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Triggers for Story Ideas

Whenever I teach creative writing, there are always a few students who say they can’t think of anything to write about. If you have the same problem, this little exercise may help you come up with some ideas. The questions may bring up memories of people and situations you had forgotten about. Use the material that results from this exercise to write stories (fiction or creative nonfiction) or poems.

Tips on How to Use the Exercise:

--Have fun filling out this questionnaire. Don’t go into detail on the first pass.

--Later, read over your responses and focus on one memory that a question triggered. Do a ten-minute “free write” on that memory. Write down everything you can think of; try to include smells, tastes, sounds, textures, as well as the way things looked at the time of the event.

--At another sitting, read what you wrote during your “free write” and add more details that come to you. Most important, think about and write down how you FELT during the scenario(s).

1. When I think about ____________________________________my blood boils.

2. I felt betrayed when __________________________________________

3. I never thought I would forgive ___________________ for __________ but I did!

4. I realized how much my mother/father loved me when ____________________

5. I was never prouder of myself than I was when _________________________

6. The best Christmas I ever had was __________________________________

7. The worst Christmas I ever had was _________________________________

8. Siblings are supposed to get along when they’re adults,
but one time _____________________________________________________

9. The surprise of my life came when ___________________________________

10. The first time I went to a funeral I ___________________________________

11. My favorite place when I was a child was _____________________________

12. The first time I made love I ________________________________________

13. My most embarrassing moment was when I ___________________________

14. I really put my foot in my mouth when ________________________________

15. I was shocked at my reaction when _________________________________

16. I didn’t think I’d survive when ______________________________________

17. The thought of _______________________________________ terrifies me.

18. The best thing that has ever happened to me
(so far) was when _________________________________________________

19. I felt so safe when ______________________________________________

20. I adored __________ the minute I met him/her. But then _________________

21. As a child I was happiest when ____________________________________

22. The meanest person I have ever known was/is ________________________

23. The person who has had the greatest influence on my life was/is ___________

24. I write because ________________________________________________

25. A big turning point in my life came when _____________________________

26. My pet, (animal’s name), was _____________________________________

27. I feel like I really fit in when _______________________________________

28. When I am alone I feel ___________________________________________

29. When people discuss religion I want to ______________________________

30. The chore I hate more than any other is ______________________________

31. When I go back to the place where I grew up, I _________________________

32. I’d say my strongest talent is ______________________________________

33. The first time I kissed I __________________________________________

34. If I was a color, I’d be ___________________________________________

35. If I was an animal, I’d be _________________________________________

36. If I could have a ten-minute conversation with any person in the world (living or dead) I would choose _____________________________________________

37. If the world were coming to an end tomorrow, the one person (living) I’d want to see or at least speak to would be ____________________________________

38. My favorite “comfort” food is _____________________________________

39. When it comes to money I _______________________________________

40. If I could talk to President (current president) for five minutes,
I’d ask him/tell him ________________________________________________

41. I was so ashamed of myself when I _________________________________

42. I really felt like I’d gotten “sweet revenge” when ________________________

43. My heart soars when I ___________________________________________

44. People who know me would be surprised to hear that I __________________

45. My mother always said __________________________________________


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