Some people are writers; some people aren’t. And some people learn to be writers. If you have a budding writer in your home but aren’t a natural or learned writer yourself, you may find it difficult to help your child cultivate this skill. One tool you might consider using is story prompts.
What Is a Story Prompt?
Story prompts can be short or long, funny or serious, based on fact or on fiction. There are scene prompts, first-line prompts, last-line prompts, character prompts, picture prompts, and—my favorite—dialogue prompts. But most importantly, prompts are always specific and centered on details that can capture the imagination.
A prompt doesn’t lay out the whole story. It just gives a slice of an idea that can become a whole story. For example, here’s one of my favorite dialogue prompts: “Is it a requirement for supervillains to go to lame pun school?” One writer could take this prompt and write a scene with a hero criticizing a villain’s monologue. Another might take it in a completely different direction.
The right story prompt lets ideas bloom like flowers in a garden.
How Do You Use a Story Prompt?
Writers need to be writing all the time. Published authors don’t disagree about that. And for your young writer to grow his skill, he may need more opportunities to write than a regular homeschool day may provide. Orson Scott Card once said, “Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day.” But even a writer may not always see them. Keeping a healthy batch of story prompts allows you to give your young writer a place to go to for ideas and a chance to use his imagination outside of regular school assignments.
The story prompts you choose for your child should call for him to write a scene, a short story, or a description of a character or setting. The response should be short but can be longer if your child wants to expand it into a well-developed story.
Possible Creative Writing Story Prompts
- Write a short story that ends with “And that’s what happens when you’re raised by pirates.”
- Start a short story with “This time, it was the princess’s turn to rescue the dragon.”
- Write a scene in which two characters say this to each other: “So what’s your plan?” “My plan was to follow your plan!”
- The government has developed an intelligence-boosting drug, and one of the testers’ pets has been eating it. Describe what happens to the pet.
- Write a short story that starts with the first line of a hymn.
If you would like to print out visuals for these story prompts, download a printable version.
You could put your collection of prompts into a story-prompt jar for your child to pick from once or twice a week. What kind of stories will your young writer create? We’d love to hear about them!