My own stories start—as most stories do, I’m sure—with a voice, or an image, or a normal annoyance extrapolated into something severe and outlandish. Lately, though, I’ve found myself drawn to story starters, which I give to students as writing exercises. Most of these I’ve pulled from THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR, a flip-book that offers three story elements with which to start a story. They’re often ridiculous and rarely produce workable stories. For example: 1) Upon winning the lottery, 2) a reformed hit man, 3) meets the ghost of Ernest Hemingway.
As ludicrous as the prompts might be, they make for good writing exercises, though, forcing the students to write something new every week and giving them constraints, which are good for writers. Whenever possible, I like to hem writers in with constraints.
I am refreshed, too, by the expansive variance that comes out of these exercises. It is less that no two stories are alike and more that there is such a wide gulf between each writer’s crack at the prompt that time and again my faith in the wicked, cruel, sorrowful, and hilarious minds of new writers is renewed. And every so often, a writer will tackle a prompt and something compelling—to the readers, but most importantly to the writer—will emerge and a true story will have been started. Continue reading