Richard Kadrey is a New York Times bestselling author who has inked eight novels since 1988. This spring he tweeted 50 fiction prompts in about two hours. An example: “The flan lay a few feet away, but the zeppelin was already listing badly to port. Martin had an idea, but he’d need the queen’s umbrella.” Give the man a Pulitzer already.
Kadrey’s exercise is silly but practical. He engages the Twitter community by asking users to finish his prompts or write their own. It’s like aerobics for the creative mind. It fights that internal voice that says, “Your idea sucks. Why even bother committing it to paper (or, in this case, a screen)?” Throwing up on the page allows you to polish and take inventory of your rough drafts and underdeveloped ideas, which are almost guaranteed to suck in the first place.
Of course, some of Kadrey’s prompts are better than others. This one reads more like one of Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts” and is almost inarguably brilliant: “It was the last day of summer, and the Miller kids were fishing by the lake. They didn’t catch much. Their parents’ heads made lousy bait.” Subtle, unassuming and macabre. A lot of fun, too.