Nov 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Writing Prompts To Overcome Writer’s Block Considered – Case Study

Not long ago, I had joined a local writing group in our area. Each week the group gets together and to help the members improve their writing. Some of those in attendance are poets, novelists, short story authors, and even article writers like me. To help everyone get over writer’s block they start the meeting with a writer’s prompt and ask everyone to get busy writing. Let me explain how this works using this is a case study. Below is a recent writer’s prompt which was used by our group. They borrow this writer’s prompt from a major writer’s magazine;

“There’s a knock on your door. When you open it, you find a cowboy-complete with the hat, boots, spurs, six-shooter, the accent, everything-standing on your front step. He claims he has no idea who he is or what he’s doing there. Write this scene, as you try to sort out his (and your) confusion.”

And here is what I wrote;

The man had been sent from the past where he had left in 1814. He would land in the future at the exact time and place and elevation of where he had left. Unfortunately that mountain where he had departed from the past to the future had been dug away for a six lane freeway and so he reappeared up in the air and he fell 50 feet but to his lucky landed in the back of a Yantas dealer truck filled with used tires which was stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. After he fell onto the tires he bounced and hit his head on the side of the truck and then plunked onto the freeway. Scared out of his which he drew his gun.

No one really noticed because they were busy text messaging while they were all in bumper-to-bumper stuck in traffic. Eventually a few people noticed and started honking their horns. He got scared and ran between the cars jumped the center divider and then up the hillside he went, climbing and scaling up the embankment, put there at great expense to the tax payers to add lanes and protect the vital corridor from erosion. He was able to get away just before the channel 5 news helicopter came forth and he knocked on my door so I hid him from police to figure out what happened. He still couldn’t remember everything due to amnesia, with a bump on his head to prove, but he told me he liked the future.

He particularly likes Pop Tarts and my Jacuzzi oh and now he is a brand loyalist of BMW and Nike, luckily for me he also likes Starbucks coffee but he thinks Facebook is a bunch of hooey. He decided he wants to stay and now we’ve found some more friends of mine to give that star on his chest another try. It turns out the star he is wearing has a button on it which helps him do time travel. Our group wants to travel in time and is thinking the year 2214 could be a lot of fun. What will the future bring?

– — — –

Perhaps you can see from this case study that using such writer prompts can be a lot of fun. In our group each member is allowed between five and 10 minutes to come up with some sort of scene or story to go with the writer’s prompt. And then we read them aloud. It helps unite the group, and it is fun to see all the creative flow, and even better to see people enjoy what they’re doing; writing.

Nov 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

5 Creative Writing Prompts to Break Your Writer’s Block

I have always had an active imagination. When I was a kid, I used to see my stuffed animals wander around the house at nighttime. As a teenager, I couldn’t go to sleep sometimes because when I would close my eyes I would hear a monster’s voice. Now, when I try to fall asleep during a thunderstorm, I see apparitions in the corner of my eye.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t just imagination here. The point is no matter what the cause, bad genetics or a bad sense of humor, I have a very creative personality and I still get writer’s block.

I have found that when I am experiencing writer’s block, the best method to break it is using creative writing prompts. For those of you that do not know, creative writing prompts can be a word or phrase that a writer puts down on paper to get them thinking about a story idea by simply trying to create a story from that word or phrase.

So, if you are stuck on what to write, get out a pad and pen and write down some creative writing prompts. Here is an example list:

1. He drove away from the city and when he saw the UFO slowly growing smaller in his rear view mirror, he smiled.

2. After reading the text message on her boyfriend’s phone, she made sure he was asleep on the couch before going to the kitchen.

3. Explosion.

4. The cowboy kept a six-shooter on his left hip that was too rusted from the blood of his dead brother to work again, but it worked fine with reminding him why he had rode into town.

5. She ran.

The beauty of creative writing prompts is how easy they are to create and how effective they are with sparking the imagination. It takes less than ten minutes to think of five and as soon as you write them down you can feel your creative writing muse stirring awake.

All five examples of the list above can easily be used to create a vast number of stories. Number one may be strictly scifi, but two through five can all be used for any genre of fiction. You may think number four may be a western, but think again and it could be something else. Who says the cowboy has to be human or the setting has to be in the American west?

I know you may feel you need to write descriptive prose much longer than a sentence or two, but sometimes the less the better. Less allows more imagination if you think about it. After performing the exercise, you will quickly find if shorter or longer phrases work for you.

Once you begin to create stories from your creative writing prompts, there is no need to stick to any of them. It is only an exercise to get the creative writing flowing. So if you write ten pages from the word ‘explosion’ and then you feel inspired to write a different story, the exercise still worked. Just keep it going until you feel comfortable with the story that is unfolding before you and if you don’t then stop and write something else.

If five creative writing prompts don’t work for you, then create ten. Again, since they are easy to create just keep making them until one catches your eye. For example, my favorite prompt is number four. When did I know this? As soon as I started to write it, I felt a flood of ideas rush to me about what the story could be. When you have that feeling about an idea, then it is time to expand on it until you can’t any longer. The finished project may be a short story, novella, novelette, novel or a path to another story that you didn’t even know you had in you.

Let me know how creative writing prompts work for you.

Nov 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

10 Writing and Assessment Prompts For Students – From Acronym to Allegory

As a teacher you want what is best for your students – and you know that a big part of what is best for them is to learn the most possible during the time that they are with you in your classroom. From your experience, you know that having creative, new, interesting writing prompts for learners is more likely to be met with interest by students (vs. when they are asked to respond to old stand-by assignments). These writing assignments both reinforce their learning and give you a measure of that learning. In this article, you have 10 prompts (along with definitions if needed) plus examples of how a teacher can take the prompts and tailor them to their content.

1. acronym

  • FOIL = First, outside, inside, last multiplication binomial. Write about how this helps you remember this process.
  • Form an acronym that would help you memorize a function of the circulatory system (or any science topic).
  • Create an acronym for the metric conversion chart. (Kilo-Hecto-Deka-Base-Deci-Centi-Milli)
  • Write a story for the acronym SOHCAHYA (sine=opp./hyp., cosine=adj/hyp, tan=opp/adj)
  • Write an acronym to help you remember grammatical order N V DO IO.

2. Adaptation

  • Write about ways to adapt non-Euclidian geometry in every day life.
  • Write what adaptations humans would have to make as the ozone layer keeps depleting.

3. Address

  • What’s the address (location) of a vertex angle in an isosceles triangle?
  • What would Hamlet’s address be if he had had personal stationary? Would there also be a logo?
  • Memorize and recite the Gettysburg address.
  • Write your own State of the Union address. Be sure to remark on the problems in the United States today.

4. Address book

  • Pretend you found Albert Einstein’s address book – whose names would you find in it?
  • You had dinner last night at the Olive Garden, and you have a little black book on the seat. You open it up and the title page says, “This book belongs to ________” (insert whatever name you like from someone we’ve been studying or someone in current events). Whose addresses would you find here as you flip through the pages?
  • What names would you find in Thomas Jefferson’s address book? Create a facsimile of his address book.

5. Advertisement

  • Create an advertisement for one of the concepts you’ve recently learned in our class.
  • Design an advertisement to draw attention to environment or ecological issues.
  • Write an ad for food (grocery ad) for a particular time period in history.
  • Compare and contrast ads from various countries for similar products that we have in the U.S.
  • Create an advertisement for a beauty or cosmetic product that claims to do what it says it does, e.g., reduce the effect of aging.
  • Write an advertisement to sell the concept of good nutrition using the food pyramid.

6. Advice column

  • Find out what advice your fellow students would find helpful–and write an answer for them.
  • Give advice to Romeo/Juliet as to how to solve their romantic and parental problems.
  • Write an advice column on protecting our ozone layer.
  • You are an advice columnist for a big newspaper. Nixon writes to you and asks what he should do about Watergate. What is your response?
  • Make up situations from stories you’re reading and write questions that could be (should be) submitted to advice columns. Then write the response to those questions.

7. Agenda

  • If you got to meet with anyone in the world, who would it be? What agenda would you want to submit?
  • What research agenda would you want scientists to undertake in the next decade (and why)?
  • If Hamlet and Julius Caesar met, what would the agenda be?
  • Prepare an agenda for a meeting among characters in one of the novels you’re reading.

8. Agreement

  • Create an agreement between yourself and your teacher related to recent behavior you’ve exhibited (and the consequences of that behavior).
  • How might various countries reach agreement on issues related to global warming?

9. Aha!

  • Write to me about the major “aha” (any subject area) you’ve had in your life.
  • Write about the last time you thought ‘aha!’ in a math class.
  • Write an historic account (real or made up) that will make your teacher exclaim ‘aha!’

10. Allegory

  • Write an allegory warning people of the dangers of extinction.
  • Take a traditional allegory and rewrite it with a modern twist, providing evidence of concepts you’ve recently learned.

When you use this list (along with others I have available) to stimulate your thinking about (and inspire your creation of) writing assignments and assessments, you will never run out of new ideas; that is for sure!

Nov 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Creative Writing Exercises & Creative Writing Prompts – What They DON’T Give You And How To Get It

Even the most experienced and seasoned creative writer can benefit from creative writing exercises and prompts.

The key to continuing to grow and develop as a creative writer is to keep experimenting, trying new techniques, ideas and exercises to challenge yourself.

Using a variety of different approaches and starting points in your creative writing will help you to explore your potential as a writer and keep pushing the boundaries.

But although creative writing exercises and prompts are a great tool to use, they assume one thing.

They assume that you are willing and able to write.

Give a writer a creative writing exercise or prompt and they won’t necessarily come up with some interesting creative writing.

In fact many times, however ingenious, stimulating and brilliant the exercise is, the writer won’t produce a single word, let alone a wonderful piece of writing.

So why is this? What’s missing?

There are a number of different factors that stop us from writing, however gifted and talented we are.

Perversely, often the more naturally capable we are of writing creatively, the more we struggle to write.

Here are some of the crucial elements a creative writing exercise or prompt on its own WON’T give you, and how to get it:

1. The confidence to write creatively. Talent and ability amount to very little if you simply lack confidence in your writing.

Build your confidence by starting small and writing little and often. A few paragraphs of a story, a short poem, or a blog entry every day will help you get into the habit of writing consistently. Then you can just increase the amount and frequency as your confidence builds.

2. The “set up” to write creatively. If you don’t have somewhere you can go and start writing within a couple of minutes, you’ll lose motivation and inspiration.

Have a designated place for you to write. If you don’t have your own room or study, at least have a desk or chair where you can have your creative writing equipment to hand and ready for you to start writing at a moment’s notice.

3. The permission to write creatively. Even if you think on the surface you’re willing to write, often on a deeper level, you’re not allowing yourself to. Not giving yourself permission to create is an often overlooked creative block.
Write out for yourself some positive affirmations, such as “I deserve to be able to create”, “I have as much right to create as anyone”, “The world needs me to be creative” and simply “I give myself permission to be creative”. Practice reading them out loud regularly.

4. The time to write creatively. Many of us claim we don’t have time to spend on our creative writing. The truth is, we don’t make it enough of a priority.

Start by giving yourself just 10 minutes at the same time each day to spend writing. Get up a little earlier, go to bed a little later, fit it in wherever you can. By practicing this routine, you’ll find it soon becomes easier to extend it to a larger chunk of time each day, without impacting the time demands of the rest of your life.

5. The motivation to write creatively. Even if you have everything else in place, if you’re not motivated to write, you just won’t write.

Keep your motivation high by reminding yourself why you write creatively. What are the top 5 benefits? What are the 10 things you love about being able to write creatively? What are your ambitions as a creative writer? Write these out and pin them up somewhere prominent to keep you motivated.

Spend a little time and effort on each of these 5 key areas and you’ll soon find there’s no limit to how much you can write.

Then, using those creative exercises and prompts will add the extra dimension you need to explore your creative writing even more.

Nov 10, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

How to Use Creative Writing Prompts to Become a Better Writer

Creative writing prompts are a great tool we can use to explore and expand our writing, especially when it feels like we can only churn out the same old words and phrases time and time again.

So how do writing prompts work, and why should you consider using them in your writing?

Imagine your creative writing potential is a vast ocean, stretching off into the distance for as far as you can see. The problem is, you’re merely paddling around at the shore, unable to go in any deeper than up to your ankles, while that ocean of possibility seems tantalisingly out of reach.

So you could wade out a little further, maybe even swim, and maybe you do this from time to time. But to really set sail on a voyage of writing discovery, you need a boat!

The problem isn’t a lack of writing ability or a lack of ideas, or enthusiasm. The problem is taking the plunge and getting started on new writing adventures.

So, if you had a boat, you could push off from the shore in any direction you wish, sail as far as you wanted, even go around the world and back if that’s what your heart desired. No more sitting at the shore gazing out in frustration and wondering if you’d ever write anything stimulating and rewarding again. You’ll be too busy enjoying your sea adventures to worry about things like that!

So, back to your creative writing… The question is, how do you find a boat?

This is where creative writing prompts come in. A writing prompt gives you an initial direction to head in, and a strong launch from the shore. You have a specific idea in your mind to start with, which your creativity, once invited, will happily take over and explore in its own unique way.

But, hang on, if the prompt isn’t your own idea, isn’t that “cheating”?

This is a common concern and the simple answer is no. As soon as you set sail with the prompt, where you take it is completely up to you. After that initial push off, the sails and rudder are in your hands and you can use them to head in any direction you want to.

With writing prompts you don’t then have someone on your shoulder (or in your boat!) giving you instructions about what to write, how many words to use, and which punctuation is most suitable. You’re free to write however you want to write. The difference is, you’ve been given that initial boost that you’ve struggled to find on your own lately. Take it, use it, write the best you can write!