Writing prompt – Christmas past

Escaping Christmas tree close up. Photo by Judy DarleyI mentioned to my mum that we weren’t planning to buy a Christmas tree this year, and she immediately offered to lend us her vintage silver tree. She and my dad bought it in the sixties, and I remember it glittering throughout my childhood (when it was already over a decade old!), but it’s spent the last few years in the damp and shadows of a cellar.

When Mum dropped it off, some silvery tentacles were already emerging. I thought I might leave the room and return to find a tinsel octopus creeping across the ceiling!

What magic and mayhem could unwind from your own Christmas past? Or what shimmering weirdness could you unravel from the scene above?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – Advent

Arnos Vale Cemetery in the snow cr Judy DarleyToday’s writing prompt offers 25 for the price of one, courtesy the good folks of National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood! On Saturday they launched their Advent Calendar with a writerly twist – this one offers a writing prompt every day.

They says: “To celebrate the holiday season, Flash Flood would like to gift the flash fiction community with an Advent Calendar full of flashy prompts.”

The snowy cemetery scene above is my own, separate contribution to their flurry. To see what they’ve suggested to inspire you already, head to flashfloodjournal.blogspot.com.

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – mimic

Blackberry Ladybird by Judy DarleyI snapped this photo a while back when I had a surprise when blackberry picking. This gorgeous ladybird has made a fatal choice in mimicking a succulent autumn fruit.

Can you use this idea as the starting point for a story? What error might a person or beastie make when selecting its camouflage or warning spots? How could a stealthy skill backfire?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – flight

Glider. Photo by Judy DarleyRecently I had the good fortune to take my first ever glider flight. It was an extraordinary experience, offering the opportunity to ascend through sunlight, mist and cloud to meet the sun head-on. I had a bit of an Icarus-moment, but happily my wings remained unscorched.

The magic of gliding sans engine is accomplished through a boost into the clouds, in my case thanks to a tow plane, which is released when you reach the right spot in the sky. My pilot explained that you then depend on natural lift as the air rises over hummocks in the land. It’s the same principal as birds riding thermals.

I love the fact that a seemingly impossible act is achieved via a phenomenon we cannot see, but trust exists. Can you turn this concept into a written or visual piece?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – future

Wind turbines, Colorado. Photo by Judy DarleyI recently attended a workshop run by Bristol Climate Writers as part of Bristol Festival of Literature. Deborah Tomkins, the workshop coordinator, invited us to think about the things that scare us about the future and then write a utopian story or poem in response.

I invite you to do that too. Think about anything that scares you about the future, whether that’s rising sea levels, drought, famine, or simply your own old age. Then write a piece that contains an antidote or solution to that dread, or a suggestion of better times ahead, however fantastical.

For example, in the story of Noah’s ark, a dove carrying an olive leaf offered the hope that land was nearby.

What image of hope can you dream up or devise?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – gourd

Autumn gourd by Judy DarleyWith this being the season of mellow fruitfulness and all, I couldn’t resist sharing this photo of a rather impressive gourd.

Imagine the person who managed to grow such a beast. Might they have an unsavoury secret to their success that no one on their allotment could guess at?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – legal

High Valley Retail Cannabis, Colorado. Photo by Judy DarleyI snapped this photo in rural Colorado, where cannabis is legal to sell and buy.

What would you like to see made legal? Or, conversely, what would you make illegal? Create a story around this. Note: the legal or illegal item doesn’t necessarily need to be something that actually exists.

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – vanity

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, Chicago_Photo by Judy DarleyKnown by locals as the Bean, the Cloud Gate sculpture by Anish Kapoorresembles a gigantic silvery globular mirror. It rests in the AT&T Plaza at Chicago’s Millennium Park like a capsized UFO, enticing tourists and passersby to pause and photograph their own reflection.

A vehicle to our own selfie-obsessed vanity, it’s a perfect tool for people-watching, as well as capturing views of the Chicago cityscape.

Imagine the alien society that might have placed this in our midst. Could they be the same interstellar race that thought to populate our Internet with kitten videos? What might their aim be? What could be the next step in their insidious plan?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – myth

Arnos Vale woodland grave cr Judy DarleyFairytales feed into our consciousness from our earliest days. From myths to the whispers that emerge on shadowy evenings, to the fear of that creature that may lurk under beds or inside cupboards, they rattle through our blood and shape our understanding of narrative, as well as of the world.

I recently read Amy Wilson‘s excellent debut A Girl Called Owl, which draws on old mythology concerning Jack Frost, his brethren and the fay. And I often dip into an ancient copy of Tor Åge Bringsvaerd‘s entrancing book Phantoms And Fairies From Norwegian Folklore.

When I saw this woodland grave in a rustic cemetery, my intrigue was piqued. I imagined the people who might have laid someone to rest here, amid the trees and insects. I couldn’t help thinking of Hansel and Gretel, and the trauma they’d had to overcome.

My resulting story, Invertebrates, has been published in Issue 8 of Door Is A Jar Magazine, which is available to buy here.

Here are the first lines, to set the scene for you:

We dug her up each solstice, and each time she was a little lighter, her joints a little more unhinged. I worried she might come apart entirely, sinew and bones giving way as we propped her in the place of honor.

Why not turn an unexpected glimpse into a story of your own, shouldering it in fairytales or fables for added resonance?

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – direction

Lavender Farm way in sign by Judy Darley

Sometimes a story just won’t take root, however much you love the seedling idea. If that happens, try a change of direction.

Look at your cast of characters and assign a different one the role of narrator, change their gender, turn your protagonist from good to bad, switch from past to present tense or go from first to third person point of view, or vice versa. Far from just tweaking the occasional word or pronoun, you’ll find ripples travelling through the entire text, and may even see new plot lines bob into sight.

And if that doesn’t work, change the narrator, tense, point of view or moral code back again, but collect up the most interesting traits and nuances that have shifted along the way.

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’ll publish it on SkyLightRain.com.