Monday, August 16, 2010

A Writing Prompt Idea

When I did a creative writing teaching practicum last fall, I was always in search of writing prompts. I pulled story starters from writing textbooks and magazines, and I looked around for other ideas to stimulate creativity and imagination. I didn’t have a room full of speculative fiction writers, but one of my more successful prompts involved a surreal painting.

In the middle of one class, I sprung the picture on them and gave them a half hour to create a story. Character studies and other imaginative efforts developed from the image of a woman adjusting a seascape from which real water spilled onto her hardwood floor.

Now that I’m out of school and assimilating into a more normal existence, I’m gradually finding the strength to think about writing new things. With that in mind, I found a way, sort of, to duplicate the prompt exercise for myself.

I’m harnessing settings on my laptop, though I guess  technology’s not really required. 

My computer allows for the cycling of desktop wallpaper, so that’s easiest for me. With scores of great wallpaper sites just a Google search away, I’ve snagged a number of images randomly and stored them.

With my wallpaper set for a 15 minute refresh, whenever I’m weary of editing or stuck, I can minimize and see what’s waiting behind Word. I’ve got one shot of a girl with blue lips and crumbling features that gives me a jolt every time she's there.

We’ll see what comes of it, but so far it's been a nice way of self-inspiring in what’s a pretty solitary game. Writing, above all, is a game with the self, one of motivation and energy.

The qualifier
I think it’s important to use imagery only as springboard and not just to interpret or imitate the visual artist’s work, but letting pictures raise questions as cornerstones seems interesting and promising for getting unstuck if not for generating a full blown story or narrative.

The idea is to force synapses to connect in new ways.

I’d say it’s not limited to surreal images, though I like their effect.

Nature scenes, old photographs for steampunk inspiration and anything you might find on a Google image search could prove useful.

It doesn't have to be a surprise on the desktop if your computer doesn't have the random feature, though a screensaver slide show that kicks in when you're idle might me a good idea. Otherwise it just needs to be something slightly unexpected so you're not anticipating.

Save several images in a folder and click one. Print several and select from a bag or envelope and see where things go. Or just shuffle the stack.

It might even make for an interesting exercise to get started each day, just to get the electrical pulses inpopping.

A few sites:








4 comments:

AvDeeBee said...

I used to hate prompts of all sorts in school. I thought they were restricting. It's funny that I have now generated an entire novella from their use. I've learned (in my advancing age) my previous assumptions were not only incorrect, but were the exact opposite of the truth.

Using prompts has become a key element to expanding my writing. Most of the bizarre scenes I've come up with have been from odd photos or artwork.

Deviant Art is one of my favorite go-to places. I'll have to check out the others.

Sidney said...

Yeah, Deviant Art is pretty fabulous. It's always nice to find something that gives the thought processes a nudge in a new direction.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never used prompts much. I've written things for prompts but generally I don't find them terribly helpful.

Lana Gramlich said...

Be careful with deviantART. I had an acct there for a while & one day got such a nasty virus there I had to buy this whole, new computer. Mind you that I'm a certified network administrator, so I know all about viruses & repair. Getting a new one was just easier than dealing with THIS virus. Google "deviantART" and "virus" & you'll see what I mean. It's a BIG problem over there.

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