What Prompts Your Writing?

June 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Meg, writing | 2 Comments
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On Monday, Jessica ever so eloquently talked about writing prompts as a way to jump-start your writing. These prompts can be words, statements or high-tech concepts that can launch a scene or an entire book. The catalysts can be given to you (Jessica suggested numerous sites to find lists of prompts) or they can come from life. Inspiration can happen while your picking up your kids from school, shopping for groceries or watching Oprah. One never knows when lightening will strike and the concept for the next Golden Heart or RITA winner will rise in someone’s imagination.


My first book came from one simple statement uttered by a colleague at work (the same ‘prompter’ became the inspiration for the hero, but that’s another story for another time). My second story rose from a ‘what if’ moment. What could have happened if I had chosen a different path and stayed with ‘him’ instead of ending the relationship (mind you, I don’t think this ex-boyfriend would’ve turned into an alcoholic abuser, but the imagination travels far from reality sometimes. That’s the beauty -and curse -of being a writer). And believe it or not, the concept of my current manuscript came from a coffee stain on a book I’d borrowed from the library. It made me wonder who else had read the book and if they had enjoyed it or failed to finish it.


So writing prompts are everywhere- current events, past experiences, actual people, etc. I once had the pleasure of hearing Susan Wiggs talk about her process and she explained how a historical picture of a young woman launched the path to her current release, The Charm School.  Imagine the power in that photo.


And writing prompts can be used to develop characters as well. As I’ve admitted often, I struggle with making my characters three-dimensional and have found worksheets to be useless. Instead, I’ve recently used a poetic device to remember the important characteristics I want in my hero and heroine. Once I’ve named the character (Sadie in this example), I use the letters to illustrate personality quirks, traits, etc.:



Aching from multiple losses


Invested in family

Escapes from life momentarily


Even names can be writing prompts to developing stories.


So what about you? What prompted your latest story, scene or character?




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  1. Hi Meg,
    I love your idea of using your character’s name to establish characteristics. Very clever! And the coffee stain on the library book–I want to read that book.

    My favorite recent source of inspiration was a news story about a congressman who died in his home. I spun that into a senator who was murdered in his home. It generated the start of what I hope will be a series.

  2. Meg,
    I too loved the inspirations you shared. What a really great way to illustrate a character’s personality quirks. I had never thought of that and can’t wait to give it a try on my next WIP. Great post!

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