Need some writing help? Whether you’ve been writing for years, or just getting started, chances are you need a little inspiration every now and then. Sometimes, though, we can get so bogged down with what our characters should do next in our fiction writing that we paralyze ourselves, and more importantly, our fingers over the keyboard. That’s why these writing prompts were created. Use them to jump-start a stalled project – anything from creative writing to novel writing, to kick off a new story or just to keep your writing muscles flexed in between projects.

And, here are a few writing how-tos:

Take yourself back to your teenage years. What if you could redo (or just relive) those years, but this time, with no fear of getting grounded or hurt? What would you now have the nerve to do? Write 250 words.

Set your timer for 1 minute. Write down everything you can find in a medical lab. When the time is up, write a story using all those words, but make sure your setting is nowhere near a hospital, lab or anything else medical.

Most novels and short stories are written in either first-person (I) or second-person (she). For 250 words (again, about a page), write a story written completely in the seldom-used third-person (you). Trust me, it’ll make going back to your She- or I-centered story a piece of cake!

Write what you hope your obituary will say one day. Unlike real-life obituaries, you can say whatever you want (you lived on the moon as a teenager, you went back in time to romance Ava Gardner, etc.) and there’s no price per line. Spend 10 minutes on it.

Begin a story where the only characters are ghosts. They can exist on another plane that is populated only by ghosts, or it can be an ethereal existence with no real setting. Maybe they have lived peaceably in a home by themselves, but the home has recently sold and the new live owners are about to move in.

It’s a well-known tale that Ernest Hemingway once won a friendly wager with a friend when he crafted a 6-word story. As the legend goes, the complete story was, ” For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.” While the veracity of this memory has never been determined one way or another, you can’t deny that the example is a complete narrative with a beginning, middle and end. Now’s your turn. Write a complete narrative in as few words as possible. Can you beat Hemingway’s 6-word winner?

The 1950 Kurosawa film Rashomon is a classic. It illustrates the fluid nature of truth and how unreliable witnesses are. Write a story with four characters retelling an event – a car accident, murder, or robbery – and they all have different recollections. Which one is just remembering incorrectly, and which one has something to hide?