Top Six Prompts From the Fourth Year

Top Six Prompts From the Fourth Year

On July 31st 2015, I posted my first writing prompt. It kicked off a weekly tradition of writing for fun and 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 I wanted to write, including side plots for projects that might never get off the ground, scenes from monthly RP sessions, and re-writes of old stories I found on my computer.

During the third year, I took measures to stop certain characters (*coughDomerincough*) from completely dominating the prompts I posted. I wrote conceptual series, such as the 7 Deadly Sins. I also started writing stories about random stock photos (which I call random picture prompts) – which remains one of my favorite writing exercises.

It’s been awhile since I hit a 52 prompt “year” mark. (The Top 6 of the Third Year went up on July 1st of 2019.) Mostly because I moved to posting prompts every other week when posting twice a week started eating too much of my time.

The biggest change for year 4, aside from the posting schedule, is that I wrote a lot of serial stories. While the point of these exercises has always been fun and practice, I learned a long time ago that I work better in long form. Breaking a big concept into smaller chunks lets me explore stories that are too small or weak for a full novel, but still interest me enough to invest time in. I crafted a few really nice serial stories this round, so it was terribly difficult narrowing this list down to just 6 favorites!

Prompt number 208 went up on September 13th 2021, so here are the highlights of round 4!

1. The Time Between Times

What is it? Until this year, most of my favorite prompts have been character novel tie-ins. This one is a random picture prompt. The picture features urban ruins dotted by graffiti. It was one of the first images I bookmarked because looking at it summoned a vague idea of a special rave into my mind. But it took several years for the idea to congeal into a more solid form.

Why do I love it? For awhile, I feared I had lost my love for this particular writing exercise. I love having freebies to share with my readers – especially when people are on the fence about whether or not they might like my work. But some of my newer prompts felt like they were scraping the bottom of the barrel. (It wasn’t until I swung back and looked at the latest year’s prompts that I realized how many winners I had written.)

This prompt single-handedly renewed my love and joy for this exercise. When I sat down to write this short, it seemed to flow effortlessly from my fingers. For once, I didn’t worry about all the little things that make writers hate their first drafts. The scene was fun, the characters sprang instantly to life, and several potential sequels popped into my head before I finished the session. At the time of writing this, it had been a long time since an idea popped like that for me. So I appreciated both the work and the experience. I can’t wait to play a little more with the results of this one!

2. The Imposter’s Truth

What is it? I wrote this scene as a supplement for a role playing session I ran for my long-running table top RPG group. One of the characters has the ability to read minds, and I hoped I might have a chance to read this. (I did!) The character featured in this flashback is Domerin, but a non-canon version that is unlikely to pop up again. It’s also written primarily in second person (not a perspective I use often), because it was meant to be the direct experience of a character.

Why do I love it? This is probably the most evil thing I’ve ever written. I still sometimes chuckle evilly to myself when I think about it. Normally, I don’t actually rub my hands together about this kind of scene. I get too attached to my characters. I’d be a sobbing mess if this was novel canon. But that’s the fun of alternate realities and timelines – they allow us to explore things we wouldn’t normally do to our precious babies. The core concept for this scene is guilt – the kind that never goes away. Based on the reactions of the players when I read it, I think it hit its mark!

3. If the Shoe Fits

What is it? This is the third installment in my Darkling Fairytale series. The first, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, started as a random picture prompt. I liked the concept so much I decided to turn it into a series centered on Fairytale objects after the story ends. The first featured the mirror from Snow White. The second object was the spindle from the spinning wheel in Sleeping Beauty. This one features the glass slipper from Cinderella.

Why do I love it? I had a sketchy idea of what I wanted to happen in this scene when I started it. The core of this series is how various magical objects get used when their original purpose has been served or, perhaps, forgotten. I had a set up and a confrontation I wanted this story to express. But when I started writing the scene, it quickly grew a mind of its own and expanded well beyond my expectation. It takes a pretty dark turn. All of these shorts do; but this one felt particularly sinister.

Most of the prompts on this year’s list are here because they surprised me. When you know everything that is going to happen in your stories, a pleasant surprise is refreshing to say the least. I wouldn’t normally write this sort of thing, but I liked where it took me.

4. Diary of a Modern Witch

What is it? Unlike all the other prompts on this list, this scene didn’t really come from anywhere. It doesn’t feature any of my regular characters and it didn’t come from a picture or one line writing suggestion. It was just an idea that crept into my head one day and I couldn’t resist writing it down.

Why do I love it? This scene actually reminds me of my best friend. It’s the sort of thing I could honestly see her doing. This is a whimsical concoction. I can’t really say why I’m so attached to it except that I like it. It feels very Neil Gaiman-y to me, the sort of thing I’d expect to encounter in one of his books. I lean a lot on mythology and old pagan beliefs for a lot of my stories, so it was refreshing to find inspiration in a more modern form of mysticism.

I’d like to do more with this concept (the diary of a modern witch), but I haven’t decided where I’m going with it yet.

5. Dealing with Your Demons

What is it? This is a more traditional writing prompt – not something that shows up on my blog very often anymore. I found it while scrolling through Pinterest and it dug its claws so deeply into my brain, I just had to write down my response.

Why do I love it? I have a constant fear that the plots for the stories I write are far too obvious. That anyone will be able to guess where things are going a single sentence into the novel. I’m sure lost of writers fear the same. To me, it seemed so obvious where this scene would go. But when I shared the results with some friends, they seemed surprised and delighted with the turn it took.

I also don’t often allow myself to write what I consider ‘fluff.’ Writing prompts are the one area where I allow myself a little bit of self-indulgence. This scene is a bit sappy and sweet – but I love that sort of stuff.

6. Che’gar of Chesok

What is it? This is one of the biggest serial stories I’ve posted on my blog. Not just this year but pretty much ever. It was another of those random concepts that crept into my head and I decided to see what it would do if I engaged with it. The setting here is low fantasy (secondary world setting but not a ton of magic). The focus is on a young human adopted by a tribe of seeming monstrous creatures. It was loosely based on a dream I had.

Why do I love it? Not every hero is a total badass with special powers or a huge sword. Sometimes heroes are just ordinary people trying to get by in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to write a story about a hero with an ability that would normally fly under the radar. Something like intelligence or photographic memory. I wanted to see how my characters would solve problems if they didn’t have access to resources, magic or even experts.

I’ve linked to the first installment of this story, though I think my favorites are actually “Born from the Storm” and “For the Good of All.” For the purposes of this list, however, it made more sense to treat the entire story as a whole. As yet, I haven’t finished this one. It got a little more complicated than I anticipated. But I do want to finish it in the near future! (It was a candidate for my next newsletter freebie, barely edged out by The Oracle’s Tale.)

I also want to give honorable mention to Azmih’s latest adventure which begins with “The Trail of the Chimes.” (Though my favorite installment is “Last Rites.” Azmih is one of my most popular but also quietest characters. I’ve been trying to poke him more often, and this was the result. It was hard to bump it from this list, but it doesn’t stand alone as well as the rest of these.

Which is your favorite?

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