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Writing prompt 14: Challenging scenes

13 November, 2008

I am always on the lookout for writing prompts that will intrigue writers to carry on with an idea, either to complete the writing exercise, or perhaps even develop it into a polished work.

So I was excited to come across Thirteen Writing Prompts, by Dan Wiencek, published online at the McSweeneys website. [To get to the website, press CTRL key then click above on the highlighted word McSweeneys.]

I’ve selected three prompts that challenge you to develop a scene without relying too much on exposition (telling) or omniscient POV (point of view).



Prompt 1

Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man’s friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not explicitly mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman—or the argument.

What a good exercise to identify showing versus telling.


Two people of one gender arguing over one’s friendship/relationship with a former lover.

Man and woman arguing over the man’s male friend or the woman’s female friend.

Prompt 8

A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalise the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.


  1. If you don’t like Coke-boy, create your own observer-character.
  2. Think of another situation where two people are in conflict and are being observed by a third character, who is the narrator.
  3. If you can’t think of anything, you can be the narrator-character. Go to a place with people, e.g., a shopping centre, hardware shop, greengrocer’s, sports carnival. Select two people who are together. Watch them and see if you can evolve a situation for them.

Prompt 11

Write a short scene in which one character reduces another to uncontrollable sobs without touching him/her or speaking.

You’ll need to think through what one character is doing—and/or not doingto bring the other person to such a state. Be specific and do not resort to cliches.

For example, maybe Character 1 knows that Character 2 has a phobia about dust bunnies, the dustballs that collect under beds and in the corners of a house. How does Character 1 use this knowledge?

Does this idea sound silly? Well, Stephen King made those harmless dust bunnies a major and scary element in his famed novel, Delores Claiborne.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marsha permalink
    20 November, 2008 12:28 pm

    Glad you enjoy it. The coke-boy prompt is challenging but the possibilities should be fun to play with. Marsha


  2. cindylv permalink
    20 November, 2008 3:39 am

    I love the POV of the coke-boy in the restroom. I’ll have to give that one a shot.

    I found your site through the wordpress tag: writing prompts. Nice site…I’ll be back to spend some time poking around in your posts.


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