I didn’t understand writing prompts or their purpose when I was younger. Maybe it’s because I always knew what I wanted to do even though I wasn’t aware that wanting wasn’t quite the same thing as knowing how to achieve that writing objective. Writing prompts? I’d roll my eyes at them all through high school and all through college writing courses because I was so eager to get to the story I already had in mind. (The story that wouldn’t work because my characters were cardboard.)
As a result of that eye rolling, I, who thought himself so special, wasn’t open to learning some techniques that really could have helped me get better a lot sooner. (Aren’t all of us who like to write sold that bill of goods about being special from movies and books that celebrate how magical it is to be a writer? Post for another time.)
Yesterday I was writing about how important it is to know your character if you’re going to write swiftly. Well, one of the ways you can get to know those characters so that the prose flows smoothly is to ask some essay questions and then try to write answers in that character’s voice. The trick to avoid making the task onerous is to give yourself a time limit — no more than 5 or 10 minutes. Time yourself, and stop. If it sucks, you haven’t wasted much time and have actually SAVED yourself some time by discovering stuff that can’t possibly work.