Things to Write About: Prompts
Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the volume of things to write about—endless potential and a wide-open canvas—and other times, I feel like writer’s block was invented for me.
Here are some prompts that always get the wheels turning when I find myself thinking, “what should I write about?”
How would you approach interstellar travel and dealing with the problem of faster-than-light (FTL) speed?
Is it possible to master things like black holes or wormholes or star gates or the bending of space-time, so our destination lies just a step away from our origin?
Is the universe teeming with life?
Do Sasquatch and their relatives come from a technologically advanced subterranean realm? Do they have worldwide high-speed tunnel transport that connects with caves and lava tubes across the planet for access to our domain? What would it be like to access theirs?
Is time travel possible if you just step outside the physical universe to enter the fourth dimension? How might you do that?
What does it take to write science fiction or fantasy or science fantasy relying strictly on one’s experiences, opinions, and imagination? Perhaps an uninhibited mental examination concerning the mysteries of the universe, and your relationship to it, would spark something creative.
People like Einstein did that, and Galileo and many other scientists before and after. They call their musings “thought experiments” and tell their stories with the language of science and mathematics.
The Brothers Grimm and countless authors did similarly with thought experiments called fairy tales and fantasy. They tell their stories in the common tongue, orally, verbally, and theatrically. Why do they resonate with us so? Are our imaginations somehow joined, or are hidden memories stirred by the stories?
Other artists tell their stories with paint or music or clay or theater or untold numbers of different mediums. Often, their thoughts get to us as well. Why?
Artists imagine the future and communicate it to those moved by the images.
The world changes with each artist’s communication. Some thought experiments give us fantastic technology. Some give us unbelievable entertainment. Many give us both.
You can add to the fun by making your thought experiment a central part of the “universe” of your science fiction or fantasy story. If you were to do that, the world would never be the same again … at least your world wouldn’t, nor would anyone’s who received it.
Here’s your Prompt
Write something in the broad category of speculative fiction.
Dictionary.com defines speculative fiction as “a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements.”
This includes any of your favorite genre fiction categories, from science fiction and fantasy to a mix of both with science fantasy―even post-apocalyptic counts. You can embark on a long epic story or an interesting short novel.
The beginning paragraphs of this article are possible sources for inspiration of what to write about.
Don’t hesitate to use your imagination. Take the idea of the prompt and make it your own.
L. Ron Hubbard once wrote a story for publication that used an office wastebasket as the prompt. The story had nothing to do with a wastebasket, but the shape of the basket turned upside-down reminded him of a hat. An organ grinder’s monkey once wore a hat like that, and … well, perhaps you should read the story.
“WAIT!” you might say.“I don’t know the first thing about writing something like this.”
You have likely read more than a few stories of speculative fiction. From that, I am sure you know the first thing, whatever that is.
- If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Writers of the Future Volume 36. It is chock full of great examples of speculative fiction and will make for entertaining research.
- Take the Writers of the Future free online writing workshop.
The online workshop features 13 presentations by Contest judges David Farland (The Runelords), Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), and Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game). It takes you through the entire process of writing a story.
Upon completing the workshop, you can enter your story in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest at writersofthefuture.com/enter-writer-contest.
Illustrators can enter, too, at writersofthefuture.com/enter-the-illustrator-contest.
I hope you imagine an ending where we overcome the impossible, rebound somehow, and share it with Earth’s billions. A great example of this is L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth (if you haven’t read it, here are the first 13 chapters free).
Enjoy the workshop and, please, submit your story to the Contest.
Cam Potts is owner and Chief Scribbler of Cam Potts Copywriting in Palmer, Alaska. He specializes in SEO content writing for aviation companies.
A pilot for over 53 years with a BS in Aerospace Engineering, Cam is now retired from a 40-year airline and aerospace career. Copywriting allows him to pursue two of his favorite pastimes—the world of flight and storytelling.
He lives outside of Palmer with wife, Nan, and the best dog in the world, Brushy.
You can contact Cam on LinkedIn or at campotts.com
Other articles and resources you may be interested in:
40 Years of Battlefield Earth. Why is it a Classic Sci-Fi Novel?
Prompts was exactly what got me started in writing. On reading WOTF#8, I realized, like Cam says here, “it all starts with a something” and a telling about it. So once I got going, well, there is no reason to stop.
Thank you Cam for the memory. And for any other writers around, DEFINITELY do the workshop, read and write.
You talk? You can say what happened “over there”? Then just write it down. And may the muses share their tea with you!