Writing prompt – peril

Unstable cliff. Photo by Judy Darley

Few things rev up a story like a hint of peril. A warning sign like this one announcing an unstable cliff can lead a tale in a multitude of waves. Add in those colourful swimming goggles and you’ve got a full treacherous narrative at your fingertips, or even a twist on the famous “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” attributed to Hemingway, though that’s now said to be untrue (there’s a tale in itself!).

How did these goggles happen to be hanging here? What happened to the person who owned them? What storm cast them here? What drama was left in their wake?

In a terrible twist on this prompt, there was a landslide here just last week, plunging tons of rock and mud over this coastal path, only hours after I strolled here. The area is currently off-limits for safety’s sake. Sometimes real life is more dramatic than any fiction.

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 – season

Red tree in January. Photo by Judy Darley

In the woodlands you can hear spring being heralded by birds forging friendships and boasting about territory.

One small tree shines out in this tiny forest, where its autumnal red leaves blaze against the glossy greens.

What made this tree hang on to its autumn foliage all the way into February? What is it declaring about the seasons?

What will happen as spring fully arrives, and then summer?

Can you weave this into a story of nature and folklore?

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 – two

Two benches_Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley

These two benches each offer glorious coastal views, but I can’t help noticing that the one further from the water also provides an excellent view of the other bench.

Imagine a person quietly gazing at the sea and sky, but gradually becoming aware of the person sitting on the bench before them. They might be intrigued or even entranced by the stranger there, but too shy to approach them.

What could bring them together? Is this the beginning of a love story, or something more sinister?

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 – purse

Mermaid's Purse_Photo by

This black pillowy scrap was lying on the ground in a boatyard, possibly dropped by a gull after being scooped from the nearby rocky beach. These scorched-looking ravioli are known colloquially as mermaid’s purses, which is an interesting idea. Why would a mermaid adorned with peals and shells carry such a dull little bag?

Besides, the truth is even weirder, when you think about it. These are actually egg cases for sea creatures such as rays, skates and sharks. The one I saw looks like it might once have cradled the eggs of a spotted ray.

Imagine the teeny sea creature emerging from this leathery bag!

I love that myths and marine biology have been woven together in this way, making nature even more enticing by creating a narrative. Could you turn this into a story that encourages wonder and respect?

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 – frost

Ice in the shadow of a bench.

Walking along Clevedon’s waterfront, I noticed that where shadows lay, ice lingers, while it’s melted away anywhere sun has reached.

I’ve been writing a lot about memory and the act of remembering recently, and it’s almost as though the shadows preserve the memory of frost and ice. The shadow shelters its own mirror image in white.

Can you turn this into a story about memory, or about shelter?

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 – blush

Pink hat and flowers_Photo by Judy Darley

This pink hat hanging from a flowering bush caught my eye partly because of the vivid colour and partly because this fluffy hat and the blush-pink blooms really oughtn’t be seen at the same time. Surely these flowers shouldn’t appear until springtime, and certainly not when it’s cold enough to warrant wearing a woolly hat.

Can you write a story that makes sense of this odd pairing and what it tells us about climate breakdown? What happened to the person who wore that hat? What could they, and your readers, do to help slow or even reverse climate breakdown?

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 – branch

Door and Tree_ZigZagPath Clevedon. Photo by Judy Darley1

This gorgeous door has been barred to entry by a tree that has had its branches lopped. So many questions arise from this sight, and so many potential fairytales.

How was this seed planted, and how did no one notice the sapling growing until it was so tall? Who decided to cut off its limbs and with what aims. Is this door ever used, and who by? Could the tree have been planted in a fit of jealousy or annoyance? Could the occupant have failed to spot it due to some ailment, or illusion?

The possibilities branch off in all kinds of directions!

What story will you choose to write?

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 – cave

Ladye Bay cave. Photo by Judy Darley

This small cave provides a surprising amount of shelter during rain storms that blow in over a local beach. Stepping into it just a foot of two, I heard all sounds recede and felt the peace of this shallow space.

The sides and internal roof are sandstone, and you can see the foundations of a walkway above, a reminder that this place straddles both the tame and wild.

Who or what might seek refuge here, and why? What other kinds of shelters come to mind that could form the setting for 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 – rig

Oil rig at Clevedon Marine Lake. Photo by Judy Darley. Taken on New Year's Day 2024. Stormy skies above and swimmer just visible in foreground.As countless swimmers and spectators gathered at Clevedon Marine Lake on New Year’s Dave for the annual Big Dip, a vast structure drifted by. Like an industrial version of a child’s sandcastle, an oil rig floated past the morning’s revelries like a sea creature roused to curiosity by the shrieks. You can just see an uncommonly serene swimmer inside the pool’s perimeter.

These structures drill the seabed for the petroleum and gas that fuel our modern lives, and once decommissioned need to be dismantled, or become an art installation like Weston Super Mare’s See Monster.

What will be the fate of this one? Thousands of these edifices stand in seas around the globe. Can you devise a story or art work touching on the outcome for one? Could it be transformed into something beautiful that aids rather than harms marine life?

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 – dip

The Sea is Still the Sea_by Judy Darley

The sea is still the sea even if it’s contained. Clevedon’s Marine Lake welcomes waves, brave swimmers and the occasional bobbing jellyfish. There’s even an annual New Year’s dip at 11am to embrace 2024 with a breathtaking adrenalin-boosting splash in aid of Marlens, the charity who manage and maintain the pool. Other charities are also getting involved and asking for donations from folks daring to join in.

On most winter’s days, however, you could be the only swimmer – just you, the saltwater and the sky.

Could you make this the setting for an unexpected meeting? Who might you encounter here? What peril could bond two people here?

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.