Saturday 18 March 2023

Today I talk to Allison Symes - a self-confessed huge fan of writing prompts


Do you use writing prompts yourself?
Yes. I use these so much it's probably easier to say when I don't for my stories. I do like to mix up the kind of prompt I use though. It keeps things interesting for me and, I would hope, for readers too. They're a great challenge to rise to, which I think is a great discipline for a writer.

What are the advantages of using prompts such as  those included in the books? 
Hmm... where to start here. Firstly, most competitions have a theme attached to them so practicing writing to prompts set by someone else just gets you used to this whole idea. Secondly, at writing conferences, workshops, and other writing events, prompts are often set, either for you to take home with you or work on there or a bit of both. I do this for the workshops I run. The more you write to prompts the less fazed you will be by doing this. Thirdly, you will come up with stories and ideas you would not have thought of yourself, I find this to be the case all the time. Advantage of that? You've stretched your creativity and given  your imagination a good old workout. That benefits your writing overall. Fourthly, you have a useful starting point for a story. The problem with open competitions is they can be too open! I find having a theme set someone else better because it gives me something to work to from the get-go and it's then a question of exploring what take I can make on the set theme. That is fun.
Where else do you find prompts from?
I use online random generators - random adjectives, nouns, words etc. I tend to use these to get the chosen words into a story somehow. I also use random question and theme generators. Sometimes those give me titles immediately. Sometimes they give me the theme directly. Sometimes I can even use this type for ideas for my blogs (particularly for Chandler's Ford Today). I also use story cubes (I was recently given a set and these are fun). I also use books of prompts including the ones brought out by you, Gill. I think it is vital to have a wide source of "idea finders" and this I feel is one of the biggest advantages to using a wide mix of prompts. I do use picture prompts. I've used random object generators and even a random Pictionary one. Great fun.
And where do you get you ideas from  prompts form?
All over the place as mentioned above but I like that a lot because I'm not reliant on one specific type of prompt. I also took part in Flash NANO last year where you've given 30 prompts over the 30 days of November. Never knew what was coming until I got the email on each day to say so. Some kinds of prompts I had written to before but others I hadn't. One of the latter was to write a story in the form of a police report. I came up with a humorous fantasy piece on that which ended up being broadcast on the Three Minutes Santas show on North Manchester FM last December! I wouldn't have thought to have written a story in that way.

Have you a prompt for today?
I've picked one from a random question generator I use. What would you do on a free afternoon in the middle of the week? The " you" here is, of course, your lead character. This is one I've used myself ages ago.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Have fun with prompts. Unless writing to a set theme, say for a competition, where you do have to stick to that, there's nothing to stop you putting your own spin on a prompt idea. I've done this often. Just tweaked an idea to suit my purposes and off I go. (I can then save these for open theme competitions too!).
Fancy trying our Big Book Of Prompts

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