Story Prompts and ideas – 1

I currently have a project I’m working on, or developing, however you wish to put it, which is to put a central character into several different types of short stories. I have a bunch of story ideas, but I’m after a few more. So, and I’m sure all writers have this problem from time to time, there is the question of which piece of thin air to pull the story from. Or, as is more commonly the case, what to stimulate your mind to generate some ideas?

An easy way these days is just to type “writing prompts” into google and see what websites appear, or to do a blog search for the same (or similar) thing and see what postings appear. Myself I like to try and generate some of my own, which again returns us back to how to do it. A few days back, Vikki of “The View Outside” posted a piece on “Generating Titles” which I found interesting. I commented that I usually don’t have much trouble with titles, but I like these tips for generating story prompts. In a separate posting Vikki linked to this posting by the “Limebird writers” called “7 minute story“. This exercise is particularly good if your brain is in a fog and you need a little kickstarting. These are both useful starting places in getting the creative juices flowing.

However, I’m not going to add to the ways of finding prompts here, I don’t think I have much tips to add on that front right now. I’m more interested in the exercise itself. I’m just going to try generate a few myself using a non-fiction book. I will simply be browsing some of the text and lifting parts of sentences that sound interesting. I realise that I’m putting some prompts online for anyone to use, but the way I figure it, even if ten people used the same prompt including me, our stories will likely be vastly different.

The book I’m going to be using (which I just randomly chose from my bookshelf)  is “Mahjong – Contemporary Chinese Art from the Sigg collection” (which now looks kind of expensive on Amazon, but that’s a separate story). I’m not someone who is really into art that much, but I really loved this collection. My wife and I saw it in an art exhibit when we were on our honeymoon road trip, and we needed to kill a few hours. She later bought me the book as a surprise Christmas present. I would recommend it for anyone who likes Chinese art, but as I mentioned, I’m far from any kind of expert. It may now have a different than intended use. So anyway, here goes (I decided I would add page numbers if someone wanted to look up the wider context they originated from):

  1. worked in video (pg. 31)
  2. Urban chaos, homosexuality and drug addiction (pg. 31)
  3. does not focus (pg. 35)
  4. the oldest topos (pg. 47) – N.B. Topos is “a traditional theme or form in literature
  5. soot and ash are crucial (pg. 86)
  6. tell of life past and present (pg. 102)
  7. bear the stigmata of time (pg. 102 – there was the word “the” before time but I preferred it without)
  8. expression of the inner world (pg. 124)
  9. made of human hair (pg. 125)
  10. a hollow promise (pg. 134)
  11. different sized blocks of stone (pg. 134)
  12. Threaten the consumer society (pg. 134)
  13. Change is significant to me (pg. 246)
  14. tones of black and grey (pg. 274)
  15. relations in the art world (pg. 277)

I’m stopping for now at fifteen prompts, I could get a lot more from this book. This was what I came up with in a ten minute flick through. There are a few here I may explore myself in the project I mentioned, and some for other stories. Feel free to use any yourself, but if you do use any, post a link in the comments section.

Oh, “eagle eyed” readers may have spotted that the cover of the book also features in the blog header above, so choosing this book for the first story prompt exercise was not entirely accidental.

Lexicon word of the day: exiguous.


3 comments on “Story Prompts and ideas – 1

  1. That’s what I love about prompts 🙂

    We did an exercise in my writing class last month where the tutor gave us the prompt “Sarah, I never knew you could do such a thing!” and our homework was to go away and come up with a short story.

    I was amazed at how many different variations there were. My story was about domestic violence, another was about a non vegetarian spiking a vegetarians meal with meat and another was about a woman doing something nasty to a so called friend.

    Good luck 🙂


    • mrbrainsplat says:

      It is interesting isn’t it? I was thinking the more specific the prompt, the more likely the stories would be similar (which sounds obvious when you type it) but even then not necessarily. For example “Andrew dropped a brick on Sarah’s foot” might seem obvious at first glance, but the story would likely be different getting to that point and the why.

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