Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell


Written By: Jessica Morrell

Writing a story based on a prompt stretches your  muscles, helps you dig out of a dry spell, and send messages to your subconscious about how you’re endlessly creative. Try your hand at creating an essay, scene or anecdote based on these prompts, using tangible details to bring the piece to brimming life.

Write about how an event/ scene/ dinner party, romantic interlude is affected by the glow of candlelight.

What was Hamlet like as a child? Scarlett O’Hara? What was Holden Caulfield like as an adult? Tom Sawyer?

 Write a story based on a horoscope.

Write a story based on fortune cookie or psychic prediction.

The first human lands on a previously unvisited planet such as Venus or Jupiter. She steps out of spacecraft and says…..

Who is the black sheep in your family?

Write a love letter you never dared to send.

What risk have you always regretted not taking?

Write about two middle aged women talking over a glass of wine. One of them is telling her friend, “Younger men will just break your heart.”

Write a story that is based on answering a personals ad.

Write about two middle aged women talking. One of them says, “When he left me I wanted to burn down his house.”

Write a story where a nonhuman character plays a large role—it can be about a pet, cockroaches, wasps, snakes, etc.

Write an essay or scene that features music from your teenage years.

Write about how wine or champagne tastes.

Write about earthy elements– mud, dirt, dust, water.

Write about eating a memorable meal or a simple one after you’ve been particularly hungry.

Write about a scene or anecdote where dense fog cloaks the world.

Write about an outdoor activity –sport, play, job–that happens in freezing temperatures.

Write about your favorite painting, photograph, sculpture, statue; interpreting how it moves you.

Write a piece where you weave weather and its impact on people.

Write a piece about overhearing an obnoxious cell phone conversation.

Write a piece where the sky dazzles the person observing  it.

Write a story or anecdote where a poorly or awkwardly worded e-mail causes hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

Write about an incident that features a  sense of foreboding, intuition, inner knowing.

Write about issuing an apology when you’d rather not.

Write about revealing a secret or betraying someone’s trust.

Write a nonsexual activity that happens in the dark.

Write about struggling to make a decision.

Write about a person who struggles with chronic pain or illness.

Write about an old person whose body is failing or a source of  constant pain, discomfort, inconvenience.

Write about a hospital room.

Write about an old person who feels deliciously alive and vital.

Write about walking down the hallway of middle school or junior high when the students have been dismissed for the day.

Write about a jail or prison.

Write about the many moods and modes of rain.

Describe a person through a beloved and well-used object—tattered book, worn sweater, frayed handbag, that he or she constantly carries or wears.

Write about being served a specific food or meal that you abhor.

Write about swimming, ice skating, skiing, snow boarding, or other sports, focusing on what it feels like inside your body as you’re moving.

Just for fun: Describe a person through his or her surroundings and possessions. Is her apartment or home, clean, tidy, fanatically orderly? What sort of music does she listen to? Will lots of sunlight filter in during sunny days, or are the windows shrouded? What’s in the refrigerator? What about accessories, art, books? What does the bathroom reveal? The bedroom closet?  Describe a car’s glove box or trunk.

In the film Sleeping with the Enemy—starring Julia Roberts and Kevin Kline we find ourselves amid a power struggle and a fight for survival. The Kline character, a batterer, is known by his fanatical orderliness and control—rows of towels in the bathroom lined up like soldiers at inspection and canned goods stacked precisely in the kitchen cabinets reveal his rigidity and need for control.  When Roberts  (Laura) flees his abuse and moves to the Midwest she changes her hair, which she allows to flow loosely, trades in her sleek trophy-wife wardrobe for comfortable long skirts and baggy tops. But she also trades in a sterile oceanside home for a homey Victorian, with comfortable, overstuffed furniture, a porch swing, and African violets tucked onto the kitchen window sill. She purposefully doesn’t align the items in the cupboard, instead it’s a place for baking pies and listening to soothing music.












Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.