Anyone who's been around here long enough knows that I like prompts for writing. Sometimes lots of prompts-- combining two or three different ones occasionally bounds an idea enough for me to have something very clear to write about. People may get tired of seeing my lists of prompts/comms/challenges for a given story, but those prompts certainly help me.
The other day, though, I started to wonder if I have a different viewpoint on the purpose of prompts than other people do.
I like for prompts to evoke or inspire writing. Ideally, they should be an aid to get your creativity flowing.
But it appears that some people view them as more of a challenge, i.e., I'm throwing the gauntlet down-- Ha! See if you can write about THAT.
I belong to two different 100-fic communities, for the purposes of writing Prison Break fiction. One is for all fandoms, not just Prison Break, and its prompt table often frustrates me: Orange, Brown, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Spade, Club.
The table is set up in generalized themes, but not all members of the themes are worth writing about! Heart from "Card suites" is useful, and maybe Diamond. But Spade and Club are kind of duds, and I struggled to find something that would remotely touch those so that I could be done with them. Similarly, for all the bazillion colors (at least 8 in that one table), Orange isn't necessarily inspiring and Brown kind of sucks.
The other 100-prompt table is one that I created. It has Prison-based ideas like Redemption, Regret, Run, Chase, Hide, Crime, Punishment. In general, those are more open-ended to me.
I have a ton of tables that I created for spn_25, with a similar goal: find prompts that elicit ideas or themes from writers. I.e., help them to write-- don't make the writing a chore!
Now, for the Prison Break Fic Exchange, I noticed that this also comes up with authors leave prompts for the stories they want written for them. I always have trouble finding something meaningful, but other people seem to have the goal of flummoxing the intended author, and I just don't get that. If you want a good story written for you, and you're hoping for maybe Drama or Angst, why do you throw in the prompt that is either silly or just begs for crack?
I remember that one assignment had "Christmas bow" as one of the prompts for a PBFE story, and the person who wrote it used it for pathos instead of crack (Dark, Angsty Michael story here). How much easier might that job have been without the whacky prompt? Similarly, another story had "You know, this would be easier if you hadn't lost the duck" as a prompt, and WTF? That seems like insta-crack, even though "romance/angst/humor" was the desired story (and it could have been humor only, but the prompt certainly flummoxed me). The author managed to work the prompt meaningfully into a drama about relearning how to live, but again... I think the prompt had a better chance of hurting the story than helping it.
How do you view prompts? As challenges? As inspiration? A mixture of both?
As evil muse-killers? ;)