Reading & Writing

Writing Prompt: Random Word Generator Flash Fiction

Last week, I attended One Story‘s week-long Craft Lecture Series on Zoom. Most of the lecturers dedicated a chunk of their time to a generative writing exercise. I enjoyed all of the exercises, but I felt most inspired by a very simple but restrictive exercise presented by Don Lee during his lecture on flash fiction.

Before we began, he’d used a random word generator to gather several sets of words. We each chose one group. Each of these words needed to appear in our piece of flash fiction, which we were to try to keep to 120 words or less. We were to try, within those 120 words, to stick to a pretty basic plot arc:

  1. Begin with one situation
  2. Something happens to someone.
  3. End with a different situation, after which nothing is ever the same again.

This is a lot to ask in so few words, but I loved this exercise because I love a challenge. I work well within prescribed structures and I like to meet a goal. For my exercise, I chose the words stingy, questionable, and violet. You can go to the word generator on your own, or choose from some of the word groups I’ve gathered for you:

guitar, wealth, pasture
agenda, tree, instruction
bronze, perforate, passage
rage, village, short
slime, handy, Mars

As always, I’d love to read what you come up with! Here’s mine:

We stand at the closet each morning: rows of pink and violet. My daughter wants me to choose something. She thinks I have questionable taste but still she begs me–orders me, really–to help her dress.

She is quiet and stingy with praise.

“The tutu,” I say. “And the lion shirt.” A risky combination, but I think it will work.

She frowns.

I take the tutu from the drawer.

“It’s cute,” I say. I put one leg in, though the waistband is unlikely to go past my thigh. “You’ll love it.” The second leg tears the elastic, threads pinging.

“Mommy, don’t,” she says. Her eyes shine like marbles.

The tulle tears. The waistband snaps.

“Mommy, stop it,” she says.


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