Write stories that might have provoked these headlines:
- Peanut butter thief found guilty!
- Gift proves to be curse!
- Little fellow becomes a big problem!
- Edna, the librarian, saves the day!
- Winnie learns way too much in school!
- Chef fires himself!
- Son betrays his dad!
- Eddie finds out where he came from!
- Piano tuners attack morgue!
- Follower learns to lead
Imagine a mostly-empty a bus station in the middle of the summer in the middle of nowhere. You, whoever you are, enter and sit in the corner. While you wait for the bus, you worry about a big personal problem that must be addressed.
- Who are you? What's your problem?
- What's the little man next to you reading?
- Name several distinct smells.
- If you close your eyes, what can you hear?
- What's the lady across the way doing?
- What can you say about the floor?
- What can you say about the walls?
- You walk over and check the announcement board. What do you find?
- What do you notice that gives you an idea for solving your problem?
- What happens next?
In the voice of your character, write a letter to a friend telling that person about your experience in the waiting room. Use as much detail as possible.
Write a story almost entirely in dialogue. It should involve two people who know each other well. The conversation starts predictably and ends with a change in the relationship. Here are some possible situations:
- Father and son discussing baseball at the breakfast table
- Teacher and student discussing student's low grade
- Two friends planning a camping trip
- Two old friends at a reunion
- Business partners talking about a new plan
- Strangers at a coffee shop
- Teammates on the bus taking them to the biggest game of the year
- Two guys on the porch of an old folks home
- Two sisters arguing about what to do with Mom
- Two fans in the stands at a night baseball game
Write a story for children. Here are a few titles:
- "The Absent-Minded Nanny"
- "The Cry baby Cop"
- "The Bossy Librarian"
- Others from the Mitchell School Book)
Follow up. Take any one of the stories you have recently started and see what happens when you:
- Start late?
- End early?
- Change the point of view; consider an unreliable narrator.
- Add a further element of suspense?
- Add a dog or some other pet?
- Kill the third most important character?
- Change the location?
- Add a nerd?
- Combine two of the characters?
- Add an earthquake?
Red Sky at Morning: An Overlooked Gem
Over the years, I've used a number of prompts from Moe's Café: 48 Decidedly Different Creative Writing Prompts to spice up my literature units. Since my high school does not offer a creative writing class per se, most of my creative writing activities are designed in conjunction with some piece of literature I'm teaching at the time. Although Moe's Café was not written to be used with any particular book, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could match up all of the chapters of a novel that I was teaching with pre-reading/writing prompts from Moe's Café. I chose Red Sky at Morning, the opening work for my English 1 class.
Richard Bradford's Red Sky at Morning tells the story of Josh Arnold, a wise-cracking yet engaging teenager forced to grow up quickly in the waning days of World War II. First in Mobile, Alabama and then later in the mountains of New Mexico, Josh must come to terms with the universal problems of growing up. Along the way, he encounters a number of colorful characters who both help and hinder the process. Josh's wry interaction with these people makes for compelling reading. The novel also offers enough insight into the power of nature and the foibles and strengths of human beings to be worth teaching to the freshmen in my English 1 course.
Although it's unlikely that any teacher would have the time to assign all twenty-one of these prompts in the course of teaching the novel, each chapter having its corresponding prompt affords a teacher a number of alternatives. The prompts can be used as pre-reading activities, discussion starters, extra credit opportunities, narrative assignments, portfolio entries, substitute teacher lesson plans, etc.
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