minute writing exercise in the specified genre. The idea was to spur creativity and to get people thinking outside their normal comfort zones. At the end of the exercise many of us read our masterpieces to the entire group, and then we switched to the second table to start again with another genre.
Lucky me, I started at the history table, and in my mind I became a Confederate soldier. The underlined words were the seven we had to use:
At Gettysburg, I lay bleeding amid an ocean of gray uniforms, my face buried in the weeds. This should be a dream, I thought. The acrid smell of smoke, the deafening cannons, the soft whimpers of the dying for the hard demands of union and justice. We sacrifice our lives for generals’ ego, for our country, for our God, while the enemy in blue dies for all the same reasons. May God damn General Grant. May God damn General Lee.
Is there the beginning of a short story here? Maybe flash fiction reflecting the senselessness of war? We’ll see.
The second table featured fantasy, too long a reach for me. For ten minutes I wrote of winning big money in the lottery—no gnomes, trolls, magic dragons, or anything without a connection to the physical world we know.
Exercises like this are fun and stimulating. Sometime in between your projects and your daily chores, you might pick up the dictionary and write for ten minutes around the first word you see. Your mental calisthenics might spur you to something new.
Incidentally, this is stop #7 in my Blog Book Tour. My three novels, When Pigs Fly, Getting Lucky, and Little Mountain, are all available as ebooks and paperbacks, and you can find out more about them at my blog, bobsanchez1.blogspot.com. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of your choice of these books, or to win the grand prize of all three signed paperbacks.
Here is my tour schedule.