Friday, February 27, 2009

Just Released: My First Collection of Prompts

A few years ago, I decided to include an impromptu, warm-up writing exercise at the beginning of my writing group. That’s how I got started creating prompts. I wanted people to write—to write about anything the prompt brought to mind, without worrying about grammar or spelling, without second-guessing the direction of their story or poem. The writing prompts became so popular that I added more to the end of our agenda, and then I realized prompts would be perfect for this blog. To date, I’ve received more e-mails and comments on the prompts than on any other category of post. Thus, The Doorbell at Dawn: 125 Writing Prompts to Spark Your Creativity & Summon Your Muse was born.

My little booklet is full of prompts just like the ones on Just Write. All my prompts are designed to make you write—not to test your ability to follow directions. If you read a prompt and the idea it conjures is on another subject entirely, follow your first impulse and write where the idea leads. Don’t form expectations about what will happen to the piece of writing that emerges. It might lead to something bigger, or it might not. As I say in Doorbell, “If not, you’ve just had ten minutes of good writing exercise. Think of it as sit-ups for your brain.”

In addition to 125 writing prompts, Doorbell includes a section aimed at people who are writing personal/family history or memoir. It covers the most frequently asked questions I’ve encountered in the years I’ve been working in this genre, both as a writer and a coach/editor, questions like: Where do I start? Should I change the names? How can I make sure my work is copyright protected? This section also includes twenty-five specific questions that can be used either to help a writer begin a personal history/memoir, or as a questionnaire by someone conducting an interview.

Printed copies are available for under $10 (before shipping and handling) and downloaded copies are $3.00. Just click on the Lulu link under my profile!
Photo courtesy of William Vermeulen at


Tom said...

Have gone thru your prompts. Most I feel I could write a short story with.

If I just sit, and try to think of my own "prompts" I draw a blank.

I was told once I am a "suggestive writer, not an orginal thinker".

I enjoy writing, and do seem to turn "prompts" in different directions. I cannot just sit down and say "I am going to write about"... any suggestions?

TH Meeks said...

Hi Tom! Glad you found the prompts helpful.

If you sit down to write but don't have a specific topic in mind (and aren't in the mood for a prompt), then I suggest:

1) Look around the room/area you are in. Whatever catches your attention, write about that. If it's an object, where did it come from? Who gave it to you? What's its history? Describe it, discuss it, and see where your recollections lead you. (You can also do a bit of eavesdropping if you're out in public and get great tidbits to start a story.)

2) Think about what I call incidents of "the most": "I was the most embarassed when...." or "I was the most honored when...." or any other "most": frightened, startled, happy, angry, sad, etc. The story you come up with may be personal experience, or it may suddenly take a turn into fiction. Just roll with it.

3) Cruise the news for inspiration, either online or in its paper form. I like the little articles buried in the back sections of the paper because they are often the most intriquing. I often find short little two-paragraph stories that leave so much to the imagination! Current events can also inspire (or inflame) opinions and lead to very interesting essays and op-ed pieces.

4) Family history. If you have a family history it can be straight non-fiction, or you can use it as a base for fiction. For instance, I found out about a possible link between my mother's family and Quannah Parker, the Comanche Chief. My research and the stories I heard from my mom and aunts would make one story, but a fictional take on it could go another way totally.

5) What's rising to the top? In other words, what's on your mind? This is how journal writers often approach writing. Have you been thinking about holidays, an old friend, your dog, whatever? Whatever it is that is presenting itself as a frequent visitor to your thoughts may be a good topic for an essay or story.

Hope that helps! I think you are an original thinker; sometimes our thoughts just need a little jump start. :)