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.

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