Using Randomized Emojis to Create Story Prompts

This idea popped into my head right around the time I was writing the post about plot generators and story randomizers because, as I discovered writing that post, there is something about the RNG that I find really fun and appealing. Maybe it’s the gamer in me though. Who knows?

I began thinking of other unusual ways you might generate a story, and then I saw Kayla from Books and LaLa do book recommendations based on emojis that people sent to her. She had to try and interpret the emojis and find a book that best fit and I thought it might be interesting to try that in reverse. I wanted to try and come up with story ideas that fit the emojis.

So I found this random emoji generator and decided to give it a shot.

I started with a bit of testing to get the ideal number of emojis. Three were too few. There wasn’t enough there to form any sort of concept. Ten was too many and introduced too many elements. Around the middle then was the sweet spot. If you want to give this a shot, I’d recommend using around five or six emojis. Seven if your ambitious or you want something of a challenge.

And should you decide to try this, don’t feel you have to stick with the first set you are given, because it’s entirely possible you get an emoji with no real meaning, like a dot or a bunch of arrows. Sometimes you might get conflicting icons, like a sun icon and one for rain. If you get creative, you can probably figure out a way to use them, but the point of using the emojis is to randomly generate a set of criteria for a story, so getting two to use for the weather seems like a waste.

To generate the prompts you’ll see below, I spent a few minutes randomizing until I found one that had elements that clicked with me. I ended up with three sets of emojis – one with five, one with six, and one with seven.

On to prompt number one!

Random Emoji Set #1

This one is pretty easy to interpret in a few different ways and I’m sure you can see why. I interpreted the girl holding her arms in an ‘X’ formation to mean she was denying something. Seeing as it came right after the couple, maybe it’s about a girl with commitment issues.

The flower immediately made me think of fields and farms, but it can also represent a flower shop.

A church with hearts is clearly representing a wedding, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wedding of the main character. A wedding might just be an event that takes place in the story.

And finally, we have the sad face. You’ll learn in a second that I interpret the placement of emojis as much as the emojis themselves. Because it takes place after the wedding, it might represent a main character that struggles to commit but ultimately wants to find the right person, and is worried they never will. Or maybe an ex they thought would be ‘the one’ is getting married in the story.

The Prompt

Angela is in her mid-thirties, and she has always considered herself a career-woman. As wedding season approaches, she has her hands full with her own very successful flower shop. But this year something is different. Seeing all the happy couples has her second-guessing her choices, and she wonders if she’ll ever find Mr. Right. She’s always focused on her business, and though she’s dated before she’s never been able to commit. She meets someone at one of the weddings, someone who she thinks might be the one, only to find out they’re engaged when they show up at her flower shop the following weekend with their fiance.

All right that one sounds a bit like a Hallmark movie, but romantic plots are not my forte so give me a pass, alright?

Random Emoji Set #2

Now we’re getting into the good stuff. Right off the bat, I see a magnifying glass which immediately makes me think it’s going to be a mystery story. The diamond could be missing gems, or it might take place in a jewelry store. Or maybe it was something left on the body – that’s right, this is a murder mystery.

The red on the candy could represent blood – maybe someone was choking on something, or poisoned. The turkey can represent a farm, but it can also represent the time of year – Thanksgiving, the holidays, or something to that effect.

The clock could represent a time of death, but it could also mean that our characters are on a timer. Maybe they only have until the end of the night to find the killer.

And finally the moon – like all good mysteries it likely takes place at night, but maybe we can take that a little farther. Maybe the stolen gems were moonstones. Maybe the tide has some bearing on the investigation. Maybe the main character and/or victim were fans of astronomy and left a clue to point to the killer.

The Prompt

The Harvest festival draws people from all over the country every year, but this year’s festival goes awry after one of the attendees is found dead behind a rare gem exhibit, and some of the pieces have gone missing. On top of all that, it’s the last night of the fair, and they only have until midnight when the fair closes to find some trace of the killer/thief before everyone packs up and heads home. The only clues on the body are the poisoned candy wrapper, the probable cause of death, and an unusual symbol our intrepid detective recognizes as the constellation Libra. Unfortunately, our intrepid detective is the prime suspect because they stole the jewels.

Random Emoji Set #3

The more emojis you add to the mix, the more complicated it gets, but it also means you have more to work with. When you have this many it can become something of a challenge to harmonize them into a somewhat coherent story prompt.

But I’ll do my best, anyway. At the far end, we have a girl, so I’m going to go with a female protagonist. Probably someone a little younger, like a teenager.

There’s also a book, which could be an important plot element but it could also represent a book store or library or possibly a school. We have what looks to be a princess so we’ve got some royals – maybe it’s a school for the nobility? Maybe it’s a school for the nobility to learn how to raise and train their dragons?

The pink sundae and the lantern makes me think of some sort of festival, and the currency exchange makes me think of some sort of economic trouble with another country or some sort of dispute relating to money – exchange of goods, perhaps?

The Prompt

Princess Irella has just turned fifteen, which means she is finally old enough to attend the most prestigious school in her country – which just so happens to be where you raise and train your very own dragon. In previous years, the neighbouring countries of Irella’s kingdom were allowed to enroll their own young nobles once they came of age, in order to foster peace. But on the night of the Dragon festival, the caves where the dragons nest, and where the school and her students obtain their eggs, is occupied by the armies of the Kingdom’s newest territory, as they protest the heavy taxes that are harming their people. The students are allowed to leave the caves, but only if they leave the eggs behind. Unfortunately, Princess Irella’s egg has already hatched.

Well, what do you think? Any of these prompts strike your fancy?

This was a surprisingly good exercise if nothing else. It really forces you to connect potentially unrelated things in new and unexpected ways. I’d give it a shot if you were looking for something new to dive into or something to spice up a current draft!

What prompts can you come up with?

I’d love to see what you can come up with for these three emoji collections! Or you could generate your own and leave them in the comments below!

Author: Alyssa Flynn

Alyssa is a writer, certified geek and creative lifestyle blogger here to help fellow creatives live their most productive and fulfilling life, go on crazy creative adventures and obsess over genre and narrative.

2 thoughts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.