Comprehensive writing prompt generation

“If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.” - William Faulkner

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Background

I recently did some timed writing for fun, and discovered a site that “randomly” generates fairly good writing prompts. Using this site, I wrote this story.

However, I also discovered an issue with how the site is designed. Every time a prompt/partial prompt is generated, the webpage makes a call to some PHP code, which returns a prompt.

For clarification, the site is: http://writingexercises.co.uk/index.php.

The prompts themselves

After doing some basic digging, I discovered a many links to PHP scripts that generate these prompts/partial prompts. Things like, weather, setting, first line, object, atmosphere, etc..

For forming a “comprehensive” writing prompt, these sort of details are key.

Links

http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/firstline.php // generates the first line of a story
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/quickplot.php // generates a basic plot
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/dialogue.php // generates a random line of dialogue
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/subject.php // generates a random basic subject
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/noun.php // generates random noun
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/nouns.php // generates 3 random nouns
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/adjective.php // generates random adjective
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/atmosphere.php // generates a atmosphere
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/time_of_day.php // generates a time of day
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/weather.php // generates weather
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/location.php // generates a basic, broad location
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/words.php // generates a 4x2 matrix of random words
/* i.e
necklace    duck
cold    knife
alarm   petite
wax     feed
*/
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/townnames.php // generates a prefix for a town name
// i.e "Rose" or "Lins" for suffix "burg"
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/randomtraits.php // generates 3 random personality traits
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/job.php // generates a random occupation
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/nameboy.php // generates random male name
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/namegirl.php // generates random female name
http://writingexercises.co.uk/php/namelast.php // generates random surname

An example “comprehensive generator”

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this is that these links create simple pages that can easily be parsed extremely easily.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much their servers can handle, so mindless requests could be greatly detrimental. I wouldn’t recommend using these prompts-generation links for anything besides small, personal projects.

That said, a simple way to utilize these would be to design a basic REST API, which returns a JSON object that combines some of the smaller writing prompts i.e name(s), adjectives, weather, time of day, etc..

This API would not be interacting with ANY databases or local files, and be exclusively calling these links then parsing their response. Basically, you’d only need to write GET endpoints.