These days inspiration is hard to come by, so if you have time to write but the words aren’t coming, here are some prompts to get you going. What you write could turn into a short story, a scene in your novel, a striking sentence or – nothing. It might remain an exercise in the notebook. Either way, we become better writers with every page written, so have a go at one or a few and see where the exercise takes you.
- ‘PLEASE TAKE ME. MERRY CHRISTMAS’ – Write a flash fiction story about this picture, either featuring the person who put the tree outside or the person who took it home. There’s only one rule: it has to be exactly 100 words.
- TASTING NOTES – Fetch a wine or craft beer bottle and look at the tasting notes. Use the vocabulary in the notes to describe a character. Try to use at least five words and a few phrases. If you don’t have a bottle to hand, head to an online wine shop or use this description:
BREAD AND BUTTER CHARDONNAY 2019, CALIFORNIA. This really does what it says on the tin. It’s a lush Chardonnay which tastes of – you guessed it – bread and butter. But it’s a lot more than just a creamy and comforting hug of a wine. The way it’s made makes it really exciting. The winemaker combined grapes from two very different regions. Monterey is known for its big Chardonnays, thanks to the generous length of the growing season. On the other hand, Carneros is far cooler, so the flavours are more understated. The briochey notes that make us think of Champagne. Bring the two together and you get this – a marriage of styles which is full but fresh, rich but refreshing. It’s a very comforting, warm style of Chardonnay. It’s packed with flavour and is fantastic with food – anything with brown butter sauce is heaven. We can’t lie – it’s not a subtle wine. But that’s why we love it, and why you will too.
- THE DOCTOR SIGHED – Finish this sentence and then just keep writing:
The doctor sighed and told her she had…
- UBERPOOL – Think of two characters in your work-in-progress who haven’t met e.g. your protagonist’s best friend and mum, and put them in a shared Uber. Have one of them start a conversation. Perhaps the other ordered an Uber Pool by accident. Maybe by the first stop they’ll have realised they share a connection.
- A LINE OF POETRY – Head to the Poetry Society website and select a random poem. Choose one line, just one, and write a scene inspired by it. I chose a line from ‘(newborn)’ by Ellora Sutton: ‘First night. Rocking chair. Like a spider, I climb out the window’.
- ARGUMENT – An argument takes place here. Write only the dialogue. By the end of the conversation, you have to have used these three words: suburbanite, umbrella and dungeon.
- SENSORY BREAKDOWN – Write a scene in which your protagonist breaks down at a family event. Include a smell, a taste and a sound.
- CINEMATIC CLASH – Free-write a scene in which a made-up character or a character from your work-in-progress clashes with a protester (anti-vaccination/climate change denier/anything that has weight for you). Listen to a cinematic song (such as On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter or May it Be by Enya) while you free-write and make the scene’s mood move with the music.
- ALTERNATE POSSIBILITIES – Create an experimental story inspired by this piece of art.
Rasheed Araeen, 1935. Born Pakistan, works Pakistan, Britain
Araeen trained as a civil engineer, and his sculptures are constructed using geometric forms. Lovers combines two structures, each of which consists of a series of triangles that have been rotated and oriented in different ways. The work can be shown in two different configurations: either with the two parts next to each other, or on top of each other. This introduction of alternate possibilities challenges the idea of the artwork as a fixed object conceived by a single individual.
Presented by Tate Members, 2011
I hope some of these prompts have inspired fresh images and ideas for you. Maybe even a character or story. If you’d like to share what you’ve come up with, tag us on Twitter @bluepencil_edit with #BPAprompts.