Monday, June 17, 2013

Jumpstarting a story via a writing prompt

If you've never tried writing a story based on a prompt, it can be quite liberating. This weekend I took a shot at it and really enjoyed that particular variant of the creative process.

For my attempt, I chose a picture out of a set, pondered the reason for the scene it represented, and let the words flow. In a total of 3 separate sessions behind the keyboard, spanning just a few hours, I put together a 500 word flash piece that I felt the image represented. It sang. Very cool.

Probably this had to be one of the easiest times I've ever experienced crafting a 'full' story. I'm qualifying the word 'full' here because the goal was to keep it flash length yet still tell a complete tale. We're not talking a novella or novelette, though I suppose the technique would be as applicable for those lengths of stories as well.

Do you want to know the real interesting part of all this? I'll tell you.

I had hundreds of images to choose from for a prompt. I expected to browse through them and have one or two stick out because, when I first scanned them, bits of their stories immediately came to mind.

That's not what happened though.

I ended up browsing all the photos multiple times. My attention kept returning to one or two, for reasons I really couldn't determine. They just seemed interesting at the time. Not outright yes-es. More like maybes--maybe sos.

I then narrowed down the field and selected the one that I most wanted to write about. But I didn't chose strictly because of the image. I chose because of the kind of story I felt must be behind the image. In other words, instead of "wow, nice picture," it was more "wow, I wonder what's really going on here?" Once I got to that point, well... it pretty much told itself. The story opened up in my head, sorted out and rooted squarely back to the image it belonged with. Almost seemed like cheating, it emerged so readily.

Unfortunately, I can't share it here because I did submit it for consideration. Perhaps I'll post it as an example if the editors reject it. We'll see.

In the meantime, if you ever get the opportunity to do so, try writing from a prompt sometime. See if you find it refreshing like I did.

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