I am asked quite often, how I manage to come up with stories from picture and word prompts. Obviously each writer has a mechanism unique to themselves and each prompt has a variety of writing responses.
Sometimes an idea just ‘pops’ into my head but other times, I need to play with words to get myself started. Take this week’s prompt – Remember the joy of a fairy tale? Lost in an imaginary world? Absorb yourself in a fairy tale – either using your favourite fairy tale characters or creating new ones. Find your innocence again and enjoy.
Firstly I copied the prompt into a word document then let my mind dwell on the idea. Anything that came to mind I wrote down. For this particular prompt, for some reason, the word mermaid came through strongly. I looked through a list of Grimm’s fairy tales and read two I had never heard of, neither of which actually had a mermaid in. Then I imagined a beach overlooked by a castle and a man walking along the shoreline. Now an idea began to form – what if the man was a Prince and he was wishing for a wife? What wife could I give him? Then the story came easily with a few edits here and there before I posted it on the web site. This was the result.
Prince Ellon looked upward and saw his father’s castle standing atop the steep crag. Its walls were honed from the very cliff face. Dark grey slabs towering above him as he walked the sandy beach below. His father’s insistence that he take a wife, weighed heavily upon him. There were many beautiful young women all too eager to become his betrothed but he was reluctant. None were willing to dirty their clothes on the beach or abandon them for a swim in the sea. He found their lack of spirit and their trifling concerns boring. Why could he not find a woman with a more adventurous spirit?
As he kicked the damp sand a glistening object flew forth and landed a few feet away. Puzzled the Prince picked it up to find a bronze ring made in the shape of a mermaid. It was a most unusual ring so he placed it upon his finger to admire it all the more. Once the ring encircled his knuckle, a water spout began to rise from the waves and foam. The Prince watched in astonishment as the water twisted and curled, gradually forming into a woman’s upper body and a fish’s tail. What witchcraft is this? He tried removing the ring but it stuck fast. The water ceased its swirling and the Prince looked upon the most beautiful face he had ever seen.
“You have been granted your wish, young Prince. Behold your wife.”
“I have not made any such wish.”
“Did you not want a wife who would swim in the sea with you, a wife who will also wander along the beach with you?”
“Those were my private thoughts. I did not speak them aloud.”
“The ring hears your thoughts and grants you the wishing of them.”
“If that is so then how could you walk with only that tail?”
“Think legs for me and they will appear, young Prince.”
The Prince wished it so and there appeared long shapely legs where once there had been a fish’s tail.
“Will this magic last?”
“Yes, my Prince, as long as you continue to wear the ring.”
“Then it shall never leave my finger. Have you a name or do I wish that too?”
“My name is Serene but of course I will go by any name you chose for me, my Prince.”
“Serene is a very lovely name and I will certainly not change it.”
The Prince covered her nakedness with his cloak and escorted Serene up the cliff path. Once in the throne room he announced to his parents and the court that he had found his future wife. The wedding was a splendid affair with courtiers coming from far and wide. No-one knew the new Princess but all agreed she was indeed a very beautiful young woman. The Prince spun a tale of travelling to another land and finding her abandoned. No-one questioned the story – after all he was the Prince.
The Prince and Princess were very happy together and took many evening walks down on the beach. Unbeknown to the household they would swim together with the use of a simple wish from the Prince, as merman and mermaid in the cool waters. The Prince had his perfect wife and the mermaid could return to her natural element every night.
How do you instigate a story? What processes do you use? Our writing is as individual as we are – that is the fun of it – each person will come up with a totally unique response even when the prompt is the same.
These prompts help me unblock my thought processes and give my imagination license to go where it likes, freeing it for a while before returning to a WIP.
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