By Bruce Hennigan
There once was a website called Storypraxis. Perhaps you remember it with fondness. If you subscribed to the site, you would receive a “writing prompt” every 3 days. Your job was simple. Write quickly for 20 to 30 minutes using the word or phrase as stimulus for a short, short story or a poem. No editing. No deep thinking. Just write that story and submit it. If the story was good, you would be featured in that month’s “magazine”.
I participated (participate was one of the prompt words!) and found it the most simulating and exciting writing exercise. Here is why.
1. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Writing prompts force me to try something different and getting true different results. Sometimes this is satisfying. Sometimes it is frustrating. Always, it is a positive growth experience and quite educational.
2. A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out. I write Christian speculative fiction. The question I need to ask is if I am able to write other genres. Can I write romance? Can I write a historical novel? Can I write an inspirational story based on personal experiences? Writing prompts force me to consider other genres and I have found that some of them I really like!
3. A cartoonish character is always a problem for me. I want my characters to be as real as possible. Writing prompts allow me to explore new characters. I stretch my imagination and try putting myself into the shoes of many different types of characters, even that of a lawn mower. I have found creating rich, complex characters has become easier.
4. Editing is the hard work of being a published author. I love to bleed all over the page and to do so with superlative descriptions. Then, the time comes to pull out the scalpel and whittle away the excess fat! Often though, all that is left is scar tissue! Writing prompts force me to write with editing in mind since there is no time to go back and edit. Being on a word count or time deadline helps me to become a better writer up front!
5. I always have a plethora of ideas. I jot them down, even when I awake from a great dream in the middle of the night. Writing prompts allows me to do a “taste test” of a story idea. If it comes to life on the page and promises there is more than just those few paragraphs, it is an idea I need to devote more time to. Many of my writing prompts have become entire scenes in my books or even ideas for future books.
In short, writing prompts have become a necessary part of my ongoing writing discipline. They are part of my weekly “workout” to keep my creativity, my writing, and my imagination sharp and healthy. Do an internet search and there are many websites, blogs, and twitter feeds devoted to giving you a writing prompt. Or, you can check out my website (brucehennigan.com) and click on the “Flip Side” tab. I’ve uploaded a pdf of a group of writing prompts I received through Storypraxis and the short pieces I wrote based on those prompts. See what you come up with!
Bruce Hennigan is a radiologist, a church dramatist, and a certified apologist. He co-authored “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan For Conquering Depression” from B & H Publishing. He is the author of three novels, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye“, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” published by Realms Books and “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” through Westbow Press. His latest novel, “The 10th Demon: Children of the Bloodstone” will be released the summer of 2015. For more information, check out his website at brucehennigan.com, 11thdemon.com, and conquerngdepression.com.