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Prompts for Every Genre!

by Willy Doehring, River co-editor

The “Writer’s Workshop” blog posts are meant to be a collage of writer’s tips, tricks, and strategies, including the first steps to publishing, writing prompts, strategies for writer’s block, and a general jumble of ideas to help you in your quest to create and publish.


If you’ve kept up with the Writer’s Workshop posts for a while, you’ve probably noticed that the writing prompts part of the blog description hasn’t really been around. Well, today’s post is here to change that with a few prompts for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

I’ve had a weird relationship to prompts myself— for a long time I didn’t even like using them. Too often I felt boxed in by the prompt and felt like I was doing something wrong when my writing ended up taking a completely different direction. At the end of the day, however, there’s no “right” way to approach a prompt— if one sparks your interest, great! If you start writing and end up taking things in a completely different direction, that’s fine too. Use these however best fits your writing process, as always.

Maybe because it took me a while to appreciate a good prompt, but as a warning these might be a little rough— all of them sound interesting enough to me though, so hopefully a few speak to you as well. Without further ado, here we go!


  1. Write about a character who is running very late for something— where are they going, and why? Why are they late? What’s going through their head?
  2. Think of a crime you’ve always thought was interesting, or even one you might’ve wanted to commit if not for the consequences (no judgement here— I’ve always been really intrigued by bank robberies myself) and write about a character or group of characters attempting to commit that crime.
  3. Imagine a character; now imagine what that character’s bedroom might look like. What’s on their bedside table (if they had one)? Is it very neat, or is it a mess? What kind of decorations do they have? Try not to put the character themselves in the scene, just really focus on that room and see what it can tell you about your character.


  1. Write about a very intimate/personal moment in your life and write about that moment without ever revealing what that moment was.
  2. Think about an object that holds some sort of special meaning to you; something that might not be important or noteworthy to someone else, perhaps. Describe the object, then meditate for a while on its meaning. What’s the story behind it? What memories and feelings does it evoke for you?
  3. Focus on a specific place or thing and write about it using a glossary format; think about the different aspects of that place or thing that best characterize it (or your feelings about it), then write out definitions for each those characteristics.


  1. Write a poem in paragraph format, with no spaces or line breaks; don’t pay attention to the pauses or the rhythm. When you’re finished, re-write the poem by adding a break after every third word. How does the poem change?
  2. Focus on something that you consider dangerous (bonus points if it’s something not everyone thinks of as dangerous). Write a poem about that dangerous thing and why/how it is threatening to you.
  3. Pick a song; spend a while listening to that song, paying attention to how it makes you feel and the kind of sounds present. Then, write a poem that is a response to that song.

There you have it— hopefully at least a couple of these prompts inspire you! I’d encourage you to try at least one of them, even if it doesn’t seem the most exciting— you never know what might come out of working with a prompt. Also (because you know that I love talking about genre), don’t feel like the prompts for one genre won’t work for another– I’d love to see what a poem based off a fiction prompt looks like, or what kind of nonfiction piece could come from a poetry prompt, and so on.

As always, have fun and happy writing!

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