Writing prompt – sneeze

Photo of BANKSY artwork on a Bristol house showing an old woman sneezing so violently that her false teeth have shot out.Art galleries may be closed, but street art is always open, and this Banksy piece appeared on the side of a house near me recently. In a time when the smallest hint of a cough or stifled sneeze is enough to make passersby cower, this image is brilliantly irreverent.

I love the way the old woman is sneezing so violently that her false teeth have shot out.

Can you take an aspect of the pandemic and transform it into a story or work of art that will make people smile? Perhaps someone breaking the UK’s two-metre social distancing rule to mug an old lady finds the handbag they’ve stolen brimming with Covid-19 laden used tissues! What can you dream up to shock and amuse the masses?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – roam

Mum's Garden. Painting of trees, grass and walls by Pauline DarleyWith travel off-limits for a while, why not treat yourself to an imaginary journey? Reading, gazing at art, writing and generally being creative give us opportunities to roam countless miles within the confines of your own mind.

One artwork that sweeps me away is the above painting by my mum, Pauline Darley. It shows a corner of her garden, the space where I explored and adventured for hours as a child. To the right of the painting is an immense fir tree that contained whole universes, including the occasional dragon, when I was small.

Find something in your own home that carries you away from your here and now, and then see if you can harness that feeling as a prompt to write, paint or otherwise imagine visiting a faraway land.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – gloves

Gloves. Photo by Judy Darley. Mismatched gloves placed on railings in Reykjavik, Iceland.I spied this curious shrine to lost gloves in Reykjavik, Iceland, in January 2017, and found myself asking a string of questions.

Who does each of these gloves belong to? What happened to those individuals? Where is their other glove? How have they solved the problem of having one cold hand? Or is this glove all that remains of them?

There are so many directions you could take this story in. Drawing on the island’s rich mythology, could it be an offering to Icelandic trolls, or, considering the Scandi Noir genre, a clue in a chilling thriller? Do they have the other glove in their home as a souvenir of some grisly act?

Or is it an altruistic act hoping to reunite people with their dropped knitwear, and the excuse for a Richard Curtis-worthy meet-cute?

Whatever strands you choose to follow, can you knit them together into a winter’s tale?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – WTF

Elegant vintage car with WTF numberplate. Photo by Judy DarleyI love this little Nissan Figaro I pass on my daily walks. It’s such an elegant piece of engineering, and its number plate seems to sum up this past year. The fact it made this statement before hashtags even existed (ok, it’s not truly vintage, but still pre-hashtag at around 1991 or thereabouts) makes it even more endearing.

Imagine the owner of this glorious vehicle gliding through life nonplussed but unfazed. Can you build a story around this character navigating 2020, and wishing this horrible year a cheery farewell in a way that suits their personality and verve perfectly?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – snowmen

Sabah Museum snowmen by Judy Darley. Group of fake snowmen looking a bit worse for wear.In the heat of a southeast Asian summer on the island of Borneo, I turned a corner and unexpectedly encountered this group of motley snowmen.

I love how out of place, and out of season, they look in a sunny corner of an island that’s never seen snow. I also relish the memory of being able to travel to places where I myself was so visibly out of place. I snapped photo in 2012, so who knows what state this snow clan are in now?

Can you use this as the prompt for a tale where your protagonist is somewhere they don’t belong? What motivation might they have for being there? Are they in control of their destination or has someone else placed them somewhere they stand out like a fibreglass snowman in a heatwave?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – legends

Seals near Mull, Scotland by Judy DarleyEvery family I know has quirks of its own – a private culture built from childhood mythology and misunderstandings.

One I love as a child was spun by my mother who believed wholeheartedly that if you stood on a seashore and sang, seals would be drawn by curiosity to appear. I have no idea if it works, but have clear memories of stand on a drizzly beach somewhere on the edge of Scotland bellowing song lyrics while gulls wheeled overhead, probably wondering if choirs carry sandwiches.

I wove this legend into my story ‘Singing To Seals‘, which appears in my first collection, Remember Me To The Bees.

What childhood myth or memory could you spin into a tale?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – hierarchy

Chickens cr Judy DarleyFlocks and herds naturally have their own strictly observed pecking order. As humans, however, it’s up to us to decide whether everyone gets treated well or not.

Imagine a future where none of the existing rules apply. How do your characters establish order? Who thrives, and who barely survives? Who finds themselves top of the heap? How can balance be maintained without anyone being left out in the cold?

Can you glimpse any solutions to current world problems through the fictional story that arises?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – souvenir

Family portraitI spied this broken tray by the roadside, and was instantly flooded with questions. Who are all these people? Are they a family, or is this a group assemble to photograph for tourist tat? Who owned and discarded this treasure so unceremoniously?

In my home we have a hand-me-down couch where people we’ve lost once used to sit. The scene above made me wonder if in some small way a hint of us remains in the goods we use, handle or sit on.

Imagine a household accessory imbued with the essence of your ancestors – whether that’s a tray, couch, or something else. What significance does their presence have? If you wanted to replace it with shiny new or more comfortable version, could you get rid of this poignant old one? If so, how would you do it?

How can you weave this idea into a story?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – balance

Rock-Cornwall-by-Judy-Darley
Picture a pair of children who have been told to wait somewhere unexpected and increasingly perilous, such as on a crumbling cliff-edge or at the edge of rising water.

Use this extreme situation to dig into their relationship. How do they feel about each other? Is their primary emotion jealousy or devotion.

What dramatic event has led to their predicament? How will they each help the other to escape?

Add in an unconventional characteristic the pair have in common, and explore how they might use it to improve their situation.

To skew the balance of power, provide just one with a tool that could help with their situation. Do they choose to share their advantage or keep it to themselves?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – hazard

Hidden Malago Flamingo by Judy Darley

I spotted this punctured pink flamingo balloon at a local nature reserve. It’s such a vibrant, cheerful object – and what could be more innocent than a balloon?

Yet this escaped frippery is a hazard to wildlife, and one that could last longer that the trees it’s tangled among. Google ‘balloons’ and “dangers” and countless chilling tales bob up. And that’s without considering the implications for a planet already loaded with plastic.

More than a month after I first glimpsed it, the flamingo is wind-battered, storm-torn and looking far from its best, but it’s still there.

Your challenge this week is to take something designed for fun and weave it into a horror story that serves as a warning. See how dark you can make it.

Now take that story and edit it into a tale that lifts spirits and offers hope.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com to let me know. With your permission, I may publish it on SkyLightRain.com.