Brainstorm Possible Subjects

You often must write essays on subjects dealing with how you feel about something.

You usually must write about them as impromptus – that is, without being able to prepare for them or without taking them home as homework.

Typical examples:
  • If you could be any wild animal, what would you be? Why?
  • What is your favorite sport or other activity? Why?
  • What is your favorite pet? Why?
  • If you could do any activity this weekend, regardless of cost, what would you do? Why?
  • If you could live anywhere, where would it be? Why?
  • If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be? Why?
  • What does the word success mean to you?
  • What is a time in your life that changed you? How did it?


How can you prepare for that many essays?  Well, you can—

  1. And it does not matter what you will be asked.
  2. Because they are all the same question.

The Key to Good Writing

Eighty percent of what you need to know about writing good essays, stories, and research papers involves choosing a good subject.

Brainstorm for Quantity, not Quality

Pretend that the following is your prompt:

  • If you could be any wild animal, what would you be? Why?

Make the RH variable New. Your reader knows about an eagle, bear, grizzly bear, lion, tiger, panther, whale. Those are Old. All readers know about them. So stay away from them.

Instead, funnel until you have an animal you think that hardly anyone else will think of. Use the computer to help you.

  • Horse
  • Wild mustang
  • Wild pony
  • Wild Mongolian pony
  • Equus complicates (ancient horse of the Eastern and Southern United States)

You can shortcut the system. Type in something like this:

  • Unique animals
  • Rare animals
  • Strange animals

Don’t Add Adjectives

Do not add descriptive words to create the subject, as in the examples below. You will end up with a boring essay because the basic subject (a horse) is Old. 

  • Horse
  • Horse blind in one eye
  • Purple horse blind in one eye

It’s Okay to Be Creative

You can “cheat” on what the prompt asks.  Evaluators usually love creativity.  For example, you could funnel down to animals such as these:

  • Mythical animal                                      
  • Unicorn
  • Narwhal
  • Chinese unicorn
  • Lung-ta, the Chinese unicorn stallion
  • Small animal
  • Microorganism
  • One-celled animal
  • Paramecium
  • Didinium, the lion of protozoa

Ongoing Assignment: 4.1 – Small Group

  • If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why?

Part I:            As a group, brainstorm 15 unique animals. 

Part II:           Repeat Part I, but this time feel free to use the computer.