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Narrative Futures Writing Prompts

Recently, I presented a series of writing prompts and exercises linked to the eight brilliant interviews of Narrative Futures, a series created by Chelsea Haith of The Oxford University Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH), featuring interviews with leading authors and editors in speculative fiction genres from around the world.


I originally delivered the writing prompts after each episode of the podcast; and here are the full writing prompts for you to share and enjoy. Click on the episode number at the top of each prompt for the full interview audio and transcript.

Choose your prompts

1.Beukes / 2.Mashigo / 3.Shah / 4.Murad / 5.Shurin / 6.Swift / 7.Liu / 8.Thompson

Episode 4.
Mahvesh Murad

Short stories are short: Edit for meaning

1. Keep it brief


Mahvesh Murad says that from an editor’s point of view, brevity is key.


I’m going to keep this prompt brief.


Take what you’re working on right now and summarise it: first, the story idea in a 200-word paragraph; second, write a one-line elevator pitch


If you’re not working on anything now, choose something you’ve written recently.




After that, apply the exercise to the last book you read or film you watched.


Does this exercise tell you anything about your story? Does it help clarify your intentions in any way?


Comparing your work in progress with a produced film or book, is it easier to find the synopsis or pitch in one or the other?

Do you prefer books or films whose central point is easily identifiable?


2. Your djinn


Murad tells us that the djinn represents the figure of The Other and connects it with uncanny mirroring. The djinn is clearly a powerful psycho-mythological motif throughout the world – there are tokoloshes and leprechauns and jackals and tricksters and imps dotted in every culture, boogeymen under every bed and in every jar in the corner.


For your next exercise, describe your own personal djinn. What specific little monster scared you as a child?

Why do you think it was scaring you? To keep you in line? To warn of dangers? To offer a sense of the supernatural or the other? To what purpose?

Describe what they look like and how they communicate and behave. What do they do? Are they malicious? Is their trickery psychological – that is, internal – or social and external?


Can you imagine a story playing out with this character? If you can, plot it out briefly.

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