What does a great generator have that a poor one doesn't? You might be surprised the answer is: less detail. We need to use watercolors, not oils, to paint our picture. Great sweeping strokes, with blending colors, not tiny sparks that highlight a single object. Let's take an example of what I mean.
Let's say the prompt answers with:
Your MC is locked in the wooden room. With the bad guys outside, holding guns, knives and evil grins.
Now, most people using prompts would love it. Lots of details, clear instructions, they get a clear picture in their head of the situation. But I wouldn't be happy with it. Why? Because I'm locked in - not a wooden room, but with my now available options. And the user gets 1 option, period.
Now let's take a look at it how it could
Your MC is locked in the wooden room
. With the bad guys outside
, holding guns
and evil grins
The underlined parts are the ones I would give their very own random answers to. It's not just a case of using different words for the same thing, although I do that too, sometimes. Because where 'locked' might not trigger an idea, 'imprisoned', 'stuck', 'chained' might be what inspires a story, where 'locked' didn't.
The other option, the one I strive for, is to use words that send the same prompt into a totally new direction.
Instead of 'the wooden room', I could use 'their good intentions', 'the basement', 'a dilemma' or even 'quicksand'. Combined with all of the optional answers, the prompt can end up going just about anywhere.
Just for grins, let's take a look at that in practical use. click to see it in action.
(Don't hold this against me, it was written off the cuff and in about 5 minutes)
I love it when a generator hits on two or more options, building on the same theme. Sometimes you get contradictory prompts. Where in the same prompts, you're told the MC is old, and then again, that he's young. It happens. I do my best to make sure it doesn't, but well, shit happens. Just pick which one you want, and discard the other.
Which brings us to the other half of a generator. You, the writer. Don't expect to get spoon feed here. You might have to use your brain, your imagination. You are a writer, right? Don't get mad because I gave you purple people eaters, when you wanted pink, sparkling unicorns and no matter how many times you refreshed, it didn't come up. Don't throw your hands up, because you wanted first person prompts, and mine are third. I can only spark ideas, I can't write the story for you.
And we come to the last hint on how to use a generator. You are not locked into the answers. Pick out the bits you don't like. Add bits you do. The generators are meant to spark and idea, not lock you in a wooden room. ;)
Maybe Feath said something interesting in another post?