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Trying Not To

Write a story in which the main character is trying not to do something and is fighting a very tough uphill battle. For example, write a story about a person who is trying to resist the urge to smoke. Let’s see the struggle.


Song Prompt

Choose a title of a song you recently heard.  Then, remember 5 words from the song. Write a story that incorporates both the title of the story (or you can use the title of the song as the working-title)  and try to use at least 5 words from that song. The story doesn’t have to have anything to do with what the song is about.


Weird Facts That You Remember

Write a story that incorporates random facts that you remember.

This William Stafford poem sets a nice example:

Things I Learned Last Week

by William Stafford

Ants, when they meet each other,
usually pass on the right.

Sometimes you can open a sticky
door with your elbow.

A man in Boston has dedicated himself
to telling about injustice.
For three thousand dollars he will
come to your town and tell you about it.

Schopenhauer was a pessimist but
he played the flute.

Yeats, Pound, and Eliot saw art as
growing from other art. They studied that.

If I ever die, I’d like it to be
in the evening. That way, I’ll have
all the dark to go with me, and no one
will see how I begin to hobble along.

In the Pentagon one person’s job is to
take pins out of towns, hills, and fields,
and then save the pins for later.


Holidays and the Unexpected

We all know that holidays bring unexpected moments. In my family, usually the toilet broke, or the dog would somehow devour the best part of our celebratory supper. In my first marriage, we’d always have a huge fight on Valentine’s Day. We actually came to expect it.

Write a story about a holiday brimming with unexpected moments.  Or better yet, write a story about a holiday with at least 3 unexpected moments.


House, Car, or Town

Write a story in which a house, car, or town is a passive but important character.

For example: In the film “Little Miss Sunshine” the dysfunctional van (that the whole family had to push) was one of the most lovable, reliably flawed characters.


Animal Voice

Think of a major event in the life of a character. Then, choose an animal you have a strong feeling about to be your narrator. Write about the event from the animal’s point of view. Here is a poem of mine in which I did this:

A Rat Enters

by Meg Pokrass

originally published in Thieves Jargon

It sees the way they
stumble to the bedroom
after brushing their teeth.
the smell of
fruit rotting in the kitchen,
bags of snacks
piled like altars –
sometimes the man
touches the woman’s shoulder,
unzips his pants and waits
for water to stop falling from her nose.




Words from Your Nightstand

Grab words from a few books (or just one book) on your nightstand. Pick 10 vibrant words. Freewrite, using every single one.

After that, freewrite again, using them all again, but in completely different ways.


Rebellious Secret

Write a story involving both a rebellious act (or fantasy) and a secret. In Raymond Carver’s story “Fat”, the main character is a waitress who has grown inconveniently fond of an obese customer who treats her with kindness. She feels useful to him, and is enlivened by his presence. He is not easy to look at, but Carver shows us how she hears him breathing, like a heartbeat. Her boyfriend is possessive and unkind, the living opposite of the obese man. Her secret is dangerous, and we watch her trying to hide it from herself and from her boyfriend.


Write To Someone or Something

Freewrite to someone or something. To the forest, to a dog, to a marriage, to an old house, to a parent or sibling. Write a story using this narrative approach.



Write a first person “Because” story. Start every line with “Because”.

List the reasons why a character worries, doubts.. etc. Or why the character loves, envies or hates.

For example. “Because I found him with in the kitchen at 6:00AM, looking at the clock. Because my mother died in the ocean on the nicest day of the year… Because she has gold-tinted eyes, just like the ones he paints.”

You can have your character lie if you want to.  You can edit them out later.