Digital story prompts
by Rory Green
A few years ago, I went to a workshop on writing constraints run by Dave Drayton. My lasting takeaway, broadly paraphrased: if you sit down at a blank piece of paper, say "I'm going to write a great poem", then you have set yourself some discouragingly high expectations. If instead you set out to write a poem about one of Australia's prime ministers using only words containing letters found in their name, then you have set yourself a very measurable goal that sets aside what is fundamentally a subjective value system.
When I doubt my writing or am unsure about my intentions, orienting myself around a constraint is so refreshing. What's great about a self-imposed writing constraint is that you are just as capable of revoking it – once the constraint is no longer serving your intentions, chuck it! The writing I am most proud often started as a constrained exercise, although you might only see a fragment of the original constraint in the finished piece.
This kind of ethos carries over to digital literature too – a lot of my practice is learning how a tool works, finding the boundaries of what it can do and then feeding those functions into the narrative and themes of what I'm creating with that tool. When I'm working with a tool I haven't used much before, setting a small creative constraint helps me focus on creatively playing with the tool's featureset.
So: @digitalprompts is a Twitter bot to help guide this process. Each prompt is a randomized combination of genre, form, topic and tool. I've made it to encourage people to try using new tools, even if they're unfamiliar, by offering a creative constraint that gives you space to focus on exploring.
The bot is made with Cheap Bots Done Quick, which takes a Tracery grammar. It's a bit rough, and some form + tool combinations may not work out, but I think that's part of the fun of exploring the limits of tools. 😇
Almost all of the tools I've included in the grammar are free, though some have a steeper learning curve than others. Below is a list of links to each tool for reference; where a tool is commonly known and not associated with creative works, I have linked instead to an example of the tool used creatively:
- GB Studio
- Google Maps
- Microsoft Excel
- Story Spheres
If you have any suggestions for tools to add to the bot, please get in touch via Twitter or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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