The beginning of a new year seems like a good time for a writing prompt for exploring new possibilities. That’s what a new year is about, right? Exploring new possibilities, trying new paths, getting a second chance – it’s a time when our point-of-view changes changes from what is to what could be.
In other words, it’s a time of year when everyone thinks like a writer. However briefly.
That’s what makes this the perfect time of year for this writing prompt. Most people are already looking for potential, and that is the hardest part of this brainstorming exercise – getting in the right mindset. Once you do that, the rest is relatively simple.
Here’s the process:
- Open your mind to explore possibilities and resist getting locked into a single answer.
- Pick or write an opening line. Here are a few that you can choose from.
- As usual, no one else noticed the way the fluorescent lights seemed to shimmer and shake.
- The coffee would have made better paint thinner than it did a drink.
- Even after the doctor labeled her as legally blind, she could still shoot a hole through a chicken’s eye across a barnyard.
- He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen.
- Write a story that starts with that line. Or you can brainstorm it if you want to focus on thinking of possibilities rather than exploring each one.
- Write a different story that starts with the same line.
- Write another one. And keep writing them – write or brainstorm at least 5 totally different stories that start with the same line.
Yeah, it’s kind of excessive (especially if you write or finish every single one), but you could also learn a lot from the process. It’s kind of like the quick change improv game – it helps you discover different ways the story can develop. After all, the first line needs to have something to do with each story even if they have nothing else in common (The promises you make to your readers start from the first line.).
That means you have to examine the information given by that line and think of different directions you can go with it. These questions are only a few of the options.
- What will be emphasized?
- Whose point of view is the line written in? Does it match the rest of the story?
- Is the first line serious or humorous? Will the next line going to agree with or oppose the first one?
- Even after the doctor labeled her as legally blind, she could still shoot a hole through a chicken’s eye across a barnyard. Granted, it wasn’t always the chicken she was aiming for. Or one in her barnyard.
- What kind of mood or tone is being set up? Mix it up.
- He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen. Ray stared down at the sword in his hand. It felt a lot heavier than a pen.
- He knew over 15 ways to kill a man with a pen. And according to his business page on facebook, he could maim someone with a post-it note. Rolling her eyes, Claire clicked the back button and crossed out another name on her list of potentials. (Even this much could go in multiple directions – is it a list of potential dates or potential assassins? The first line could be a red herring – or you could make the reader think it was and then reveal otherwise.)
Any of the questions you normally ask when writing can help you find and explore different possibilities. Remember: it’s not the inspiration that makes the story unique so much as the execution.
Questions? Comments? Entertaining stories you wrote while doing this writing prompt and exploring new possibilities? (Pretty please?)