Story prompts are like using a magnifying glass to focus the energy of the sun. The potential energy was always there, it just needed focus. Stories prompts help any individual looking to find and create a story from scratch. If you have taken a class on telling personal stories, or been a storyteller for a while, I’m sure you are really familiar with what story prompts are. Why do they work? How is best to use them?
Story prompts used for personal storytelling are really memory joggers. They are the gateway to memories that are tucked away. One thing that I love about story prompts is I find hidden treasurers. It’s like going through old things in your house, and finding your high school sports jacket, your favorite toy, or that picture you thought was lost forever.
Story prompts are easy to find. A quick search on the internet to find help you find pages and pages of prompts. Books like Storyworthy by Mathew Dicks has prompts and exercises with insight on how to best use them. In the workshops I have taken with The Stoop Storytelling Series, Better Said Than Done, and Story District, they use story prompts to help attendees find gems locked away in their memories.
Some common ones I have seen are:
- What is the best/worst party you have been to
- What is the most embarrassing movement you have had
- What is the best moment you have had
- What was your first time driving, leaving home, going on a date, etc.
- Describe a trip you went on
If you take a closer look at the names or themes of a number of storytelling shows, you’ll realize they are really story prompts. One reason is to help story tellers that send in stories pitches. The Moth is an easy example of this. In the upcoming virtual shows, the theme is “Co-habitation”. Another local show I enjoy is Secretly Y’all. Their theme is “Silver linings”. I’m sure there are other examples out there.
Story prompts are great for people just starting out their journey in telling s personal narrative space, or if you get stuck looking for stories in your life. To get the most out of story prompts, I recommend the following:
- Make a habit of trying one a day. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to find the stories in your life
- Don’t what for a show, prestation, etc. to work on the idea. Work on different story telling prompts so that when the needs for the story comes up, you have a start already.
- Ask yourself a lot of questions. The prompt itself is not the story, it gets you into the same room as the story idea.
Have a great time finding your story, on purpose!