With the challenge of getting myself back into a daily writing habit before me I’m keenly interested in anything that will help me get writing. Enter the writing prompt.
I’ve used prompts off and on over my years of writing as a way of flexing my creativity and using something, anything, to get the words flowing when my mind is otherwise a blank space devoid of ideas.
Svani Parekh over at The Writing Cooperative offers up a great list of prompts that have one thing in common – each one challenges you to dig deep into a sense memory to get started. Why try and write from a place of sense memory? Svani answers:
For a story to be immersive, I’ve come to realise the most important things (apart from technically strong, clear writing, of course!) are honesty and using your senses.
Using our senses to inform our writing goes beyond being merely descriptive. Our senses can provide us with an endless string of adjectives to describe the physical world, but that’s not the only thing we use our senses for when we write.
As a writer we try to get our readers immersed in the worlds we create, but that can only be done if those worlds are fully realized. Writing that is truly immersive is deeply rooted in our senses because our senses are deeply rooted in memory and emotion.
That’s what Svani’s writing prompts are really about, recalling a sensory experience and exploring the emotion that’s deeply a part of that experience. For instance her prompt that uses food as a jumping off point:
Describe a favourite dish your mother/father or any other relative regularly made for you when you were a child.
What did the dish smell like? Taste like? Look like? When was it made? How did it make you feel then? What was the atmosphere when everyone ate it? Was sunlight streaming into the room? What were the people, sounds and smells and objects around you? Was it a relaxed or a tense meal? Why?
Yes, being able to accurately describe what the meal looked liked and smelled like is important, but it’s the details of how that meal made you feel that make it immersive and authentic.
Svani lays out a total of 10 prompts and offers this challenge:
Try writing a piece each day (heck, try writing even one piece on any day!) using the below prompts. See for yourself if you find stronger, more intimate stories emerging from somewhere deep inside you, sparkling with raw reality and emotion.
For my part I plan on picking one or two and writing from them over the weekend. I’ll share whatever it is I come up with on Monday. It’ll be a good experiment, and challenging, but I look forward to seeing what comes out.
If you end up giving any of these prompts a try, let me know how it goes.