Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Un-zonk your inspiration with writing prompts!

How do you get ideas when you sit down to write a creative piece, be it a blog post, assignment, journal article, letter - whatever? The page is blank, your inspiration is zonked.

One way is to use the great range of writing prompt sites on the Internet, they're really handy!
I'm going to demonstrate the process, so here goes.

1: I find this site :

(This is just randomly chosen due to it coming up first on a Google search, as it turns out its a great site, easy to use, but there are heaps of good ones out there, have a go of them all for fun.)

2: Choose a prompt:

Prompt number 101 - 'open a magazine or newspaper and find 3 pictures of people. Then write a 300-500 word profile of each individual.' Hmmm, I like the sound of that! Not too sure about the word count part, so for demonstration I'll give you a mini-version instead. I grab the nearest magazine, 'That's Life', randomly open to a Dettol ad, and choose a photo of a little girl washing her hands in the sink. I start to write...

'This is Chloe. Chloe is four years old, a beautiful looking girl with shoulder length blonde curls, smooth soft skin, and delicately shaped features. She is wearing a soft-pink shirt with ruffled sleeves, and she's home today because its the Easter break. Chloe has a sore toe - her nail is bleeding, she wanted her mum to put on the smiley-face band-aid before but her mum was too busy, she was rushing around with her baby brother and trying to clean up the house and putting all these papers together. Chloe tried to help her, but her mum got cross and started yelling at her, 'just shut up, Chloe, can't you just shut up for five minutes so I can get something done?!' Chloe felt the tears come, but she wiped them away and let her angry self come instead. 'No!', she screamed, stomping her feet, 'No, mummy, I want a smiley band-aid!'. Chloe wasn't prepared for what came next, a slap across the face that made her lose her balance and she found herself on the dirty floor-boards. But then mummy came over and wrapped her in her arms, saying 'I'm so sorry, sweet-heart, I don't know why I did that, come here and have a cuddle'. Chloe shut her eyes and breathed in her mummy's scent. That was what she wanted.'


Okay, so that was pretty quick, took me about ten minutes and now I have a character I can work with. I like that one, she's coming to life in my imagination.

Prompt number 115: 'Here's a ninety second drill -list items you can find in a hospital, when the ninety seconds are up, write a story that includes all the items in the list, but don't set it near a hospital.' Okay, that's a pretty challenging one. Here goes my list for 90 seconds...





oxygen mask


clear plastic cot


Okay, pretty boring list, what can I do?

I write...

'How the hell did I end up here?', thought Rachel as she scrambled through the box, picking through random items, a thermometor, an oxygen mask, a packet of disposable nappies. The smell of antiseptic was strong, reminding her of where she'd been yesterday, St. Michaels Hospital in Ward 55, post-operative recovery. The road was bumpy and Rachel had to hold herself steady, her knees growing sore from the pressure of the metal floor. It was starting to get dark, the small gaps in the curtains of the panel van were letting in less and less light and she began looking with more and more desperation for the items she would need when they got to their destination.

'You right there sister?'. Rachel looked up to see his broad shoulders and the outline of his large, bear-like head. Should she answer him, she wondered? Or should she just stay quiet, pretending that everything was as it should be. The sound of a baby crying woke her from the fantasy, and she hurried to settle the little bundle she had tucked up inside the carrier tied to her chest. 'I'm fine', she called out, smelling the little soft head and feeling the silky hair nestling against her cheek. That baby powder smell, mixing with the antiseptic and the smell of dirt and oil in the back of the van. Only an hour ago this baby was snuggly resting in the plastic hospital cot, lying next to its mother as she slept. But now it was in Rachel's arms. Rachel wondered if the baby was a boy or a girl.'


Okay, so there's two prompts and what they turned into on this one occasion. Of course, everyone's response to the same prompt will be completely different, and even the same prompt when used again would evoke different moods, ideas and inspiration in the same writer.

Give it a try! I'd love to read some of your inspirational pieces, please add your comments to my post and let me know how you went.

Sue Oaks

Copyright 2012


Painted-egg statue on Sydney Rd

We waited, apart, away from the church
That sacred building, its solid mass
Reaching towards the heavy Melbourne sky.
The songs floated out,
Clear despite the taunting breeze which was busy blowing leaves
into disarray
across the icy gutters.
We huddled together,
A striking sight in our suits
Of black and red,
Silver instruments clutched in our arms
Feeling rather out of place
Just there to do a job.

With chattering teeth we waited
As the service continued,
On and on as toes grew stiff inside black leather shoes.
We talked trivialities and gazed at the road,
Watching as locals went in and out of shops near-by
For their morning paper and coffee.
Then, with sudden flurry,
'Band, fall in!', we are summoned!
The doors of the church swing open,
spewing out a reverent group of excited worshippers,
Holy statue held proudly in strong young arms,
Ranks becoming one as we all move forward together.
The Blessed Virgin Mary,
Eye-catching pink like a child's painted egg,
Teetered precariously through the streets
Narrowly missing bowing branches,
bravely navigating the busy path before us
to a cacophony of joyous families.

The band played on,
Notes scattering and merging with the
Car horns blaring on Sydney road,
The people sang and raised their arms,
As trombone slides narrowly avoided disaster,
Slippery soles sliding on tram-lines
But lips still managing to hold a tune.
Finally she reached her destination,
Proud young men delivering the statue
In one piece to the Bishop up the road,
Music has turned to mush
in the craziness of the city streets
and we barely hear the drum-major's
'Band, fall out!',
Just in time to
Swivel right, feet together, step off and disperse.
Mission accomplished.

Sue Oaks copyright 2012