Monday, April 29, 2013

Place writing prompt: random maps

The 1932 official Wyoming highway map
from University of Wyoming Libraries.
I like something both physical and random in writing prompts. This one has a little of both.

In the West, place is itself a character: one that appears to suffer from bipolar disorder, weather-wise. But anywhere you set your story, a good sense of place informs both characters and plot and allows the reader to immerse themselves in the story.

 In Writing Fiction Step by Step, Josip Novakovich (gesundheit) writes:

"No setting is to be underestimated ... What may seem to be a boring town, once you begin to analyze its history, its people and its stories, may become an amazing place."

So let's go on a blind date with a place and see what happens, shall we?

Maps place prompt
Start with a stack of road maps from different states. Everyone picks one randomly. Switch out if you get a place familiar to you. Open the maps and quickly pick a place. Go by instinct, not by reason. Don't think about it too much.

Now that you have your place, here are some options. Write about a character or from the perspective of a character:
  • Who lives there, loves it and can't imagine living anywhere else.
  • Who lives there, hates it, and can't imagine why they stay.
  • Whose car broke down there.
  • Who always dreamed of living there and finally moved there.
  • Who grew up there and is coming back to visit friends or family after a long time away.
  • Who is seeing this place for the first time.
Use the map for clues -- how big is it? What places is it near? Often, road maps given out for free will have more information -- are there any festivals listed for that place? Is there a population given?  Now fill in the blanks. What is Main Street like? The neighborhoods? What kind of industry (or lack of) is dominant.

Give it about 15-20 minutes on this one and see what happens!


  1. I used to be intimidated by anything called a writing prompt. Just the term seemed to invite an attack of brain freeze. I'm getting into now, aided by my fun A to Z exercise for the April blog challenge. I like this map idea.

  2. I've occasionally gone to a writing workshop where my brain has frozen on a prompt with strangers. Usually those are the ones where when I read, everyone looks at me as if I fell from a foreign planet and I wonder if I forgot my deodorant or something. ;-)

    Among friends or alone, I find prompts remarkably energizing and freeing. I've had prompts run away into full stories before, which is both unexpected and fun beyond words.

    If you try the maps, let me know how it turned out!


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