Sharon’s Wednesday post had the sweaty palm feel of a night at the improv—you know, when you jump onto a bare stage, someone yells out a situation, or maybe just a character trait, and then says, “GO!” You start acting your heart out, creating scene, tension, character, and reaction on the fly.
There’s nothing like a creative riff to blow the rust off your brain.
There’s a secret rule to improv, something never mentioned on Drew Carey’s old show ‘What’s My Line’, but it was always practiced. In improv, you never say no.
You don’t resist. You find a way to go with an ever changing, ever evolving moment. If you’re up on stage pretending to fly a kite and another actor comes in and tells you he’s a lion tamer and starts cracking his whip at you, you don’t resist. You don’t turn to that actor and say, “I’m not a lion.”
Instead you embrace the whole thing. Not necessarily by becoming a lion (that seriously limits your range as an actor), but by bending to the lion tamer’s will (not to mention that whip), and reacting to him in a way that allows the kite flying scene to continue, grow, become more than it was.
You go with it.
Writing prompts are the improv of words: permission to let go of our preset ideas and splash in the puddles of our minds. And when we let loose, when we go a-playing for the sheer fun of it, something amazing happens.
We get real honest, real fast.
When we let our mind fly, we’re able to take the fetters off. The real fetters, the real things that hold us back as writers. Truthfully, we’re not really worried, “What will an editor think?” We’re really worried, “What will Grandma think?” It’s the social constraints, family, church, fussy friendships that hold us back from riffing on what we truly think and feel.
Writing prompts help us stuff Granny in the closet and let our true selves free. It’s mentally and emotionally taking our girdles off and scratching. The freedom to explore our true selves, without the constraints of caring what someone else might say or think about what we’ve written.
And that’s why we should all be riffing with writing prompts.
Burn the thing after, if you have to, bury it in the backyard with the bones of Fifi the poodle, but get to that honest place.
If the golden rule is to write what you know, then the governing rule is Writer, know thyself.
Here are a few more prompts to nudge you to the knowing place. Have fun with them, and, if you’re daring, please share your riff with us in the comments section.
1) 1. A bag lady finds a crying baby in a back alley dumpster.
2) 2. Write a paragraph about orange.
3) 3. Write a stream of consciousness sentence that begins with the word “noise”. Write down the next word that comes to mind, then the next, and the next. Do not stop to think, just write the words down for three minutes.
4) 4. Describe falling asleep.
The above prompts are original to Bonnie Grove. You are free to share them as you like, just please reference Novel Matters when you do. Thanks!