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Author Topic: On Writing Prompts  (Read 1766 times)
quoting_mungo
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« on: January 29, 2011, 03:45:30 PM »

I'd just like to do some discussion on how people feel about different kinds of writing prompts. I've participated in a few myself, and have an expansion of one of them that I'm seriously considering. If you're familiar with others, please feel free to expand on them here! Not all may be strictly relevant to creative writing, but you'd be surprised at what can be; some are included here more for completeness/because I have experience with them than anything else. In these cases I may or may not discuss how they can be adapted towards the "creative exercise" end of the spectrum.

LJ's "Writer's Block" boxes
Some of them are great jumping-off points for entries, some I personally don't find very engaging at all. The focus, of course, is on things that fit a personal blog, so taking them as-is may only really be applicable if you're doing an in-character journal suitable for such things. (My Stickseed is not, as that's an ongoing narrative in a setting where most of the subjects would be utterly alien.) There have been some in the past that have been the starting points of some opinion articles that sparked a decent deal of discussion in comments, so if you enjoy writing that kind of pieces, I can recommend looking through the Writer's Block community to dig out the gems.

Even if you don't use the prompts directly by clicking the "Answer" button, many of the questions are worth considering, akin to the character development questionaires of old including now-inactive LJ community Out_Lines. It may never come up but that doesn't mean it doesn't help you as a writer to know what fictional character your character would most like to spend a day with, or what have you.

LJ Idol
LJ Idol is primarily geared towards blogging, and most participants write about things from their own lives. Basically, each week (sometimes a bit more often, sometimes a bit less) contestants are given a topic to write on (or more than one, later in the competition), they write an entry based on that prompt before the deadline, all entries are put in a poll (or several polls) and the contestants scoring lowest are eliminated. Actually participating in the "official" community is not mandatory; it's perfectly fine to write "Home Game" entries on only the prompts which inspire you.

The interesting part, for us here, is of course not primarily using these prompts as a springboard for autobiographical blogging (though some contestants do that very well) but the ways they can be used for creative writing. Some examples that have shown up in the contest included someone writing an ongoing narrative and working each week's prompt in (I think zie wrote a zombie apocalypse story; the entries I read were quite interesting), writing individual stories based on each prompt with no particular connection, or writing from the point of view of a fictional character (aside from me writing the main characters from my webcomic, we've had someone's pet cat and a fairy queen in the running this season). The competitive element somehow works out to encourage reader feedback, so even as I've been terrible about commenting back to people lately, I tend to get at least some feedback each week. You can also care exactly as much as you want to about the fact that it is a competition, long as you meet the deadlines, even as an active contestant.

This is getting kind of long so I'll continue in a reply post with the thing I'm considering starting up.
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quoting_mungo
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2011, 04:10:02 PM »

Bingo Prompts
Far as I've been able to discern, this tradition started with the community kink_bingo on LJ, which later moved to Dreamwidth. The concept then was to provide writers with a bingo card (5x5 squares, middle square being wildcard) where each square provided a prompt in the form of a kink to be worked into a fanfiction story, a piece of fanart, a fandom-related meta essay, or something similar. Participants would be given an individual card, write a story to fill a square, and five squares together would form a bingo. This was later followed by a number of other similar communities (link goes to a workshop/kudos type group for bingo writers which has the biggest directory of bingo communities I've been able to find), all of which had the same fanfic-only restriction, and most/all of which had a very definite theme.

Now, I don't mind fanfic, but I don't write much of it myself. I also don't mind kinky shit, or H/C stories, or any of these other themes, but I don't like the notion of being bound to write them if that's not the idea I get from a prompt. So I assembled a list of prompts, split loosely into three categories (sex/plot/species), in an Excel document, and pasted the list into Random.org's list randomizer to generate my own bingo card for non-fandom writing.

The first such card can be found here. (Some prompts are very obviously sex-related, if you have someone reading over your shoulder.)

I decided to restart with a new card with the new year, and this year Veritas joined me. His card and mine (still some definitely sexy prompts on there), which gives a few more of the prompts on the lists.

So I'm toying with the idea of, after contacting the people with the original idea and hopefully obtaining their blessing, working towards building a web page that will auto-generate the cards, with the option of excluding any one of the three categories (because the HTML and general generation is a bit of a pain to do by hand, to be honest), and writing up a set of rules for this adaptation of the concept, which would include allowing original writing, as well as a couple of "bonus challenge" options. The rules obviously can't be enforced for people who just play at home because they want a list of prompts, but the possibility is there to have either a LJ or DW community for "official" scoring (leaning a little towards DW because their tagging is nicer), or running same on a forum of some sort or similar, and anyway having an official line for "this is how we intend for this to be used" is a good guideline.

Would anyone be interested in participating if something like this existed? Why/why not?
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Altivo
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« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2011, 04:34:00 PM »

I'm not sure I followed all that about the bingo card, but it reminds me of something my father used to have. It was a cartoonist's prompter, for those single frame cartoons that appear in newspapers (or did at one time when there really were newspapers.) It had a metal spinning hand like a clock hand, and concentric circles of words. One circle contained objects, such as "teaspoon" or "flat tire." Another contained characters, such as "farmer" or "young mother." And the third contained locations, like "kitchen" or "circus" or "country road."

The idea was to spin the pointer three times to get a person, a thing, and a place, and that was to provide a clue for some sort of cartoon gag.

I'm curious about applying this idea to writing, though in my case I have no interest in kinks or smut. Perhaps an option to substitute more generic situations, or physical settings like "roadside cafe" or "mountain campground?"
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quoting_mungo
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2011, 04:46:09 PM »

That's exactly why I've constructed my "master list" as three lists when I started working on my own version; there's enough prompts on there that any two lists together will have enough to generate unique cards. A friend of mine whom I generated a card for last year opted out of the sexual prompts and got this card. (As a sidenote I'd approximate that about half the prompts that I've categorized as sexual could be written as non-sexual and there's no way of telling which ones are from what list on the actual cards.) The aim was, generally, to be more generic about the situations (and kinks) than the communities I was exposed to the idea through, as some of their prompts to me seemed to be more specific versions of each other more than anything.

I also personally slightly prefer this over getting a single prompt and "having to" follow it, as if there's one on there I'm really not feeling, I can just choose to do a line that doesn't go through that square.
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