Inspiration from Writing Prompts: Your Story from Writer’s Digest

Sometimes, when a writer gets stuck, they turn to other, finished works of art for inspiration. Movies. Poetry. Photographs. Even nature itself. Writing prompts crafted by others can also serve as inspiration (Write about a time when …) as can limiting yourself to a certain form, like haiku or flash fiction.

Writer’s Digest has a novel way of inspiring writers, with their Your Story photo prompt competitions, hosted throughout the year. When I saw the above image along with the prompt, “Write the opening line to a story based on the prompt above. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc. It is, after all, your story,” nothing struck me immediately. All they were asking for was one, single sentence, enough to intrigue the reader and reflect the image. How hard could it be?

At the time, I was researching my hometown of Detroit for another piece I was working on. With the above image of die-cast people before a glowing cityscape, some facing the skyline and others turning away, I began to wonder – what were they doing? Could that city be Detroit, or a version of it? I jotted down an initial inkling, then let it sit before returning to it a few more times for editing.

The single sentence I landed on was this:

“When the sky over New Detroit began to boil, only the old-timers knew better than to stick around to watch what was surely the inevitable.”

I shared the sentence with a few friends who are avid readers, and when my friend Amanda replied, “Can’t wait to read the rest of the story,” I knew I had a hook. (I was also sad to inform her that, alas, it was but the one sentence). After taking a deep breath, I wished for the best and e-mailed my entry to the editor.

This all happened in August, 2021. In November, the magazine reached out to inform me that I was a finalist, and the top entries would be opened to public voting online. At last, fast-forward to April, 2022, when the May/June edition of the magazine was released. Thanks to readers of the magazine, my sentence was chosen as the favorite of all the finalists.

Honing your skills as a writer can come down to a single sentence, something that can grab your reader into the world without a second thought. Whether you write as a hobby or full-time, engaging in the realm beyond the writer’s desk can bring that special magic to the page.

Will you participate in Writer’s Digest’s next Your Story competition? See what’s cooking at their website, where the prompts are always changing:


Writing prompt image and first-place line: “When the sky over New Detroit began to boil, only the old-timers knew better than to stick around to watch what was surely the inevitable.”
Cover of Writer's Digest Magazine, May/June 2022

2 thoughts on “Inspiration from Writing Prompts: Your Story from Writer’s Digest

    1. Hey Stuart, thanks for reading! If you’re ever staring at the calendar while in the submission doldrums, focus your energy on a new project.


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