Writing prompt – hope

Primroses in leaf matter by Judy Darley

There are few more hopeful sights at this cold and grey time of year than a flash of yellow in wet, brown leaf matter. These primroses are a much-needed reminder of brighter, warmer days to come!

Imagine if you’d never before lived through a winter or had no memory of ever experiencing these cold months. How alarming might the apparent death of most growing things be? How keenly might you seek signs of life, and how might you respond to finding it?

Would you share the news or guard it jealously for fears these might be the only blooms, or that someone might deliberately or clumsily damage the precious plants?

If you choose to share news of the sighting, could this clutch of yellow flowers be the prompt for a riotous fiesta thanking unseen powers?

Can you turn this into a tale that works on more than one level?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – jigsaw

Jigsaw pieces.Judy Darley

During the past 20 months or so of the pandemic, some people I know have written books; others have grown addicted to jigsaw puzzling. Whoever experienced this jigsaw-piece cascade was either utterly fed up or had a moment’s calamitous cack-handedness.

What intrigues me is that they opted not to gather up their fragments. Does that mean it really was the last straw? I suspect a temper tantrum of epic proportions, but what other distraction or emotional fall-out could explain this pavement disarray?

Or perhaps they’ve deliberately strewn the pieces here in a superstitious act intended to keep Covid-19 at bay.

Can you use this as the prompt for a tale about how we hold up (or fail to cope) in challenging times? What could these scattered jigsaw sections represent? Or what could you swap them with to give your tale a surreal edge?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – dragon

Hill Crest School dragon by Judy Darley

As I walked by this primary school early one day, I was struck by the atmospheric beauty of its towers against the morning light and paused to take this photo. At that moment a man came outside, and to explain myself I told him how dramatic the vapour looked pouring out of the boiler flue. I even commented: “I suppose that’s from the central heating.”

He responded with a grin: “Or the dragon.”

Ah, what a response. Now, here’s your choice: either write about the dragon that keeps a school cosy all winter long (what does it do in summer?), or write about the man who lives in the school and tells perfect strangers that it’s inhabited by a dragon. How could his imaginative whimsy transform the outlooks and lives of other people?

Whichever angle you opt for, make sure it has plenty of heat!

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – instruction

Take Next Left by Judy Darley. Shows a yellow Post-it note pinned to brambles in a rural setting with a path running along one side.A yellow Post-it note pinned to brambles instructs us to take the next left.

How intriguing to come across an instruction like this in an urban woodland! What would you do? Walk on in the direction you’d already chosen, or follow the sign wherever it leads?

I particularly like the ps: If you dare…

What dangers or rewards might lie ahead?

Can you weave these possibilities into a tale of peril and adventure?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Recent publications

Judy all at seaI relish writing and editing short stories and flash fiction, and have a self-imposed rule of submitting every month. If you write, I highly recommend this trick. It ensures that for every rejection, there are still a handful of tales out in the world that may yet be published, plus a gentle flurry of successes to bolster your writing mojo!

Here are some of my recent publications.

December 2021

Reasons Your Kefir Might Sour – Litro Magazine Flash Friday

The Only Language He knows Now is Touch – Blink-Ink, Moonlight #46

The Finch in My Sister’s Hair – The Birdseed

The Sea Lives in Her Mum’s Head – Ellipsis Zine

November 2021

The Salt Sting of Learning When To Say No – Flash Frontier

September 2021

My Choice – Six Sentence Stories

Three Shades of Summer – Flash Fiction Magazine

Storm Beckoner – Bandit Fiction

June 2021

Leaf After Leaf – National Flash Fiction Day Write-In

The Hare I Miss – Thimble Literary Magazine

What’s That? – Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis

May 2021

Reaching (collaborate work – I wrote the first stanza) – 100 Words of Solitude

April 2021

Stretching Out – Hencroft

The Sideways House – Twin Pies Volume IV

March 2021

Unstill Life With Plums – The Pomegranate

Writing prompt – survivors

Windmill Hill City Farm turkeys by Judy Darley

With Christmas Day wrapped up for another year, the surviving turkeys across the UK should be breathing a sigh of relief! We assume they don’t understand what’s going on, but imagine if they did. It would be a fantastic cue for a dystopian tale or a story of resilience and survival against all odds.

There’s no reason your story should be depressing, however. Aardman imbued a similar topic with humour in Chicken Run. Perhaps you could change the species from turkey to human, or give a gang of middle school kids the job of saving a town’s turkeys, go mystical with a tale of wild turnkeys living in harmony with humans, or even give the tale an Orwellian political satirical twist.

However you tackle this writing prompt, have fun creating characters that will make us care and take us along for the ride!

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – festive fleet

Leo Castle_bristol harbour. Photo by Judy DarleyI adore knowing that in Bristol even the boats are full of festive sparkle! This gorgeous narrowboat is all set for some seasonal revelry.

It’s not long till the big day now, but you still have time to conjure a tale of wonder, whether it’s a modern take on the Nativity with a narrowboat standing in for a stable, or the idea that inside this shining vessel Santa and a few motley elves are putting the finishing touches to gifts in preparation for a few water-bound deliveries.

What can you create with this scene as your starting point? It’s up to you whether you write a tale to delight the children in your life or angle it towards adults with a few comic or darker twists.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – glitter

Christmas lights by Judy DarleyThis glittering bird caught my eye when meandering at dusk with two small nephews. They were entranced by the magic it suggests, and it made me think what a fabulous fairytale it could prompt – a bird made of ice paradoxically powered by fire, perhaps, or an enchanted robin condemned to only sing after nightfall. You could even give it an ecological spin!

Alternatively, you could focus on the person who decorated their home with such shining decorations. What are their hopes and anticipation, or what loneliness are they keeping at bay?

What could you dream up in the best Hans Christian Andersen style? Could you give it the underlying darkness that always seems to thread through those traditional tales? Or do you want to make your story as bright and cheerful as this festive light? The choice is yours.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please send it to me in an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com for possible publication on SkyLightRain.com.

Writing prompt – missive

Let It Snow by Judy DarleyThis time last year, things seemed particularly challenging globally thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. In Bristol, we were festively distracted by seasonal song lyrics being projected  as light installations across buildings after nightfall.

Given your choice, what message would you sweep across your landscape? Would you opt for a missive of hope, a warning, or a note to remind someone you’re thinking of them? If the latter, who would you write it to?

What affect would you expect your word or words to have on neighbours and those further afield? What action might it move them to take?

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 – Tree Week

St Johns Burial Ground tree by Judy DarleyAs we reach the midway point of National Tree Week, this feels like the perfect excuse to revel in the sheer magic of our lofty companions. As a child, I spent a lot of time exploring the wonder of their leafy worlds. I loved how you could be enclosed by their branches and hidden from view, and how they were home to so many creatures too.

The dramatically twisty tree above stands on the slopes of Bristol’s St John’s Burial Ground.

It seems natural to me that trees crop up in so many imaginative tales, from Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree Adventures to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia chronicles (well, how to you think that wardrobe came to be?), not to mention J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth Ents.

Do you have a favourite tree or one you notice daily? Can you write it into a tale of epic proportions or emotive depths? It could be where your protagonist shelters while eavesdropping on a conversation that changes their opinion about a key topic. Or could you feature a tale of tree planting that changes our future for the better?

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.