FUNNY WOMEN #131: Writing Prompts for Girls and Women

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When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male.

–Nicola Griffith, introducing her analysis of 15 years’ results of literary prizes

1.

Find an old family photo, perhaps one pasted in a scrapbook or set in a frame filmed with dust. Is there a man in the photo? Write about him.

2.

Persuade your male lover Louise Colet (or whatever you call your male lover—I call mine Louise Colet) to send you confessional emails from which you can steal material for your novel-in-progress, and then every time you reply to Louise, make sure to reiterate what a motherfucking genius you are.

3.

Write a short story from the point-of-view of a babysitter who one summer night witnesses something she never expected to see in her life, and then do a “find and replace” in your Word doc until each instance of “babysitter” becomes “Navy SEAL.”

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4.

Go all the way back to the 20th century, to a time before adhesive postage, and find a woman to lick your stamps for you. Then write the most best novel on pedophilia.

5.

Imagine you are Jack Kerouac and you must decide what to eat for lunch.

6.

Challenge yourself to compose a sympathetic portrait of an unsympathetic character, such as the comedy professor you had in college who distributed a 400-page reading packet that was 100% written by men.

7.

Revisit some object from childhood—a beloved tire swing, a special lunchbox, an arrowhead collection—that evokes strong feelings of nostalgia for your brother, and write about what that must be like for him.

8.

Write a character who can walk home alone at night while feeling unafraid.

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9.

Rewrite your 55,000 word roman à clef from the point-of-view of one of the guys drinking a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita on the 8:04 Metro-North train to Stamford.

10.

Remember what it was like to get your first period in the crotch of your baby blue Gap Kids tank suit: the thrill and the shame, how you shivered, how you couldn’t figure out what to do with the tampon so you could go back to the pool with your friends. Write about that moment, without ever mentioning the period, the swimsuit, or the tampon.

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Rumpus original art by Annie Daly. Purchase Annie’s art here.

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Leigh Stein is the author of the memoir Land of Enchantment, the novel The Fallback Plan, and Dispatch from the Future, which was a Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Allure, Poets & Writers, BuzzFeed, Salon, and Slate. More from this author →