Saturday, February 13, 2010

Story Writing Prompts Using PostSecret

Sometimes you're just aching to write, but you don't know what to write about. Or, you're desperate to find a great inspiration for a story, but you don't know where to start. Websites that feature writing prompts can help, but a number of the prompts featured simply encourage you to jog your brain and not really generate fresh story ideas.

PostSecret can be your rich resource for writing prompts specifically geared towards creating a short story, or a subplot for a larger story. The website started out as a community project where people created postcards which revealed their deep secrets, and the site has spawned a number of bound collections which can be purchased in bookstores (I saw one in National Bookstore).

Secrets, especially those experienced by real people, can be one of the greatest story inspirations --and writing prompts-- around.

Here's a way to do it:

1) Choose one secret, particularly an emotionally compelling one, from the site and take some time to focus on it. Imagine the person--the "focus character"--who could have written this secret. Imagine the gender, the age, the economic status, the lifestyle.

2) If the secret involves other people, establish the nature and quality of the relationships.

3) Determine how this secret affects the way the focus character goes about his or her daily life, or the way the focus character treats others. How does this secret shape the focus character?

4) We keep secrets for a reason, usually to prevent hurt or alienation. What is the value of this secret to the focus character? What benefit would he or she have for keeping it?

5) Now here's a potential source of conflict. From whom does the focus character keep the secret? Who is the one person (or group of persons) who should NOT know this secret. What would the focus character do to prevent this secret from being exposed?

6) What would happen if the secret is revealed? How will the focus character deal with the consequences? How will he or she find redemption, or earn forgiveness, as the case may be?

Note that not all of the posts on PostSecret have the potential for huge stories, because a number of them have an anecdotal feel about them, like, "I don't know what a penis really looks like," or "I have been sending uplifting anonymous cards to random people from the phonebook. I hope they have helped in some small way."

Some, however, can be the basis for great dramatic stories, like "Spring is coming, and we will be alright," or "The real reason I backed out of seminary is that I knew it would destroy my belief in God."

Why not give these off-beat story writing prompts a shot? Visit PostSecret now.

1 comment:

marion said...

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