Arguing with self and strangers: fantasy writing prompts

In an attempt to inspire myself to more regular writing (or at least shame myself by seeing how others are thus inspired), I am subscribed to a nearly endless amount of writerly trivia, writing “prompts”, etc. The following came across my virtual desk from one of the deathless sources that always seem to be more dedicated to the craft than I.

100 fantasy writing prompts

At first I was simply awestruck by its ambition and size. Much like Umberto Eco’s  novel “Foucault’s Pendulum” which I have purchased more than one copy of… but never finished. I even own the audio cassette version. Nine cassettes. Nine (never listened to) cassettes. Although I haven’t owned a tape cassette player in years, I can’t bear to part with them. It’s just SO HUGE and apparently brilliant. Something we all aspire to.

So I warmed to this list (and the idea of lists) for the huge-ocity and by size-osmosis, brilliance. I should try them all right (write) now. Just a little microfiction for each one. Or jot down a storyline, inspiration, whatever.

Whatever turned out to be… an argument. An argument with myself. An argument with the unknown writer. An argument that sounded something like this:

100 Fantasy Writing Prompts (or 10-ish arguments with same)

1. A fantasy in which no animal is the same as on Earth, but nor are they simply replacements with different names and designs.

What sort of anti-biologist thought up this hell? The only hope I could have of doing this is if I had never seen or heard of a lot of animals. It’s like a giraffe and a badger. But only if you’d never heard of giraffes and badgers. And in this world they domesticate animals but not for the purposes of riding, eating, guarding or companionship. Animals that have neither wings or fur or fishy bits. Maybe microbes but wait. No, microbes are “as on earth”. So… eff it! I’m f*cked from the first prompt.

2. A theology-focused fantasy in which the characters do logical debate about God and gods. By logical, I mean make all sides logical, not just the one you think is right.

Because I love stories in which fictional people argue. No, I really don’t. I do like the stories in which contradictory Godish things turn out to be true and the characters confronted with it either really like it or really hate it. In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, etc) the characters insist the only thing to do if God really exists is to find him and kill the bastard. For the greater good, of course. Or the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K Hamilton in which a fairy princess/private detective discovers she has the mojo to literally fuck old gods and forgotten magick back into being. Or Viscous Circle or any of Piers Anthony’s other Immortals pun-plays. Or Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice. Or American Gods. Or A Long Hot Summoning. Or The Curse of Chalion. There are zillions of examples that say it’s much more fun to simply say Gods exist than ask your characters to argue about what if they did.

3. A healing system where healing is possible, but the injury or sickness healed would be imposed on the healer forever. Bonus points: don’t make this one dark and depressing.

Haha, the funny cancer. Uh, no.

4. A fantasy world without humans. Bonus points if they’re not all furries.

Like Viscous Circle or Finding Nemo.

5. A fantasy in which there are tens of contradicting and intertwining prophecies and no one knows which ones to believe.

Follow the gourd. No, the sandal. I can kind of get down with this. It reminds me of a novel I abandoned in which everyone was trying to make the prophecy of “kingmaker and father of kings” be about them. The prophecy was just one and fairly unambiguous but the superstitious and political rulers were tearing up the landscape trying to manipulate events to prove themselves the predestined one. Okay, I guess that isn’t like this prompt at all. I seem to remember a terrific short story though where the magic worked by first creating the legend/belief in it. Social change was created by graffiti-ing “prophecies” on walls. Something about tell it to the water dragons. Who wrote that? Hmmm.

6. A world where every aspect of the environment is different. For example, two blue suns rather than one yellow one, sentient plants, currency-growing trees, trees that grow downward.

But trees do grow downward. They’re called roots. Or does s/he mean that the fruit grows on the dirt side and so you’d have to mine for apples? If money grew on trees, wouldn’t you use something rarer for money? Unless, of course, you had to mine for it. Like apples.

7. A technologically-advanced society living literally on top of a medieval one, and a valid justification for why the medieval one doesn’t shape up and get techy.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s  Vorkosigan Saga in which worm holes suddenly appear connecting planets which disparate cultures, biases and technologies. Or Westworld? Or Futureworld


I don’t even get through the top ten suggestions/writing prompts before I start making lists… about myself. What I notice about myself is that these lists inspire me to

  • 1) go read a book or watch a movie I enjoyed… not go write one.
  • 2) say “that would never work!”… not “how would that work?”
  • 3) make lists about myself.
  • 4) argue… with the lists… and myself.
  • 5) overuse ellipses… a lot.
  • 6) …I mean like Emily-Dickinsen-a-lot.
  • 7) and finally wonder why my punctuation is more creative lately than my writing.

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