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Lame Writing Prompts: A Foolproof Method For Giving Your Story Meat!

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

You’re a good writer. No, you’re a great writer, and you can turn any writing prompt into a page-turning masterpiece! But there’s a problem. This week, your writing group’s prompt has gone vegan. No matter how you look at it, there ain’t no meat. What do you do?

Below is my foolproof method for taking any anemic leafy-green writing prompt and turning it into a story you can actually sink your teeth into.

Step 1: Summarize a cliché

As writers, we understand committing a cliché is worse than a carnal sin. But go with me on this. Take your writing prompt and summarize it into a single paragraph of the cheesiest story idea you can think of.

Step 2: Identify your story elements

Story elements are more than just who, what, where, when, why, and how. They can be objects, prompts, emotions, relationships, occupations, personality types, etc.

Step 3: Nudge your story elements

This is where the magic happens, and we transform our boring prompt into something exciting and usable. Once you’ve got your plot points, you simply nudge one to the side. Then realign the others. Then you nudge another plot point and realign the others. Continue this simple process until your happy with your story.

Here’s an example

The Prompt: An unexpected signal from deep space.

Summarize a cliché: Scientists in a lab get a digital signal from deep space. The world prepares for impending alien invasions. (Wow, Velveeta isn’t this cheezie!)

List your story elements:

  • Scientist

  • Signal

  • Deep space

  • The world

  • Impending

  • Alien

  • Invasion

Nudge the story elements:

Here are some ideas. Merge a couple if you want, but it’s best not to use them all at the same time.

  • Change “Scientist” to “Special needs students on a field trip”

  • Change “Signal” to “markings in the trees”

  • Change “Deep space” to “Deep under the ocean”

  • Change “The world” to “The tri-state area”

  • Change “Impending” to “it’s already started”

  • Change “Alien” to “God”

  • Change “Invasion” to “integration”

Here’s my favorite idea from the original prompt: Bucky Black didn’t finish high school, but he ain’t dumb. In fact, he’s just fired a signal into space. That signal will slingshot around Saturn and return to Earth in three days, just in time to hit the six o’ clock news. While the world runs franticly in circles, preparing for a perceived alien invasion, Bucky will be pulling the biggest heist in history—all from the comfort of his Lay-z-boy recliner and double-wide trailer.

Okay. You know what to do. Now go write something meaty.

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