The Prompts

Fertile Material:
Putting the fun back into writing

“I’ve had loads of fun doing the Fertile Material exercises!”

—Dena Harris, Madison, North Carolina

The Santa Fe Fertile Material Writing Circle using one of Milli's prompts

Milli’s book contains 112 creative writing prompts known as the Fertile Material. The idea is to have fun and let your imagination go wild.

The book provides tips on how to use the Fertile Material, but these prompts will unleash you even with no prior instruction. You can get started right this minute. Just look below for sample prompts and then let your Inner Wild Child out to play.

There are short prompts and longish prompts. If the story starter is a longer one with more detail, don’t let that intimidate you. There’s no rule that says you have to use every detail from the prompt. Just let it trigger your imagination and see where it takes you.

P.S. If you don’t want to start cold turkey, see RELATED TOPICS below for a tip-sheet on how to use the prompts.

Samples of the three types of Fertile Material

Go ahead! Pick a writing prompt and let your thoughts go wild.  Just let it trigger your imagination and see where it takes you. You can write a short story or just a story fragment. The main idea is to have fun with it.

Prompts excerpted from Fear of Writing by Milli Thornton © 1999


Roach Lover You are a cockroach sympathizer giving a speech at a rally for animal rights.

As Juicy as They Come Your spouse is addicted to mangoes—that slurping sound drives you wild and makes you want to kill.


Blank Page Anxiety ~ AARRGGHH!!!

Blank Page Anxiety ~ AARRGGHH!!!

Play Big You are a musician in a sought-after jazz band. Your name is Clarence and you travel with the band for six months of every year playing concert halls and jazz festivals. How old are you? Give the band a name. Choose your instrument. Portray the other band members and the feeling you get when you play together. Eleanor, a high fashion model, is interested in one of you. She has wiles and she uses them. Will the band survive her foxy tricks and secretive smile?


Cliffhanger You’re out hiking in the mountains. Some shale slips under your feet, and suddenly you’re sliding down a steep embankment. Describe how you feel as you slide. It’s a rough landing and you are injured. How do your companions react? Are you calm or upset? Is your speech lucid? You need help right away. How can the nearest Search & Rescue team be notified? When they do arrive, how do you feel about your rescuers? Describe how they bring you to safety. What effect does this mishap have on your life?


Sparkling Beasts & Glimmering Gods


10 Tips for Using the Fertile Material Writing Prompts

Chapter One from Fear of Writing

One Response to The Prompts
  1. Aja Dev
    March 26, 2011 | 10:24 AM

    Sometimes my brain just doesn’t wake up when I need it to. A few prompts to jump start it in the morning would be great! And could be the door to even longer pieces too!

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