Prompting a Story

Young Woman Writing in Her Journal

Last night was the second session of my writing class, Writing 101. Considering how afraid I was to begin, I’m amazed at what a difference it has made already in the way I think and feel about writing. The group is filled with nine women from diverse backgrounds. The stories we share are so wonderfully different.

The exercises the instructor uses to trigger our writing are sometimes difficult and sometimes fun.

How does it work?

Last night, we were each given a small piece of paper to write down three things:

A color
An object
The name of a person

Then, we passed our paper to the person on our right. We had five minutes to write a story that included the three words we’d just receivedโ€ฆblue, book, John.

Ready, set, go…

He sat on the floor and pretended to play with his cars while his mother rested in a nearby chair. She was doing it again, writing in the blue book. The sound of her pen on paper was almost silent and she’d pause, looking up. Then she began writing furiously, forcing her pen against the paper, scratching so loudly it could have been the sound of the engine in one of his cars.ย 

John looked up as the writing stopped and saw his mother weeping. What was in the book that would make her cry? As he jumped up to hug her tears away, he tried to see what was written on the pages, but she quickly closed the book, sealing the mystery inside.

One day he was going to find the book and open it to reveal the pain. He would rip out the pages that caused his mother to cry and bury each one in a separate place in the yard, never to be found again. Then, he would buy another book, not blue, but a bright yellow like the sun and write his own story that would make his mother laugh and dance with joy, just like before.

After sleeping last night, I revisited the story and made minor modifications. I loved this writing prompt and the story that came out of it. Are there things you use to trigger your writing?


It’s so much fun, Karen. We laughed and learned so much last night. I wish the class was longer than four weeks.

Mona AlvaradoFrazier

Well done and only your second class?! It’s all inside, just needs a little priming to get out.

Sometimes my writing group meets at a museum or the library and we do a ‘generative.’ We have 15 minutes to find something that speaks to us and create a short story or poem.

This can also work in the backyard, or during a walk or hike. Just remember to take a pencil and journal with you everywhere.

Chris Carter

WOW! What a talent you are and I am so glad you took those courageous steps to sign up for this class! I have never taken a writing class- definitely something I need to do!! Your creativity just shines so brilliantly through this story! It made me want to read MORE!!!


I love that idea, Mona. I need to find a writing group that lives nearby or see if this group of amazing ladies wants to stay in touch. The museum and library offer such an incredible number of options…


I wish we lived closer, Lizzi. I may just show up on your doorstep one day and we can put our own class together.

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