Stick Around & Write Something: A Writing Prompt for Teenagers

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.”

― William Faulkner

There is never a dull moment when you work around, and with, teenagers. After teaching high school for two decades, I honestly cannot imagine doing anything else.

A few years ago I learned an important lesson. Never underestimate the power of stickers when it comes to teenagers. One day my 9th grade students were addressing envelopes to mail letters and I offered them stickers to attach to their envelopes. They were delighted and even the unruliest of students became quiet as they intently selected the perfect sticker combination to decorate their correspondence.

This year I had a Donors Choose project funded that included, you guessed it, stickers. A few weeks ago creative writing students were overjoyed when I offered them stickers to adorn their Chromebooks and/or journals. However, first I made them write.

The following was their prompt on Google Classroom:

Attached you will find an assortment of images. Choose one of the collections of vinyl stickers and imagine that the stickers are attached to someone’s: computer, water bottle, locker, or another personal belonging. Allow these collection of stickers to tell a story. Imagine what these images say about identity and personality.

I then posted the following images:

The Sweet Life
All who wander are not lost.
Rocket scientist, or bust!
Home Sweet Home
Stand tall, my dear.
Art is life…
Adventure Seeker

This prompt works well with students who are visual learners. It provides them with a place to start writing and helps them flesh out a character.

For other teachers reading this, I hope your students enjoy this writing prompt and that it inspires them to be creative. I would love to hear from you in the comment section. As I always tell my students, our words matter.

Story Starter: Make Your Main Character Want Something

“Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Photo by Julia Zolotova on Unsplash

Today is Thursday, which means it is Focused Free-Write day in my high school creative writing course. Yesterday I posted about how I created a schedule this year to keep our class organized and on-track. With all the challenges we are facing this year due to Covid-19, it feels good to have a little structure – but still have the creative spontaneity that I crave. You can read my post here.

I read Kurt Vonnegut’s quote a few days ago and I thought it would make a wonderful prompt to get a story started. So today my students will use it as a springboard to generate a story – or an episode from a story. After all, not everything we write becomes a masterpiece. Much of what we write is practice. When we write each day we naturally become better writers.

I cannot wait to see where this prompt takes my students. I wonder what their characters will want, or yearn for? Will it be something grand or will it be something as simple as a glass of water?

Maybe your character wants spring to come?
Maybe your character hails from a dystopian society and craves freedom from an oppressive government?
Maybe your character is overwhelmed and overstimulated and wants peace and solitude. A mountain cabin? A long hike in nature? Fresh air and birdsong?
Maybe your character wants a bowl of soup (or another comfort food) from their favorite restaurant, from their grandmother’s kitchen, or even from their own culinary skills? Maybe they want to become a famous food blogger or open their own cafe?

Write for 20-30 minutes (or longer) and see what happens.

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