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Writing

Creative and Critical Writing Prompts

Discuss your school as an institution.  What is the purpose of a public high school?  In what ways should it promote individuality or conformity?  In what ways would you change it in order to make it better, safer, healthier, more productive environment? 

Write about one thing that will become obsolete in your lifetime.  Write about one thing that will stand the test of time. 

What will be the defining societal issue of your generation.  Why?  What is your plan of action for dealing with the issue?   

Define success.  What is the American Dream to you?

Finish the prompt:  This I believe…

Pick your favorite song lyrically.  Perform close read of the song, analyzing for diction and imagery and devices.  What is the overall message, theme, purpose, goal of the song? 

Sketch a room.  Work on the use of diction, imagery, literary devices, and sounding device to create a visual of any room you want real or imaginary. 

Create an entry for the Sniglet or Devil’s Dictionary.  What is the word and definition? 

Transcribe the thoughts currently going on in the mind of one of your classmates.

Write about your weekend in the style of an epic adventure.  Build from real events but dramatize and embellish where necessary. 

Write about the last ten years of your life using only three word sentences.

Take your first pet’s name.  Take the name of the street nearest to where you currently live.  This is the name of a character in your next book or film.  Sketch the character–looks, behaviors, motivations.   

Write page 217 of your autobiography. 

Write about a time you were dressed inappropriately.

Describe your most self-indulgent dream/fantasy that you realize will never come true but you hang on to anyway.

Write about something that just plain bothers you.

What does it mean to “grow up?”

Write about an object whose value can only be measured by you.

Write about one tangible thing you fear and one abstract thing you fear.

Write a satirical character sketch about a specific person or a type of person. 

If you could replace one of your arms with anything in the world, what would it be?

You are the Thanksgiving turkey.  Use a series of rhetorical appeals to convince me not to eat you.

Create a logo for a bumper sticker.  What is the slogan?  Why is it an important philosophy for you? 

Tell the funniest joke or story that you have heard?  What makes it humorous to you?   

Tell about the moment you knew what it was you want to be. 

Define a good marriage/relationship.  List the expectations that you have for yourself and your partner to make a good marriage/relationship. 

You are a little blue bird.  Write the steps of your plan for world domination.

If you started a band, what would you call it?  What would be your band’s sound and look and style? 

Which superhero would you be and why? 

What happens after death?  How do you want to die?  What do you want to do with your body?   

Describe a time when you felt prejudice or were prejudiced.  Discuss the event and the outcome. 

Create an alter ego for yourself.  What is your name?  How do you dress and act?  What is your purpose and motivation?

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage”–Barack Obama–Are the “some who question” right about us as a country?  Support your answer with examples and details.

Using the following line of dialogue as an opening line, create a scene using ONLY dialogue that tells me the back story, explains the relationship between the characters, and determines a plan for overcoming the challenge presented:  “Call me crazy, but I think it’s a possible explanation for your communication problems and our mutated dinosaur friends.”

Is it better to…Have rules that you must follow or be punished–OR–Be able to do whatever you want?  Give me at least one example or personal story to support your opinion.

You are a fly on the wall while one of your friends describes you to a potential mate.  Write your friend’s side of the conversation in which he/she describes you.  Go beyond just a physical description.

As a class, have students give a predetermined number of letters…somewhere between six and twelve.  Write the letters on the board, and then give students the following prompt.  Write the random letters at the top of your piece of paper.  Using words that begin with these letters, in the same order, write an opening sentence to a story. 

Find a wedding announcement from a newspaper.  The New York Times provides good examples.  Read the announcement aloud while also displaying it on the projector–most of the announcements contain pictures, which helps the students get a feel for the couple.  Don’t give any clues or hints about the writing assignment.  When you finish reading, switch the projector to the prompt.  Beginning with a line of dialogue, write the scene of this couple’s final fight before one of them files for divorce.

In twenty years you will have forgotten most of the things that fill your life now. What are the things about who you are now, what you enjoy and value, what you do with your time, and so on that you want to remember twenty years from now?  Imagine what will be important to your memory of yourself later on.  Write these things down in a letter to the thirty-something you.

List and briefly explain three physical characteristics that could give hints about your character or personality.  Ex:  I wear black a lot and have dark hair—I’m often pessimistic.  I have big eyes—I’m curious and like to people watch.  I have lots of freckles and a little button nose—I’m childlike and playful.

My students were middle-class kids who were ashamed of their background.  They felt like unless they grew up in poverty, they had nothing to write about…I felt sorry for these kids, that they thought their whole past was absolutely worthless because it was less than remarkable.” ~David Sedaris–Write about a “less than remarkable” aspect of your life.

Write about the nicest thing that has happened to you this week (or any other time, I guess).  Keep it G-rated (or at least PG); at least one other person will read this.  The experience that you write about should be very pleasant and positive, although it could stem from a negative experience (i.e. the nicest thing that happened was when a stranger stopped to help you change your tire after it went flat on the highway, etc.).

Choose one of the following lines and end a story with it.  You have 17 minutes.

—  I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.

—  I closed the box and put it in a closet. There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

—  Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.

—   The only thing worse than a boy who hates you: a boy that loves you.

—  Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of.

—  He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.

Choose one of the following lines and start a story with it.  You have 17 minutes.

—  In the convent, Sister Ursula’s first writing submission began, I was known as the whore’s child.

—  There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

—  They’re out there.

—  Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it.

—  Life changes in the instant.  The ordinary instant.

—  And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

—  My imagination will get me a passport to hell one day.

Pick three lines at random from three different sources.  I usually have students give me random page numbers, and then tell me when to stop with my finger tracing the page up and down.  The closest workable line is the one I go with.  Students have to use each line in a story…one to start the story, one somewhere in the middle, and one to end the story.  No exceptions.  They can change verb tense, pronouns, names, etc. to keep consistency.  These are the lines I used last time.

They seemed to forget all about him as soon as they had made the decision.

He herded those he could in its direction, including his mother and _______.

I crawl through bloodstained leaves to the eaves of the forest, and there peek out.

 “Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened”
~T.S. Eliot

Write about a “door” that you never opened.

Adopt the voice of someone either ten years older OR younger than you.  As that person, complete the following sentence:  “The only thing I ever wanted was _______.”

Now finish the story…

Get out six sheets of paper

  1. On the first sheet of paper, write one weird (real) word that you like
  2. On the second sheet, write one word (verb or gerund) that evokes a complex, troublesome memory for you
  3. On the third, write one song or album title
  4. On the fourth, write one adjective-and-noun combination
  5. On the fifth, write one question
  6. On the sixth, write one word or phrase evocative of your childhood—something your mother or father would say, a piece of a joke you liked, or a game you used to play, for instance

You now have titles for six unfinished pieces.  Complete each one.  Experiment with genre, style, and voice.  There is no time limit or space limit.  These are literally “free” writes.

 

 

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