All posts in Prompts

15 Oct

NaNo Printables – 2016 Edition

In Drafting,NaNoWriMo,Prompts by MK England / October 15, 2016 / 1 Comment

I’m serving as a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month again this year, whoooo! Last year I made some printable NaNoBingo and Frequent Writer Cards that wrimos got stamped or stickered at events they attended, and they were a big hit in the South Jersey region, so I’m hoping they’ll be similarly received in Charlottesville. This year, I’ve included an alternate version of the NaNoBingo card for use in schools and libraries. Differences are minor, but they exclude any mention of donating to the NaNoWriMo organization, distance travel for write-ins, and making characters kiss. Please feel free to print these out and use them at your own events, though I’d prefer it if you could leave the credit line in.

NaNoBingo Card – standard version
NaNoBingo Card – classroom and library version
Frequent Writer Card

The FWC currently has six spaces, which could be filled if a wrimo went to one write-in per week, plus the kickoff and TGIO parties. Regions with particularly ambitious wrimos may wish to edit to add more spots by circling the smaller stars in fun colored markers.

For prizes, I’m using my library’s button maker to make 1.5″ pinback buttons again, though this year they’ll be Virginia-themed instead of South Jersey. Check your local library to see if they have a makerspace or equipment check out—you may be able to do the same!

Happy novel planning, wrimos! November is almost here…



22 Jul

Collaborative Prompt Building

In Prompts,Writing Groups by MK England / July 22, 2015 / 0 Comments

Summer has eaten me alive, as it always does to public librarians working in youth services, but I always make sure I have the time for my bimonthly writing group meetings. I’m the co-coordinator of my local group, along with crit partner extraordinaire Lisen Minetti, and we’ve been making a lot of changes lately to try to appeal to the needs of our local writers.

We’ve recently changed to an alternating structure where we do group critiques one meeting and prompt writing the next meeting. To keep it fun and engaging, I’ve designed two ways to build prompts with group input. These both work best in groups of 5-7 people, so larger groups should be broken down to allow everyone a chance to contribute and share their final story. For each exercise, either go around the table in order, or have participants draw scraps of paper with the various elements written on them.

Collaborative Build-a-Character

The group builds a character together that will feature in each person’s story. Each person contributes one of the following pieces of information about the character:

  1. Something they’re carrying
  2. Something they feel
  3. Someone they know
  4. A strong personality trait
  5. Something they did recently
  6. Something they said
  7. Wild card

Each individual writer then chooses the age and gender of their character and writes their story.

Collaborative Story Elements

Each person contributes one of the following story elements:

  1. Setting
  2. Main Character
  3. Character Trait
  4. Problem/Obstacle
  5. An Item
  6. An Emotion
  7. Wild Card

In both exercises, you can increase the number of wild card entries to account for more people. At our last prompt writing meeting we ended up with a terribly funny version of the prompt and seven very different takes on the same story elements. My sense of the group was that there was much more buy-in for the prompt because everyone contributed, versus being fed a pre-written prompt. We’re trying out the collaborative character build tonight, so we’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to survive the last month of the summer reading program at the library. Keep me in your thoughts, and if you hear uncontrollable screaming, just tune it out.

07 Jan

Once Upon a Lucky Break

In Guest Posts,Prompts,Writing Process by MK England / January 7, 2015 / 1 Comment

Today’s post is a short story prompt written for my friend and fellow New Jersey author, Amy Holiday, who is hosting 30 Days of Short Stories over at her blog. Each day you’ll find a new prompt, and throughout the month she’ll be featuring many different methods for generating your own prompts. Today I’ll be talking about Once Upon A Time, a storytelling card game by Atlas Games.

I first learned about Once Upon A Time in an oral storytelling class I took as part of my MSLS* degree. It’s a card game for 2-6 players (ages 8 and up) where players collaboratively build a story using the “ingredients” on their cards. Despite the collaborative nature of the story, the game is competitve — each player has their own ending card, and the goal is to turn the story toward your own ending, using interrupt cards to jump in and take over narration. It’s a lot of fun with a creative group of storytellers, and I recommend giving it a shot with your local writer friends! The rules can be found online here.

However, the cards don’t have to be used to play the game. Honestly, my deck has been used for its intended purpose exactly once, because Once Upon A Time also makes an excellent brainstorming tool and writing prompt generator.

Once Upon A Time has three main types of cards: ingredient cards, interrupt cards, and ending cards. Ingredient cards come in five flavors: Character, Aspect, Item, Event, Place.

Interrupt cards provide impetus for change in your story.They’re the “until suddenly” that every story needs (as in, “It was a normal day, until suddenly a dinosaur fell out of the sky and vomited tarantulas everywhere.”). Ending cards are just what they sound like: the last line, the final goal.

Below, I’ve generated a short story prompt for your writing pleasure using one of each type of card from the deck. Feel free to use any number of them, or all. Interrupt cards may be used as general (the interrupt is a place, an item) or specific (the interrupt is a palace, a hammer). The deck lends itself best to fairy tales and fantasy stories, but I’ve used it for other works before with successful results. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think in the comments! And of course, if you write a story using this prompt and feel like sharing, link to it in your comment here and on Amy’s blog.

(click to enlarge)

Character: Enemy
Item: Window
Place: Ruin
Aspect: Lucky
Event: An Object Breaks
Interrupt: Monster (or Character)
Ending: She always wore it to help remind her.

If you like the feel of Once Upon a Time, you can buy the updated third edition of the card game on Amazon, and there’s even a Once Upon A Time Writer’s Handbook all about using the game as a writing tool for $2.99 on Kindle.

Happy writing, creatures!


* MSLS = Master of Science in Library Science. Not even lying, Library Science is a real thing. And I am a master of it, bwahahaha!