Prescription for writer's block: fear of poverty. ~ Peter Mayle
1) A Bad Start
I was born feet first under a full moon on the fourth of February. With that many Fs taking
part in my birth, I shouldn't have been surprised by the way things had gone from that day
to this one.
*Your turn. I gave you the opening lines, you get to pick up where I left off.
2) One Liners
Look through the sentences in this prompt and pick out the first one that catches the
attention of your muse. Without a lot of thinking and preparing, just take that sentence and
go from there.
a) She had everything to lose and he had everything to gain.
b) He was home at last, but who was that sleeping in his bed?
c) It was a chance meeting that changed everything.
d) She was sure he was dead, but then he opened his eyes
e) It was the first time she'd seen her father in years, and even now she hadn't forgiven him.
f) He couldn't run any more.
g) She shut the door behind her with a solid thud, knowing she would never be back.
h) It was just another blind date—at first.
i) All he said was hi, but unbelievably, that was enough to make her weak in the knees.
j) He might be dangerous, but she could be deadly.
k) After the plane crashed they only had each other, and miles of jungle around them.
l) It wasn't the first time he had seen a strange light in the sky over his farm.
m) He was a city boy; she was a country girl.
n) If life after high school was anything like high school, death might be better than going
o) There was blood everywhere.
3) Pick an Object
Pick an object. Anything at all. It can be something in the room with you, something you
think of, or something that’s only a memory. The object can be big, small or in between, it
doesn't matter. Just pick one.
Okay. Got your object?
Now we need something to happen with this object, a story, and we need a couple of
characters or three to take part in this tale of joy or woe.
How will this object you chose bring these people together, and what will happen when they
are together? That’s the fun part. So get to thinking all of that up and writing it down.
4) What She Would Do...
There wasn't a day in her life that she didn't think of what she would say or do if she ever
faced him again— and then he walked in and she couldn't think of anything at all for a full
*This man she so wanted to face again, who is he? Is her shock brought on by joy, anger,
surprise, or something else?
What happens when someone buys a house, one they love, only to move in and find that
the house is haunted?
6) The Date
John wasn't good at this. Sandy and he had been childhood sweethearts that had gotten
married right out of high school. He couldn't remember ever asking any other woman out on
Sandy had been gone for two years now, and it was time he got back to living.
*This one-paragraph prompt allows you to start where I stopped. Who is he asking out?
Where are they? How does he do it? How does the woman react? How does it end? Of
course you can change the names if you like and you can set this in a city, in a little town,
in 2087, 1957, or 1810. It's all up to you.
7) Mix & Match
This prompt requires a little extra work on your part. You'll find two lists below. Write down
both lists, cut them into small slips of paper, and then place them in two piles. The pieces
from one list in one pile, and the pieces from the other in another pile.
Now, without looking, pick two pieces of paper from the first pile and one piece from the
second. The first piece you picked from the first pile is what your heroine has to be. The
second piece from that same pile is what your hero has to do for a living. The third piece,
the one you picked from the other pile, is how they have to meet.
Use that information to write a scene from this meeting.
(No cheating! None!) If you pull carpenter for your heroine and day care owner for your hero,
and the slip from the other pile says blind date, then so be it. I’ve had many writers use
this prompt and most really enjoy it. In fact, it seems the odder the combination they come
up with, the more interesting the writing usually is. So, play fair, and have lots of fun doing
Day care owner
Introduced by family
One hires, works, or has to visit the other
Meet at wedding
Held hostage together
Chance meeting; wreck, bus ride, bump into each other...
Childhood friends who meet again after years
One saves the other from something
Both want to buy the last of the same thing
Meet at a bar or club
Take a class together; CPR, dance, college, art...
Long lost loves
Get snowed in together
Meet on vacation
8) Welcome to Rosebay
Carrie Simon placed three full plates on the scarred tabletop as Mike, Howard and Frank
took their seats. The guys all worked together at the paper mill and always came into the
diner for lunch right around ten after twelve.
They also always had the same thing for lunch; double meat burgers with cheese, extra
mayo, and onion rings on the side. That's how she was able to usually have their food on
the table before their butts hit the chairs.
As she placed a full bottle of ketchup next to Howard—he always used a ton on his onion
rings—the guys offered their typical thanks and then shifted to their harmless flirting.
Carrie flashed them a friendly smile and peeked out the big window in front of their table.
“Holler at Maggie if y'all need anything,” she said. She turned to Jeff behind the counter
and yelled, “Bus is here early.”
Without looking her way, he waved a hand at her to go on. She untied her apron and tossed
it on one of the hat hooks on her way out. Everyone knew the highlight of her Tuesdays
and Fridays was watching people arrive on the twice-weekly Greyhound.
Some days no one got off at all, plenty of days the only person to get off was a local who was
returning to town. But some days—some days a stranger climbed down the steps. Those
were the days she lived for. On those days she got to look into the face of a person she
didn't know the life history of. On those days she could imagine the interesting lives they
had some where else and think of all kinds of reasons they could have ended up here for a
night or a few at the Rosebay Motel.
Carrie watched with excitement as the bus doors slid open with a whoosh and a crack. She
felt disappointed when Edward Jenkins came off and held an age-spotted hand up to help
his wife down the steps. They had gone all the way to Mayfield to see their first great
grandchild. Carrie had forgotten they were due home today.
She leaned back against the diner's brick wall and crossed her arms in front of her as
Darrel, the couple’s youngest son, came forward to greet and help them. Still she watched
and waited. The doors were still open. There was the chance that someone else would—
Her thoughts broke off as another person appeared in the open doorway, but she
recognized him instantly as the bus driver Billy. She knew he had gotten off to get the
luggage for the Jenkins. That didn't mean anyone else would be getting off. But then
another man stepped down onto the paved road and then up onto the sidewalk. He glanced
around, his attention landing on her for a moment before he went to retrieve his own
baggage. Then another stranger emerged. A woman this time.
Carrie didn't think the two were together. The woman's gaze didn't search out the man who
had gotten off before her. Instead her attention settled on the bus driver and she headed
Two people in one day. And since the city of Nontell was only a little over an hour away from
the tiny town of Rosebay, the bus didn't stay around long enough for riders to go into the
dinner and order a meal or even shop at the few little stores on the same street. That
meant the two strangers were staying, if only for a while. Unless someone was coming for
them, they would be here until the next bus, days from now. If they didn't want to eat cold
sandwiches and junk food during that time, they would have to come into the dinner. There
wasn't anywhere else in Rosebay to buy a hot meal.
*Okay, you've seen the town, the diner, you've met Carrie and got a glimpse of the two
strangers who just arrived in Rosebay. Pick one of those two people and write at least the
next scene in his or her point of view. First, decide what he or she looks like, what his or
her name is, and why they are in this little town.
Have fun and happy writing!
A few prompts from each of my above books.
1) Stained-glass Rose
It was such a simple thing, a little rose picture made of stained glass, but, oh, the memories
She traced the tip of her finger across the coldness of the glass, then closed her eyes and
allowed her mind to carry her back in time.
Back to when...
2) Silver Spoon?
I was born with a sliver spoon in my mouth and grew up without knowing what it was to
want for anything. At least that's how it would have been if I had the choice. Instead I was
3) The Doughnut
Summer was only six weeks away. When it got here, Audrey was leaving on her first tropical
vacation—and one way or another she was going to look good in a bathing suit. But for now,
just one little final chocolate covered doughnut wouldn't hurt anything. A kind of farewell to
A few moments later, she stepped out of the Sweet Thing bakery with the circle of chocolate
comfort in her hand. She stared at it, thinking about how much she was going to miss deep-
fried dough covered in chocolate.
She raised the doughnut to her mouth for her first delicious bite, planning to savor and
enjoy every lick of chocolate and crumb of soft dough.
She didn't get a bite though, instead, something large and hard crashed into her, and the
fresh chocolate-coated treat was smashed into her face.
Audrey staggered backwards and would have fallen if her back hadn't met with a brick wall.
By the time she caught her breath and opened her eyes, a man was on the ground not far
from her, two police officers were cuffing him.
When that was done, one of the cops jumped up and rushed to her. “Are you okay?” he
She found herself staring into a pair of golden brown eyes and a handsome face that caused
her to feel as if she had been blindsided again. “I'm fine. I think.”
And then she did think, and thought about the chocolate smeared on her face.
Where was one of those sinkholes when a person needed one?
*Your turn. Fill out the above if you want and then start from the point I left off. Most
important of all, remember this prompt is free writing, so have fun. The only person you
have to please with this is yourself.
4) What happens...
...when a special government text is sent to the wrong person?
He was exhausted. More than exhausted.
He was ready to collapse. All he could think about was sleep.
At least it was all he could think about—until he spotted her sleeping in his bed.
*This is wide open. You can use any time setting, place setting, any two people, and any
reasons. You can add why he is exhausted. What kind of home he comes into. Does he
start undressing before he sees the sleeping woman in his bed? How does he react and
then where does this go?
6) The Sound
He heard the sound again, and unfortunately, this time there was no doubt in his mind that
he really had heard it—and it was coming from inside his home. Without flipping on the
lamp switch, he slid out of bed silently.
7) A Walk in the Park
Think up three characters and then take them one by one on a walk through a park. The
same park for each one, so you can show how each one thinks and acts different even in
the same place and situation. Your characters can be male or female, any age, even human
or not. You can pick a park, make up a park, a small park, a large one, one with a lot of
people or nearly empty. Any time of year, any time, any place.
As each character takes his or her walk alone through your park, show us the park through
the senses of your character and using his character—characterization. In other words,
what one will notice, react to, have memories brought on by, won't be the same for each
A woman who has only sons, might notice a mother with a little girl and think about how
different it is to have only boys. A child might notice a cart with balloons. A man into
working out might notice a jogger and wonder how far he or she is running. The same man
might catch the scent of grilled onions and steak and head over to a cheese-steak stand.
The woman might remember that she forgot to apply sunscreen and head over to some
shade, and the child might laugh, watching the swirl and dance of some fallen leaves. Use
your characters to show us their characterization as well as the park, the people in the
park, the things there, the weather, the place, the time, and so.
8) Opening Lines You Can Run With
Pick one of the lines in this prompt and use it as an opening sentence for a scene or a
whole story. If you try one and it doesn’t work well for you, move on to another one. There
are a number to pick from and any one of them should give you a good setup to play around
a) It had already been the worst day of her life, and now this!
b) He was about the best-looking thing she had ever seen in a pair of jeans.
c) “I'm not taking no for an answer,” he insisted.
d) I knew what it was like to watch those you loved die.
e) He answered the knock on the door ready to fight, but one look at the beauty standing
there, and all of the fight went right out of him.
f) She couldn't hold on much longer.
g) The dog ran circles around him, even as he made another grab for the playful mutt.
h) “It's only one dance,” she said.
i) It was so cold. Too cold.
j) You never really forget your first love—or the person who gave you your first great sexual
experience. Or the person who gave you your worst sexual experience.
k) He dropped the shovel and stared down at his hands. He had blisters, actual blisters.
l) “You know how to play the game, and that's not how it works.”
m) Who would have expected to see a figure like that in a pair of greasy overalls?
n) Thunder rumbled through the house; there was a bright flash of lightening, and then
she heard a noise that didn't come from the storm.
o) “Smell you later, loser.”
p) I wanted to be happy for her. I really did, but I couldn't.
q) “What the hell? I didn't give you permission to cut your hair!”