Writer's Toolkit

Writing Prompts from the 2023 Women’s Prize Shortlist

If you’ve been staring at a blank page wondering where to start – whether it’s the very beginning, a new chapter, paragraph or even sentence – these writing prompts inspired by the novels on the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist will help to spark your creativity. So take this chance to step away from the page, grab a hot beverage of choice, and have a go at these fun exercises.

And if these help you get off your feet again, why not consider entering Discoveries?

Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris

Write a story using the title “Burning Bridges”. Rather than thinking about how bridges connect opposing sides, think about what this phrase inspires in your mind. You could think about a situation where someone “burns bridges” in a relationship or at work – maybe it’s a story about throwing caution to the wind, ending a toxic relationship, or doing something you later regret.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Write a short story or a poem about a mother figure in your life, or about an experience of motherhood. See if you can evoke some visceral emotions on the page: is the piece celebratory, critical, sad, bittersweet, warm or joyous? Include some sense detail: smells, tastes, sounds and textures will help bring your piece to life.

Fire Rush by Jacqueline Crooks

Write a poem or a few lines of rap inspired by the protagonist Yamaye’s freestyling. You might want to choose a political issue you are passionate about as a focus. See how you can use rhyme – challenge yourself to rhyme, but in an original and fresh way! When you’re writing, keep reading your work aloud to see how it actually sounds, off the page.

Pod by Laline Paull

Think about an issue you are passionate about as Laline Paull so clearly cares about the environment. If you are someone who enjoys creative writing, do you tend to weave this topic into your writing? If so, how do you balance your personal opinions and research along with the story?

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Use Maggie O’Farrell’s symbol of the tiger and write a descriptive piece using the tiger as a metaphor for a woman. How are her tiger qualities expressed – her physicality, her sexuality, her desirability or wildness? Or, is your tiger caged or hunted by someone? Perhaps your tiger is the huntress, instead. You could look at William Blake’s famous poem “The Tyger” for inspiration, or look up women poets such as Audre Lorde, Rupi Kaur and Carol Ann Duffy, all of whom have written about women’s sexuality and identity.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy

Write a poem in which lovers are kept apart by politics or religion (or both). How will you create the tension of the situation? You might choose to depict two voices in the poem, or one narrative voice that knows each side of the relationship. How can you best capture the couple’s yearning, despite the situation? Will it be a poignant poem, sad, tragic, optimistic for the future?

We post weekly writing inspiration and tips on social media – follow us to join a community of readers and writers. Good luck with your writing – we are rooting for you!

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.