Friday, 1 October 2010

How long is a story prompt?

How long is a story prompt?

I've been selected to be part of an anthology with a twist. I can't give to many details, as it's very hush, hush. There will be ten authors, each writing a 10,000-word story. I've never written a story of this length before but I've decided to use it as a warm-up for my novel; I can use it to practice writing something much longer. And another great thing about this selection is that it is helping to pull me out of my work blues.

Part of the anthology process involves me providing a story prompt. The prompt should be enough to trigger a story but short enough that you are not outlining the story. I think of a prompt as being anything from one sentence to a paragraph; the kind of thing you may see in a writing practice book. What do you think? I would really appreciate some advice.


  1. First of all congratulations on the selection. You ARE good at what you do and eventually you'll believe that.

    To answer your question I did what I always do and put a couple of words into Google. It came up with this.

    If you read down a bit you'll find this:

    Life as a vampire is difficult enough, but for the vegan vampire, it can be intolerable.

    I thought that sounded perfect for you!

    Good luck with it.

  2. There's a link in that comment. It's not easy to spot though. It goes to here:

  3. Wow that's Fab Ellie.
    Glad you're already getting out of your blues.
    I've never done a prompt before, but looks like AJ has some great pointers.Thanks AJ :O)

  4. MorningAJ - thank you. You are a star. The link that you gave me, and the example prompts, are exactly what I think of when you use the word prompt. But I'm worried that it is not enough. I'm probably worrying unnecessarily, and guess I should just write my prompt and submit it; the editor can always reject it and ask for another.

    Yes. The vampire prompt is perfect for me. You know me too well!

  5. Madeleine - thank you! Work is still miserable but I've got to try my best to ignore it or I'll stop writing altogether.

  6. YAY!!!!! What lovely news!! I am so so so pleased for you - wow!!!!!! And Yay again!!

    Good for you!! I haven't a clue about prompts (what on earth do I know?? Ask me about cats next time! LOL!!) but I'm so happy that you're gonna be in this hush hush (i.e. BIG!!!!! AND WONDERFUL!!) anthology!!! GOOD LUCK!

    Take care

  7. Congratulations! I am going to nickname you SuperWriterWoman!! :)

    As far as prompts go, I think a sentence or two is fine. Maybe give the prompt first:

    A woman is spending the first night in her newly-purchased home. She knows she is alone in the house, but in the middle of the night is awakened when the sheets are ripped off her bed.

    Then do some suggestions on where to take the story:

    Who pulled the sheets off? A ghost? A burglar? The cat?

    Hope this helps! :)

  8. Congrats my friend. I wish I could help you but I'm anything but a writer :)

  9. Ellie...congrats. Thats great news. Though I am no expert at Story prompts, I will tell you what I did when Penguin offered me to be a part of their Anthology. I had to send a one paragraph Pitch.

    I wrote it like a one paragraph synopsis: with the name of the protagonist, conflict, what stood in her path. I did not reveal the ending (though it was clear in my mind). Hope it helps.

  10. Old Kitty - thank you! I'll have to put Charlie in one of my stories - he'd like that. LOL.

    Janel - Ooo. . .that is a massive help. Thank you! I've decided to send two prompts and then hopefully the editor will at least like one of them. Fingers-crossed.

    Thom - thank you! Your encouragement is a help too!

    Rachna - that is a massive help - thank you! Several people have suggested following this format for the prompt and that is what I'm going to do. I'm so sad I won't be able to show you what my prompt is, but I not allowed!

  11. Fantastic news that you've been selected for another anthology! Well done.

    I've no experience of giving prompts, but I'd guess something fairly open ended would be good, with plenty of room for people to interpret the prompt in their own individual way.

  12. Congratulations, Ellie! I've never written a prompt for others, but the prompts I respond to the best are the short ones, either a picture prompt or just a sentence or two. The long prompts (whole paragraphs) offer too much information and I feel hemmed in. I like the nip of a thought and then being left to create something brand new.

  13. Joanne - everyone seems to be giving the same advice, so that is what I'm going with. Thank you!

    Lisa - thank you! It's good to know what kind of prompts work best.

  14. A prompt sounds like what we call a blurb in our neck of the woods.

    I write them with two things in mind: Who is involved and what is at stake?

    50 words is best. And don't forget to use all active verbs.

    Congrats!! Hope this helps a little.

  15. Maria - thank you! That was very helpful.


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