Writing prompts – classifieds

Northern Slopes stream and woodland by Judy DarleyNeighbourhood Facebook groups often serve as modern-day classifieds pages. A recent post on one in my area offered a wealth of story ideas.

A local helpful person wrote: “Just retrieved a rucksack from the bushes. It doesn’t look that old and was completely empty apart from a photo that may have sentimental value. Please contact me if you think this may be yours.”

She then adds: “Photo is dated 1978 and has a hand written message on the back if that helps.”

This actually gave me shivers! What might the photo show? Who could the backpack belong to? How do you think it ended up in the bushes? If it was stolen, was anything taken from it? Or is this all a red herring?

Soooo many questions! Now, your task is to write the story that answers at least some of these.

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 – site

Realm by Judy DarleySome of the most unlikely places have a kind of beauty about them that’s hard to explain. This strange slice is an example of that for me. Photographed between strips of metal, with tangles of weeds and rubble, it has a grandeur that you yourself may not see.

Imagine a spot that one person views as a wasteland, and another regards as a realm of untold possibilities. What informs their different responses? How does their state of mind impact their viewpoint? What transforms a site into a sight?

Can you build this into a story where one character captures the other’s intrigue and changes their mind about the beauty, or ugliness, of the space?

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 – 6 words

Child's blue t-bar school shoes. Photo by Judy DarleyIf you write flash fiction, I suspect you already know the six-word story famously attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

As disconcerting micros go, it’s pretty powerful. It popped into my head when I saw these child’s shoes on a wall in my neighbourhood. With Hemingway’s ultra-micro in mind, can you devise an unsettling tale that explains why these cute blue t-bar toddler-sized shoes are no longer needed? And why are they in such pristine condition?

How low can you keep the word-count without losing the impact and heart of your 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.

Witch sought for spooky season at Cornish hotel

TravMedia_United_Kingdom_1474398_The_Grand_High_Witch_enjoying_a_Witches_Afternoon_Tea_at_The_Headland_HotelIf you grew up enamoured by the glamour, ferocity and grotesqueness of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, your dream job may be on offer this October.

Five-star hotel The Headland is seeking someone adept at scaring adults and children alike, with a particular talent in turning people into mice.

The successful Grand High Witch will join the team in time for a spooky season of Afternoon Teas, to mark the hotel’s connections with the brilliant book.

The Victorian building overlooking Newquay’s Fistral Beach provided the setting for the 1990 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

Director Veryan Palmer said: “The Witches is close to our hearts here at The Headland and every October we like to celebrate the film with a spooky Afternoon Tea tribute.

“This year we’d like a Grand High Witch who will evoke the spectacular effect that Anjelica Huston created for her role of the Grand High Witch in Roald Dahl’s The Witches.”

The upcoming role requires the chosen candidate to be vocal and capable of impersonating the role embodied by Anjelica Huston when delivering key witchy phrases punctuated by eerie cackles. You must also have a flair for theatrical performance, as they sashay and stalk around public areas of the hotel.

You’ll need to be confident in interacting with strangers and able to engage with children, even if you’d prefer they were mice. The hotel will provide the gruesome face mask and cape – all you need is a suitable black outfit.

Think of all writing prompts and inspiration this could provide!

The film was created by Jim Henson Productions and directed by Nicolas Roeg, with the cast – which included Rowan Atkinson, Brenda Blethyn and Jane Horrocks – taking up residence in the hotel for the time it took to film at The Headland.

Grand High Witch Anjelica Huston was Jack Nicholson’s partner at the time. Enormous bouquets of roses would be delivered for her and Nicholson frequently created a buzz among switchboard staff by phoning the hotel to speak to her.

Three bedrooms and the ballroom were used for scenes in the film, whilst a pram pushed towards the cliff edge belonged to the Armstrong family, who still own the hotel today.

The gritty details

Part time/fixed term contract.

Wage:
£9.10 per hour plus service charge and discretionary monthly bonus

Hours: 

  • 2, 3, 9 &  10 October 1.30pm – 5pm daily
  • 16 to 31 October 1.30pm – 5pm daily

Find full details and apply here: www.headlandhotel.co.uk/work-with-us-2021.

Image supplied by Flamingo Marketing on behalf of The Headland.

Got a literary or creative event, opportunity, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw attention to? Send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud (dot) com.

Writing prompt – metamorphosis

Caterpillar by Judy DarleyThe mystery of how holes were appearing in my kitchen windowsill basil plant was solved when I discovered a trio of uninvited lodgers. As beautiful as these hairy caterpillars are, I thought I should re-locate them outside before they a) ate me out of house and home, or b) metamorphosed and sprouted wings!

It made me ponder how much more dramatic this tale could be if the small guests who’d blundered in were likely to transform into fire-breathing dragons or some as yet uninvented magical beasts rather than moths or butterflies.

This is one to let your imagination race away with. What can you come up with, using this scenario as your starting point? What clues might give away the creature your character is inadvertently sharing their home with?

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 – bricks

Deconstructed Wall by Judy Darley. Shows a pile of red bricks.

Building work is taking place all over my neighbourhood, and yet builders tell me that thanks to Brexit, there are far fewer competent construction contractors available than there were a year ago. Hardworking, skilled have gone home to their countries, leaving us with a terrible skills shortage.

This heap of bricks is a wall in all but execution. It makes me think of the fairytale of the Three Little Pigs, shoddy cut-price choices and, frankly, the difference between what we’re promised and what we sometimes actually get. In fact, instead of a pile of bricks, a big mound of something else might be more fitting in this case!

Can you build this into a cautionary satire or 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 – extrapolate

Flying Ant Day by Judy Darley. Shows gulls flying against clouds, with blue sky showing through gaps.I glanced up during a stroll to find the sky full of wheeling gulls. It’s a sight that local folklore attributes to storm at sea, or, conversely, a spillage of chips.

I was unsure what had prompted this tumult of excitement until I lowered my gaze and spotted the winged ants scurrying and taking flight.

Passion for the ants equals feasts for gulls and other ant-munchers.

There are two details I love about this, which could prompt a tale:

  1. To deduce the cause and effect, I had to look both up and down
  2. Nature behaves in its wild ways even deep in the city’s urban reaches.

Of course, there’s a level of assumption in my extrapolation, which leaves plenty of room for something else to incite the frenzied birds. What story could you spin from this moment in time?

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 – construct

Roofers by Judy Darley. Shows two people seen over a hedge on a rooftop against a bright blue sky.Imagine the person peering over this hedge to see a new construction taking shape. Might they be intrigued, perturbed or annoyed? Now imagine that the owner of the house being renovated is a rival of the witness. How might their history colour responses?

Now broaden your viewers’ understanding of what they’re seeing, based on earlier conversations or arguments. Rather than an extension, could the item being built be a spaceship or time travel machine? Remember that in the realms of fantasy, these can be constructed any shape and from any material.

Or could the builders be the focus of the witness’ attention? Is there one of particular interest? Why?

Can you weave in the emotions and backstory through your protagonist’s reactions and behaviour rather than telling your reader?

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 – absurd and poignant

Tortoiseshell butterfly sunning itself on a pair of white satin knickers by Judy DarleyI love attempting to photograph the natural beauty that crops up in my surroundings, though the shots often have more to do with luck than skill.

One of my best butterfly pics is also one of my most absurd, as I happened to snap this beauty as it alighted on a pair of white satin smalls, on a washing line.

The butterfly has no idea of the absurd elegance of its sunspot choice.

It brings to mind an art exhibition I saw over two decades ago, which appeared to show rows of taxidermy pinned butterflies, which on closer inspection turned out to be exquisite pairs of miniature knickers.

Can you turn this into a story that is comical and poignant, perhaps examining the disappearance of our butterfly species in favour of fast fashion fixes?

Thank you to John Jackson on Twitter who told me this is a Painted Lady butterfly (not Tortoiseshell as I mistakenly believed). How perfectly absurdly poignant!

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 – longitude

Mouse and cat weathervane by Judy Darley. Shows a metal weathervane on top of a school against a blue sky.This mouse and cat weathervane sits on top of a primary school in my neighbourhood.

It’s been a strange year for schools, pupils and parents, with daily routines as changeable as the weather. There’s been a global sense of uncertainty that’s led to some feeling more like prey than humans are accustomed to!

Can you use this thought as a jumping off point to create a tale or artwork with themes of peril, daring and triumph?

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.