Fiction Prompts Culled from Weird Wikipedia Articles

If you're lost for ideas, spend some time with the world's foremost archive of fart performers, toddler eaters, and Go-playing ghosts

Photo by cea+

Wikipedia gets a bad rap for a website with so much cool, free information. Yes, it’s occasionally unreliable, but it’s a useful website for learning a high school essay amount about basically anything you might need to write a high school essay on. And Wikipedia really shines when it comes to niche information. The pages we’ve dug up here cover a range of topics, from fartists to emus to unidentified sounds. Hopefully one of them will inspire you to write something deeply bananas. 


Tarrare ate live cats, poop, forks, eels, secret military messages, raw animal intestines, snake meat (his favorite), human blood, human corpses, and, allegedly, a toddler. Doctors studied him (read: fed him lots of weird stuff to see if he would eat it) but couldn’t find what was wrong with him. This novel could follow both Tarrare and the toddler he eventually eats, winding together the events of their lives until their tragic meeting. (Author’s note: Please do not write a Tarrare-themed cookbook). 

Emu War

When emus began attacking Australian farmer’s crops during the Great Depression, the farmers’ solution was to have the Australian government send in a military unit armed with machine guns to fight the birds. Unfortunately for the farmers (but fortunately for emu-enthusiasts), the emus proved very difficult to kill. We’re envisioning a heart-wrenching epistolary novel between a man on the front lines of the emu war and the child he left at home. 

Shizo Kanakuri

Part-way through the 1912 Olympic marathon, world-record-holding marathon runner Shizo Kanakuri fainted. When he woke up, he was so embarrassed that he left the race and went back to Japan without telling anyone, which caused Swedish officials to think he was missing for over 50 years. When it was discovered that he had been in Japan, he was invited back to Stockholm to finish the race 50 years after he began. This novel could take place entirely during Kanakuri’s final lap of the marathon, where he runs and remembers the events of his long and beautiful life. 

Mike the Headless Chicken

True to his name, Mike was a chicken who lived for 18 months without a head. Overcoming all odds, he continued to do normal chicken things, like peck and crow/gurgle. We’re imagining an Animal Farm-style dystopian novel where Mike convinces other chickens to give up their heads in order to achieve real freedom.

Human Mail

This gives a whole new meaning to Brad Pitt’s eternal question “What’s in the box???” Yes, we’re talking about mailing the biggest package of all: your entire living body. Apparently there’s a bit of a tradition of people mailing themselves as pranks/to escape slavery/just to see what happens. This would obviously be a book of short stories, written from the perspectives of the mail carrier, the recipient, the pilot of the cargo plane, and the person in the box.

photograph by Dilaudid, distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Blood-Vomiting Game

Not for the faint of heart, this strategy involves allowing ghosts to dictate your next move in the board game Go, and might have caused the death of Go prodigy Akaboshi Intetsu. While rivals Hon’inbō Jōwa and Akaboshi were playing Go, a ghost allegedly told Jōwa which moves to make in order to win. When Jōwa won, Akaboshi vomited blood on the game board and died (been there). We think this would be a beautiful romance novel about a love triangle between two bitter rivals and a ghost they both loved. 

image by Jahzcore, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Forest Grove Sound

For one month in 2016, the town of Forest Grove, Oregon was occasionally plagued by a mysterious sound. The source of the noise was never discovered, but it was heard in many unrelated parts of town and described as a “mechanical scream.” What was making this noise? Could it have been the giant automaton that town leaders buried in the forest hundreds of years ago, finally awake and ready for revenge? Or could it be the giant automaton that town leaders buried in the forest hundreds of years ago, finally awake and ready for love? One thing’s for sure: it was the giant automaton buried in the woods.

photograph by Jesse Berry, distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

Moon Tree

These are trees grown from seeds that were taken into space and orbited the moon. While the trees weren’t actually grown on the moon, the name is whimsical enough to inspire some good stories. What if a new type of plant grew from the seeds? Or a tree that produces little moons? Maybe this could be a story about a girl who tends a lunar garden, or maybe all the moon trees can communicate with each other and they feel lonely among the earth trees. All these possibilities have us starry-eyed.

Le Pétomane

Looking for a Wikipedia article that uses the word sphincter in the first paragraph? Look no further than the original bag of hot air: this guy. Most people consider farting a hobby at best, but for Le Pétomane, farting was literally his career. He could fart on command, and he was so good at it that he performed at the Moulin Rouge. This piece would obviously be a sprawling, historical fiction novel charting Le Pétomane’s life and career from his childhood to his retirement from showbiz in protest of the violence of WWI. 

Garden Hermit

In the 18th century, it was popular for rich people to have large gardens. If you were really wealthy and a little bit (or a lot) eccentric, your garden would be incomplete without a guy you paid to live in a little house in your garden, dressed like a druid and ready to offer advice and counsel—because nothing says “I have the wisdom you seek” like the old man you’ve been paying to stand in your backyard wearing a toga. This novel could be a series of journal entries from the garden hermit himself, except in this case he’s a woman in disguise who’s in love with the lady of the house. 

Before you go: Electric Literature is campaigning to reach 1,000 members by 2020, and you can help us meet that goal. Having 1,000 members would allow Electric Literature to always pay writers on time (without worrying about overdrafting our bank accounts), improve benefits for staff members, pay off credit card debt, and stop relying on Amazon affiliate links. Members also get store discounts and year-round submissions. If we are going to survive long-term, we need to think long-term. Please support the future of Electric Literature by joining as a member today

More Like This

Why Edgar Allan Poe Is the Best Writing Teacher for Our Own Hysterical Moment

Why Poe is the best writing teacher for our own hysterical moment

Oct 26 - Catherine Baab-Muguira

Write the Perfect Personal Essay Pitch With Our Handy Chart

The topic you were born to write about is hidden in the letters of your name

Dec 6 - Electric Literature

Who Needs an MFA When You Have This Literary Fiction Trope Checklist?

Include all 25 tropes and you'll probably get a Pulitzer

Jul 26 - RL Maizes
Thank You!