Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freewrite Friday: The Prompt

This week's exercise depends on all of you much more than it does on me. I'm going to ask you to offer each other prompts to write about. If you'd like to play along, please leave a prompt in the comments section below. Your prompt should be a 1-4 sentence snippet of an idea, and it should include the following:
  • a specific place
  • a person or people performing an action
  • a thought one of the people has 
  • the mention or description of a person's eyes, hands, or mouth
  • a tool, a piece of furniture, or a type of food or drink
That sounds like a lot, doesn't it?  I assure you that it's not hard.  I'll give you a couple of sample prompts, and then you can dream up one or two of your own to share.

Sample Writing Prompts:

"As Lila rounded the corner of the barn, she heard whistling--not a cat call, but a real tune.  'Singin' in the Rain,' she realized after a handful of notes, which meant Jesse was already there on the front porch, leaning too far back in the rocker, like always.  Her feet picked up the pace before she could stop them, and her hands rushed to smooth her hair, gone wild in the rain."

"Eddie can't remember the last time he stayed up this late--maybe never.  The light on his bedside table glows like a spaceship in the dark, and downstairs he can hear grownups' voices, sometimes hushed, sometimes growing louder when the phone rings.  Earlier in the night, one of the aunts brought him a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk.  He'd glanced up at her from his comic book, and her large, red-rimmed eyes had reminded him of the space alien in the story."
Leave a Prompt, Take a Prompt:

Once you've left a prompt, feel free to grab one by someone else and try using it as inspiration for a bit of writing.  It doesn't have to be a prompt that has anything to do with your own life.  In fact, sometimes these work well when they don't have much to do with our own experiences.

Once you've selected one, open your writing notebook, and write the prompt down at the top of a fresh page.  Start freewriting and see where it takes you.  Don't feel like you have to be a slave to the prompt. It might just be a starting point that leads you somewhere quite unexpected.  Or, you might find that you stick with those characters and that setting.  There's no one right way to do it.

Give yourself at least half an hour of uninterrupted time. You might find that you begin something you can't resist coming back to and working on more.  I often find that I write for at least an hour when a prompt has captured my imagination.   

We'll all be depending on each other to make this exercise work!  Please toss a prompt or two into the comments.  The more the merrier.  If you end up posting what you've written on your own blog, as always, send me the url, and I'll post a link to it next week. 

Speaking of links, here are a few to various people's takes on the Love Letter Exercise:

Relyn's letter at Come Sit By My Fire
Char's letter at Ramblins
Vicki's letter at Maple Tree
Jenner's letter at Jennerally Speaking

Thank you so much for sharing these letters and links!  You all make me want to keep doing the Freewrite Fridays.  


  1. Okay, so I set this to post at midnight tonight as I always do, and for some reason, Blogger is posting it now, so here's the Freewrite Friday exercise a little early this week! :) I so hope you'll give it a whirl!

  2. Ok - my 'prompts'
    1.Place: Grand Central Railway Station, NYC.
    2.Person/People Performing an Action: Couple sitting in the waiting area, waiting for an up-state bound train.
    3. A Thought One Person Has: "this is going to be the worest trip!"
    4. Physical Description: Woman looking at the shading on her finger where a wedding band used to be.
    5. Drink: A hot cup of tea, white, 1 sugar.

  3. The Tieshu Xiejie street in the Beijing hutong was as crowded as ever at 9pm on a weekday. Cuiming was rushing home, not even noticing the tricycles, the piles of garbage, the crowds of tourists and local merchants. All she could think of was her husband, who had left to work angry in the morning, after an argument they had, and who hadn't picked up his cell phone all day. Then suddenly the flash of a camera blinded her for a split second, but before she could raise her hand to block the light, it was gone. The photographer was sitting at the table of the Lion hostel, sipping his rosy drink and grinning at her shamelessly. "Him again?" she thought with an unpleasant pang of fear mixed with pleasure... while trying not to turn her head to look back.


    Place: childhood bedroom of 17 year old girl who is a dancer
    Action: on a phone call with ballet company director
    Thought: girl is reacting to the news from the phone call
    Description of eyes, hands, mouth: mother listening in to conversation
    Drink: tear drop that falls into the girl's glass of water

  5. I should add that if you end up using your own prompt, that's great, too.

  6. I'll take Sarah's. and I will leave one in return.
    Place: the hometown
    Action: riding the bus into town
    Thought: can we come home again?
    Description of eyes, hands, mouth: eyes closed, mouth tight, hands clenched
    Drink: the last swallow of a tepid coke

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. sorry - i posted my write as a comment and it was much too long so i deleted it. i'll do it as a blog post.

  9. She thought “I used to love Grand Central, now I dread everything about it because it takes me back to you.”  She tried hard not to think too much, feel too much.  She wanted to focus on the crowd of people coming and going from train to train and forget as much as possible the man sitting next to her.  She thought if she could get mentally lost in the crowd somehow she could transport herself from this place where she didn’t want to be - the place of going back home in shame and dread.  All she could think of was how awful the trip was going to be.  She hadn’t been back there since the divorce.  Divorce.  What a horrible word.  Thinking that word left an emotional scar in her brain in the same way the shadow on her ring finger left an indentation from a band no longer there.   ‘I wonder what a boiling hot cup of tea would do to that finger?’ she thought as she contemplated the hot beverage nestled between her cold hands.  Would it cause scar tissue to form where the shadow once was?  Would that lead to healing or just more pain?  She sighed heavy.  It’s going to be an awful trip.


  10. Timmy Trinket was born with three alternating fingers on his left hand, but by some strange law of the conservation of members, which was off just a bit, his right foot contained seven toes. He grew up drinking coffee, first from a bottle and then, soon, from a canteloupe-sized mug that he'd discovered one day beneath a pile of old red wool blankets in a frazzled wicker basket in the attic. Of course, he'd grown tall. In this life of opposites and strange compensations, his blue shirts would turn orange by the end of the day, and his shoes would gradually transform into mittens: he always had to pack an extra pair in his backpack to change into at lunchtime at school, always thinking, as he did so, what fun will happen today?

  11. Not a roll or a knoll for miles. The dust boiled behind as the rusty old truck rambled away from the morning sun. Bobbie strained to see over the dash. How much longer? Grandpa whistled brightly, his arm resting on the open window, the wind ruffling his shirt. His steady, thick calloused farm hand firmly gripping the dirty old shifter. Every now and again Bobbie's little hand reached over to steady the lunch basket on the seat between the two travellers. The smell of Grandma's egg salad sandwiches, every passing telephone pole, the clear blue sky above ~ everything had Bobbie dizzy with excitement. How much longer?

  12. I am in love with these. More! More!

  13. Under a tall swooping evergreen tree by the weathered cross-country ski barn with its rusted silo we sit on two damp towels left over from our morning swim. It is the only patch of grass daring us, an island we have discovered. Around us the snow melts like the lemon gelato forgotten on the bedside table. Lost in observation and translation, we are interrupted by the shrill voice of a tall, slender woman with a cute ski hat.....

  14. Gigi,
    I am enjoying your blog and all of its inspiration, yours and others that follow. Relyn's love letter was tender and touching.
    Thank you for inviting us all to join in the writer's song.

  15. forgive my prompt because I realize after going back to the exercise that I left out a few of the details you asked us to include. I figure if you choose this prompt you can fill in the thought on the shrill voice and what this woman might be saying. This is my first time ever blogging, and I've done three tonight, but sort of just trying to get the hang of it.

  16. Thanks so much for your prompt, Christine! And you're so right; if someone chooses this promt they can fill in those blanks. You've given a great basis for a freewrite.

  17. I want to join in the fun next week. Do I need to sign up anywhere?

    Happy weekend, sweet Gigi!

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. As he sat at the antique oak table in his daughters kitchen, Mariano took out the faded and tattered photo from his wallet.  His first born son had not had an easy life growing up. He was the product of a bi-racial couple in rural Idaho in the late 1940's.  As Mariano nervously awaited the arrival of the son he had not seen in 40 years, he traced the little boy's face in the photo with his index finger.  He wondered if his son, Lucas, would know how hard it was to leave him and his mother, Elizabeth, and how his heart would forever ache for them. Elizabeth was pressured by her pastor and her parents to end the marriage, as it wasn't "what god had planned." She just wasn't strong enough to stand up to them.  As Mariano looked at the boys photo remembering those heart wrenching days, he heard the door open and a mans voice awkwardly say "hello dad".

  20. Hi, Angie! You don't have to sign up. Just come join in whenever you'd like. If you check the Freewrite Friday button on the right, it will bring you to all the exercises. xo Gigi


Thank you so much for visiting and for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing from you.