14 Prompts

Practice Writing Prompts that Inspire

Out of Place

I don’t know if it was the black eyes of the peo­ple watch­ing me or the way every­thing looked dark and overused in that city, but I was ill at ease, as if rest­less­ness could be defined by a leg that wouldn’t stop bounc­ing under the table and an imag­i­na­tion that pre­dicted I would be mugged.

Film Noir by Harry Pehkonen

I sat in a fifties-style diner and waited. I waited for half an hour, forty-five min­utes, an hour. I felt like I had been wait­ing for peo­ple all day.

But then he showed up, his dark hair in small dreads, loose-bound behind his head. He was a black man but had sounded Hispanic over the phone. He sat down in front of me.

“Sorry for being late,” he said, “Your wife told me about what hap­pened. You want to see it?”

He showed me the mer­chan­dise, that nefar­i­ous thing I’d dri­ven to the city for, the thing I couldn’t live without.

“It looks good. I’ll take it.” I pulled out my checkbook.

“Woah…no no no, we only do cash here. I thought I was very clear about that on the site.”

“I didn’t see the site.”

“Right, yeah, I’m sorry about that, but we only do cash.”

“I don’t have cash,” I said, my stom­ach sink­ing, as it had been all day.

“I don’t know then. You could come back tomor­row, or…”

“I’m not com­ing back tomor­row. I can get cash. Can you meet again in 45 minutes?”

“The banks are closed, man.”

“It’s fine.”

I hit up the gro­cery store first, drop­ping a half-dozen bagels on the dirty con­veyor belt in that dim­lit place. “What’s your cash back limit,” I asked.

“One hun­dred dol­lars,” said the unin­ter­ested checker.

“Great,” I said.

The bank was next. I pulled my daily limit. With that, and with what I already I had, I think I would have enough. And then it would be home and out of this dark city where no one knew  my name. I called him.

“You got it all? Wow, I’m sur­prised. Alright, meet you at the Starbucks at 7th.”

When I pulled in, he was already there, his tall fig­ure in my head­lights cut­ting a col­umn of light against the black. I parked ille­gally and he saun­tered over, pulling what I wanted out of the bag and hand­ing it to me. I put it in the front seat and handed him the dirty cash. He counted it in the park­ing lot, then shook my hand and left.

Driving home, I put my hand on it, feel­ing its soft metal purr, that touch that you only get when you’ve longed for some­thing too many hours in darkness.

When You Feel Out of Place—Write

Thanks for bear­ing with me. The story above is about my trek to Atlanta to buy a used com­puter I found on Craigslist. The whole time, I felt like I was in The French Connection doing a drug deal. Thus, the film noir feel of the pas­sage and the ambigu­ous “merchandise.”

Yesterday, I felt out of place. I spent eight hours in a city I don’t know very well, wait­ing for peo­ple I didn’t know at all.

I read some­where that the best time to write is when you first arrive at a new place whether that’s a new coun­try, city, or even restau­rant. Everything is fresh and new and strange. You don’t have those lenses over your eyes that tell you what to ignore and what to notice.

We writ­ers can be social mis­fits. While some­times that’s uncom­fort­able, it gives us a cre­ative edge. When you’re an out­sider, you see things oth­ers don’t.

When have you felt out of place? How can you cap­ture that expe­ri­ence in words?


Write about a time you felt out of place, awk­ward, and uncomfortable.

Try not to focus on your feel­ings, but project your feel­ings onto the things around you (for exam­ple, in the story above, I talked about dark­ness again and again because I felt con­fused and uncom­fort­able most of the day).

Write for thirty minutes. When you’re fin­ished, post your prac­tice in the comments.

About Joe Bunting

Joe is a ghostwriter, editor, and an aspiring fiction author. He writes and edits books that change lives. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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