Top Six Prompts from the Third Year

Top Six Prompts from the Third Year

On July 31st 2015, I posted my first writing prompt. It kicked off a weekly tradition of writing for myself, for fun and for practice. For the first year, my writing partner chose most of the prompts. It was fun and challenging but, for the second year, I focused mostly on things that I wanted to write, including side plots for projects that might never get off the ground, scenes that cropped up during monthly RP sessions with my Skype game group, and re-writes of old stories I found on my hard drive.

This year, I decided to change things up. To prevent certain characters (*coughDomerincough*) from constantly dominating my writing time, I introduced random picture prompts. Each is based on a picture I found while scrolling through free stock photo sites. I’ve had a lot of fun with these because I never know where an idea is going to lead me. And I love trying to find a story that explains that moment of captured time. In fact, a lot of my favorites from this year come from that category.

The other thing I started doing differently this year was focusing on serial stories or concept series instead of singular scenes. This lead to the production of the 7 Deadly Domerins and, later, the 7 Heavenly Roses (which are still in development). It also led to the Wandering Mountain saga, which I’ve really enjoyed playing around with, and hope to use as the epilogue of a bigger project someday down the road.

On the whole, writing these prompts has allowed me to play with new ideas as well as new writing styles and concepts I might shy away from otherwise. Writing novels requires a huge time commitment, which means that trying something new can be both costly and frightening. It’s been interesting to watch my own development as each new series of prompts goes live, and I’m looking forward to further stretching and challenging myself in the future. Prompt number 156 went up on June 14th. So here are the highlights from my last year of tinkering!

1. Frozen (A Random Picture Prompt)

Featuring: This is actually a sneaky little tie in with the Domerin multiverse, even though he appears nowhere in the prompt. (And how it relates is my little secret.)
Why I like it: I’ve joked a lot on Facebook and Twitter since I started writing these random picture prompts that I’m basically compiling my own personal Twilight Zone series. This was the first prompt that really struck me that way. It’s one of those nothing is quite as it seems stories. But it’s also a commentary on human nature and the ways we make our own lives difficult. I’ve always thought one of the markers of a good story is that it makes you take a second look at the world you live in and reconsider how you view certain things. I’d like to believe this story does that.

2. The Kantis Legend (200 Word Tuesday)

Featuring: Kantis, from the Celestial Serenade
Why I like it: Every Friday, I participate in a hashtag on Twitter known as Friday Phrases (#FP). The main account posts a prompt and everyone composes a bit of microfiction to match it. For the theme legend I submitted the tweet Legends say they found him in the middle of the murdered village, not more than ten years old and barely able to hold the bloody sword. How else could they explain the slain bandits but the touch of the war god’s hand?

Afterward, I received a highly flattering request from the woman who ran the hashtag at the time. She asked if I would expand the story for her other short fiction feature, 200 Word Tuesday. Short fiction is something I’ve always struggled with. Trying to tell an entire story in 200 words is more daunting to me than belting out 100,000 of the suckers. But these are exactly the kinds of challenges I’m trying to rise to, so I accepted the offer. Kantis’s Legend actually rang in at 221 words in the end, but the organizer was still gracious enough to accept and run it in her webzine. And it turns out to be one of the best things I’ve ever written.

3. The Fall (A Random Picture Prompt)

Featuring: No one in particular
Why I like it: This was another experiment with short fiction. It succeeded in some ways and failed in others. But that’s the point of experiments! This time, I tried to tell a story in a series of microfiction scenes. I was aiming at no more than 300 words for each, but the longest ended up with 415 words. Still, I’m really thrilled with how the story itself turned out. It feels cohesive, even though you only see little pieces of it. And I’m personally tickled by how similar it feels to Neil Gaiman’s storytelling style. I’ve always appreciated his deft hand for weaving magic into reality.

4. Why is Your Father’s Arm on the Kitchen Table?

Featuring: Domerin, Robin and Daniel from the Space setting
Why I like it: You knew Domerin had to pop up in here somewhere, didn’t he? This was one of those random ideas that popped into my head and demanded to be written. It’s actually from the perspective of Daniel, Robin’s boyfriend, who has a pretty rocky relationship with Domerin 90% of the time. I always like to see my key characters through different eyes. I also like that this features probably the most awkward situation Daniel can imagine. And I can’t help but chuckle at his deer in the headlights reaction. For me, one of the keystones of good fiction is the relationships between characters and the interactions they inspire. Scenes like this are the embodiment of that philosophy.

5. Put Me in an Airport (A Random Picture Prompt)

Featuring: No one in particular
Why I like it: Unlike many of the other prompts on this list, which were spur-of-the-moment inspirations, I spent a lot of time thinking about this one. I knew I wanted to write about the girl in the picture the moment I saw her. But I wanted to do something fresh and different. I didn’t want to transform the airport into a teleportation hub. Many a science-fiction story has done the same. I stretched myself to find the next major tech innovation that hasn’t gotten a lot of sci-fi attention. I’m really pleased with the result. Bonus: it was actually the last prompt I wrote in 2018, right before I hopped on a plane to visit my in-laws!

6. The Light in the Bathroom Doesn’t Always Blink

Featuring: My actual laundry room
Why I like it: This was the first serial story I posted to the blog. It was an experiment and I liked it, so I decided to keep going. I came up with this idea in the middle of a dry spell. In truth, it was a breath of fresh air. It came at just the right moment to save me a lot of headaches. I’m no stranger to blinking lights. It happens a lot when a bulb is about to die. But when the bulb in our laundry room went on the fritz, it blinked after I turned it off, instead of while it was on. It freaked my husband and I out enough that we went looking for faulty wiring. Eventually we put the bulb in another light fixture and realized this is just what happens when LED bulbs die. They hold on to enough energy to blink a few times after the switch is turned off.

But in the middle of the whole frenzy I remember saying, “the light in the bathroom doesn’t always blink when I turn it off.” And then thinking, that would make a fantastic opening line for a story! So I wrote it. I didn’t plan it, I just let the story take me where it wanted to go. I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything else with it, but I sure had fun weaving elements of my real life into the fiction. (The subsequent installments can be found in the comment section.)

That’s it for now! We’ve got family visiting this week, so I’ll be AFK again. Join me on July 15th for the next new freebie!

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