Lisa Godfrees

Lisa Godfrees is a folklore enthusiast, jackalope-seeker and admirer of all things dystopian. Born and raised in Texas, Lisa credits her writing career to a chance (God) encounter with an author at church. If you’re interested in reading her story prompt-inspired short stories, the thriller and ghost story are free on her blog). She’ll also be writing the staff feature for the Buckle Up Contest!

Splickety Sentinel

3 Reasons Story Prompts Are Your Friend

Recently, Dan Barlow of the Steve Laube Agency wrote that “Creativity flourishes inside a fence.” He was talking about social media planning, but it relates to story writing as well.

Before I started writing fiction, I thought I’d never be an author because I had no ideas. I believed that if someone gave me an idea, then I could make a story from it.

I was both right and wrong.

The magic litmus of my writing career came when I decided to reimagine a Bible story (story prompt). Since then, I’ve been able to come up with my own ideas because I know how to play the story prompt game. Want to learn?

Perhaps you’re the kind of person who has more ideas than time to write. Why would you want to use story prompts? Let me tell you…

1. Story prompts provide framework.

If flash fiction was a game, then story prompts provide part of the rules.

I recently competed in a national short story writing challenge. Participants were placed into seeds and assigned a subject, character, and genre. The top few in each seed advanced to the next round of competition. Limited time, limited words, and specific elements. That’s a crucible for story.

If you’re writing your own story, this can work as well. Make up your own prompts. Some writers do this intuitively. It’s called what is the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist, but you can use random prompts as well (there must be a reason why Story Cubes are so popular). And yes, there’s an App for that. ;)

I did well in the first round of the contest, but didn’t advance in the second. Still, it was a good experience because of #2.

2. Story prompts challenge you.
For the second round I was assigned ghost story as a genre. I’d never written a ghost story before. I read a few to determine expectations for the genre, then began. The resulting story is one of my favorites. If it hadn’t been for the prompt, this story would never have existed. (So what if one of the three judges hated it).

There’s one problem with a short story competition where everyone is given the same prompts, though. That brings us to #3.

3. Story prompts force you to be creative.
Remember the quote about creativity flourishing inside a fence? Well, here’s where the fence comes into play.

If you’re told to write a ghost story where the subject is “living alone” and the character is a philanthropist, what is the first thing you think of? A philanthropist who is living alone and is haunted by a ghost. Am I right?

If everyone writes a story with the same premise, then how will yours stand out from the crowd? No one likes to read predictable. Predictable = boring.

This is where creativity comes into play. What is the least likely way these three elements (ghost story, living alone, philanthropist) could be combined into a story?

If you’re working on your own story, here’s a story prompt for you. Have one of your characters contract rabies. How would you fit that in? Who would you give it to? Will they survive? *bites nails*

Ready to play?

If you’re interested in pitting yourself against other writers, here are some opportunities:

Splickety Prime’s Buckle Up Contest Issue (submission deadline 7/8/16). Story prompt: stories that revolve around transportation.

NYCmidnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2016 (entry deadline around 7/31/2016). Story prompts provided with each round.

Looking for more? Splickety provides story prompts (themes) each month. Check out our Upcoming Themes page for more details.