Monday, February 24, 2014

Prompted to Write

I usually don't like writing poems. I have nothing against poetry or even reading them. I even have quite a few that I really enjoy going back to every now and then but for the most part I'm not what you would call a poetry person. I'm telling you this because recently I submitted a poem to a competition that was written due to a prompt.

A few years ago I took a creative writing course at the college I was attending. During the course of this class we spent equal time writing both poetry and prose, something I was not happy about at the time. But I wanted to get as much out of the class as I could so I stuck it out churning out the proper lines and stanzas required for each poetry assignment. Eventually I was assigned to write a pantoum. For those of you who've never heard of this style of poetry it a Malaysian poetic form that was introduced to the West by Victor Hugo. The Pantoum can be unlimited in it's stanzas and follows a standard rhyme form of ABAB. Things get interesting when you begin to write the poem itself, everything is said twice. 

Here is an example of what I'm talking about:

Stanza 1:
Line 1
Line 2
Line 3
Line 4
Stanza 2:
Line 5 (repeat of line 2 in stanza 1)
Line 6 (new line)
Line 7   (repeat of line 4 in stanza 1)
Line 8 (new line) 
Stanza 3/Last Stanza (This is the format for the last stanza no matter how many preceding stanzas exist):
Line 9   (line 2 of the previous stanza)
Line 10 (line 3 of the first stanza)
Line 11 (line 4 of the previous stanza)
Line 12 (line 1 of the first stanza) 

This assginment spurned me into creating the piece of poetry that I submitted to the contest I mentioned.  Without my Professor's prompt I would have never written the poem or had anything to submit to this particular competition. It's been 2 years since I've last submitted my work anywhere and whether I win or lose this competition I'm glad I had something I was confident in to submit. 

In the Teen Writing Club I Co-lead we use prompts monthly to get the teens to expand their writing. It is amazing to me how many different stories or poems can come from a simple prompt. I love seeing how each person has put their own unique spin on what they're given. And they enjoy it too, many have talked about how the prompts have pushed them as writers.

Some of my best, and worst, work has been due to prompts that I've been assigned or have found on my own. I've written things that I've never wanted to and things that I'd never dared try before. They've helped me expand my writing and given me breakthroughs in areas that I've wanted to try but haven't known where to start.

Prompts have power. They have the power to ignite imagination and cause people to do things that they would never have done before, with surprising results. So the next time you want to expand your writing borders try a prompt, it's easy to find them online with a simple Google (or Bing) search, you may end up getting your next winning piece or successful novel from it.

Here is a list of a few prompts I've used before:

  • Write a Pantoum.
  • Use these 7 items in a story: A bottle of Baily's Irish Cream, A locket with one picture missing, a crack, a fedora, a cat, a conch shell, and an old tattered dictionary.
  • Write a story/poem based on a piece of instrumental music.
  • Write a page from a book titled: How to Survive a Boring Class.
  • Create a short story that is 26 sentences long, each sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet.
  • Silvery flakes drifted down, glittering in the bright light of the harvest moon. The blackbird, screeched... 
  • Write a story focusing on a Damsel in Distress. 

Feel free to try a few of the examples or tell me of your own experience in the comments.


No comments:

Post a Comment