Freebie Mondays: A Table of Contents

Freebie Mondays: A Table of Contents

Each time I finish writing a year’s worth of prompts (which takes more than a year since I only write about 22 each calendar year), I take a look back at my most recent scribbles to pick out the best. This reflection allows me to see what I’ve been up to and decide what direction I want the next block of prompts to take.

I’ve spoken a lot about the prompts I write for this blog on stream. Specifically, the reasons why I keep writing them. Prompts have served different purposes for me throughout the years. They are a way for me to test new writing techniques, for example. They also allow me to get in touch with new characters or develop new world building concepts for my larger projects.

But the biggest reason I keep writing these silly little shorts is because they’re fun. They allow me to engage with the writing process without a ton of expectations, high stakes or moving pieces to keep track of. They remind me why I started writing in the first place, and they constantly re-invigorate my love of the craft.

Throughout the years, I’ve used many small challenges to keep the prompt section of the blog fresh and exciting. My first attempts were small but gave rise to the 7 Deadly Sins (which eventually led to the 7 Deadly Domerins) projects. I’ve also used my prompt time to craft several serial short stories. Some led to completed works, like my mini ghost story and the saga of Azmih and the golem. But I admit that others have been left in limbo while I try to decide what to do with them, like Che’gar of Che’sok.

Seeking a New Project

In more recent days, I launched my 22 Stories in 2022 project, which involved writing pieces of my multiverse without relying on major characters that appear often in my blog prompts. I liked the way it challenged me to think about different aspects of my stories and characters. It stretched me without feeling like work.

In 2023, most of my writing prompt time was devoted to Tales of Cryptonia and the development of the world, lore and legends of my homebrew D&D campaign setting. While I enjoyed delving into the depths of this new creation, I do feel I need a break before I’m ready to embark on the next portion of the Tales of Cryptonia project.

The coinciding of the end of the calendar year with the end of a prompt year has driven me to ask: what do I want to do next? Where do I want to devote my prompt energy in 2024?

As long as I’m able to preserve the most important aspect of the prompt writing process – the freedom to create without restraint – I’m pretty open to any possibility. I thought about simply writing whatever popped into my head for awhile. But prompt ideas are sometimes in short supply when I don’t go fishing for them. I toyed with the idea of returning to serial shorts, but I’ve also enjoyed the recent challenges prompts I’ve found in the wild. Going off the cuff with full silly stories has been really liberating.

That’s when it hit me! Why not combine the two ideas? Why not use prompts to write some kind of serial short story?

The Plan

Several times in recent months during conversations with friends about the writing process, I have suggested using flash fiction as a method for writing longer stories. What is a novel, after all, but a series of smaller stories strung together into a larger one?

I tend to think of my novels as one long, continuous story. But when I write it, I break it down into smaller sequences. A scene usually a compact piece of a larger whole. When you read it, you want it to feel like a satisfying installment of the bigger picture.

Theoretically, it should be possible to write a series of small stories and string them together into a unified piece later. It would require some forethought, of course. You’d want all the shorts to align with a similar theme and use the same characters. But if thinking about a larger project is a road block, breaking it down might help.

I’ve decided to challenge myself to do something similar. Except I’m going to build the story using entirely prompts. I’ve always been a plantser, and I have written several books without planning in advance, so I’m going to be relying heavily on my crazy story instincts. The idea is that the prompts will shape the story, characters and events. But instead of planning ahead of time, I want to write each scene off the cuff for fun.

I chose the prompts for this project using my dice hoard and a series of writing prompt lists found on Google. Here are the results (presented in no particular order)!

Table of Contents

1. During a bout of road rage, a woman puts a curse on a man that upends his life
2. One character is actually a mystical creature living a normal human life for a short period
3. Man gets lost in a virtual reality sim and can no longer tell what is real
4. High school sweethearts reunite
5. A character hears their future from a fortune teller
6. “If I knew then what I know now”
7. She tried to forget him but never could
8. A man asks his twin to fill in for him for a relationship he’s gotten tired of
9. The lives of two people are changed forever when they meet and engage in a weekend-long love affair
10. One aspect of every dream a character has comes true the next day
11. Character is the only one who can read the lost language and therefore the only person who can decipher “the scroll”
12. A family on a hike stumbles upon a group of witches in the middle of casting a spell
13. She has been walking for hours. Her feet are bleeding. But she can’t stop; she can’t let him find her again
14. Using only dialog reveal a long-hidden secret
15. Using only dialog show two characters having their first date

After choosing these prompts, I’ve come up with a vague and nebulous idea for the plot I intend to write. This will be a slice of life story that takes place in a fantasy world where magic isn’t unknown but is also not overly common. (Thus stumbling upon witches in the middle of the forest would be considered an Event.) The plot will involve an off the cuff romance, probably made crazy by the curse mentioned in the first prompt.

What do I expect?

I am not planning to outline this novel or do any more planning than already stated ahead of time. Each week I will choose a prompt off the list (possibly randomly) and write a chapter according to the prompt. If I reach the end and haven’t wrapped up the plot, I will add more prompts.

Hopefully at the end of the project, I will have something that either reads like a novella or could become a novella with a couple of tweaks. My biggest fear is forgetting about one of the prompt themes and writing myself into an inescapable corner that makes it impossible to fit the last few prompts into the mix. I’m going to do my best to avoid that. But who knows how things will work out.

I’m excited about this project. It could turn out to be a total disaster, but I expect it to be great fun along the way. If nothing else, I expect I’ll learn a lot from the attempt!

If you’d like to watch the crazy process of putting this all together, the stream VoD is on youtube!

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