I have been the advocate of prompts to spark imagination ever since I began writing. In fact my first ‘real’ piece of writing was the result of a three word prompt. Here it is:
Fire, Clock & Certainty.
Fire light flickered on the walls and ceiling as Joan sat with a glass of her favorite red wine. Watching the flames lick the logs and send little sprays of ash and sparks upward, she tried to calm her mind. It was a certainty that Thomas would be angry with her once he knew of her accident. The clock ticked as its hands made their gradual path towards 9 o’clock and the inevitable argument.
Joan had tried to cover up the dented fender with a casually placed cloth but Thomas would immediately know something was wrong as she had parked in his place in the garage. Such a creature of habit, her husband he had rules and very particular likes and dislikes. His routine had to be strictly adhered to or there was hell to pay. She knew he would go over the top with his recriminations and probably ban her from driving for months.
The clock struck nine and she heard the garage door open as Thomas drove up to it. Straining her ears she heard his car drive forward and then shriek to a halt. His place was taken up by her car now he would be mad. A slam of the driver’s door told her he was walking through to the kitchen and she could feel his presence enter the lounge.
She squeezed the trigger slowly as the instructor had told her and Thomas’ face flew apart. No more shouting, no more rules, no more living in fear. Watching Thomas’ foot twitch as the life left him gave her a rare feeling of joy. No more tormentor.
Since those humble beginnings, I have continued to use prompts, whether words or pictures to engage my Muse. At Christmas, I was given a Word of the Day desk calendar and will utilize the words to create a short story or poem. These is the result of the first 10 days of January. As you can see the words are unique and gave me more of a challenge.
Jensen stood in line with the other candidates listening to the bloviate speech of the head of the facility. As he exalted the program’s cathexis in their training, noting one man stood out above the rest. Jensen saw the commander’s eyes glance towards him and he an epiphanic sensation went through him – he would be the one, it was ineluctable after all, and his tests had all proved top marks coupled with his deportment in any given scenario. Jensen knew his was palmary among these excellent candidates in the chrononaut program.
His first glimpse of the other universe as he emerged as the first time traveler was an elaborately set table with a kinara lighting the room with a redolent kolacky set in the middle.
As writers we are always immersed in our own creative world, full of locations, characters, plot lines and scenarios – whether imaginary or real. However, sometimes our brains become stagnant, unresponsive or just plain tired. To leave our current ‘work in progress’ can help us greatly to refresh and regroup. That is where prompts come into their own. With an unrelated word choice or image, comes new insight and fun. They maybe a quick ten minute exercise or, as so many do, take on a life of their own propelling you into a story you had not previously imagined. Three prompts I found lent themselves to the creation of a novella.
The easiest way to use a prompt is to let the initial thought flow and just let it take you wherever feels right. It maybe result in a poem, short story, a character study, a word association or something else. Many will be forgotten and not saved but some ignite that creativity to renew.
Several people enjoyed the button prompt, so today’s question is:
What story comes to mind with this image? Use 69 words or less.
Here is my interpretation:
The streets lay deserted and dirty. The last flickering of an advert splashed against the buildings husk. Nature will encroach to claim back what is rightfully hers, once again. The structures will house animals and insects and plants will flourish as the cement and steel crumble and rust.
Your inspiration today is this fascinating picture. An old abandoned library. I wrote this response some time ago.
The huge facade of a building emerges among the trees, as we trek our way westward, hopefully toward the rumored survivor town. With the light fading, our small group welcomes the opportunity of proper shelter instead of the tattered tents we have been using for the last four months. Greg, Tom and Jacob lead us into the dappled shade of the building; we stand in awe at the sight that meets us, the remains of an old library with huge floor to ceiling shelves covered in books, dust and debris. The interior has a surreal quality with trees growing within the library walls and bursting skyward through the roof.
Discarding our back packs and bed rolls, we all start to explore the interior before the light completely disappears. Some books totally disintegrate upon first touch but others are sturdier, these we put aside but the remains of crumbly pages are piled together to start a fire, then topped with pieces of several broken chairs. Constructing our tents into canopies along the rear wall with the fire in front, we enjoy the warmth, whilst waiting for the rabbit meat to cook. We all enjoy a deep slumber within the security of the brick building, no sudden noises or movements startling us awake into fear of the unknown, within the blackness of the forest.
As the sun rises its light runs across the floor from the roof opening toward our enclave, rousing us. Gradually, one by one, we stretch and shake away the heaviness of a luxurious sleep and begin to look around the book clad walls. Another fire is started to curb the morning chill and heat water for a weak brew, whilst Greg and Tom go hunting. Carefully testing the staircases Alice and I climb to the upper walkways looking for treasure’s within the shelves, only to find more crumbling books and a few scampering bugs.
We both wish we could stay here within the security of these walls instead of continuing our trek toward an unknown future.
Have fun with this prompt. Please share your response in the comments.
Derelict – definition: 1) abandoned by the owner or occupant; 2) failing to take proper or normal care, neglectful; 3) a homeless and destitute person : vagrant.
Today’s word reminded me of a photograph a friend sent me of a small building in Italy. Inspired I wrote the following. Will it inspire you too? What did you think of my story?
“Oh, what a delightful little building, David, we must get a photo of it. I’ll show Christine when we get home.”
“It’s certainly interesting, Sally, and I’m sure Christine will get a kick out of it. I wonder what the wooden frame is for.”
The forever curious, David, circulated the building happily taking numerous shots from every angle. Meanwhile, Sally opened their picnic basket, spread out the blanket and began placing cheeses, fresh rolls and olives onto plates.
“You must have enough photos now, David, come and uncork this wine.”
While relishing the fresh rolls and tangy olives, the couple enjoyed the Tuscany countryside surrounding them. The sparse shade eased the heat of the sun but still little beads of sweat glistened on their brows.
“Why did we leave this trip so long, Sally? Even the kids would have loved it here.”
“There was so much to organize around, my dear, with Michael’s sports and Christine’s horse trials the summers just flew by. But you are right they would have loved it.”
“We’ll just have to make the most of our free time then. Maybe we can persuade them to come with us next year – what do you think?”
“A really lovely idea, David, but Michael has his tournaments in the summer and Chrissie has her company – I’m not sure they would be able to come.”
“Surely, Chrissie could manage time away she has three staff to man the building projects now and I know for a fact Michael has another coach to substitute for him. I’m going to ask them when we get back.”
Sally breathed in deeply to calm herself. Once David got an idea there was no dissuading him and trying to reason with him just made him even more bull headed. She took a large gulp of wine and shook her long blonde hair wishing for a slight breeze to cool her body. Without looking she knew David would be frowning at her for not sipping the wine but they were on holiday and she wanted to stay relaxed.
“I’m going to take a few photos of the valley, there’s a vineyard along it. I’ll be back soon.”
Sally tried to stop her petty thought before it began but there it was – he never helps clean up. After twenty five years of marriage the little things niggled the most. Now stop it, enjoy the view and the rest of the wine – tell him it toppled over when he comes back.
She watched her husband walk over a slight crest and vanish out of sight then lay back to watch the clouds float past, wondering where they had come from and where they were going. It was the ultimate freedom floating on the breeze. Sally enjoyed another gulp of the dark red liquid savoring the taste on her tongue. It was so peaceful she wished it was always so.
A creaking sound drew her attention to the little building, the doors had wooden planks that nailed them shut so what could creak? Maybe time and weather had worn it down enough that it would collapse. As Sally watched the plank fell away and the nearest door opened to reveal a strikingly handsome man with dark hair and eyes. I must be dreaming – too much wine in the heat.
“Sofia, come to me, my love, our time has come.”
His voice was deep and husky, mesmerizing her for that moment.
“My name is Sally you have me confused with someone else. How did you get out of that little shack?”
“Do not trouble yourself with the appearance of the portal, my love, take my hand and we will return home together.”
“A portal, now really what game are you playing? This is such a weird dream.”
“How can you question a dream while you are still dreaming it?”
“I have no idea but I think I may have sunstroke. I’m sorry I can’t help you. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to find my husband.”
“Husband…but here I am in front of you, my darling, Sofia. Let me show you our path home.”
With a slight shake of her head Sally decided to see where the dream would take her so took the man’s hand and walked beside him toward the building. His hand felt so real, its texture and heat – she had never had such a vivid dream. As they approached the doorway he stood to one side to let her enter. The interior was not that of a weather beaten shack but a lavish entrance hall with a tiled floor and beautiful curved staircase.
“Now I know I’m dreaming this is impossible.”
“You have returned to me and our home, my love. I have waited so long.”
Maybe David was right about gulping the wine after all.
“Sally? Sally, where are you? Come on honey we need to get back to the hotel.”
David had returned to find the picnic tidied away but the rug still spread on the grass and the empty wine bottle laying on its side. Initially he thought Sally had gone to find a sheltered spot to relieve herself, but when she didn’t return after five minutes he began calling out. Now twenty minutes had past and still no sign of her. Where could that damn woman be? An hour later with the sun setting and his voice hoarse from shouting, David picked up their picnic things and returned to the hotel.
His frantic shouts of help had the staff rushing to his side as he entered the foyer.
“Please calm yourself, Signore, what has happened?”
“My wife…she’s disappeared, we have to call the police, get them back there.”
“Where exactly were you, signore?”
“Up on a hill overlooking the vineyard to the west of here, we set out a picnic next to a shack with a frame above it. Please hurry we need to find her.”
In his panic David did not notice the glances between the hotel manager and several of the staff.
“This shack you speak of, were the doors boarded up?”
“Well…yes, how would you know that? Have you been there?”
“Yes, Signore, there are many stories of strange things happening around it. Some say it is a portal to another world, others that it is haunted.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, this is serious my wife is missing, I don’t have time for games. Get the police on the phone now.”
The manager dialed a number and spoke quickly. David couldn’t stay still so paced back and forth across the tiled foyer. Once the manager had finished speaking he looked up expectantly.
“Well, are they on their way? Should we go to the shack and wait for them there?”
“Signore, it is best you travel with them.”
David commenced his pacing until the sound of sirens could be heard. He ran to the front of the hotel to meet the policemen. He was shocked to see a white van instead of police vehicles and two men in white coats.
“What is this? What’s going on? Didn’t you understand me? We have to find my wife.”
“Please, signore, go with these men, they can help you.”
The two men stood to each side of David and firmly took hold of his arms. He began struggling but a sharp prick from a syringe had him calm in no time. The manager shook his head slowly, glad that the incident had not become violent.
“You are home, my love and everything is perfect again.”
“I have to go back to my real life you must understand that, this isn’t real.”
“Oh but it is real, my darling Sofia, that other world can no longer hold you. I have ensured your absence is explained.”
“What are you saying? What did you do?”
“You are no longer alive in that world, your over bearing husband resides in a mental institution and the children you bore are here with us but young again. We will enjoy our children the way a husband and wife should.”
“Are you saying I died?”
“That world was the unreal one, my love; you were stuck there for such a long time.”
Sally…Sofia shook her head, everything felt so familiar in this grand house. Gradually her memories came back and she led the life she had always dreamed of.