Saturday, February 16, 2013

Off the Wall Novel-Writing Prompts

Your assignment: Write a full-length novel using one of the following prompts.

A portal to another reality is discovered in a Mayan temple. Two scientists decide to enter the portal. One comes back.

A modern-day Viking community is found living in a remote section of Newfoundland. They're hiding a strange treasure.

Fight Club for Women, gone horribly awry.

A 90-year-old white man living in Marrakesh claims to be Jack Kerouac. And is.

A modern-day Thor Heyerdahl decides to sail solo from Baja California to Japan on a raft with no radios nor any modern electronic aids whatsoever. During the trip, he notices there are no airline-jet-contrails in the sky. When he manages to reach Japan, he finds the island completely devoid of people. All buildings are standing, nothing damaged.

A black female Army soldier with severe PTSD returns from Afghanistan to find that her white-Anglo car-salesman husband is actually an unemployed Latino alcoholic whom she doesn't recognize.

A homeless man on the streets of New York City claims to be 900 years old, the last surviving member of a race of Nephilim.

Two Kuwaiti billionaires, Khalid Amin and Mostafa al-Walid, build a faithful recreation of the Roman Colosseum in Macau and start selling tickets to real-world fight-to-the-death gladiatorial events. An International Suicide Society recruits members to fight in the events (or die passively). The International Court of Justice in the Hague sends envoys, accompanied by U.N. peacemaking troops, to arrest the Colosseum's owners. The envoys (along with the U.N. detachment) are put to death in the arena. An ex-Navy-Seal private eye from Harlem must join forces with a Muslim cleric (a boyhood friend of the villains) to bring the death tycoons to justice before they can open new theatres of slaughter in Dubai and Yemen.

A clever molecular geneticist transplants the genes for opium production from Afghan poppies to French sunflowers. The sunflower seeds become popular worldwide. Sunflower cultivation becomes illegal in country after country. Flowers are impounded, gardeners put in jail. But there's no stopping the Yellow Scourge.

In the future, penal systems are overburdened to the point where inmates for all but capital crimes are allowed to go free, except that they must wear a surgically implanted transponder and a color-coded Kevlar wrist-manacle: orange for first-time violent offender, red for multiple-conviction violent offender, yellow for non-violent felons, green for white-collar crimes, etc. The manacle can't easily be removed, but if it is, the subdermal transponder will signal the authorities. Google Crime will show you a real-time map of where criminal elements are, at any given moment. The aggregation patterns on Google Crime are mutating in mysterious ways. It's obvious that "something's up."

An irregularly shaped, completely opaque/non-reflective/cold metal object the size of a house is (accidentally) discovered orbiting the sun in the path of a comet. An unmanned satellite is sent to investigate. The orbiting object is a 100-million-year-old space probe sent by another civilization to study earth, except it has long since stopped operating. There are two alien occupants inside, both dead for millions of years. Or are they?


  1. A lot of these are what I call "Predictable Premises" (see link). More fun to read the blurbs you wrote than it would be to actually read the stories written about them, IMO. The premises themselves are hilarious but, except maybe in the hands of a profoundly good writer (or someone with domain knowledge e.g. an expert on Roman history doing the Colosseum one), they'd be lucky to achieve more than "made for TV movie" quality.

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