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Prompt: Five odd lists

22 January, 2010

Here is a writing prompt that will stretch the boundaries of your imagination. And isn’t that what writing prompts are all about?

I’ve made five lists. The words and phrases in the lists are taken  from Cobralingus, Jeff Noon’s experimental book of  ‘metamorphiction’. I’ve slightly altered some to fit this exercise.

Ways to use this prompt:

  • Five lists
    Pick a number from 1-20. Find the item in each of the 5 lists that corresponds to your number.  Start writing, with the goal of incorporating  all five choices.
    If a word or phrase does not work for you,  feel free to pick another one or change it in some way to suit what you’re writing.

  • Totally random
    Ignore the five lists and choose randomly from everything listed below.
  • Sentence
    Choose one item from the Sentence list as a starter for your freewriting.
  • Question
    Choose one item from the Question list and use it to start writing.
  • Second time around
    It is fascinating to see what your mind comes up with the second time.
    After freewriting on your chosen five words and phrases, start over—immediately. Use the same choices but create a different kind of story, theme, or topic.

    If your first freewriting produced something gritty and modern, try for something different the next time. Maybe imitate a Victorian crime story, a romance, etc.
    If what you wrote first was humorous, go serious, angry or scary the next time.
    If your first attempt was in first-person, try another point of view.

    Even if you simply start writing again, with no aim as to form or storyline, you will find that your mind will take you to new scenes, characters and situations. You can undertake the same writing prompt many times and always come up with something different

1: People

  1. Lank and dark-eyed children
  2. Half-woman
  3. Young guy with crazy eyes
  4. Velocity poet
  5. Name-dancer
  6. Word burster
  7. Youthful Lordings
  8. The rider
  9. Witness
  10. Sad-eyed dancer
  11. The Fool
  12. Leather-posse
  13. Pure heat-racing girl
  14. Fiery king
  15. Oscar Poppa
  16. Hip old gal
  17. Tall distinguished gentleman
  18. Young DJ
  19. Serpent girl
  20. Crazy angel

List 2: Things

  1. Castanets
  2. The blood
  3. Hive
  4. Sympathetic ink
  5. Chemical wedding
  6. Burst of new staggers
  7. Yellow butter moon-mist
  8. Maniac city
  9. Blood red lights
  10. Vision wheels
  11. Mutated elixir
  12. Inner darkness
  13. Cure for dead love
  14. Crying cure
  15. Tiny flickering scarlet light
  16. Tangled threads
  17. Tiger-smoke
  18. Paradise of dust
  19. Voices dark and hoarse
  20. Bathroom mirror

List 3: Actions (You can use whole sentence or only the verb)

  1. Play the sex
  2. Thunder on
  3. Plough the skin
  4. Serenade ice
  5. Wake from sleep
  6. Shape into phantoms
  7. Redraft chemistry
  8. Fret the heart
  9. Trace in faint and visionary colours
  10. Find the music
  11. Offer songs
  12. Loose the Flood
  13. Watch the lights
  14. Take the usual shock
  15. Walk blindly toward a precipice
  16. Ordain
  17. Set a course
  18. Shape
  19. Whisper
  20. Cast the runes

List 4: Questions

  1. What has been lost?
  2. Shall I ever be brave enough to take mouthful?
  3. Where are the cameras, the lights, my fellow performers?
  4. What has been lost; and what given birth to?
  5. And what of the missing crew?
  6. Was this the Escaping Game?
  7. Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?
  8. What’s the problem here?
  9. What have I done?
  10. What actions are demanded of me?
  11. Why did they remain behind?
  12. What were they doing, partaking of such arts?
  13. How do you live with that?
  14. Look, uh, what’s going on here?
  15. Is that how it got you?
  16. And what’s with these cards?
  17. A bloody funny way to run a gig, don’t you think?
  18. You got the same messages and everything, right?
  19. Like it’s the latest thing, you know?
  20. What rainbow of wings will stir from the cocoons?

List 5: Sentences

  1. I just had to follow the signs.
  2. The door handle sizzles in my grip.
  3. I gather my few things together, head for the stairs.
  4. He decided he must go in search of the missing guest.
  5. I felt a guilty pleasure.
  6. The people offer their songs.
  7. Outside, the air blisters.
  8. We are to be paid generously, on completion of the exercise.
  9. One by one, blessed drops of rain begin to fall.
  10. He never played that tune, that night.
  11. Take this hand, just one more time.
  12. We drag ourselves back to the vast engine of the city.
  13. And then it floats away, vanishing into the haze.
  14. Flow, my crazy angel.
  15. I beheld the wretch.
  16. Sunday morning lays sorrow on the heart.
  17. The workers are dancing wildly.
  18. The bouncers have to move in, hatchet-faced bastards one and all.
  19. I am dumb to speak in straighter lines.
  20. I’m on the tenth floor, watching the crackle and buzz of the city.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. 22 January, 2010 6:26 pm

    Love this kind of stuff – the lists almost stand by themselves, and the combinations and recombinations are endless


    • 23 January, 2010 11:03 am

      Thanks, Michael. I like this prompt because it provides rich possibilities for the mind. The author of Cobralingus uses what he calls ‘filter gates’ to alter an original text. Gates include ‘drug’ (injects artificial stimulant into the original language), ‘release virus’ (changes words in original text to others of a similar sound); ‘overload’ (increases the original text’s image density). Given your line of work, you may find some of this applicable for other creative contexts.


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