May 07 Writing Prompt

As we round out the week and look forward to tomorrow’s start of the weekend, we also round up a mini-theme week. All week long (and quite unplanned, to be honest), we covered ways to stay productive.

Let’s keep that going, shall we?

What I want to cover today is a bit of a headache for many writers. If you have ever stalled out in a story, or an idea you came up with just fell flat, there are ways to fix it.

As you are aware by now, I don’t like to completely throw out stories. Not all of them are going to work. But that doesn’t mean you need to toss them in the trash.

Instead, I prefer to put them in a drawer, or on a thumb drive. This allows me to go back later when my skills have improved, and try again. At the very least, you will have story elements, you can use. Characters to recycle, locations or scenes to reuse…you get the idea.

How do we go about doing that, though?

If we assume you are in that limbo between projects, you are ripe for going through your “trash pile” and having a dig. There is a right and wrong way to do it though.

Garbage pile
Digging through the garbage pile for new story ideas can actually work.

Since I am still firm on the belief that once an idea dies it should stay dead, we won’t look to resurrect one. Instead, we will piece together a new idea from the ashes. A Frankenstein monster, or a phoenix rising form the ashes, if you will.

Let’s see how that process works.


May 07

Go through your “trash pile” and find one scene, two characters and a raw idea story line. Put them together in a short synopsis.


It is as easy as it sounds. But the trick is to pick the elements from different ideas that you’ve had.

You want to avoid picking elements from the same bad idea, because you will end up with the same bad idea. And you can guess where it will end up, once again.

Instead, start with the characters. Thumb through your old notes and ideas and chapters. Look for two characters that compliment each other. Either as friends or foes.

Then you want to go back through and find a scene you really liked. This scene probably didn’t work out because it was a part of a larger story. But on its own, it may be quite good.

Next, go through the garbage pile once more and find an old story line that just fell flat for one reason or another. Strip it back to its raw idea phase. Back before you added scenes and characters and “meat” to the story’s bones.

For the rest of this exercise, you aren’t going to worry about anything else. No other story elements. No story arc, no character development.

Instead, you are going to think of a way to put all three of your recycled elements together. One scene, using two characters, working towards one basic, bare story line.

Once you have the semblance of an idea, write it out. But here’s the catch. Do it in synopsis form. Write it out like you are trying to sell a reader, or agent, or publisher on this single scene.

When you are finished, let’s see what you have. Is it worth fleshing out and writing as a new project? It may be. If not, you can always try again.

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