Category Archives: Writing Prompts

Tension in Storytelling Is Essential

Hello everyone!

One important element to storytelling is tension. No one wants to read a bland story. Readers want the protagonist’s urgency to transport them from one event to the next. If something is not emotionally, financially, physically, politically, relationally, or spiritually important to the protagonist, why should the reader care?

Any situation or task, however boring or mundane, can become stressful and increase the tension of your story if the conditions are right.

Tension 5Have you ever been in a car with someone who was mad at you or walked into a room where someone was crying? Awkward! How about doing your taxes, mailing them in two days before they’re due, and then realizing that you did them incorrectly? (Yeah, that one might be somewhat autobiographical, and I still have the second set of Certified Mail receipts to prove it.)

Writing Challenge

Choose one or more of the activities below and write a tense scene. If it has potential, try developing the story beyond just that scene. In order to achieve the desired level of tension, you will have to do some character development.

Mundane Activities:

  1. Eating cereal
  2. Getting the mail
  3. Grocery shopping
  4. Going to the dentist (Okay, this is an easy one.)
  5. Returning a phone call

Happy writing!


Fractured Fairy Tales

Hello everyone!

“Tale as old as time. Tune as old as song.” – Beauty and the Beast

Many of us grew up hearing fairy tales told the same way. There may have been some slight variation from one retelling to the other – for example, in the original Cinderella story the ball lasted for three nights instead of just one – but the essence and elements of the fairy tales always stayed the same.

More recently, I have noticed authors altering our beloved tales by deviating from the traditional outcome, moral, characters’ roles, etc.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to choose a fairy tale and rewrite it in an original way.

Below are a few examples for how to “fracture” your fairy tale:

  1. Put it in a different time period.
  2. Switch the characters’ roles.
  3. Switch the characters’ genders.
  4. Cut or combine characters.
  5. Change the plot.
  6. Change the ending.
  7. Create a backstory explaining why the hero or villain is doing what he/she does.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Your imagination is the only limit to your fracturing abilities.

Below are a few picture book examples of fractured fairy tales:

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

Falling for Rupunzel by Leah Wilcox; illustrated by Lydia Monks

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Lane Smith

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This prompt was inspired by an acting project Brenda Eppley, one of my theater professors, assigned while I was earning my Associates in Performing Arts at Harrisburg Area Community College. My group’s story was Aladdin. We fractured the fairy tale by setting it in Chicago, making the Sultan the head of the Mafia, Jafar a dirty cop, and Aladdin a con artist. We further fractured it by making the Genie and Jasmine siblings. Jasmine wanted to take over the Mafia after her father, but he thought that his daughter should be innocent of the family’s illegal activity. The Genie, on the other hand, was the Don’s chosen successor, but he wanted to be free from his Mafia ties.

Happy writing!


Truer Love

Hello everyone and happy Easter!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to write a story involving a minimum of two characters who have some sort of love relationship. Remember, love does not have to be romantic.

A few potential character pairings are:

  1. Two friends
  2. A parent and child
  3. Siblings
  4. A romantic couple

Something to consider: Both characters do not need to have the same depth of feeling.

Sometimes in relationships, one person feels more strongly for the other and/or invests more in the relationship. One of the characters could be ambivalent or even hostile towards the other’s love.

Important: You must have a strong plot.

Having a good relationship dynamic is not the same thing as having a good story. Choose a conflict or issue which your protagonist must resolve. His/Her relationship with the other character can be the conflict, but your story will probably be more interesting if the conflict is something else. Use the relationship to add pressure or to interfere with the resolution of the conflict.

As an additional challenge, do not use the word “love” in your story. Focus on showing the reader the relationship between the two characters through their actions, body language, facial expressions, and the way they talk to each other.

Happy writing!


Alternate Reality

Hello everyone! Happy April Fools’ Day!

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to create alternate story lines (think the musical If…Then or the end of the movie La La Land).

Tell a story where the protagonist has to make a life altering decision. Your character’s choice will put him/her on one of two distinct paths. Have the protagonist choose one option and write about what happens. Then, go back to the point of decision. Have him/her make the alternate choice and write about what happens. Be sure that each option has consequences. Some can be positive and some negative.

Happy writing!


Spring into March Madness

Hello everyone!

It’s that time of year again: March Madness. The time where TV sets are usurped by the basketball lovers in the household and sports bars are filled with fans who were beaten to the remote.

In honor of March Madness, choose one of the writing challenges below:

  1. Write a short story about an adult who is trying to watch his/her team play, but is continually being thwarted. This could be a comedic or tragic story depending on how you present it.
  2. Choose an age group and create some basketball themed brainteasers (logic problems, riddles, etc.) for that age group.
  3. Write an article about the history of March Madness or explaining what March Madness is and how brackets work. Choose a sports magazine and try to write your article within the parameters of that magazine (word count, style, etc.).

Happy writing “and may the odds be ever in [your team’s] favor” (Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games)!


Dr. Seussified

Hello everyone!

On Dr. Seuss Day at school, one of the teachers read If I Ran the Zoo to the students and then had them create their own creature by joining the head of one animal, the body of a second, and the tail of a third. The students also had to name their animal. I liked the art assignment so much, that I’m borrowing the idea.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday your writing challenge is to create an animal out of three or more different animal parts.

  1. Draw the animal.
  2. Name it.
  3. Create a short rhyme about your creature.

After you’ve finished, please share your rhyme in the comments section below. I would love to see what you come up with!

As an example, I have shared my animal below.

Animal’s Name: Bullark

bullarkSelected Animal Parts

1. Shark’s head

2. Bull’s body

3. Eagle’s wings and talons



Have you seen a bullark?

They glow in the dark

And eat sea birds and hay.

The dreadful bullark’s

A cousin of sharks

And scares sea cows away.

Happy writing!


Behind Every Leader…


Hello everyone and happy Presidents’ Day!

“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

It is easy to look at a leader and attribute his/her success to his/her own drive and personality. Although the individual is the focal point, the credit for his/her accomplishments also partially belongs to the members of his/her support group. Every leader surrounds himself/herself with people who can offer advice, emotional/financial/political support, etc.

Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to select a job title for a leader and then create a supporting cast for him/her. Your leader can be a political figure, the head of a corporation, the principal of a school, a pastor, the head of a household, etc.

  1. Create between three and five supporting characters.
  2. Define each character’s role/relationship with the leader.
  3. Give each secondary character a minimum of one strength and one flaw.
  4. Create a backstory for how each character met your leader character and how each character came to earn his/her trust enough to become one of his/her main support personnel.

For my history lovers, you could alter this writing challenge by choosing a leader from history and researching his/her three to five closest advisers, family members, friends, etc.

Happy writing!

Katie Merkel