Good Night, Sweet Prince

You will be missed. :(


Wednesday Writing Prompts XI

1. Design a “Show.” It could be any kind of show– an airshow, a car show, a boat show, a gun show, or even some kind of cultural expo (like the Scottish Games). Detail the event, fill it with the homages and references that people steeped in that kind of environment would know or recognize. Make it real. Now– make it the setting of a story.

2. Within the context of a story, expound upon the beauty and artifice of the human body. You can look at it with the eye of an architect, as Leonardo da Vinci or Doctor Gray did, you can praise it as the miraculous product of evolution, god’s mastery of creation or anything else, or you can appreciate it for its exterior beauty, its lines and curves, as any painter or photographer might.

3. Look for a mystery in your life and write a pseudo-myth to explain it. The mystery itself could be anything from the sudden closure of a stable business to the disappearance of a person, place or thing, or even a the reason for a haunting in any given place. Create a storyline that explains why whatever happened, happened!

4. Engineer a quick, effective and drastic means to solve some massive socio-economic or political problem in your town, state, country, world, etc. Somewhere in that plan, there is a story. Consider who gets hurt, who wins, who falls through the cracks, how the plan is implemented, what its repercussions are, and where things could suddenly go terribly wrong. Now, create your character and tell his or her story.

5. Write a story where someone’s need to master, control and own some force, element, person, object, etc. ultimately becomes an obsession that leads to his or her downfall. Instill the story with the drive and desire of this person, the power inherent in the very lengths they will go to in order to have that which they know in their heart they will one day possess.

6. Write a story where some fiction in a character’s life begins to blur with his or her reality. The fiction could be anything, could stem from any source, and could find any way you find most intriguing to insinuate itself into the character’s existence in such a way that it is able to compete with reality so easily and completely. Which wins out in the end? or– for that matter, which one is the real fiction? which is really reality? Are they both real? Are they both fiction? Is there a third, unseen world that is the true reality, or is something else going on altogether?

7. Create a story about a board game of your own invention in the style of Jumanji or Zathura. What kind of game is it? (Fantasy, horror, something else altogether...) How is it played? How does it change the world around it, and what are the stakes?

8. Craft a piece of poetry that really stirs and moves the heart in a profound and powerful way. The only guideline: Do it in the fewest words that you can.

9. Pick something that sits as (or claims to sit as) the paramount or pinnacle of some idea, virtue or anything else intangible (i.e. good, evil, skill, education, prowess, strength, dedication, etc.) and cast it into an opposing light that highlights all the flaws, problems, issues etc. that in reality detract from the sense of perfection this entity boasts. Now, use those highlighted items and this newly cast entity to drive forward a story, article, or piece of poetry.

10. Set a timer, alarm clock, or similar timing device for some random and arbitrary period of time. Now, go do something else. Forget about the timer. When it goes off, consider in depth how you feel (Besides irritated at the timer for going off in the middle of whatever you were doing.) What happened in between to change your mood? Use this series of events as the main framework for your story.

Uncle Jimmy's Shotgun

I pushed blindly into the bedroom, if you could call it that, scattering the musky husks of empty beer cans with every bleary misstep. The bed loomed up at me from one spartan corner, bare and lumpy old mattress scattered with yellowed and dog-eared copies of dirtbike magazines I’d dug out of a crate somewhere in the basement. Basement, hah. Even that wasn’t much more than a narrow mud-floored crawlspace where the walls were still bare, full of naked stud boards that showed everywhere but where I’d put up a decade-old centerfold of Miss October to cover the hole I’d punched in the rotten fiberboard that same month, that same year. At least up here in the house proper the previous owner had the where-with-all about him to put in drywall and a coat of white paint, though the job was so amateur it looked like someone had given the can and brush to a retard and locked the door for a day. Every inch of it was rough, ridged with crumbling paint lined up in shaky brush marks that dropped along the length of the walls like drunken snail trails, merging and meandering across one another in the few places where someone had probably taken a break from their chaw just long enough to point and say: “missed a spot.” Later, sometime between when the mess had dried and when Grandma Helen had picked up the property, someone had taken one of those wide-tip sharpies to the wall and scrawled the words “Hey Cowboy” in a hand so fine it bordered on elegant. I ain’t never had the heart to scrub it off in all the days since I’d seen it, never had the patience I’d need to repaint the whole damn room.

Meds. That’s what I needed. My eyes moved sluggishly to the left, glancing across the messy dresser, the loose shotgun casings and the edge-worn copy of a farmer’s almanac from the fifties that crouched among piles of mud-hardened socks mingling with clean ones still stiff off the clothesline. There was aspirin in the drawer, third down and on the left, just beneath the collection of hood ornaments I’d found in Uncle Jimmy’s room, each one palmed and pocketed from some rich tourists’ fancy car. He always had a few choice words for rich folk, thought they was all cheaters and sinners, laying about like royalty with pretty girls to feed them big purple grapes while a good honest man had to scratch and suffer in the dirt to make himself a living. That was Uncle Jimmy. I had a whole slew of reasons for trying not to think about him any more than I absolutely had to. Yeah. Lots of reasons.

The drawer rattled as I yanked it open, glass bottle from Grandma Helen’s expired aspirin stash in plain sight, half-empty, the pills so old half had turned to powder. I twisted the tin lid, grabbed a quick handful and swallowed the chalky mess dry, choking as half of it stuck in my throat, a hard wad that stung against every breath, took half a minute and a lot of coughing to work free before I could force it back down with a quick swig of whiskey from the jug I kept by the bed.

Bed. That’s what I really needed. A quick place to lay down until I could convince my head to stop spinning. I started to clear the old magazines away, but my hands wouldn’t keep up, wouldn’t work right. I couldn’t focus. All that cheap beer I’d put away since I’d crawled out of bed had put me off a little, had...

...the ground rose up toward me fast as lightning– I heard the solid, meaty thunk of my collapse and only felt it later, too wrapped up in the flash of darkness that flickered across my eyes for a split second to notice anything but how brown the grain on the plywood floor was. I don’t know how long I laid there for– it felt like a lifetime, as long as the pause that creeps by whenever you hesitate with your finger on the trigger of a gun, wrestling with yourself while the guy on the other end just stares, dumbstruck. I ground the heels of my palms into my eyes to get rid of the thought, then rolled over and suddenly found myself face to face with the last thing I wanted to see at that moment, the most blatant reminder of the part of my past I’d been drinking to try to forget.

Uncle Jimmy’s Shotgun.

I’d put it under the bed so I didn’t have to look at it while it rusted away into silent oblivion, didn’t have to be reminded of what I’d done with it. The breech was still cracked and empty, unused since that day, that cold October day a decade past when Uncle Jimmy had come home in a passion, swaggering drunk with his cheap grinder-sharpened knife pulled, convinced Grandma Helen was some filthy incarnation of the devil it was his holy duty to dispose of. I’d tried to reason with him there in the doorway, nearly got a face full of crude razor for my effort, so I’d done the only other thing I could think of to do at the time– I fetched the shotgun.

“Darrell!” He’d yelled, but I wasn’t listening. I’d been cut too many times by Uncle Jimmy, had too many cigarettes put out on my arms. It took me five whole seconds to cover the distance between the front door and Uncle Jimmy’s bedroom. I knew right where he kept the gun– at the head of the bed, tucked up in the springs of his ratty old mattress. Five more seconds and I was back in the livingroom, catching his attention with a shout before he could cross to the back of the house and into Grandma Helen’s half. I still remember the look on his face as I’d turned those two rusty barrels on him, warned him not to take another step.

But it didn’t take long for slack-jawed shock to turn to anger. I warned him again as he took a step toward me, but this time he didn’t listen, and the next step he’d taken had been his last.

Burying a man ain’t no easy task, not least when he’s your uncle and your Grandma’s bawling her eyes out not two feet from you the whole time you’re digging. It took six hours to make that hole, another hour to fetch the body and plant it, not to mention the time it takes to pick up all the little bits of shot and other leavings of something like that which end up spread all across the floor like crumbs from some messy dinner. By the time the lawman came looking for Jimmy with some warrant for breaking and entering, there was nothing left to find– he’d been reported missing, probably at large, with sheriff Bird figuring the old drunk had probably just run-off, maybe even skipped the country.

But the shotgun under my bed could testify to another story. Just it and me. Grandma Helen’s gone now too, a clot in her brain, they say, but that’s okay. She went in her sleep, real calm and quiet like. Some folk think I must be lonely all by myself up on the mountain, but it ain’t all that bad. In a way, I’ve still got Uncle Jimmy to talk to, and he’s a mite bit friendlier now that he’s in the dirt, waiting for his rapture and his apocalypse under a poppy patch in the backyard, just ten paces from Grandma Helen’s gnarled old apple tree.

Wednesday Writing Prompts X

1. Write a story that describes its imagery using terms specific to some other form of art (i.e. describe it as you would describe a painting, point out and talk about brush strokes, the way colors blend into one another, etc.) Describe people in terms of instruments, tools, methods, strokes or musical notes– make the effect pervasive, all encompassing, constant.

2. Look at the ceiling where you are. Truly consider it, study it, and think about what it would be like if it was suddenly your floor, if suddenly your own personal gravity (and nothing else’s) were reversed! What would life be like on the ceiling? Would you have tea parties? Panic uncontrollably? Contemplate mantras of zen buddhism? How would this sudden change in gravity effect your personal life?

3. Write a story where love is created and maintained over a distance. The length and nature of that distance is up to you. It could be the distance between two continents, two cities, or even just between two windows or two rooftops. What lies between, physically and metaphorically? What are the barriers that must be overcome? Are they overcome?

4. Some of the most provocative, interesting, disturbing, and downright experimental works out there take a very different and very interesting look at sex. Try writing a story that approaches sex in a way the reader would not expect, but that still retains interest. You can do it by allusion, teasing, putting other words in, leading the reader to a wholly different situation altogether than they were expecting, yanking the viewer away at the last second, or anything else creative you can think of.

5. Think of the most beautiful and/or interesting place you’ve ever been to and then set a story there. It doesn’t have to be the exact place (i.e. Tahoe, Vegas, Yellowstone, etc.) it can be a place that only exists in your mind, or even a place you’ve only seen before in pictures. Be creative, feel free to set any scene there, and remember– the only limits are the limits you impose on your own creativity.

6. Revisit the atrocities of the past in a story. You can either write it as a historical fiction (i.e. something that happens in the period in which the atrocity was practiced– like slavery, etc.) or as something that’s happening in a different form (with obvious corollaries) today, or in a future setting.

7. Poke fun at a current social or political issue by taking the opposite stance from what you feel and using that side’s own wit (or lack thereof) and “evidence” to undermine the position utterly. Many authors, including Johnathan Swift and Alexander Pope, have taken this same approach in many of their most famous works. It’s effective, it’s funny, and it makes a great way to get your point across while cross examining the validity of your own views.

8. Try writing in a situation or mindset when you would never normally write because you feel like too much of what you write would be garbage (i.e. when you’re really tired, when you’re drunk, etc.) Don’t just write a little, write a lot. Then, put it aside for about a week. Once the week has passed, pick it up again and look through it for nuggets of wisdom to use in your next story. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find!

9. Write a medical triage scene. It can take place anywhere, at any point in the history or past (to the thundering of civil war muskets, under the suppressive blasts of photon cannons, or in the ER of modern day Detroit, etc.) Make the action everpresent, put the feeling of running and rushing into the story, and try to capture the way everything is frantically performed while still being powerful, exact and professional. Or, write about off-hour, and try to capture the lazy boredom experienced by people who know that at any minute, a dozen ambulances could cram into their doorways with payloads of patients in critical condition.

10. Write a story that you are several times removed from. Write a tale of an author, who’s writing a tale about an author, who is also writing a tale about an author. The challenge? Making it comprehensible, interesting, and just the right amount of complex.

Wednesday Writing Prompts I-IX

Here's a list of the first nine Wednesday Writing Prompts, provided here free to inspire you to new creative heights!

Writing Prompts I
Writing Prompts II
Writing Prompts III
Writing Prompts IV
Writing Prompts V
Writing Prompts VI
Writing Prompts VII
Writing Prompts VIII
Writing Prompts IX

A Dream:

Somewhere deep within the belly of a hollow mountain, a ring of fire and light comes to whirring, spinning life. Blades sing, klaxons howl, and the booted feet of a thousand men charged with keeping the secret of the ring hammer out a desperate staccato. This is the moment we have all come to fear most. Something has gone terribly wrong.

As the waters part, she emerges, raven hair stirred by angry, unseen winds, tossed on currents of rage and insanity, her eyes lit by a harsh and living fire. I know her face, I know those eyes. I am terrified, but I cannot look away, cannot avert my gaze or deny that which I behold. She is here, she has come for me, and in the hate-fed, divine retribution of her love, there is only death. Shouts rend the air, rifles clack into readiness, bullets fly, and around her there is nothing. All is placid amid the hail of gunfire, all still and strong. Only the ring flickers and flares, vicious, hungry.

When the first of the booted men falls, I run. I do not linger, do not stay to watch as the divine wind flies from her outstretched hands and butchers them all, slashing each man into bloody parcels, eviscerating one at a time until their diminishing line finally breaks from fear and flees. I’ve seen it all before, seen the way the fear feeds her, drivers her on, makes her soul slaver in silent hunger. Within seconds, they are all dead, split apart into bloody brushstrokes that paint the floor in a macabre masterpiece, a testament to her power, to the ruthless clarity of her madness. Striding across to the unstained world beyond, she signs it softly with her wolf-pad footsteps.

And still I run. This is the price of my freedom.

Writing Prompts IX

1. When we look at the historical record, things tend to get a little sparse and iffy between the period when humans first became fully modern (about 150,000 years ago) and when what we currently see as the first civilizations (Sumeria, etc.) popped up about 8-10,000 years ago. Sure, we have the paintings of Lascaux and Pont d’Arc in France (30-40,000 years ago) but what happened in all the years in between? Write a story that addresses this, that takes place in (or relates to) something now lost in these grand gulfs of ancient history. After all, it’s only been 2,000 years from Christ to Cellphones– did our fully modern ancestors really just sit around for 100,000 years doing nothing but picking berries and chipping rocks?

2. Think about a season and all that is stereotypical about it. (For winter, think ice and snow, bitter cold, etc.) Now, imagine a world where that season is the only season. Make that world the setting for your story.

3. Write a story that incorporates ideas or things that seem fantastically outside the norm of reality (like trees of glass and crystal that live and grow, or men and women that exist in a state of pure plasma.) What is life like in this new reality? What is different? What is the same? Be creative, let your mind go places it would normally fear to tread.

4. Create a story like knitting together a quilt. Create each section individually, each piece strong, independent and complete, then “stitch” them all together to create one cohesive whole.

5. Write a story (though it could take the form of a mock interview or anything else) where the main character (even if [especially if!] it’s the narrator) is clearly under the influence of some kind of drug. It could be a hallucinogen, sodium pentothal (truth serum), some illegal substance, or even just a heavy dose of something prescribed by a doctor, but get creative with it. Cast the light on its effects, how it feels, what the character under the influence sees.

6. In contrast (or perhaps in comparison) write a story where the main character is at the mercy of some kind of multiple personality disorder. He/she could be like a collective of souls, the victim of a botched possession, a simple psychotic, or anything else you can think of. Get creative.

7. Write a story where a dark secret in a character’s past comes back to haunt them. It could be anything, from the blatant closet skeleton of a murder to something much more subtle and much more on the direct, everyday, human level. Whatever it is, make it real enough (no matter how fantastic it is) that the reader really feels it.

8. While the roof-tile thrown by an old-lady didn’t kill the once-famous conqueror Pyrrhus exactly, the impact of this clay projectile was enough to stun him and give a local soldier a chance to shank him. Write a story where the hero (or villain) triumphs wildly over his or her foes, only to be taken out utterly by the most unexpected and unlikely of occurrences.

9. Write a story that explains what happens when we die, but take an alternative path with it. Instead of writing about the valley of eternal spring or the pearly gates, write about something totally unexpected. Maybe the afterlife is something glamourous like a realm of pure light and pleasure, and maybe it’s something far more down to earth, gritty and not at all like the heaven painted in the minds of most of the western Christian world.

10. Create a character who embodies one of the classic seven deadly sins (Greed, gluttony, lust, etc.) and then write a story where they meet their demise at the hands of that which they so heavily indulge in. Don’t go all overboard biblical with it– make the allusions to the cardinal sin more subtle, almost subconscious.

My Cat Monkey

For he is passionate as any lover
For he lies about, lethargic in his ways
For his fur is white, his ears and paws brown
For his eyes are blue
For his meow is keen and high
For his nose is soft and inquisitive
For he goes limp and begins to purr
For he loves to be held
For he used to want much for attention
For he used to stink
For he became too distracted by his testicles
For we had to remove them

(If you get this joke, you're either an English Major, or you've spent too much time reading archaic British lit.)

Writing Prompts VIII

1. We as humans tend to use a very small percentage of our brains. Write a story where a psychic or a scientist discovers a way to “use” the brain to perform one particular (or more than one) feat that could be classified as super human (like flying, teleporting, telekinesis, etc.) Does this pioneer choose to share this new technique or try to hide it and keep it from being discovered by the general public? If it becomes common knowledge (and common practice) then how does it effect the workings of the world? The economy? Warfare?

2. Go somewhere there are people, but not too many people (like a coffee shop, a class room, an airport terminal, an airplane, or a business meeting, etc.) and then imagine that you are suddenly the only people left on Earth. How does the story unfold? Do you all survive? Does someone die? What happens to this last fragment of the human race?

3. Craft a speech. It could be a future politician’s rallying cry, the war plans of a freedom fighter operating out of the underground, or the lost words of a hero (or villain) from the past. Make it real, make it crisp, strong and full of power augmented by whatever emotion the “speaker” is trying to convey, whether it be anger, pride, or solemn sadness.

4. Write a story about a place that comes into existence only once or on a rare basis, mythical and meaningful whenever it appears. It could be a restaurant, an island, a bar, an outhouse, or anything else. The person (or people) that encounter it can be oblivious tourists totally unaware of the majesty of it all, someone actively hunting for this mythical place, or anything in between. Make the place unique, give it character, make it stand out.

5. Write a high seas, swashbuckling adventure. Consider all the pirate movies you’ve ever watched, all the films where sailing ships and rapiers figure prominently, and write your own pirate legend!

6. Try writing something interactive, an adventure in a story or a book that pulls the reader in and forces them to act to keep the story going. You might even try writing an adventure for RPG use. Whatever it is, make sure there are plenty of options for the player(s) and leave the ending up to the reader’s choice (and skill).

7. Write about someone in your family, someone different, unique, distinctive. Cast them in a story, whether fiction or non-fiction, that reveals, emphasizes and casts a beautiful light on who they truly are.

8. Pick a social issue that bugs you and then blow it all out of proportion in a way that is comedic and not wholly improbably as a possible vision of the future. (If you’re strapped for ideas, consider films like Brazil and Idiocracy.

9. Create a new career and then write about it. It’s a given in any society that, as new technologies and new needs appear, new people will be trained to work with or repair that technology and satisfy those needs. You can write it from a first person, worker’s perspective, or even from the perspective of a pitch. It’s your story. Make it what you want it to be.

10. Write an Indiana Jones-type of thriller, something with a race to get to some ancient object of mystery and power. It can take place in any time period, any setting, any world, but the central idea should center around the action-packed recovery of an object of potentially great importance.

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