Creating Original Writing Prompts, or, Where's That Muse When You Need Her?

Perhaps you've struggled to compose original writing prompts tailored to specific writing or content lessons, but the creativity muse has departed to destinations unknown! Use these handy tips and techniques for generating a well of original inspiration. These suggestions also make wonderfully interactive class assignments. Visual learners will especially enjoy collecting pictures and photographs to spark writing topics. Collections of objects, representing possible writing ideas, appeal to the "show-and-tell" kid in everyone, especially kinesthetic learners. You and your students can create original prompts and journal topics for the written word by also collecting the printed word and the spoken word.

  • Collect pictures and photographs. Visual artists are notorious for this, building and maintaining extensive reference files of all manner of pictures upon which to draw inspiration for their work. You or your students may be drawn to certain colors, visual styles, or subject matter. Leaf through magazines, newspapers, catalogs, or calendars to begin assembling reference files of pictures, photos, or illustrations that might spark future story ideas. Collect postcards! Keep postcards in an archival album. Attach other pictures to sturdy cardstock, leaving a small border for instant framing, and then laminate.
  • Collect objects. What fits in your hand and appeals to your sense of sight or touch? Beads, figurines, textile swatches, seashells, polished gemstones or river rocks, mementos from special trips...organize a box of these physical objects that might prompt intriguing stories.
  • Collect printed material. Rip headlines from newspapers and magazines. Attach to cardstock and laminate. Select interesting words and intriguing phrases from dictionaries and reference books. Jot words and phrases into a writer's notebook.
  • Collect spoken material. Carry a small notebook and record interesting snatches of overheard conversation. From television and radio, jot down dialogue from all manner of shows. What potential characters of your own might speak these lines?
In summary, keep these tips in mind when you or your students need to generate original topic ideas. Building collections of pictures, objects, and print and spoken materials adds to the building of a wealth of original writing prompts.

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