Clarion West Writing Prompts

I was asked by SFWA to craft ten writing prompts for the recent Clarion West Write-a-thon. It was such a fun exercise that I shared the prompts with some writing friends. One told me that she used one every day and is now 17,000 words into her new novel! 

So, to get your creative juices flowing, here's ten starts to your writing day:

Writing Prompt #1:

Write a scene where your lead character practices a hobby completely unrelated to their role in story—for example, a witch who builds model railroads or a scientist who collects antiques. In less than five paragraphs, give another character deeper insight into the first because of this hobby.

Writing Prompt #2:

Walk a character into a room to discover an object that will create a deep sense of foreboding about how the rest of the day will go. The more ordinary an object, the better! Absolutely no bloodstains allowed.

Writing Prompt #3:

Describe the smell of a spell cast by or at your lead character and how this scent helps or hinders your character. If no magic in your world, do the same to a piece of technology frequently used by or against your character. 

Writing Prompt #4:

Work a crucial piece of world building description into a conversation between characters trying to do something ordinary like making a meal.  More words should be spent on how they do the task than the world building. Now make the characters disagree on an aspect of properly finishing the task.

Writing Prompt #5:

Have one character write a message to another character and then describe what happens when that message falls into the hands of a third person. For an extra challenge, create a minor mechanical or magical failure that allows the message to be misdirected.

Writing Prompt #6:

Dive deep into the personality of the blandest character in your story and reveal to the reader why this person is more extraordinary than originally expected. If your character is part of a team on a quest or a mission, use this to give everyone a very good reason to go home.

Writing Prompt #7:

Make your favorite craft or hobby, other than writing, the solution to a problem encountered by your characters. If you like to knit, have them knit their way out of an encounter with a dragon or a cyborg. The reverse of this is to take something that you’re an utter failure at (can’t carry a tune in a bucket) and do the same.

Writing Prompt #8:

Win a battle of wits with the big bad! Whether exchanging cutting remarks on the ballroom floor or texting the most devastating emoji ever, let your main character savor a perfect put down for a few moments or have them realize what they should have said was…

Writing Prompt #9:

Shake up a previously written scene by rearranging the narrative order of the action or by inserting a character who was not there before. For an extra challenge, have the new character enter the scene in an unexpected way.

Writing Prompt #10:

Write the end first for your next project. Put away whatever you are currently writing and write the end of a totally unrelated story. For an extra challenge, pick a genre that you love to read but never write.


Rosemary Jones is the author of short stories appearing in multiple anthologies and recently collected into Jaunts Afar and Beyond. She also the author of the novels The Deadly Grimoire (2022, Aconyte/Arkham Horror), Mask of Silver (Aconyte/Arkham Horror), City of the Dead (WOTC/D&D), and Crypt of the Moaning Diamond (WOTC/D&D). Follow on Twitter @rosemaryjones. If reproducing these writing prompts, please credit the author and link to this page.

Collage of book covers of novels written by Rosemary Jones with cover shown for City of the Dead and elements of Cobalt City Rookies containing the novella Wrecker of Engines by Jones and the nonfiction anthology Chicks Dig Gaming


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