I’m not much of a shopper. Ask my little sister, who tries to get me to go clothes shopping with her at least once a month, in which I decline or sit outside of the stores with a book while she tries to get my opinion on clothes she’s trying on (generally to not buy anything I say looks good or that I like on her).
But I like books. Drop me off in a used bookshop or a Barns & Noble and say goodbye to me for a few hours. I may not have a passion for shoes, but I do have a passion for books.
I found this cool little book that generates writing prompts. Not just a few, but a ton. It’s called The Amazing Story Generator.
I opened the book up and liked what I saw. The book generates the thousands of prompts by combining three elements – a starting situation, a protagonist, and the driving action of the story. By randomly flipping through this book, one can generate several prompts and never get the same writing prompt twice. Here’s a few example prompts from me randomly flipping through the book:
While dog-sitting,/ a clown in training/ is tormented by vengeful spirits.
Following a disastrous job interview,/ a gold prospector/ is transported to another galaxy.
Upon breaking a lifelong promise,/ a big-time weather reporter/ is elected mayor of Chicago.
Some of these generated story premises work better than others, but overall, they’re all fun and a great way to challenge yourself, as a writer, to literally write anything. I decided to give that theory a go and do a quick write-up on a randomly generated plot.
“Is that you on T.V.?” the waitress asked the small blond sitting at the bar.
“Yeah.” the woman swelled up a little. She felt nice being recognized.
“You’re not very funny.” the waitress commented as she poured another cup of coffee for the woman.
“Well,” the woman said, trying to come up with some witty reply, “well, okay then.” The witty reply didn’t come.
Jennifer sipped her coffee. It was her fourth cup. She knew she wouldn’t sleep tonight, but who needed to sleep? Her career was failing. After months of hard work, her agent got her a part on a Comedy Central Roast, and she bombed. No one laughed. Not even the other comedians pretended that she was funny.
Her career was over. She had to accept that. She didn’t have a plan B. Her life was supposed to workout. She was supposed to have her own sitcom right now. She was supposed to be funny. Nothing was as it was supposed to be, she learned.
The waitress refilled her cup and commented, “Gee honey, did you want something to go along with all that coffee? You’re going to give yourself a heart attack with that much caffeine coursing through your veins.”
“Yeah, can I get some pancakes?” Jennifer figured most places had pancakes. She couldn’t be bothered looking at a menu to confirm.
“Sure hon.” The waitress left Jennifer to stew with her coffee.
Just then, a shimmer caught Jennifer’s eye. It was as if there was a pane of glass sitting in the middle of the diner. She blinked. She blinked again. The shimmer wasn’t dissipating.
“I’ve had too much coffee.” Jennifer said to herself.
Curiosity got the better of Jennifer. After a few more blinks and an eye rub, she got up and walked to the center of the diner. She got as close as she could without touching what she wasn’t even sure was there. She could smell the pancakes cooking and something else. Salt water?
She tentatively stuck her finger through the shimmer. She felt something. She wasn’t sure what. It was colder. Moister. There was a breeze.
She looked up to see if she was standing under an air conditioning vent. She wasn’t.
Jennifer had no direction in life anymore. She was a failure at her chosen career. She was anxious from all the coffee she had drank. She decided, for the first time, to do something she wasn’t supposed to do. Jennifer stepped into the shimmer.
She was no longer in the diner on the coast of California, right off of PCH. She was on a cliff in the sand. She looked around to see if the shimmer was still there. She wanted to go back. All of her supposed-tos came rushing back into her brain and she felt out of place doing something so risky.
“Hello!” she called out to a couple on the beach just down the way.
“Can I help you out, sister?” The man answered.
“Could I borrow your cell? I left mine in a diner.”
“A cell. A phone.” Jennifer felt odd clarifying.
“I don’t know what that is.”
Jennifer took in the scene. The man was wearing his hair long, down to his mid-back, and the woman he was with had flowers woven into her hair.
“This is a crazy question, but what year is it?”