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.

Writing prompt – boater

Floating boater, Oxford by Judy DarleyThe moment I saw this boater floating in an Oxford waterway, I had an image of how it came to be bobbing there. I suspect you can envisage it too: the inept holidaymaker or undergraduate attempting to steer a punt, the near collision with another vessel, or that sharp and historic corner, the flailing that enabled them to regain their balance and retain their dignity, but lose their hat…

But I challenge you to take your story somewhere else. Confound expectations and dream up an entirely unique and breathtaking series of events that ended with this particular hat languishing in the River Cherwell.

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 – borders

Borders cr Judy DarleyI have a fascination with the borders of things, when one thing is on the brink of becoming another. Child to adult, land to sea, safe to unsafe, sane to insane, living to dead…

Some of these changes can happen in the space around two beats of a pulse, and alter everything you thought you knew. Others creep in so stealthily you barely notice until the whole landscape has shifted around you.

Take this idea as your starting point and place your character in a period of flux, then observe how they emerge on the other side, if they do…

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 – transience

Train station cr Judy DarleySeptember seems to be the perfect time to pack a bag and venture out to see a bit of the world. The weather is often beautiful and golden, the crowds diminished and costs a little lower.

Travel, whether by train, plane or automobile (not to mention, boat, bus and on foot), presents the ideal environment for gleaning new ideas for stories, whether from snippets overheard or glimpses seen, or simply through having the space and time to daydream. Those brief pockets of transience open up the imagination and give it room to unfurl.

Alternatively, travel itself can provide your story’s setting. Deposit your protagonist on a train station, consult a timetable and see where the journey takes them, you and your future readers.

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 – harvest

Reap and sow cr Judy DarleyAs the fields fill with combine harvesters, reaping all that was sown so many months ago, consider performing your own, writerly version of a harvest and see what it might yield.

Take a look through your old notepads, if you use them, or even explore the reams of text messages, IMs and emails no doubt resting in your phone or computer. Could one spur the start of a new story? A chance line, image or burst of emotion could provide you with the seed for a new idea to nurture and develop.

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 – art

Philip's art. Photo by Judy DarleyToday’s #WritingPrompt is inspired by my dad. It amazes me how art can help to sustain us in the most challenging of circumstance. I myself write prose poetry and poems to manage the emotional strain of visiting my dad in his care home. He’s afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and Semantic Dementia which has made language particularly elusive.

Yet on a recent visit, following a fairly nonsensical chat, he picked up some pieces of napkin, tore them and placed two of them as shown above. It felt like he was trying to both make sense of and communicate something. He told me the middle piece was the people, and the one underneath was something he couldn’t get to or reach.

I added the top piece. He considered it with great seriousness, and then smiled. I think the collaborative, ‘reaching out’, aspect of it pleased him.

His earnestness really moved me, and I believe that many admired artists could toil for months with a far less profound outcome.

Strip back a message or emotion to two or three components that interest you, then create a story or a piece of art imbued with those words or feelings. Alternatively, take the words expressed here: people, out of reach, collaborating or reaching out, and write something inspired by these sentiments.

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.

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