Prompt City

Welcome to Prompt City. In case you didn’t know, a writing prompt is a short instruction or set of parameters that writers use as a starting point, to make short fictional sketches.

These prompts here are here for your enjoyment. You can get started right away by browsing the menu in the side bar. Or you can read on for my thoughts on how to use prompts and what makes a good prompt.

But first: there are tons of sites around the web offering writing prompts. Are these any better? I hear you asking.

Well, if I may be so bold, like Trump’s steaks, my prompts are truly the best. No, I’m kidding. But one feature that these prompts do offer is having stricter parameters than the typical writing prompt, which sometimes are so general (Write about a summer vacation) that the writer isn’t really practicing any particular technique in fulfilling the task. My experience has been that improving as a fiction writer happens faster when certain narrative points of view are practiced, then different methods of describing characters, writing particular scenes on command, and so on. It’s a singer practicing scales, a tennis player drilling forehands, and so on.

Lets’ look at an example. Here’s a prompt to do with Dialogue.


Prompt: Write a scene of a character meeting with a loan officer at a bank to get a loan, business or personal. The loan officer denies the loan. Use indirect dialogue (paraphrased or summarized dialogue) to relate the majority of the meeting. But selectively use direct dialogue for the decisive or critical part of the conversation, which ought to include the customer’s reaction to be denied.

You see what I mean about parameters. In this case, the point is to use direct dialogue for the important part, the most heated and plot-significant exchange, of any conversation that happens in your story. That’s a general rule of dialogue that is discussed elsewhere (one of my courses, for example).

Finally—and this is a benefit—the other thing you get in Prompt City is an example of a writer writing to the prompt. In a teacher’s edition of a textbook, this would be a called a “sample student answer.” Most but not all of these are written by me! The Editorial Department is on strike over wages, and I’m the only one around who can do the work.

Enjoy the prompts. Use the sidebar menu to browse by topic.