I belong to a great writers' group. As I've shared before, we meet at Given's Book Store in Lynchburg, VA every Tuesday evening. Dawn, the leader of our group, often gives us writing prompts. Writing prompts either start the story or are the basis for a two or three page story. Since doing them is completely voluntary, one might wonder, why bother?
Take last night's prompt, for example: "He touched his spurs to his gallant pony and loped away across the sunlit plain." Four of the eight people attending did the prompt. One wrote a tale of a rider warning people of impending doom. Another wrote of a child's fantasy about being a sheriff riding a horse and tracking outlaws. Our resident screen-play writer presented a short script. I wrote a short humorous piece. One prompt; four different takes. It's always interesting to see what a creative writer can do with a prompt. Sometimes an idea sparks on its own; other times you have to lay a fire and dance the "writer's block dance" around the fire ring to make it flame.
As Dawn explained, prompts can stretch your comfort zone. One writer, who typically writes non-fiction, stretched her boundaries by writing a fictitious piece. The prompts also challenge us to set the scene, introduce one or two characters, give a quick storyline and resolution all within two, or three pages. For me I find they keep creative juices flowing and sharpen my talent to show, not tell a story.
And I would be remiss at this point if I did not pass along the gem of wisdom I shared in my prompt last night: "Don't squat with your spurs on." 'Nuff said.