Six Unusual Places to Find Writing Prompts
Writing prompts aren’t hard to come by. There are entire websites and books dedicated to just that very thing. After a while, though, the prompts start to get a little stale and it’s good to branch out and look for new ways to find inspiration. To that end, here are six unusual places I’ve found writing prompts that helped me approach my writing from a slightly different angle.
Artbreeder is a site that uses machine learning to edit images based on user input. You can create detailed characters, worlds, and even buildings. If you have an idea for your story but can’t quite get the descriptions consistent, or need a visual cue to help describe it to your readers, then Artbreeder is an absolutely fantastic tool!
I’m currently working on a story where a group of magic-users have lived in a dark forest, hidden for generations. I knew that one of the characters my protagonist meets there would have a slightly bluish cast to his skin, have almost glowing eyes to better see in the dark, and would have traces of magic visible under his skin. Using a random base image and choosing a magical humanoid as my second, I managed to tweak an approximation of what that character could look like. It’s given me a visual base to which I can refer, and a great prompt to start the business of describing him!
This is an incredibly simple tool that I stumbled on completely by accident a little while ago. Atsuzaki Playground is a single-page website that takes two character names and generates a prompt. That’s it. That’s all it does.
If you know the names of your main characters, it’s a really fun way to play around with dialogue, write a meet-cute, or create a random scene to get to know your characters more.
Today I used the random names Clara and Felix and hit generate. What came out was “They meet when Clara sees Felix walk into a street sign.” That immediately sparked so many fun ideas and created a humorous way for two characters to meet that I probably would never have thought of on my own.
Tumblr’s writing prompt tag
Tumblr might not be that unusual, but unless you’re already a regular user, you’d be surprised by how many people forget it’s there or what a great resource it can be for writing prompts.
The Tumblr tag feature makes looking for prompts incredibly easy. Just stick “writing prompt” in the search bar and click on the writing prompt tag in an associated post. Or you can use the search function to find something more specific. There are lots of writers on the site you can follow who regularly post prompts and general inspiration, and there are also collaborative writing challenges where users all write something based on the same prompt and compare notes.
What makes it such a cool space for writing prompts is the fact that there is such a good community. Users talk with each other, share ideas, and encourage other writers – in fact, we dedicated an entire blog post to how good a resource Tumblr can be for writers. Next time you’re feeling short on ideas, why not pop over and give it a try?
Rory’s Story Cubes
I first discovered Rory’s Story Cubes while working as a bookseller. They were something we kept in the children’s section in one of those impulse buy racks. I picked up a set after work one day on a whim and absolutely fell in love with them.
The concept is simple – you have nine dice, each with a different picture on one of its faces, you shake them up, roll, and create a story out of whatever images are face-up after you’re done. There’s no hand-holding once you’ve got the images, and you can put them into whatever order you want. I’ve had hours of fun with them – coming up with ideas and connections I might never have done without the prompt.
You can buy the cubes in themed packs, but they also have a mobile app, which is what I use now. The packs are sold individually, but there’s a handful of the cube packs included in the app that are completely free. You just pick what packs you want to use from the menu, the app chooses the dice at random, you shake your phone, and are left with an oven-ready writing prompt.
AI Art Generators
There’s a particular app that’s been taking the internet by storm recently called Wombo, but the AI art world is incredibly deep and diverse. Like Artbreeder, apps like Wombo use machine learning to generate works of art based on user input. In the case of Wombo, however, rather than combining various works of art it takes text input and a chosen art style to generate a single image that you can use for inspiration.
A lot of writers have been putting their book titles into the generator, choosing an art style that best suits their genre, and seeing what the app gives them. It’s a great way to visualise your ideas. You can also use it to generate a visual prompt from text as well. For instance, if I want to write a steampunk novel about an android and her pet cat, you can put in the text string “android and pet cat,” choose the steampunk style, and see what comes out!
I will warn you though, generating images can be incredibly addictive, so make sure you don’t forget to stop and do some actual writing!
Almost everyone has heard of Dungeons & Dragons, but they’re not the only games in the TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) space. The most popular are usually group RPGs, but there’s also been an increase in demand for solo-play RPGs, especially over the pandemic.
Solo role-playing games can range anywhere from single campaigns as part of a wider story, or standalone games that require some kind of journaling or keeping a personal log. It’s these kinds that work absolutely brilliantly as writing prompts.
A journaling RPG creates an imaginative world in which the player will document their journey or create stories as part of their play. They can range in themes from fantasy and horror, all the way through to poetry and romance. I’ve recently started a journaling RPG that prompts me to create poetry in the form of alchemical apothecary remedies, and it’s already sparked some great ideas. I’m forced to look at ingredients, what they represent, why I would use them, and write emotive words around that.
Solo RPGs are as diverse as their users’ imaginations and are a really fun and intensive way to spark your inner creativity. You’ll get to have fun and do some writing at the same time!