By my count, Promptly will be hitting its 100th prompt anniversary next Friday (give or take a few days that featured multiple prompts). In addition to celebratory digital cake, in the posts leading up to our double-golden anniversary prompt, I’ll be featuring 25 writing prompts a day, in the order in which they appeared here.
Here's Day 1 of Promptfest 2010. Next week we’ll feature a special prompt with a giveaway and a shot at getting your name and response in Writer’s Digest magazine. Keep an eye out!
Feel free to take the following prompts home or post your response to any of them (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at email@example.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.
??The phone rings and a low voice groans—“Why me?”
?You hang up. Twenty minutes later, it rings again.
“You made a mistake.”
?The dial tone throbs as the phone hangs from its cord, limp.
The Doctor is In?
(Literary Roadshow prompt, from Albert Camus’ The Plague; write a story inspired by or including the following—)??
“He was going to make them right with a couple of pills or an injection, and people took him by the arm on his way to the sickroom. Flattering, but dangerous.”
Now, he takes your arm. Who is this doctor? Reveal him in scene.
The Damaging Dispute? ?
Write an argument—the worst dispute your character has ever been in, at least in his or her opinion—without using a single exclamation point or all-caps word. It’s an exercise in discipline: Keep the fire contained, brimming at the surface but never boiling over. And make sure you mention a pair of pliers and a spectator.
?Photogenic Stranger? ?
You develop a roll of film, an old roll from about 10 years ago, and sit down to sift through the photos. As you do, you stop and analyze a figure lurking in the background of a vacation photo. You drop the pictures, aghast, and gasp for air.
Surprise Attack; New Pet? ?
Something unexpected attacks you. Now, you have to decide whether or not to keep it as a pet.?
The Terrible Decision? ?
Choose a moment from yesterday or today, an otherwise normal moment when you could have done something extreme, something terrible, if you had just done one small thing different. Do it in scene. ?
Next Time, Chew? ?
At dinner, you choke. Something flashes before your eyes, only it’s not exactly your life.?
??Here’s to the Lion?
(Literary Roadshow prompt, from Ernest Hemingway’s short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"; write a story inspired by or including the following—) ??
“Here’s to the lion,” he said. “I can’t ever thank you for what you did.” ?Margaret, his wife, looked away from him and back to Wilson.?
“Let’s not talk about the lion,” she said. ?Wilson looked over at her without smiling and now she smiled at him.?
That Wicked Old Scent? ?
“It smells like something has died in the walls,” she said.
“Well, do something about it.”
?“I always do.”
?He remembered what happened last time, and the sun sagged low.?
Wherever You May Write ? ?
Write a scene that takes place wherever you write. Take an object [or two] that is always present at your desk, and make it a key element of your scene.?
?In a scene, define love.?
Like a Virgin?
(Slightly out of context without the lead-in from the original blog post, but, still—) ?
Do something you’ve never done before, and use the experience in scene.
That Strange Day? ?
It’s been raining for weeks and a single thought has been stuck in your mind: It plays itself over and over, and you can’t stop pondering what happened on that strange day—the day it started raining.?
Things We Lost in the Flood? ?
Your home floods. You race to save one item, but at the last minute, change your mind.?
Behind the Curtain? ?
A fortune-teller rubs her glass orb and grabs your hand. She closes her eyes. She raises her head toward the sky and mumbles. Then, she bursts out laughing.?
The Ultimate Secret?
(Literary Roadshow prompt, from George Orwell’s 1984; write a story inspired by or including the following—)
?“Julia, are you awake?”?
No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them.? He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood how; he did not understand why.?
Rejecting the Rejection? ?
You’ve had it. You can’t take it any more. You decide to reject a rejection letter. ?
In Your Father's Shoes? ?
You put on your father’s shoes, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and walk outside. His hat never quite fit right, but still, you wear it.?
(Literary Roadshow prompt, from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle; write a story inspired by or including the following—)
??“What a cynic!” I gasped. I looked up from the note and gazed around … “Is he here somewhere?”
?“I do not see him,” said Mona mildly. She wasn’t depressed or angry. In fact, she seemed to verge on laughter. “He always said he would never take his own advice, because he knew it was worthless.”?
Life in the Booth? ?
Write a scene about this man—perhaps a pivotal moment in his life—in the dunking booth, or elsewhere.
?Tragically, Hero? ?
Write the story of how your hero came to be missing a tooth.?
Morals and Movies? ?
You have just purchased tickets for a movie, and someone approaches you, tears in his eyes and something gripped in his palm, and asks a question—one that leaves you speechless.?
Selling Out/Buying In? ?
You have done what you swore you would never do: You have written a book solely to pay the bills. Now, write the back-cover promo copy.?
A Decision, a Laugh, a Howl?
It’s a holiday, and you make a decision that makes something go very awry—or, very right—depending on how you look at it. Meanwhile, it’s cold but it’s supposed to be hot
, someone is laughing and a dog is howling. ?
A Game of Confession? ?
Old friends have gathered, and are passing the time with a card game.
?“Ante up,” you say.
?“I have a confession,” your former roommate replies.?
Everyone widens their eyes, but then lowers their heads.? They know something you don’t.?