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5 quick ways to make your own creative writing prompts

If you’re looking for creative writing prompts to start off your own or student writing, there’s no need to search online – here’s how to make your own, and enjoy the fun of randomness!

Creative Writing Prompts 1 – PICK UP A BOOK

Pick up any book, open it at a random page (shut your eyes if you like), and point with your finger. What’s the first phrase you find? Here’s what I turned up:

  • A stupid compliment (Roddy Doyle, The Snapper)
  • Her goblin trappings (Charlotte Bronte, Villette)
  • A continual thorn in poor Linda’s side (Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love)
  • There was a jealous madness in that woman (Angela Carter, Wise Children)
  • Ghost ape (New Scientist, June 2018)

I used this technique to write my book Nanonovels, by writing a flash fiction story every day for 150 days. To find out how to do this, see the book intro.

Creative Writing Prompts 2 – DIG IN YOUR POCKETS

Pockets are full of intriguing objects – notebooks, pills, toys, tickets, keepsakes… See what you can find, and use it as the start for a story. Try swopping objects with another writer.

Here’s what I found:

  • A handkerchief
  • An uncashed cheque (hurray!)
  • A festival programme
  • An unidentified key
  • A shoe-shaped charm
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Creative Writing Prompts 3 – OPEN A CUPBOARD

Messy and little-used cupboards in particular can throw up some treasures. Find an intriguing object and brainstorm verbs to use with it – see Writing with Objects for some ideas.

Here’s what I found:

  • A Christmas present I forgot to give someone
  • Fly papers
  • A peacock feather
  • Superglue
  • A burnt ironing board

Creative Writing Prompts 4 – LISTEN TO THE RADIO

Notebook at the ready, switch between stations and write down phrases, exchanges, fragments of conversation. What characters and situations do they suggest?

Here what my radio found within a minute or so:

  • A lovely painting of her
  • A get out of jail card
  • You’re on cruise control
  • Rob’s not ready for a lot of things in life
  • The perfect selfie

Creative Writing Prompts 5 – LOOK OUT OF THE WINDOW

Depending on where you are, you’ll find very different story prompts. Here are some of the things outside my window today:

  • Three speckled hens in a windblown pen
  • Two neighbours struggling to park their cars in a tight space
  • A deflated ball rolling across the yard
  • An abandoned martin’s nest
  • A postwoman delivering a parcel

If you’re in a writers’ group or write with a friend, swop and share ideas. Enjoy the surprise of randomness, and jolt your brain by integrating it into your stories.

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