Writing Prompts: They’re Everywhere
One of the biggest complaints I hear from writers is finding things that inspire or jump start the writing process. Things that give them the beginning point for a story, like a creepy setting or an odd situation. Writing prompts serve to jump-start story ideas when you’re looking to start a new project. I can honestly tell you if you need a writing prompt, all you have to do is look around you and let your imagination run wild.
We see them every day. Odd buildings, strange people, creepy abandoned property, or even just a sinister feeling when you look at an otherwise normal thing. If you’re paying attention, then the entire world is a writing prompt. Everywhere and everything has a story to be told. Each conversation and interaction is fuel for the writer’s inner fire. Just put down you phone and have a look around. You might be shocked by what you see.
Just going out your front door, you open yourself up to the world. You might have that one odd neighbor who looks at you from behind a partially moved curtain. What are they hiding? What kind of story can you make of that? You pass by buildings all day long. Some of them have seen better days and some just need to be torn down. What stories do they have to tell? What could have happened to them in their prime? What can happen in the deep darkness of the abandoned factory?
They’re everywhere and in everything we see and do. How much do you know about local history? Every town or city has local lore and tales of ghosts, death and misadventure. Each of those places could lead to a new story. Each tale could be fuel for a new project. The possibilities are nearly limitless, just in your local history. Take a little time to do some research. Visit a historical society or museum. What you learn will probably surprise you.
Then there are the things that exist outside your area and outside your comfort zone. Go to a National Park, walk the nature trails and get a feel for the natural world. You will experience not only the life that’s all around you, but see some of nature’s spectacle and mystery. If that doesn’t inspire you, what can? When you walk in the wild places, it’s easy to envision the things that walk through those deep shadows. What was that sound? Is something out there? Was that a person or an animal?
That’s just the beginning. The scenery alone is abundant and inspiring. Sit beside a river or a lake. Or better yet, a water fall. Let the feelings wash over you. Pay attention to the sounds, the smells, the feeling you get there. There’s a peace in sitting beside the water. There’s a beauty there, as well. There’s also danger in the most primordial sense. Animals come to the water to drink and predators know this. Everything in the natural world needs water to live. You never know what you might see come to the water’s edge to quench their thirst.
Drive through rural areas or places where the people have just moved away. Ghost towns exist, but that’s not the only place where you’ll find these places. Every city has areas where there are derelict factories or buildings that have been boarded up and closed. These areas are rife with stories of danger and mystery. Is that building haunted? Is it used by criminals for nefarious purposes? What are the mysteries left behind? Why was it abandoned in the first place? These are questions that lead to new stories.
Story ideas lurk literally everywhere. They’re all around us in everything we do and see. Have you ever walked through a graveyard towards the end of the day? The feeling changes when the sun starts to go down. Shadows grow deeper and the sound seems to deaden. Are spirits walking all around you? Beside you? Through you? Graveyards are both serene and haunting. They remind us of the ones that have gone, and more importantly, of our own mortality. What stories left untold are buried all around you? What tales would the spirits tell if they could talk to you? Lost loves? Unfinished business? Revenge? Or would they just want to pass along a message to a loved one? Who knows, but the story is up to you.
Have you ever visited a Civil War battlefield? I have. They’re places of silent reverence because we know that scores of lives were lost there. A hush falls over a battlefield, as if the entire world is just waiting for the roar of the cannons or the clash of the sabers to start up again. You can almost smell the lingering gunpowder. Hear the battle cries as they charged, the screams of the dying and the silence of the dead. So much potential for stories are there. Stories that could have happened or would have, if not for the war. What do the spirits whisper to you? What stories do you see there?
This is not an all-inclusive list, by no means. Just a few examples of places and things you might not have thought of. Take a little time and look around you. I mean, really look. Stories and mysteries lurk around every corner and in each little detail. You pass them on the street, sit next to them on the bus, feel them staring at you from the darkness. They surround us with a rich history and with lore of days long gone by. Tragedies and triumphs that have been around you without you even being aware of them.
Observe the world around you. Everything you see is research for your writing. Stories are all around you, waiting to be told. Put down your phone and take a deep breath. Eat your lunch at a park and just observe. Walk outside your comfort zone and experience things you never noticed before. Take a different route on your daily drive to work. Go to a local venue and listen to a band you’ve never heard of. Writing is a culmination of our imagination and experiences. Every detail and nuance fueled by our own lives.
Anyone can reach the apple that’s hanging from the bottom branch of the trees, but the ones up high taste sweeter. Break out of your shell and experience the life and the stories that are going on all around you. There’s romance, action/adventure, mystery, intrigue, horror, heroic deeds, crime, drama and literally every other genre going on all around you. All you have to do is open your eyes and feel it. Need to experience fantasy, go to a Renaissance Faire. Feel the energy, taste the food and drink, see the costumes and listen to the music. Every genre you could want to be inspired to write exists in some form all around you. You just have to look for it.
Those writing prompts that you thought you needed are right in front of you. They’re in a scent on the breeze, a shadow in an alley or in a food you never tasted before. Writing is as much about you and your life as it is about your stories. After all, you and your experiences are what shape your writing. Don’t you owe it to yourself to experience as much of the things you write about as you can? Try that beer, taste that food, walk in that park, listen to the music and live in the moment. It’s those moments of your life and experience that fuel your writing and keep your creativity alive and vital.
Find you writing prompts. Just look around you. They’ve been there all along.
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