How to make use of writing prompts

I often find myself getting stuck in a story about half-way through. The official writer term from this varies from writer to writer; some call it The Middles, but it reminds me more of the doldrums that old time sailors encountered. The wind has stalled, the sea is overly calm and my boat won’t move forward.

This middle part is deadly to most of my works-in-progress and while I’ve been better over the last year at finishing and completing projects, the doldrums are often the most iffy part of my process.

So that’s why I keep a stack of writing prompts in a side file on my computer to help me move the story forward.

Often my issue with stagnation is that I didn’t spend enough time getting to know my characters, or I haven’t explored some manner of my plot. This helps when you get to a section of your story that really requires some exploration of a character trait. That’s when I like to take a moment and free-write character moments.

For example, during my last project I realized that I didn’t know what tattoos a character had on his body. While I didn’t necessarily need to describe all his tattoos in detail, it might be important later when another character saw him. So, I did the thing: I wrote out the ink origins for each of the pieces and kept them to the side. Even though that writing didn’t appear in the book and probably won’t, it lets me understand his relationship with his body and in turn his feelings and reactions when he shares that body with another character in an act of intimacy or, alternative, an act of violence.

Writing prompts act like a kick in my butt to propel me forward into a story. How do you use prompts?

2 thoughts on “How to make use of writing prompts

  1. April,
    Sadly, I don’t use prompts as often as I should (ever), but I can comment on the middles. Before knowing there was an expression, or expressions, when I got stuck I would blow something up. Much later I heard Dean Wesley Smith describe this as, “three guys with guns.” They just show up in the story, and you have to deal with them.
    One story I had characters on a train and I felt bogged down – so I blew up the train. 🙂


    • Exploding trains is always a good plan haha.
      I once had a story where I had two post-apocalyptic characters scavenging for feminine products in an abandoned walmart. I got stuck, set a trap and poisoned my strong character forcing my weaker character to figure out their exit. Unexpected booms are very effective for moving a story along…a breeze against the sails of the ship as it were.


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