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This Week on Mystery Theatre:
The “Three-Things” Writing Prompt

November 29th, 2022

Lately I’ve become a fan of crazy unrelated ideas being woven into the fabric of a story.

So writes best-selling mystery writer Jordan Dane in a blog about what has been called the three-things writing prompt. It’s a great way for jumpstarting the muse, and—as it ties in with this week’s episode of “In the Ghost Light’s Glow” (available December 1)—I thought we might take a moment to consider it in today’s post.

Here’s a bit more of what Jordan Dane has to say about using three-things writing prompts:

The farther apart the [three] elements are, the bigger the challenge to make a cohesive story out of them, but I think this can be a good exercise for writers to “think/plot” out of any proverbial corner. If you can train your brain to free associate, without filtering your thought process through common sense or your inner naysayer, this could be a good way to jump-start your creativity and brainstorm into something fun to write.

The post also provides a list of possible triads, among them:

  • A priest, a skin rash, and a cell phone GPS mistake
  • A singing competition, a family ring, and an over-protective grandmother
  • A funeral, a missing cat, and a promise

You’ll find more at the mystery and thriller-writer website Kill Zone, which offers writing advice and tips from today’s bestselling genre authors.

And for folks who’d like to generate three-things combinations of their own, there’s a nifty tool called The Brainstormer—a digital spinner that works like a triple-decker roulette wheel. The picture above should give a good idea of how it provides random story ideas. Previously available for free on the internet, it is now an app that you can download for a nominal $1.99.

Another option is Pick 3 Story Starters, which employs three piles of cards: one each for character, setting, and conflict. It’s available from the website Teacher Pay Teachers, and although it’s designed for younger storytellers, it’s a cool concept for writers of all ages.

And then there’s Act V of “In the Ghost Light’s Glow,” which presents a three-element prompt that will lead to the starting point for our next story when Mystery Theatre returns in March.

But you don’t need to wait until then to find out where the story’s final three clues lead. You can explore them on your own by assembling a story of your own that picks up where “Ghost Light” leaves off. And–if you like the result–you might consider sharing it with us here.

We’ll hope to feature highlights from some of the responses when Mystery Theatre returns on March 2nd with a new five-act story to coincide with Prime Stage’s production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Click the player below to hear Act V of “In the Ghost Light’s Glow,” and if you’d like to catch up on our earlier 29 episodes, you can find them all by clicking here.