Writing prompts and creativity

During this morning’s writing session, I realized that the biggest benefit of the Story Cubes Challenge has been that it pushes my brain into a box — in the best sense of the phrase. The Exeter series and characters have been living inside my head for so long that my subconscious knows them better than my conscious brain. On one story I wrote last year, I drafted the HWYS moment early on, and had an object in there that triggered the moment. It was nothing major, a picture frame and photos. When I put it there, it was just a plot device. As I wrote the rest of that story, and others in the series, I found it tying into places I’d never imagined.

Likewise, last week’s SCC entry had a single phrase, an allusion to a character’s backstory. It was there, not because I knew it was part of his backstory, but because it served a purpose in the story I was telling. Only ones the words were on the screen did I realize what it meant and how it explained an aspect of his character that had been nagging at me.

When I sit down with prompts, I let the plot bunnies hop a round a bit, grazing until they find something they like. Especially with the story cubes, which give me nine prompts, the combination forces your brain to find a way to reconcile all of them into a single story. Well, maybe not your brain — it does to mine. Week 3’s cubes worked with geographical elements I already had in the Exeter world, which suggested the setting, which led to a entry that has bits of what will become two key scenes in Fate’s Arrow, my working title for Book 1. The entry prompted the working title.

I found that as well when I participated in the NCIS Last Fiction Writer Standing competition on Live Journal earlier this year. I ended up with stories I probably wouldn’t have pulled out of my brain without the prompt pointing me in a certain direction.

Have you ever tried writing from prompts? What did you think?