Writing Prompts Syndrome? 

I have encountered today one of the strangest things I've ever run across... a person who hates writing prompts!

Shortly after it was created, the thread was deleted, but not before the post had already been copied and pasted into my word processor where I type up my replies (I never type directly into a forum, so that I always have a back up copy on my computer of everything I write anywhere online), so, clicking the reddit link below, will no longer take you to the thread as the thread itself no longer exists.

However, my reply to it was already written, so, here is my reply here, seeing how there is no thread to post my reply on anymore...

Writing Prompts Syndrome

/r/WritingPrompts Syndrome from writing

 r/writingprompts Syndrome.

That's my term for the typical type of prompt that gets popular on there. If you've spent any time on that sub, you know what I mean.

Over reliance on the supernatural and sci fi. Ghosts, time travel, God and Satan (but they're...friends?!), Angels, Demons, Aliens, Reincarnation. Nothing wrong with supernatural, but not if it's at the expense of a real character or plot. In my opinion. Then the special marks (everyone is born with a special ankle mark that decides who you are / your job / who you marry). And the "twists." "Heaven is actually where you decide what you want to do." "The Aliens want you to invade their planet." "A good witch." Stuff with famous or powerful people. And more.

Not surprising because I think Reddit has a demographic that is into that content, and it's short fiction that requires a really fast reply or someone else gets the upvotes. It's hard to write a deep character development given those limits.

When I see those I skip and reply to a more simple prompt, but it rarely gets many upvotes.

But what about in published books? Do you like this kind of thing? I like characters first, and setting/mood, and those writing prompt tricks can work, but once you start having multiple supernatural twists I assume it's a gimmick to hide a lack of good writing.

Are more books becoming this way? What's your thoughts on this?

I don't mean to imply some people aren't amazing writers over there at all. I personally enjoy the supernatural and mystery, some sci fi too, but I prefer it to be just one main theme or I find it hard to suspend disbelief. I respect some people enjoy more over the top things.

I find it hard to respond to popular prompts there. Are you active on there? I actually don't like the pressure to respond ASAP. Also I'm verbose, lol.

I agree that the Reddit system makes the prompt the real challenge, and crazier prompts reach the top. I didn't know about the prompts here so thank you.

I'm impressed by people who write great responses in enough time to get seen on the sub. I find that it's harder to work under pressure that high. I can reply there if I stop caring if anyone sees it.

I don't have biases, I love the supernatural and sci fi. I read them a lot. What I meant was if over reliance on too many of the themes at once feels weird to anyone else. I knew people would assume I'm pretentious though but I still want the discussion.

In not generalizing the genre. I'm trying to figure out if this is solely a thing in that sub, or if people see it elsewhere. I refer to what you said, the wackiness and competing to be over the top. I think less can be more with these genres. I was trying to ask a question, not making a statement.

Same with sex and violence that's graphic. A little, ok. Too much and I think it's a gimmick.

You seem to have a deep and fundamental lack of knowing what a writing prompt is or how they are intended to be used. You are NOT supposed to start a new story with new characters.

Writing prompts are used as a way to get back into writing a novel that you've gotten stuck on or are in need of an idea for a new direction to take it into.

Because of this, when you use a writing prompt, you also already have a set of fully fleshed out characters that you are already working with.

>and it's short fiction that requires a really fast reply or someone else gets the upvotes.

Says who? You? Or the authors? Look at the replies. Many of them end with a note saying: "Thank you for this, it got me back on track for my novel!" Some get edited later to include the link to the novel once it's been published.

Anyone over there who is competing for upvotes, isn't there because they want to write a better novel, and probably shouldn't be there at all when you get down to it.

It's not a game sub, as is stated very plainly in their sidebar. Instructions for how to use it are in the sidebar. And they very clearly state that it's intended purpose if for helping authors to get their novels on track when they run into writer's block. Did you even read the sub's rules?

The type of posting for upvotes and competing to get to the top, that you are describing, is actually not allowed according the sub's own rules. Go read them.

It's a place for authors to post writing prompts to help fellow authors to help each other overcome writer's block.

It's a place for others to find writing prompts to use in their work in progress novels, to help them move past road block in their story.

The instructions clearly state, that if you use the prompt in your novel, to post the scene that was inspired by the prompt, so that others can read it and be inspired.

Of course, when you see the level of hate mongering and trolling that goes on in the comments of some of the stories posted, you also gotta wonder why that place isn't better modded and why the authors being lashed out at keep going back there to write more. It's certainly not one of the friendliest subreddits out there.

And yes, I have seen others there, who use it like a popularity contest, which is why the sub has rules stating no one is allowed to ask for votes.

But I'm confused...I've read hundreds, possibly thousands of the posts on that sub and RARELY are they ever full blown stories. It's quite obvious that many of the authors are using already created, fully fleshed out characters from their novel and that the scene on the sub is just that: a scene, and not a story in and of itself... it's not even a full chapter.

Which leads to your point here...

>It's hard to write a deep character development given those limits.

How often do you actually read what gets posted there?

Like I said, I've read hundreds of posts on that sub, and what you are describing is actually rather uncommon. Just read the comments under the replies, where people ask the author about their characters and the author responds to explain "Oh, this is a clip from this novel about this character, I've been working on for years, this writing prompt it's actually going to be in volume 5 of the series. It'll be on Amazon next year..."

There are dozens and dozens of authors over there who are posting a new scene every day, and they'll add a note at the end stating: "This is yet another scene from the novel I'm working on."

Sure, some are writing flash fiction shorts, but again, there's nothing wrong with that. 

I just don't see what it is you are complaining about.

You are angry because supernatural stuff gets more votes?

I'm going to assume that means, you wrote something over there and it got down voted and now you are pissed and are taking it out on the people who got a ton of upvotes?

I don't understand what the big deal is. Why are you so worried about which prompts get voted to the top or which stories make it to the front page?

Reddit is a place to chat with other authors, not show promote your work.

>Nothing wrong with supernatural, but not if it's at the expense of a real character or plot.

Again... I'm not sure what posts you are reading over there, because the bulk of the people writing story samples on that sub, are working with VERY fully developed characters and plots, and MOST of them have online character profiles (again, links are often posted in the sub to these) where readers can go to to find out more about the characters and the plots.

Many of the authors over there have wiki sites for the world their stories are set in. I know, I've read lots of theme, and they are pretty amazing.

The members of that sub go through a great deal of trouble to flesh out their characters and their worlds and then use the prompts to give their characters something to do in their worlds.

If you stopped focusing on who gets voted to the top and instead browsed around to see what's there, you'd find a lot of authors with some pretty amazing worlds.

If you started following the authors, you'd start to see that many use the same set of characters over and over again in every prompt.

Many of the prompts are a Fantasy or Sci-Fi slant, because MOST of the authors posting over there are writing High Fantasy novels, Epic Fantasy novels, Dark Fantasy novels, Urban Fantasy novels, Sci-Fi novels, Paranormal Romance novels, or Space Opera novels... thus they try to come up with writing prompts that will be USEFUL to the novels their friends are writing.

If you are looking for more Little House on the Prairie, Family Drama, or Contemporary Romance type writing prompts, you are correct in the fact that there are very few over there.... but that's only because those genres are not big sellers, never have been, never will be, and thus there are very few authors writing them, resulting in very few authors thinking to create writing prompts geared towards them.

The solution, would be for authors who are seeking those types of prompts, to get over there on that sub and start writing those prompts for each other.

Keep in mind that those writing prompts are posted by the members not the mods. YOU as a member DO have a say in what type of prompts get posted. If you are not seeing the type of prompt that interests you and the genre novel you are working on, than all you got to do is create the prompt yourself. It's what the rest of us there do.

>I find it hard to respond to popular prompts there.

Again, I really think you have completely the wrong attitude/outlook for how that sub is intended to be used.

You are not supposed to be just running down the list all willy nilly writing a fully fleshed out story for every single one of them. You are supposed to be looking for one that matches you novel in progress to help you add interesting twists and turns, give your characters new challenges, or unstick and writer's block road blocks that are getting in your way.

I mean, sure, if you are an author of flash fiction, then doing every single prompt at random is what you would want to be doing. And, when I'm looking to write unplanned flash fiction, I do in fact use whatever prompt is on top. And yeah, it's hard to do, because you have to come up with new characters, new setting, everything, off the tp of your head.

>Are you active on there?

Yes I am. I'm one of the first 10 people to join, so I'm familiar with the WHY of that place being started, and clearly you aren't.

>I actually don't like the pressure to respond ASAP.

Again... why do you feel you need to respond to every prompt?

And why as soon as possibly?

What's the rush?

I do not understand the logic here. It's not a popularity contest. No one cares who answers what prompt. Plenty of prompts go unanswered. No one cares if you reply to popular prompts or not. It's not a race to see who can get the most votes. How did you ever get that idea into your head?

No wonder you are stressed out and frustrated. I think I would be too if I was running around trying to keep up with the Jones and worried about what others thought of me, instead of focusing on my job.

Stop worrying about what others thinks of you so much. If I worried about what others think, Id have stopped writing decades ago. I get hate mail by the thousands. I have 900,000 hate emails saved on my computer. Hate mail that gets sent to me on a daily basis since 1997, ever since I got my email address. My main character is a bi-sexual, transvestite. His lover's not white. I get death threats from the Ku Klux Klan because of my novels. October 18, 2006 they blew up my house with a bomb. Believe me honey, there's a lot bigger things to worry about on this planet, then who gets the most popularity votes on reddit.

>I'm impressed by people who write great responses in enough time to get seen on the sub.

I often reply to prompts that are 3 or 4 or 5 months old. When a prompt is archived and can't be replied to because it's over 6 months old, I reply to it anyways, and post my reply on my FaceBook wall instead of reddit.

I don't understand why you are so worried about being seen? I just find that logic baffling.

I mean, WHO exactly are you trying to impress? A bunch of 12 year olds who won't remember what you wrote 2 weeks from now?

The only people who are important are your fanbase. Your true fans. Your readers. The people who care about you enough to drive to a bookstore and buy your book. Not the fairweather readers who read you on reddit simply because you are there, and make no invested effort to seek out your work or support you as an author.

Think about it.

If the readers of reddit cared about your work, they are going to be going to your PROFILE page to read ALL of your work, no matter how old it is. They are not going to be ONLY reading you IF you happen to win enough up votes to make it to the top of sum subreddit.

You need to prioritize. Know who your REAL fans are and cater to them.

>I find that it's harder to work under pressure that high. I can reply there if I stop caring if anyone sees it.

I'm not over there trying to be popular. I'm a career author. I have a job to do. If I don't write, the novel doesn't get published. If the novel doesn't get published, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid, I don't eat. It's as simple as that. My job is to write novels and get them published. And if I get stuck, well, that's what writing prompts are for! I use the subreddit as a tool. Whether or not any one reads my posts over there is of no concern to me. If people read it, great. If not, it's no big deal.

My advice...




There is NO pressure to respond.

Any pressure to respond, is just something you made up in your own head. It's not a rule on the subreddit, it's some weird subconscious need to fight your way to the top, that you've put in your own mind.

Let go of it.

You'll be much happier.

I don't think I've ever answered one of the popular or front page prompts over there. No need to. I'm not looking for a pat on the back. I'm not looking for the cheering crowd.

Heck, I get posts over there with -20 downvotes. But you know what? Who the hell cares?

But back to this...

>It's hard to write a deep character development given those limits.

You want deep character development? Is a 200 page character profile, that goes into details of their hobbies, eating habits, sex life, ect, deep enough for you? It's posted online if you want to read it.

I'm on that subreddit, and if you've ever seen my replies there, you'll notice the SAME 3 characters in every story.

Each of those character profiles in 90,000 words long, by the way, in case you decide you actually want to sit down and read who and what my characters are... it'll take you at minimum 4 hours to read EACH of those 3 pages.

GhoulSpawn is a character who I've been writing about since 1978. Quaraun was added to the series in 1984. Unicorn showed up in 2011, but his grandson was in the series before him, since 1987, and his son, since 1971.

You will also then find any post I have written on that sub cross posted to the site where you can read ALL of these writing prompt results together. (As you can see there are several hundred)

And, if you actually head to Amazon and search for the character name or my name, you'll quickly discover that these writing prompts, have resulted in the publication of many 300,000 word novels.

This series by the way, started in 1978, and to date has 130+ novels, and 2,000+ short stories, published in the 40 years since it was started.

>I agree that the Reddit system makes the prompt the real challenge, and crazier prompts reach the top.

You seem to be so worried about reaching the spotlight and being on top. That's NOT what the subs' about. It's not a place to show off what a great writer any body is. It's not a place to beat the competition to the top. It's not a contest. It's a place to browse through and look for a prompt that will help you break through a place in your WORK IN PROGRESS that you are stuck on.

Sure crazy prompts exists. So what? The search feature is there. Just look for a prompt that fits the story you are working on and need help with.

That's what I do.

For example, my last 2 posts over there (about a month ago)... I'm currently working on a Christmas story. Hopefully it'll be done in time for an October 2018 publication date. As usual it's a story for this long running series. The basis of the story is that Unicorn (who actually is a unicorn btw, that's not his name) has been claiming (throughout all the previously published novels) that Santa Claus is real. No one believes him. He also claims that Krampus is his cousin, and that he used to live with Santa. People think Unicorn is nuts and do not believe him. This has been a running gag throughout the series for the past 40 years of my writing it.

Well, last year, some of my fans were talking on a FaceBook group about this aspect of the series, debating... "Is Santa real in the Quaraun series? Did Unicorn really live with him?" And they contacted me (the author of the series) to ask me to settle the argument. I told them, "Yes, Santa Claus is real in Quaraun's world, though like in our real world, no one believes he's real and thinks of him as just a children's story, thus why they laugh at Unicorn. Yes, Unicorn is telling the truth, he really did live with Santa."

To which readers of the series then wanted to know: "Could you make a special Christmas Edition novel, where Unicorn takes them to visit Santa to prove he's real?"

I was like... that's a good idea for a story.

And so now, at fan request, I'm writing that novel.


Because it's not a novel I had planned to write, I have no clear outline to structure it off of. I have all the little quips and quotes from the previous novels, where Santa was mentioned in passing, but now I need to actually build the skeletal structure of the novel itself.


I went to the writing prompt subreddit, looked through the search feature for:

Santa, Christmas, North Pole, Antarctica, etc.

I found two writing prompts that matched what I had in mind, and so, quickly wrote out the first thing that popped into my head for each.

Then a few days later, I edited, fleshed out, and expanded each of them, into full blow chapters for the novel. As I write my novels "live" posting chapters online during the writing process so that my readers can see the story progression, both of those chapters are online free to read now:

There they are in case you are interested. The links to the original writing prompts are included on those pages as well, so that readers can see the changes from the original subreddit post to the work in progress chapter.

Now... to someone browsing the subreddit at random, if they ran across those 2 posts, they'd probably think like you did, that this is nothing but flash fiction with shallow characters. They'd also see the Santa/Satan letter one and think "Damn that's crazy!"

They'd also be jumping to false conclusions and making brash ill informed judgments.

The point is...

You seem to be judging the entire subreddit, based off the fact that you yourself have no clear direction.

You seem to be assuming that just because YOU, yourself, do not have a novel work in progress to be writing for, and no fleshed out characters to use, that therefore everyone over there must be in exactly the same boat as you.

You also seem to be an abnormally competition driven person, to the point that I actual might recommend you seek professional help before it gets the better of you and start doing a Tonya Harding (or a Kendra Silvermander) to reach the top.

It's rather frightening really, to see someone get so upset over not being able to type fast enough to be seen in the first place of a subreddit. That kind of attitude really is not normal, you know? To be so enraged, simply because someone else got more votes than you... that's, well.... those people with more votes then you might want to think about calling the police before you start building bombs like Kendra Silvermander did.

You might want to try loosening up a little, play some Mozart, grab a coloring book and de-stress for a bit, yoga, meditation, something...

I worry, when some one gets so very upset over something as insignificant as a subreddit. It usually means there's something bigger going on under the surface... a death in the family, and illness... something NOT related to the complaint.

As you said here...

>competing to be over the top.

It is, only if you let it be.

>the wackiness

>I think it's a gimmick

You are aware there is a genre called Bizarro right?

There are in fact quite a few authors of the Bizarro genre on that subreddit. That might explain what you are seeing.

You know, instead of judging people, you might want to look into their backgrounds, get to know them, and find out what type of genre they are publishing before you criticize their work.

You do realize some of the biggest names in the Bizarro genre (published authors) are frequent posters on that sub right? Google those usernames, you might find yourself floored by who hangs out there. A lot of them ain't kids competing to the top, but rather just big name authors getting their work done and trying to keep a low profile on social media.

Sure, a gimmicky, wacky genre like Bizarro may not be everyone's cup of tea. But there's enough genres out there for everyone.

My advice...

Find the prompts that fit your genre and your characters and your novel. Don't worry about the others.

That's what I do, and I have no issues of stress, because I'm not trying to compete with anyone, I'm just looking for prompts that fit my novel, my characters, my genre.

When you stop worrying about what others are doing/thinking/writing/saying, it allows you to just move on and get your work done.

You are an author. Grow up and start acting like one.

It rather simple really.

Your lack of professionalism is showing badly and it's not pretty.

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