These prompts first appeared in The Journal Newsletter.
Writing Exercise (Prose) – Use the following sentences to begin:
“It’s not the street I usually go down. But for some reason, that day I turned down a different road.”
Prose Exercise – Develop a character or create a scene in the style of a film noire.
Prose exercise – Next time you watch a movie take note of the people in the background. Develop a character sketch by selecting a peripheral character. Follow an extra off screen and reveal who he is and what he is about to do.
Prose Exercise – Writing the known and the unknown. Close your eyes, let a landscape appear. Allow yourself to view the landscape, taking note of texture and mood. Next, pretend that you have a rose petal in your hand. Feel it between your fingers and give it color and scent. Allow yourself time to make it a realistic experience. Now go back to creating your landscape, again focusing on details and texture. Continue writing about your landscape.
Prose Exercise – Write about someone discovering a key.
Prose Exercise – Write about a reflection in the mirror.
Prose Exercise – Write two pages (~500 words) with the scenario of a character urgently needing to get in contact with a family member.
Prose Exercise – Write using the adage, “these things happen in threes.”
Prose Exercise – Create a character sketch based on the type of car the character owns. Select the car, ie: Buick, El Camino, Limo, or use the lack of a vehicle, as your starting point.
Prose Exercise – Close your eyes and think of a specific place, such as a grocery store or a bakery. Think about what it looks like early in the morning. Write about the people who work there. Visit the same place at different times of the day.
Prose Exercise – Create a legend, myth, or fairytale about falling stars.
Prose Exercise – Write a list of “circumstances” that you can use as prompts for a storyline. Throw in a touch of fantasy (e.g. a garden where people grow small if they smell a certain plant, a person recovering from a car wreck discovers a conspiracy). Select one and create the story. Write allowing yourself a sense of humor and relaxation.
Prose Exercise – Set yourself a word limit. This can be used as a daily writing exercise. First, test yourself to see how many words you can write before you start to feel “stretched.” This is your comfort zone. Write in your comfort zone each day for a week or two. Then experiment by increasing your word limits incrementally. Conversely, play with creating “short short stories” where you confine your writing to fewer words (e.g., 50 – 100). As an example, write 125 words using, “I noticed you…”, as your starter.
Prose Exercise – Write a short story using “Small Town Hero” as your title or beginning.
Prose Exercise – Write a character sketch exploring three aspects of the character’s life (home life, childhood, dating, hobbies, marriage, career, foibles, etc.).
Prose Exercise – Create a progressive story chain that follows the trail of an object, or begins with the introduction of one character leading into the introduction of another, producing a chain of unrelated events that are linked by one momentary “shared” element.
Prose Exercise – Use “symphony” or “circus” as a metaphor for a city day.
Prose Exercise – Write a story about or tribute to an author, poet or musician (fictional or nonfictional).
Prose Exercise – Write a story that begins with your character peering out from behind a curtain.
Prose Exercise – Write a story about a person who has an obsession with shoes and claims he can predict a person’s future by the shoes they wear.
Prose Exercise – Write a story about a family vacation at a beach house. Consider writing it in the form of an one-act play.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a children’s story about a crow who either is learning to read, or who writes words for others to read. 2. Write a story about a person who is illiterate.
Prose Exercise – Write a “diary excerpt” from a character of your choice, or one of the following suggested characters: a spoken word poet on a short tour, a person who has suffered the loss of a elderly parent, an actor who is “very talented”, waiting to be discovered, or a successful author who is working on a new novel.
Prose Exercise – Write a short story involving the sale of a car.
Prose Exercise – Take the inverse of “regression”, or past lives, and write a story about “progression”, or future lives.
Prose Exercise – Write series of short sketches in which one character is relating stories or experiences to another. For example, “What the Moon Saw”, by Hans Christian Andersen:
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a list of five first and last names. Select one of the names and write about the character.
2. Write a short story using, “Foolproof plans for…”
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a short story using, “Shifting her glance to the side of the chair she noticed a small green suitcase.”
2. Write about “hands” in three different genres. (If possible, look at a stranger’s hands and take notes.)
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a personal essay based on the most memorable/ poignant purchase that you have made.
2. Write a story with “Domestic Breakfast Scene” as your title.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write about something that transforms into something more or less than it starts out to be.
2. Write a prose description/synopsis of the novel that you will never write, or the one you will never read.
Prose Exercise – Write a story based upon the use of subliminal messages.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a short story using the title, “The Ladder at the Edge of the World”, (or “Fire Escape”).
2. Write a short story that uses an alarm clock, a match, and a vintage post card. (optional substitution: packing crate.)
Prose Exercise – Write a short story about a character with an unusual pet.
Prose Exercise – Write a story that uses an animal as an omen of good or bad.
Prose Exercise – Write a short story about a woman who is antique shopping.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a pilot episode or synopsis of a soap opera, which has a title such as, ” The Strong, the Weak, and the Silent”.
2. Write a story in which a letter is found behind a mirror.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a short prose story with the title, “Three Shades of White”.
2. Write a story about a character who tries to do good, goes out of his/her way to help, but in actuality sets in motion a tragic incident. i.e. a woman tries to help a lost dog by offering it water. The dog, untrusting of people changes its route, ultimately gets run over by a car.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a short story using the title, “When the Ice Melts”.
2. Write a short story using the title, “Comfort”.
Prose Exercise – Write a short story titled, “The Secret Life of The Flower Vendor”.
Prose Exercise – Write a story that involves a person who has a compulsive habit. Consider using humor.
Prose Exercise – Write a job resume for a character from a fairy tale or from Aesop fables.
Prose Exercise – Write a story about a man who is forgetful.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write about a character who believes he is something other, or is becoming something other than what he is.
2. Write a series of pieces that are based on judgmental, harsh assessments of one character by another.
Prose Exercise – 1. Write a short story based on living life on a loop.
2. Write a short story based on a cat who collects pocket watches.
Prose Exercise – Write a short story using the title, “The Apology”.
Prose Prompt – 1. Write a short story using the title, “Permanent Press”.
2. Write a short story using the title, “We All Fall”.
Prose Prompt – Write a short story using the title: “Simon Says”.
Prose Prompt – Write a short story using the title: “Attention Deficit”.
Prose Prompt – Write a short story based on the parable of the grasshopper and the ant.
Prose Exercise – Write a story using the title “Remedy for Moths”
Prose Exercise – Write a story using the title “A Sketch of Imagination”
Prose Exercise – Write a story using the title “Mistaken Identity”
Prose Exercise – Spend time outside looking at a tree and free write using the title “Observation of a Tree.”
These Writing Exercises are a collection of prompts originally published in The Journal Newsletter. The prompts include journaling prompts, prose prompts, poetry prompts, free writing prompts, and memoir prompts.
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The exercises are updated each month, after the newsletter is published.
Unless otherwise specified, all prompts Copyright © by Susan Michael and David Michael.