Last semester in my creative writing class, most of the time there would be a random writing prompt and some time at the beginning of the class to write down whatever came to your mind based on the prompt. I ended up coming up with some interesting little snippets (at least to me, hopefully to you) that I might want to follow up on someday or at least cannibalize for another project. Since I'm a bit behind on the writing of To Look Skyward, I decided to put these up today in lieu of the next chapter, to give me some time to catch up. I hope you enjoy! Note: These are not all of the writing prompts I did--some of them weren't that interesting or were outlines rather than prose. I didn't put those in this post.
Writing Prompt #1: Now, I don't remember exactly what these prompts were, but this one was something about being a soldier and knowing that you are being sent to your death. I have no clue what the actual context of this scene is--why a unit of women soldiers are being sent to fight Germans. I don't know what war this is or what nationality these people are. Feel free to fill it in for yourself.
Screams. I couldn’t hear anything but screams. The Germans we were killing--or trying to--my fellow soldiers who were dropping like flies around me as we stormed the enemy position, and my own cries of terror, both from my lungs and from my head. I knew from the moment we had begun our march from the coast that we were all going to die. Everyone did, I guess, but it felt like the moment our commander had told us our orders, I had been brutally torn away from any camaraderie I had once shared with the women in my unit. A defense mechanism of sorts. We were dead already, so why bother with emotional goodbyes or attachments weighing us down from what we had to do?
I shot a man in the head as I bounded over the sandbags and down into the enemy trench. No, not a man, I thought as I saw the soldier keel over and go still. A boy.
Now, I want to die.
Writing Prompt #2: I don't really recall what the prompt was here, but I really like this character voice. I want to you use this guy in a book some day, and the opening line is a great one, I think.
I wandered through dirty streets, wondering if kusha was the word for “hello” or “get out of my country, you filthy foreigner!” I can’t read Arraki facial expressions to save my life. What might be a smile could be disgust, or carry some subtle connotation that I just didn’t get. I knew I should have paid more attention in Linguistics. I had paid attention to something in that class, but it just happened to be the dark-haired girl two rows in front of me. Hopeless romantic, that was me.
I noticed the women here too, I guess. They were nice enough, despite the fact that the head ridges were very distinguishably alien and not at all attractive to me. Was that xenophobic? I hope not. I don’t have a problem with the Arraki, I swear. I just don’t understand them. Is that the root of prejudice?
Am I getting too philosophical for a military report? Probably. Am I asking too many questions? Most definitely.
Writing Prompt #3: This little gem was written by a group of us in class one day--we all made up the character and the situation and then had to write something based on it.
I was looking at a Christmas sweater on a rack in a giftshop in Jamaica. It was red cotton, a Rudolph sweater, battery-operated, with a glowing red nose smack-dab in the middle. I had been staring at it for the last twenty minutes, trying desparately not to think of my landmine-of-a-bladder. I know I should’ve taken my pills this morning. I glanced up at the cashier who was chatting with a customer in his thick Jamaican accent. I had no idea what he was saying. Where was my tour group? We were supposed to meet here at 2 o’clock. Maybe I had the wrong giftshop. I really had to pee… Wait, nope. I don’t anymore. This is embarrassing.
Writing Prompt #4: This is a short scene introducing a pair of private investigators who have just found out their daughter has been kidnapped. This story has intrigued me, and I'd like to come back to it someday.
Benjamin looked down at the ransom note, steel in his eyes. Whoever was behind this would die. He would go to hell and back before he would let them get away with this. “Any fingerprints? DNA?” he asked Mary, who sat across the room with her face in her hands.
She shook her head. “Nothing,” her voice was muffled through her fingers. “Who would do this, Ben? What did Clara get herself into? I don’t understand any of this.”
Ben breathed in and out in deep, resonant waves. He set down the note on the end table and stood. “Run it through processing again. We need to find who did this. Try linguistics analysis, anything you can think of.”
“And if that doesn’t work?”
Ben swore and punched the wall. “Then run it through again!”
Writing Prompt #6: This is another character and setting that intrigued me. I want to return to this idea at some point. The prompt for this was related to the first line: "Write from the viewpoint of a character who is caught in the middle of a bank robbery."
I was lying face down on the floor of the bank, feeling the press of the cold stone against my cheek. Another bank robbery. This was the fourth one in three days. I still hadn’t figured out a way to stop it, then.
“Get down on the ground,” the robber said as he fired a warning shot in the air.
Too late, Mister Bank Robber, I thought. I beat you to it. And you’re welcome, by the way. I shivered. Did I count as an accomplice? Of course, no one could ever prove anything concrete against me. There was no evidence that I had done anything wrong. Except being here.
These days, I counted my very presence in a public place as a sin. It was my fault that people were dying in New York. It was my fault that money was getting stolen. And it was my fault for enjoying every minute of it.
You see, I’m a Portent. My subconscious desires tend to become reality.
Writing Prompt #8: I really loved writing this--the prompt challenged us to write two characters in conflict over something but they never talk about what it is directly. Can you guess what it is?
“My Master’s thesis paper went well, I think.” Asher speared a cucumber as he spoke, trying to act like the sentence that had just come from his mouth hadn’t just driven another nail in the coffin of his relationship with Corrie.
“That’s great,” Corrie said, her exquisite little face darkening in a way that made his stomach drop. “What was it on, again?”
“The geology of Colorado,” Asher said, wincing. He shouldn’t have brought it up. Now everything he said would remind her. “You know, plate movement, geothermal activity, stuff like that.”
Corrie took a sip of her chicken noodle soup. That had always been her favorite. Asher wondered if he would ever be able to eat chicken noodle soup again after today without throwing up. “Sounds interesting,” she said. There was a long pause in the conversation while they ate. Finally, Corrie spoke again. “When is it again?”
I knew what she was talking about without her having to say it. “Thursday. They just e-mailed the plane ticket to me.”
The last nail hit the wood with that word. Ticket. Singular. Only one.
For those of you who actually want an answer: Asher is getting a job in Colorado working in the field of geology, and Corrie isn't coming with him. They are in a relationship, but probably not for long.
Writing Prompt #13: We were supposed to write flash fiction--a story in one sentence.
God took a drink of whiskey, trying to forestall his inevitable death.
Writing Prompt #14: We were supposed to write dialogue between two people with no description whatsoever--just the words being spoken.
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t care, darling. I’m fine with whatever you want.”
“You always say that.”
“Is that a problem? I really don’t care where we go to eat, I just want to eat.”
“I feel like you barely care about anything anymore.”
“When did this conversation become about our relationship? I just wanted to grab a bite to eat.”
“Listen, I need you to just make up your mind. Where do you want to eat?”
“Why is this so important to you? I just told you that I’ll eat wherever you want to go. Shouldn’t you be happy with that?”
“I’ll be happy when you’re happy. Apathy is not happiness. Why can’t you see that?”
“And why can’t you see that you are spoiling a perfectly good meal before I’ve even had it?”
“Stop that. Be serious for once, dear, please. I need you to stop trying to change the subject.”
“You’re the one who made this conversation about something besides food.”
“And you’re the one who has made our life together about anything besides love.”
“I’m hungry. I want food. You should eat a meal with me. That is love.”
“Love is food eaten in tense silence while our world crumbles around us?”
“Love is you caring enough about me to let me work this out for myself.”
“I don’t understand how you can go on like this, barely talking about anything important? Life is more than meals by candlelight.”
“Yes, life is you shutting up long enough for me to actually savor my meal.”
“All you care about is food.”
“And all you care about is bad poetry.”
I hope you enjoyed these random snippets. I sure did.