Did you know writing prompts can be an incredible training ground for honing your storytelling skills?
Regularly using prompts allows you to practice different narrative techniques, experiment with various writing styles, and fine-tune your ability to convey emotions…and build suspense in your story. As a result, they are a crucial step in developing your own unique writer’s voice.
It's like a creative workout for your imagination! So how do we train those muscles?
The Versatility of Writing Prompts
Prompts are a powerful tool for writers looking to improve their narrative skills.
Whether the prompt is a single sentence, a scenario, or a specific theme, picture them as a spark that ignites your creativity and propels your imagination. That spark can be the foundation from which you build your story.
Here are some examples that you can try on for size. See what you can create!
Single sentence - “I knew I was about to die…” Scenario - You've just built your own, personal robot. It can do amazing things - far beyond your family's imagination, and perhaps even that of the world! What will you do with it? Write a scene in which you have programmed it, and it is about to carry out your wishes. Specific theme - The world is filled with polarizing topics. I'm sure you could come up with at least one thing where you have a clear stand, and your fire is lit! Now look at it from the other side. Yes, that's right. The best writers and authors are able to open their perspectives to try to see very strongly the opposing points of view. Pick a topic you are extremely passionate about on one side, and now write an essay as if you are a mighty proponent for the other! Not only is this a beautiful skill, but it can also awaken great insight.
With these great beginnings, what wondrous tale could you spin?
Mastering Narrative Techniques and Styles
It’s all in the storytelling…
With each prompt, you have the opportunity to think outside the box, and develop innovative ways to engage your readers. It's a chance to experiment with different points of view, narrative structures, or even genres (think fiction to nonfiction, or narrative nonfiction instead of biography), pushing the boundaries of your storytelling abilities!
What about your story’s pacing and your character arcs? How would you adapt your writing style to mirror the language of other periods, like the Renaissance or the Old West?
Try stepping outside your comfort zone with new tones and moods; dark and brooding like Brahms Stoker’s Dracula or Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight! Or perhaps light and entertaining like The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot!
It's through this exploration that you expand your repertoire and add depth to your storytelling abilities. It's like trying on different hats until you find the one that fits you perfectly!
Try on a new Writing Style!
Twice a year I host 14-day online writing challenges. During the Summer of Writing Adventure, a participant commented on that day’s assigned writing prompt:
I SUCK at this kind of writing - agh, my story is boring and predictable
I responded, “What are you talking about? This is waaay good! Why did you not like it…and what do you like about it?”
“Oh, it just feels sort of cliche to me, I don't know, it was late LOL - I loved the piece about the dinosaur and the aliens, that's REALLY using imagination!”
With a knowing grin, I said “Yes it is really using your imagination. That's perfect. I know that when we stretch our imagination and lean into a stretch as you did, that's when new inspiration can peep through to what we are currently working on.”
And guess what? It did for her. She was able to apply that juicy creativity to the manuscript she was working on.
That’s exactly what I hoped to see happen when I designed these challenges: writers stretching to write something interesting or powerful based on a prompt!
Conveying Emotions and Increasing Impact
But writing prompts offer more than just a playground for creativity, they also help you practice conveying great emotion effectively and building suspense. You can experiment with various techniques to evoke specific feelings in your readers, like using senses to invite the reader into a deeper “show me” story, rather than a “tell me” story, which not only piques interest and imagination, it’s been proven to resonate higher with readers, to where they want to stay with your characters all the way to the end.
Through these types of vivid descriptions, poignant and dramatic dialogue, and well-placed plot twists, you can master the art of emotional impact.
Consider this example:
Sheryl Simmons listened to her boss in complete disbelief. Todd Fisher addressed the Board of Directors with his usual charm and charisma, discussing the all-important agenda item that had Sheryl on the edge of her seat. She watched his lean, athletic profile as he moved, the way the other members intently listened to him, almost mesmerized with his grace and striking profile in his finely cut suit.
“And Layla Arch has the aggressive and uncompromising attitude toward profits that we need,” he said pointedly. “As Hank and Anthony have pointed out, it’s time to take The Diamante from a sleepy boutique investment firm to one of the top players in the industry. Layla is ruthless enough to help us do that,” the company president said firmly, clearly catering to the two newest members of the board.
Sheryl’s stomach churned. Why do we need a CFO who is ruthless or aggressive? Those are not qualities I’d ever look for in a candidate.
–Karen Ann Bullock, Discovering Power: The Ascending Ladders Series Book 1
Can you see?
It's about crafting a rollercoaster of emotions that keeps your readers on the edge of their seats, like Sheryl.
When you work with prompts and expand your skillsets consistently, you also increase your writing efficiency and impact. I know you’ve seen prolific authors who write and publish books every year. How do they rapidly produce manuscripts that are also high quality? The secret is in practicing and honing your craft; something that writing prompts are especially good for! The more you practice, the more adept you become at generating ideas, structuring your stories, and conveying your messages effectively.
In other words, your thought process becomes streamlined, allowing you to quickly dive into your writing and focus on creating a memorable narrative. Think of it like developing a superpower that lets you unleash your creativity much more effortlessly! That’s why my writing challenges are at least fourteen days long. It takes repetition over multiple days to build that mental muscle and get the brain creatively activated upon request.
Don't underestimate the power of this small but mighty tool to enhance your writing ability and become a more impactful storyteller. Embrace the challenges each prompt presents, and watch your storytelling gifts grow with each one you tackle.
Your narrative skills are waiting to be unlocked—let writing prompts be the key.