A lot of writers feel like they’re somehow ‘cheating’ when they write a story based on a prompt they found somewhere. Although this feeling comes from a good place – we do, after all, want to strive for originality in everything we write – there’s no need to be afraid to write from a prompt you stumbled across somewhere beside your own head.
Writing from a prompt is a freeing experience – particularly if you tend to get so enmeshed in where your story’s going that you wind up never writing it. If you have difficulty building your plots, writing a few stories using a detailed prompt can help you get a sense for pacing events and constructing a narrative.
However, plot isn’t the only element of storytelling that you can perfect by writing stories from prompts. There are prompts for character development, where you’re given some of a character’s personality traits and backstory as well as a change that the character will go through by the end of the story. You can combine this kind of prompt with a plot prompt, or come up with a plot of your own to develop the prompted characters.
Settings, too, can be prompted – although in many ways, randomly selecting a setting from a list can be a prompt of its own. Although I personally prefer to start with a setting and develop the characters and plot from there, many other writers start off with characters and stories in mind, but no setting.
Whatever your troublesome areas are when you write, a prompt can give you the structure you need to overcome them. The internet is full of prompts for plots, characters, settings, or even pieces of dialogue. In addition, coming up with prompts can be a fantastic way to spend an afternoon with your writing group. This is one writing tool that no writer should be afraid to use.