“What we need to question is bricks, concrete, glass, our table manners, are utensils, our tools, the way we spend our time, our rhythms. To question that which seems to have ceased forever to astonish us. We live, true, we breathe, true; we walk, we go downstairs, we sit at a table in order to eat, we lie down on a bed in order to sleep. How? Where? When? Why? Describe your street. Describe another. Compare.”
— Georges Perec
This post contains prompts intended for generating thoughtful content with which a writer may work out areas they are not accustomed to exercising within their craft.
There are three uses for this post in mind:
- To exercise the weaker areas of our craft
- To fine-tune skills writers’ are aiming to master
- To generate a story good enough to publish
You may feel compelled to make decisions before you respond, or you may write immediately after reading a prompt. However you approach these prompts, it’s recommended you read the entire prompt — with the amendments below it — before responding.
Two lovers in a 1950s style diner are seated in a booth before their food arrives. One of them is loquacious, the other laconic. The quiet one wants to use the bathroom and is trying to find a break in the conversation — however — they actually want to leave the diner — and the person they were there with — forever.
- The nature of the relationship between the two people, their demographic/s
- The quality of their conversation
- Their character
- Write one version as an drama focusing on the mentality of the characters, another version as a comedy more concerned with the outside world.
- Write from the perspective of one of the characters in the first version, from the other in the second.
- Have them interrupted at least twice by a waiter outside of either of their economic class who is prone to making social peccadilloes.
A young, smart-looking couple return home after seeing a show in London’s West End. Having decided to return to the woman’s apartment, they unwind. One of them makes drinks. As they’re talking about their night in the living room, there is noise from the bedroom, and a barely-dressed, good-looking man steps out into their space, and addresses the woman with clear romantic familiarity.
- Write this narrative in the perspective one would read in a play. So, do not take any character’s side.
- To challenge yourself, in a second version, write from the perspective of the sex you’re less familiar with.
- Blame the woman, blame the man
- Write a third version in dramatic format, as a play script. If you’re unfamiliar with the formatting of a play, just write in a dialogue heavy formate. You can read up on dramatic form later. The aim is to demonstrate a strong constant use of dialogue, with brief indications of the characters’ movements and responses.
- Who are these people?
- How long has this couple been dating?
- What are their occupations? They don’t ever have to be mentioned to the reader, but you should know their background down to their favorite childhood toy.
- Is the second man the woman’s intimate? A stranger? Convincing in his stated reasons for being there?
Someone wakes up alone in their room and goes about their business in getting ready for the day. Before they leave the room or see anyone, they discover they’re animated. Describe the psychological effects of their transformation, the perceptional changes that they have, their thoughts on interacting with humans, as they come to accept this change as their new reality of their being. What happens to a person’s mind when they’ve turned from human being into an animated being with the knowledge that they were once a human being?
Following this, someone else living in the house knocks on the door and calls for your protagonist’s attention. Write their interaction in detail.
- In a separate exercise, switch the tone to the opposite of what you wrote. For instance, if your initial response was a comedic narrative, rewrite it as a stern drama.
A man comes to a clearing in the middle of a forest and finds a single smooth tree stump from a recently felled tree. He sits on the stump, takes water out of his backpack and has a sip — before hearing machine gun fire. What happens? Explore anything you want but make it realistic.
- Tone of your response. Will this be funny, stone serious, both, something else?
- After hearing the gun fire, the man realizes he isn’t sure how he got to the forest, and, come to think of it, he’s not sure what his name is, or what year it is.
ii. The forest is a movie set.
iii. This takes place on another planet.
iv. Change the protag to a transperson or a woman.
A 16-year-old math professor sparks the ire of his students. Some of them confront and physically threatened him.
- How does the professor speak, being that they are young and exceptionally intelligent?
- Where does the altercation take place? Inside a classroom? The quad of a university campus? A fast food joint off-campus?
- Is anyone else around when this happens? Do they notice or respond to the altercation?
- How many intimidators are there?
- Is the professor famous?