Writing Prompts by Allison Symes

Do you use writing prompts?

I’ve used random letter, word, phrase, and even number generators to trigger ideas. For the random word and phrase ones, I use what emerges as a title or theme.

Coming up with characters is fantastic fun but I like to mix up my approach to doing that. Pixabay image.

Sometimes they can be a starting point. If a phrase comes up which is a cliche, my instinct as a flash fiction writer is to use it as a shortcut (cliches carry a lot of meaning in few words) but ideally subvert it. One of my stories is called Punish The Innocent. You would usually think in terms of Punish The Guilty, but you can have fun adapting phrases to your own purposes.

Always a good question but mixing up how you write your stories can be fun. Pixabay image.

How on earth can you use random number generators in fiction, I hear you cry? My approach is to take the number generated - e.g.  314 - and use it either as:-

1.  A countdown to something spectacular. In this example it would be 314 seconds before, say, something drastic happened to a character. Of course that works out at just over five minutes in “old money”, and it doesn’t give a character long to react to their impending doom or whatever awful situation you will make them face.  This technique raises tension in your story beautifully but the character must know they’re facing their impending doom or what have you.

Whether you use writing prompts or not, there is no getting away from the editing! Pixabay image.

2. Then there’s time and date usage. Could one of your characters have a special appointment at 3.14 pm and why has such a specific time been chosen? There has to be a story there. As for date, you could use the American way of writing the date here so what is going to happen to your character on March 14th (and you could add in at 3.14 am or pm too!).

Love the light bulb. Loathe the unhealthy posture but having fun inventing your characters is important. Pixabay image

I’ve used proverbs as writing prompts as they make excellent themes. Time Waits for No Man can be taken in any direction.

As for random letter generators, you could take the letter that comes up and start every sentence with it. For example, take the letter M.  Below is a story I’ve drafted using this method.

Mary had no regrets about her life of crime. Misuse of a library book WAS a crime. Mind you, the miserable little wotsit behind the offence wasn't going to be bothering her and the rest of the library staff for some time. Mary wondered how long it would take for the idiot to get out of the handcuffs and locked room  in the basement. 
Allison Symes - 2020

However you write, you will find preferred methods, but adding something new to the mix sometimes keeps you on your toes. That's never a bad thing. Pixabay.

I suspect this method might be a challenge if you get the Q though Scrabble fans may well come up with something. (Queenie quashed quarrels, qualms quelled quickly is my entry. Could be fun for tongue twister fans too!).

I’ve found the random generators are a good challenge and rising to those is a great way to keep writing fresh and fun for you as author.

For me this includes mixing up how I write sometimes.There's joy in that as well as the actual story writing. Pixabay image.

It is important to have fun with your writing.It can help keep you going during the tough times.


  1. I had never thought of this, Allison. 314 - what a great idea. I have never used random generators but today on a Leap Year, maybe it's time to try something different. Thank you.

  2. Me, too, I love the library story! This blog has got me thinking. Thank you.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Many thanks, Fran and Kathleen, for your kind comments about the story. I should add this is not official library policy in any known universe but how many librarians have wondered about making it so, I wonder! Hmm...

      Have fun with the random generators. They are great triggers for story ideas, whether you write flash fiction or longer works.


Post a Comment