Dictionary Stories: A Writing Prompt

thurstonMany writing prompts provide you with a topic, which you then brainstorm and explore through phrases of your own imagining. Today’s prompt does the opposite: it provides you with the phrases, but you must piece them together to create the topic. But where will these phrases come from? Who has such a ready supply? Don’t worry! The source is likely right on your bookshelf or saved in your browser.

Dictionary Stories are a genre of writing composed entirely out of sample sentences from—you guessed it—the dictionary. They are ingenious and often hilarious. Consider this one, titled Captain.”


It pulls a story of a sad, lonely captain from random sentences.

I’ll use Merriam-Webster and see what I can string together. This is starting to feel like Mad Libs.

The children in their Halloween costumes heard a terrifying noise coming from the next room. The noise spooked the cat. (The children were pretending to be animals.) The stuntman, a sorcerer who used his power for evil ends, crashed through the window on a motorcycle. “What do you want?” he growled. The street was covered with broken glass.

There was an awkward pause in the conversation. He looked back the way he had come—the officers police the streets for reckless drivers.

Cheese it, the cops!” The moment has arrived. The actor was nervous about his big scene. For his last trick, the magician made a rabbit disappear: the child of the wealthy industrialist was kidnapped and held for ransom.

It’s difficult but fun! There are so many strange sample sentences to use, but the key is making them work together. What stories can you come up with?

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