clhollandwriter: (Default)
For today, another gift idea: 642 Things To Write About. There's also a young writer's edition. Enough prompts to keep anyone going all year!
clhollandwriter: (poppy)
It must be a couple of years ago now I bought The Writer's Toolbox by Jamie Cat Callan.
Like my ever-growing pile of books about writing, it got looked at a couple of times, and I had the best of intentions to use it, but then it got put to one side and forgotten about it.

I pulled it out again recently when I was stuck on a prompt-based challenge, to add a couple of elements and a first line to get me going. It worked, although the resulting story is possibly too strange to actually do anything with.

The toolkit itself is a fun idea. It has some spinners with things like characters and obstacles on, sicks with first lines and lot twists, and cards with sensory details and objects. The different idea generators are designed to be used with those of the same sort (although I mix and match), and the idea is to write from one until the egg timer runs out of sand then use the next one to turn the story in another direction.

I liked the idea so much I decided to make my own, except based around speculative fiction. I got as far as buying a pack of craft lolly sticks in different colours, but realised I was going to have trouble writing on their rough surfaces and also couldn't decide what to do with my sticks. Have some for fantasy and some for science fiction? Include characters/settings/fantasy races and aliens/settings? Then I got distracted, and moved house, and haven't done anything more with it than find a tin to keep the sticks in.

The problem with the toolkit is there's a risk of getting bored with the content. Sure you'll end up with different combinations, but there are limited options for each different element. There's only so many times you want to write about "Joy from the rock band" or someone who solves their problems by learning to drive. The sensory details and plot turn prompts have probably got a it more life in them, and you can always combine them with other, weirder prompts. See you at Seventh Sanctum?
clhollandwriter: (block)
A little late posting, since it's not 5th May, but I signed up for the May story a day challenge over at

It's bringing home to me how out of practice I am. One of the first posts suggested starting small - no more than 1200 words a story at the beginning of the month. My immediate reaction was I'd struggle to manage even that in a day. I used to be able to do it in an hour and a half. These days I find it really difficult to go from a standing start.

Not engaging with the prompts is a problem. Show me a picture of a baby elephant trying to rescue a kitten from a river and I'm more likely to think it's twee, and that I hate anthropomorphic animal stories, than wonder how an elephant and cat become best buddies, if they're in league with each other, or what that cat is doing in the river in the first place.

However, even when I was writing from prompts before I was usually supplementing with other prompts. It's when the random connections happen in the brain that the magic starts.

So, for anyone else in need of prompting, here are some of my favourite prompt sites:
Seventh Sanctum, which has prompts for pretty much everything (random creatures, equipment, names) on top of a dedicated writing section that comes up with plots, symbolism, themes etc.
Mangle posts the last 25 images uploaded to Livejournal. Sometimes what you'll get is awful (yes, sometimes that's porn - the site is very NSFW), but sometimes you'll get a gem.
Also for images there's deviantART, which posts up it's most recently popular images on the front page.
The Random Proverb Generator which smooshes up proverbs and serves them back in a new form. Loading it up to get the link just netted me "Absence makes the heart grow words". There might be a story in that.

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