Creative Writing Prompt

This prompt is inspired by Charles Simic’s “Watermelons.” Read the poem and see the lesson here.

This poem inspires a great classroom or individual creative writing exercise to put some of these ideas into practice. Trying your own can really give you an appreciation for what it takes to write a poem — and help you understand, through experience, more about the art of literature, how writers write. This can make you a better reader!

Classroom: Post pictures of various objects, such as the watermelons, around the room. (Or bring, or have students bring, actual objects.) Students have time to observe all the images — do a “gallery walk.”

Then, freewrite. Have students write for a few minutes each on each of the questions below. This works well if the teacher calls out the question, gives a couple of minutes, then calls out the next question so students can keep their pens moving and do continuous, stream-of-consciousness writing.

Individual: Look through a magazine or Pinterest until you find an image that catches your eye. Freewrite on the list of questions below. Set a timer for 2-3 minutes for each question, and try to write nonstop for each question — just jot down anything that comes to mind during that time.

  • What do the objects look like? (Take the watermelons as Green Buddhas as an inspiration)
  • Where are the objects? (It doesn’t have to be pictured; just imagine as many details of their setting as you can. Describe where they are, what or who is around them.)
  • Who else is there? Is it just you, friends, strangers, a lot of people or a few? Animals? Other objects? Now, imagine how the people or other beings or things interact with the objects. What happens? (You might want to give an extra minute or so for this one.)

Now, you have a page full (hopefully) of ideas. Read back over what you’ve written (maybe you come back to it the next day). Circle or highlight interesting images that you’d want to use in your poem. Pull them out of the rough draft, like puzzle pieces, and write them on another sheet of paper.

Now, sculpt even further. Using “Watermelons” as a model, write a poem about your picture.

  • First line – the object, using the metaphor (what is it like).
  • Second line – where/setting.
  • Third and fourth lines – what happens, or so what?

You don’t have to understand what your poem’s about. Just go with the feeling you have about the object, or which images or ideas seem right to you for the poem. It might be better if it doesn’t make a lot of sense right now! The goal is to take the phrases from your freewrite and get them down to as few words as you can.

Make every word count. For example, Charles Simic doesn’t say, “The watermelons look like green buddhas.” He calls the poem “Watermelons” and then says “Green Buddhas,” and we get the comparison.

See what you come up with and keep crafting until you get the poem as you like it.

Please share in the comments if you’d like to!

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