Writing prompt – summer

Clevedon shore. Photo by Judy DarleyWhat does ‘summer’ mean to you? For me it’s days like the one pictured, with skies that look like they’ve been painted, boats on the water and families on the shore. It may not be perfect blues and blazing hot days, but, as we Brits say (when we can) “at least it’s not raining.”

Can you write a tale inspired by your own particular thoughts of summer? Include specific details that bring to mind memories of summers’ past (anyone else remember sitting in the car at the seaside waiting for torrential rain to stop?), from ice cream flavours to a particular coastal walk, and any minor disasters you can laugh about now, years after the event.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writing prompt – eyes

Tree branch adorned with googly eyes, Herbert Gardens, Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley

You know that feeling you sometimes get that someone’s watching you? Imagine if your watcher was a tree. These googly eyes have clearly been added to this branch as a bit of a joke, but what if woodlands really could sense us?

I recently saw a BBC 4 show about a year in the life of a 400-year-old oak, and the presenter George McGavin explained how trees know the change in seasons not because of the drop in temperature (which is lucky, because this July could have triggered autumn), but because they can sense the colour red, which tells them when the sun sets each evening.

That knowledge changes everything I thought I understood about trees and other plant-life!

Can you use this to inspire your next creative work?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writing prompt – feast

Squirrel rose feast. Photo by Judy Darley

Visiting a rose garden, I saw a squirrel helping itself to a gorgeous bloom and carrying it off to enjoy a many-petalled fragrant feast. It made me think of Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts having white roses painted red. How might she punish this greedy squirrel ruining her display.

Imagine if you had allergies that meant the only thing you could eat was roses. How would you keep your diet interesting? What would you do in Winter when the rose garden is only thorns?

Or what if rose petals., or some other unlikely edible plant, had the power to transform you, like the potions and cakes in Alice in Wonderland?

Let your imagination run free with this writing prompt!

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writing prompt – jetsam

Sheep skull. Photo by Judy Darley

On a coastal walk following a storm, I saw this skull in the grass a few hundred metres from the shore. I think it might be a sheep’s skull and wonder if a particularly vigorous wave thrust it here. Or did a passing fox take a fancy to it, carry it so far and then give up this trophy?

When I was a child, my artist mum had a passion for such finds, and once stunk out our holiday rental trying to boil a foraged skull clean.

There are so many directions you could take this writing prompt in – from where the skull washed up from, how it ended up on this shore, or the person or creature who finds it and what they decide to do with it. Alternatively, what thoughts and dreams might have played out inside the shelter of this cranium?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writing prompt – coal fungus

King Alfred Cakes_Photo by Judy Darley

Since moving to North Somerset, I’ve spotted some strange phenomena in woodland: coal-black baubles clinging to tree trunks. Some investigation told me this is an inedible fungus, Daldinia concentrica, known commonly King Alfred’s cakes, coal fungus, carbon fungus, tinder bracket or cramp balls (you might want to re-read that last one).

Though not edible by human, they’re apparently great firelighters, which is ironic since their nickname ‘King Alfred’s cakes’ is from the story of King Alfred trying to get onto the Great British Bake Off, but failing as he kept burning the cakes.

Not all of this is entirely true…

Apart the fungi is widespread in deciduous woodland on dead and decaying wood, especially beech and ash.

I love this blend of folklore and nature.

Can you use this as a leaping off point for a short story or other creative work?

Read more about these fungi on the Woodland Trust website.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Published stories

View between two trees showing other trees
I 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 and upcoming publications.

Coming soon

All the Lives we Almost Live – Trash Cat Lit

June 2024

Moon JelliesNational Flash Fiction Day Write In

Reasons to Rescue Strangers – National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2024

Why We Dance on the PierGooseberry Pie Lit Magazine

May 2024

CleaveTiny Molecules

February 2024

Blue-naped Parrots See More Than They SayNew Flash Fiction Review Issue 32 Family Life

January 2024

A Bright Day – winner of the New Writers UK Winter Story competition

October 2023

Mycorrhiza – Flash Frontier GARDEN / MĀRA issue

A Still, Golden Light – The Simple Things Magazine issue 136

What Was Lost & How Insects Signal Their Love – Flash Boulevard

June 2023

Windowledge Archives – National Flash Fiction Day Flash Flood UK 2023

The Long Way Home – National Flash Fiction Day NZ Micro Madness

April 2023

This is Not a Story About Chickens – The Hooghly Review issue 1

February 2023

How Many is 80? Paragraph Planet (scroll to Feb 23rd)

January 2023

Life Hacks – 12 Fragile Things Not to Use as a Doorstop – Wensum Literary Magazine issue 1/Winter 2023

December 2022

Natural Miracles – Flash Frontier Wonder issue

October 2022

The Art of Pivot and Flit – Dually Noted, Brink Literacy Project

September 2022

The Bee Man’s Secret – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Five

August 2022

The Green-Gold of Wet Kelp – Fairlight Books

June 2022

The egret and I don’t belong here – The Phare Literary Magazine Summer 2022 issue

Tricks to uproot a guest who has outstayed their welcome – Tiny Molecules issue 13

After Dad Goes into Care – National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood 2022

Bees Breathe Without Lungs – Honeyguide Magazine

How to Hook a Heart – And We Live Happily Ever After, National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2022

The Tempest Inside – Micro Madness

April 2022

Milk Tooth – Wyldblood Press

March 2022

Awkward Liaisons – Flash Fiction Festival Volume Four

Falling in a Forest Mslexia magazine issue 93

Oxblood – Flash Frontier

Fishing for Green and Blue – Retreat West 10th Birthday Anthology

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 – drift

Jelly fish_Clevedon Marine Lake_Photo by Judy Darley.Strolling beside a local saltwater swimming pool, I spotted a visitor. Clevedon’s Marine Lake is replenished by high tides. Occasionally waves bring in fish, eels, and, in this case, beautiful moon jellyfish.

Imagine having the entire ocean at your disposal, and being swept into a patch of water with four seemingly insurmountable sides. Imagine if large splashy primates had infiltrated this space, and hungry predators, aka seagulls, lined the edge closest to the ocean you need to access to survive..

Imagine if your only hope of escape was a high tide and a vigorous wave.

Can you turn this #writingprompt into a tale?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

 

Writing prompt – wheel

Window onto Waverley paddle wheel by Judy DarleyI had the pleasure recently of taking a voyage aboard the Waverley, the world’s last seafaring paddle-steamer, from Clevedon Pier. This floating museum featured viewing decks, cafes and bars, plus portholes offering views onto the churning paddle wheels that turn to drive the ship forwards or astern.

It’s a remarkable feat of engineering, and the perfect setting for a sea-going fantasy, mystery or even horror. Imagine peering through that porthole and seeing a face looking back!

However you choose to interpret the scene, let me offer two more senses to accompany the view – the sound of the pistons of the 2100 horsepower, triple expansion reciprocating steam engine, and the scent of the oil used to keep her running smoothly.

The ship named after Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley novels was built to replace the 1899 Waverley which was sunk on May 29, 1940 at Dunkirk. She carries tourists on trips across the Bristol Channel, as well as up the Clyde, The Western Isles and the Thames. A member of the crew commented as we docked that they’d be moored overnight offshore in the Bristol Channel and sleeping on board.

Really, anything could happen.

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

Writing prompt – vessels

Canoes. Photo by Judy Darley

These open-topped canoes are stacked like drying plates in this boatyard all year round, except when they’re hauled to the shore and rowed by teams. The inactivity, as though they’re hibernating insects, struck me recently as I strolled by.

Add in the occasional ‘rush and row’ in salt water and this seems even more extreme – like they emerge for one day to mingle with others of their kind before being returned to this anticipatory torpor.

Or is that just my weird interpretation? What do you see when you look at these boats? What analogies can you draw between this scene and the natural world or human society?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.

 

Writing prompt – overgrowth

Overgrown gate. Photo by Judy Darley

My hometown appears to boast an unusually high number of gates that lead to nowhere, other than thickets of spiky greenery. It’s a curious sight only becoming evident as spring runs away with itself and fills every available un-tizzied space.

It makes me feel nature is reclaiming parks and woodlands once tamed for human-enjoyment. Birds, insects and wild rabbits care nothing for neatness!

Some of these gates even lead to garden paths no one can possible access. Who might live in the home beyond these tangled trees? How do they survive? What made them choose this nature-enforced seclusion?

If you write or create something prompted by this idea, please let me know by emailing judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’d love to know the creative direction you choose.