Weekly Writing Memo: Setting Writing Prompt

[Sorry for the delay this week, there was a glitch in posting yesterday.]

Weekly Writing MemoI’m off in Gunnison, Colorado this week for a writing conference at my old graduate school, Western State Colorado University. For me, a writing conference is a chance to talk writing and get inspired, so I thought I’d post a writing prompt this week to spread some of the inspiration.

Since I’m in a place that is known for its beautiful scenic views, I thought I’d go with a writing prompt that is all about starting with setting to find your story. Try to use the prompt to help visualize the setting, and see where it takes you for creating a story.


A Tree Grows in the Desert

A tree grows alone in the desert. What kind of tree is it? What does it look like?
Describe every detail you can think of. What do those details tell us about the tree?

How does it grow there?

Who discovers it? Someone has to come across it and be our narrator. So who? Why are they in the desert? How did they find the tree?

Who are they?

What does the tree mean to them? Do they interact with the tree somehow?

Is this all a dream?

Or a vision?

A miracle?

A mirage?

Don’t just have this character be at the tree, give them a reason, a purpose. Why are they there? Why is the tree there? How do the tree and the character impact each other? Where do they go once they part?

This prompt is about character and setting, since they are the two core parts of the prompt. It’s also about using mysterious elements to help draw the plot out. If there is a mystery element to be investigated, and a character to investigate it, then there is a plot in there somewhere. So explore the tree, develop the character who interacts with the tree, and see where the story takes you.


Next week I’ll be back with my usual post, but for now, happy writing! If you want to play with this prompt, you can try to set it in other unusual places if you want (the ocean, a grocery store, etc). The key is, that the tree is somewhere unusual, and the story comes from someone interacting and exploring the tree and why it is there. So explore, have fun, and get writing!


Robin Conley offers great writing advice most Wednesdays on Writing to be Read. If you just can’t wait until next week to find out more, you can pop into her blog, Author the World, for more tips, or a weekly writing prompt.


One Comment on “Weekly Writing Memo: Setting Writing Prompt”

  1. Robin this is great. Let me be the first to give it a shot. This is just a freestyle piece I’m writing in response to your prompt.

    Tanya dragged herself toward the spiny, mishappen Joshua Tree with her last bit of strength. The tree looked like a cross between a palm tree and a chola cactus, but she collapsed against its trunk, reveling in the small amount of shade it provided. It stood there, a lone tree among the chicos, offering the only refuge for miles around. It was a good thing, because Tanya didn’t have the strength left to go any further.

    She had come many miles from the place where she’d been left to die atop a large dune, bound and gagged, without a drop of water. That was two days ago. Two days in the beating sun, first walking, then crawling, and finally, dragging herselfthrough the gritty sand, inch by inch. To Tanya, the tree wass her only hope of survival.

    Until she felt the rough bark against her back, pressing into her skin, she hadn’t been completey sure that it wasn’t a mirage. The desert can do funny things to your mind. When she first spotted the tree, she’d imagined it a vision, conjured by her mind, because she’d been focusing on the need for shade, but now, here she was, and it was real.


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