This is my favourite writing worksheet EVER! It’s easy to compare your efforts to that of great writers and sink into despair, but I recommend that you give yourself a break and find flaws in them instead. Inspired by a famous author who shall remain nameless, this worksheet is a permission slip for imperfection. Fill it out and refer to it in times of need.
Interesting character quirks are responsible for some of the most memorable characters in fiction, but I think new writers sometimes forget that a quirk doesn’t make a character. It’s a good place to start though! The first page of this worksheet gives you some questions to develop character from quirk. If your answers are thorough, you might even find the seeds for plot, setting and supporting characters.
The second page is my favourite, though there isn’t much to it. I recommend sticking it to the back page of your writing journal, to keep a list of character quirks you come across in real life. I’m sure that after a brief mental survey of your friends and family and some surreptitious people-watching, you’ll easily fill the whole sheet!
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How to Kill a Character
All writers become murderous sooner or later, but it’s important to kill your character in the right way, at the right time and for the right reason. I hope this worksheet will help you premeditate the perfect coup de grâce.
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What differentiates “flash fiction prompts” from simply “writing prompts”? Essentially, nothing, but I endeavoured to make these prompts suitable to the short nature of flash fic; to moments of crisis and resolution.
They are also useful for quick writing exercises, matutinal writerly calisthenics, and dares.
I have tried to make the prompts as discrepant as possible, but I still urge you to shun the obvious, the first and instinctive connections you draw.
I recommend that you limit yourself to 500-1000 words, or for a challenge, try your hand at a 100-word short short story (also called a drabble).
If you’d like a random challenge, pick a number from 1-101 at random.org.
I hope you find these flash fiction prompts inspiring! Feel free to share them with friends or use them in class, but please do not redistribute them to the world at large. You are welcome to produce work for personal pleasure or for sale using these prompts.
30 Day Challenge
If 100 days sounds like too much, why not try your hand at a 30 day flash fiction challenge?
Flash Fiction Prompts
- Time travel, a bookmark, the angel gabriel.
- “He twisted his fate between his fingers…”
- “There was a ring in his teacup…”
- “Walking back home along the rim of the galaxy…”
- “The dress spoke for her…”
- A moth-craft, ether, a plant that tells your fortune.
- “There were 48 000 gods in their mythology and not one…”
- “We were going to have to find a locksmith.”
- “Third Terra was going the way of First.”
- “The kingdom was like a quilt.”
- “The garden shrank at night.”
- An impulse buy leading to intergalactic warfare.
- The underworld, a tea party, a lost jewel.
- Write a story that begins and ends with a bicycle.
- “Being painted wasn’t what she had expected.”
- Someone goes to extreme lengths to return something he/she borrowed.
- Myrmidon, roulette, opera-glasses used as a weapon.
- “Smoke hung so thick in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it.”
- A substance which generates ideas, a spy, 1 minute.
- Invent a creation myth involving string and feathers.
- “The letter lay untouched on his desk, its creases marked by dust.”
- “When they were at war, everything was easy.”
- The language of flowers, pyjamas, a secret passageway.
- Steampunk sleeping beauty.
- “His wife was having tea with the King and he didn’t even know about it.”
- A glasshouse, romance between an entomologist and a doctor.
- A party in an underwater world, sealace, a duel.
- “The house was like nothing she’d ever seen before.”
- An intermission, mistaken identity, a château.
- A story entitled “The Fate of the Telegraph Operator.”
- A light-tent, an actress, 2 worlds.
- The story of how your parents met, transposed to the Victorian era.
- A hungry ghost, a holiday, ice cream.
- A sailor returning home finds his wife knows every detail of his life while he was away.
- A potter, six pastries, a song on the radio.
- Someone’s life takes on new meaning after they discover an unusual tree.
- A scene from your favourite novel rewritten as a fight.
- “She’d been coming here every day for four years, and there was never any work to do.”
- A burglar, a bishop, piccalilli.
- Something mundane seen for the first time.
- “Teaching might seem like a strange occupation to choose, for someone who has never been to school.”
- A balloon, a ball, balustrades.
- A story about someone who is obsessed with marmalade.
- A shy priestess, a weaver, rain.
- A very bad day with a very good ending.
- “How do you feel the day before you meet your soulmate?”
- A language class for aliens.
- “No one is too ordinary for our agency.”
- Your favourite historical figure is in love with you.
- A single lily, a cliff, 3 hours.
- A literary one night stand.
- A camel, a military crisis, shoestrings.
- Where have you been?
- “I wanted to stand and fight. He just wanted to finish his tea.”
- A fashion faux-pas leading to untimely death.
- “Is it true you took a bullet for my father?”
- A war after which everyone comes back to life.
- “She liked to fit people into the world like puzzle pieces.”
- Mind controlling wallpaper creates happy ending.
- “The colour of her blood was the least of my worries.”
- A writer succeeds in writing a novel in a day, and remains terrifyingly sane.
- An explorer with MPD, a widow, a house in the woods.
- “The vision trembled and fell away like a cataract.”
- A diary, a red setter, crinoline.
- “Only after the third attempt had he become unhinged.”
- “It was flowers.”
- A random word: http://wordnik.com/random
- Economy, a cable, a hostess.
- A woman who uses her pet as a means to escape reality.
- “He lay back in the snow.”
- “Eavesdropping had become a habit that winter.”
- Afire, a feather, a fan.
- An invasive species leads to war.
- “Winter was the only season we could be together.”
- “She had looked straight into its eyes and said…”
- Baklava, a manuscript, 2 servants.
- “Have you ever been held in an interstellar zoo?”
- Lavender, lust, leaping.
- “They were between me and the exit.”
- An artist’s studio, a stolen disc, grit.
- “It was the most elegant breakfast.”
- A lepidopterist meets his nemesis.
- “Please shut the…”
- A pottery painter, a barn, a strange message.
- “It was the event horizon. There was no turning back.”
- A dialogue between a conductor and his best friend.
- Story sandwich.
- Ballet, rooftop, flashback.
- A mistake turns out beautifully.
- “With the tip of his paintbrush, he soaked up one of my tears.”
- Someone has lost an ability, someone else has gained one.
- “I knew I’d found something crucial when…”
- A plague, a piece of chalk, viridian.
- “The bus stopped so suddenly that…”
- An unfinished work of art, a mycologist, a sense of foreboding.
- “The floor tasted like…”
- Someone’s life’s work has vanished.
- A gate left open, a bookshop, gold bars.
- “What did the confectioner say?”
- You decide to celebrate.
You may also enjoy the One Page Story Challenge…
- A.E. Stalling’s Presto Manifesto!
- Jack Kerouac’s Belief & Technique for Modern Prose.
- Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Rules of Writing Practice’ in Wild Mind.
- Charles Bernstein’s Manifest Aversions, Conceptual Conundrums, & Implausibly Deniable Links.
- Copyblogger’s 10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer.
- Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World.
What’s the difference between a writing manifesto and a set of writing rules? It is difficult to draw a line, I admit. I could say that a writing manifesto can be applied to other areas of life, but clearly that would involve truncating my list, and I’m not going to do that. I will therefore wriggle out of this question by vaguely claiming that writing rules are (or ought to be) practical in nature, while the manifesto’s purpose is to incite, ignite and inspire.
I think for this reason that they should be written in Smith’s style – in a rush of inspiration, perhaps on the back of a napkin using a free leaky biro, in wonky handwriting & long after midnight when a little intoxicated by life, sleep deprivation and caffeine. And like Kerouac – wildly abbreviated, capitalised, random & ungrammatically jolting one out of linguistic ruts.
Embrace the contradictory advice of these manifestos. Print them out and keep them in your wallet, hang them on yr wall, write them out in yr notebooks, read them every morning, chant them like mantras; “visionary tics shivering in the chest “!
Please tweet me any I might have missed!