Friday, October 25, 2013

The Joy of a Great Writing Prompt . . .

What I think I've been struggling with most lately is how to create not merely a good writing exercise - the ones that are open-ended but also hold the potential of a intriguing exercise or the promise of  STORY  - BUT, a writing exercise that can do ALL of that for multiple writing levels, for an ENTIRE CLASS, and even more so, with a theme to (sort of, kind of) hold it all together. How could something with a theme still be open-ended and be diverse and varied?


I had been collecting photos for a while, and the ideas of doors hit me. What a metaphor. Writing itself is a door, or a doorway to the imagination, to discourse, to another reality, and a gateway between writer and reader (some critics would of course vehemently disagree on this final bit).

However you look at it, the idea of doors, door ways, halls, passages, or gates was intriguing to me. When I compiled twenty-two I realized the incredible diversity among them. Fantastical 'doorways to nowhere,' renderings of somewhat funny or potentially frightening 'choose which door' scenarios, comforting photos of a flower adorned gate or cottage on a cliff, a collection of cars (well they all have doors, don't they?), and even the yawning mouth of a cave come together in an unlikely and tantalizing collection. In short, these picture prompts ask many questions, but just some of them can be:

Where does this door lead?
What is on the other side?
What is outside the range of the picture's edge?
Why is your character here?

Before I knew what had happened two weeks had gone by. I had created an introduction with directions for use, and a two page hand out on setting, with a nod to atmosphere and showing vs. telling. I realized that each of these prompts could be a scene in itself, or taken to it full extent, a story rich in detail. The goal, at least as I envision it, is to write in a moment-to-moment fashion, as if the narrator is exploring the space, so the reader feels as if he or she is there. This is invaluable practice for a writer for is starting out.

"DOOR WAYS To SETTING" is just that, a way to explore space, place, the five senses ( or as many of them as are practical ) AND, to approach character. In time, any of these prompts can be stories; events can occur that are not pictured in the renderings. It is of course, about the writer, and never really about the prompt. The prompt is just a door to the imagination, right?

For ANY teacher, professor, lecturer, or writer interested in using or purchasing this 29 page prompt activity with notes, overview and directions, or for other items (and yes, all are reasonably priced; a few are free) by all means please visit my store at

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