A Free 30 Minute Writing Prompt to Produce 3 Great Posts Quickly

Photo by Logan Silkwood (Three leaves for three stories)

People keep asking me how I’m so prolific in my writing on here.

This will be my 49th post in less than a month of time spent on the Medium. The truth is that, even when I’m not borrowing ideas or words from my old journals, I write posts very quickly. Somehow, I even had time to make 928 comments on posts! Those comments often lead me to write my own posts, so they were all absolutely worth my time. Reading your work is always an inspiration that leads me to create more!

Also, as someone who had just saved my life once said, “[I’m] never quiet. If [I’ve] stopped talking, [I am] clearly dying.” You are just reaping the benefits of being my (semi-captive) audience.

How do I manage to write this much so quickly?

I use personal prompts like the one I’m going to share with you today for free and then edit very carefully, sometimes over a fairly long period of time to allow myself to see my writing with fresh eyes. Even my old journal entries here are so heavily edited that they are often unrecognizable from what I originally wrote.

At the very least, I will take a long walk outside or do something else before I come back to my work. During those long walks, I go on scavenger hunts to find pictures that hopefully match one of my writings. Then, I only share my favorite posts with you. The rest are left in my draft folder to either die a slow and painful death or get fixed a few years down the line when I am sufficiently emotionally distant to do a final edit and share them with you without actually feeling as vulnerable as I appear. This protects me from trolls, though KP_the_writer has some great advice regarding trolls as well.

I used to be a language teacher, a very long time ago.

One of my favorite writing games to play with my students was a written version of the game “Two Truths and a Lie”.

We would each write three stories. Two would be Creative Non-Fiction and one would be Fiction. I encouraged my students to just write the first 3 stories that came to mind fitting my guidelines because I timed them for each story they wrote. They were able to complete this task with only 10 minutes to write each story down in their second (or seventh!) language, but the results were always fantastic no matter how much they complained about me using that sadistic little alarm clock. We often couldn’t guess which story was the lie, and we always learned something fascinating about each other, building community through laughter and tears.

I’d like to play this game with everyone reading this free post on the Medium.

You can make one longer post containing all three stories or three shorter posts. Be sure to check out the Medium’s guidelines for writing, if you are not already familiar with them. Then, link your post(s) in the comments section of this writing. Alternatively, you can just write me one long comment here. I promise I will read every post or comment linked here and give my best guess on which one is fictional.

I ask that everyone who links a post here be kind and read and provide feedback and/or claps on as many other commenters’ posts as possible, making it worthwhile for everyone to participate.

Some bonus challenges and optional guidelines to help you “lie”:

1. Can you make us laugh, cry, get angry, or feel another intense emotion about something that isn’t technically true?

Consider this great advice from Amy Tan provided in this Masterclass Notes post to help you get us there.

“Fiction isn’t a bunch of lies, it’s one of the best ways to find truth. Write about the uncomfortable truths, the things that many of us probably thought, but never dared to speak out loud.”

and

Don’t write exactly how it happened, use the emotions around what happened to create new stories.

You can make us feel real emotions from an imaginary story by building upon your own emotional history. You have felt powerful things in your life. Show us this when you tell us a story! Make us feel it alongside your character.

2. When writing your fictional piece (or even your non-fiction), make sure you are using the 5 senses to provide rich detail that takes us into your (real or imaginary) memory. Have you used elements of sight, smell, taste, touch, sounds, or described the lack of access to one or more of these senses?

I have C-PTSD. One of the ways that I have coped with having a flashback is to do what is called a grounding exercise that a support group taught me using the five senses. I will name 5 things that I can see, 4 things I can touch, 3 things I can hear, 2 things I can smell, and 1 thing I can taste. The result usually eventually makes me laugh and pulls me out of the past at least well enough to remain semi-functional.

Imagine that you are performing this exercise in your fictional or non-fictional story to ground yourself from the protagonist’s perspective. Also note that a non-fiction piece doesn’t have to always feature you as the protagonist. You can take your story and tell it from another perspective as an empathy exercise or you can direct your story to someone whose identity you would like to shield, as if you are writing the story in a letter to them. It’s possible that this technique could even give you a case of accidental fiction that feels very real.

3. Struggling to think of an idea for your fictional story? Think of something true that happened, something that you feel so strongly about that it still feels like yesterday even though it happened many years ago. Then, ask yourself: What if _______ had happened instead? How would that have changed things? What if someone else that I knew had been there? What if I had been someone else that I know intimately in that situation? What would I have done differently? What if this event had happened in a different location or 10 years earlier or later? What if the person I am now had been in the position of the person I was 10 years ago? What would I have done differently? How would that have changed the outcome of the story? Choose any detail and change it; then, see what happens to everyone involved as a result.

4. Unlike my unfortunate students, you aren’t being timed on this exercise. After you finish your 30 minutes of writing, you can edit, sit with it, and come back to each story with fresh eyes after a nap or a coffee. You can keep it as is, or get inspired to write us a short novel as you get lost in one or more of the stories you’re telling. Take your time. We’ll still be here. After a week, I will collect any responses from you and put them into another free post, along with my own responses, to encourage people to read our work. If you want to share, but don’t want to be included in that post, please let me know in the comments, so that I can honor your preference.

5. Our most successful “liars” in my classes were sometimes students who told their most incredible truths and their most mundane lies using equal amounts of detail, but feel free to change that formula up on us to keep us guessing! Sometimes, we got so lost in disbelief of the incredible truths shared that we even forgot about this trick and fell for their trap of disbelief.

6. Feel free to bend the rules and give us two or three fictions instead of following the prompt exactly. You can also trick us by acknowledging later that all three of your stories were actually true!

Note that, while this writing prompt is outside of the paywall, allowing you to view it without eating into your free articles for the month, my stories and potentially others’ stories in the comments are behind a paywall, requiring you to either use your free articles for the month to read or to pay $5/month to view all of the articles you want.

If you decide to join the Medium and would like part of your membership fees to support me at no additional cost to you, sign up here or click on the membership link of your favorite writer to support them! All paid writers who participate in this prompt are welcome and encouraged to provide their own sign-up links in their comments. I always welcome shameless self-promotion on my posts.

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I’m your friendly neighborhood polyamorous, non-binary trans man. Pronouns: he/him. I’m an editor for Queerly Trans and Prism & Pen. Twitter: @logan_silkwood

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Logan Silkwood

Logan Silkwood

I’m your friendly neighborhood polyamorous, non-binary trans man. Pronouns: he/him. I’m an editor for Queerly Trans and Prism & Pen. Twitter: @logan_silkwood

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