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.

Writing prompt – biodiverse

Dragonfly by Judy DarleyThis summer our small garden pond has been offering up treasures. Gigantic creatures have climbed from the depths, emerged glittering from their nymph exo-skeletons and whirred skywards like prehistoric helicopters.

It’s like watching a miracle unfurl. Any of these everyday wonders could prompt a tale, but I ask you to consider the magic of the pond itself. The biodiversity layered beneath the surface of the water is as rich as any forest, with extraordinary predators preparing for metamorphosis, and other wee beasties living out their lives.

Could you write or create a piece that showcases the importance of these wet ecosystems to our human-centric world? Write from the point of view of a human, water creature or even the pond itself, and if you delve into the darkness, draw some hope into 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.

Writing prompt – dig

Someone has been digging by Judy Darley. Shows a flowerbed with disturbed soil.We’ve had a mystery occurring in our garden at regular intervals, and often, but not always, late at night.

Someone has been digging in our flowerbed. Sometimes the hole is so deep and neat it looks like a human has been searching for buried treasure. Other times, a profusion of flies lets us know something had been depositing its own, ahem, treasure.

The area in question is now a tapestry of cut brambles, coffee granules and orange peel – my eco-attempt to deter excavators…

So what does this have to do with writing? Other than the obvious metaphors of excavating for treasure and uncovering, ahem, something else?

This week your challenge is to write a story or create some other imaginative work based on the idea of a mysterious act that keeps happening outside or inside a home, and is beginning to slowly drive the residents bonkers. Write it from the point of view of the residents or the perpetrators, and see how you can harness the emerging mystery to drive the characters’ development.

Alternatively, use this as a prompt to push further in your writing. What can you unearth if you really dig deep?

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

Victoria Park Black Poplar. By Judy DarleyOccasionally I see a tree that stops me in my tracks. Recently, it was this one in Bristol’s Victoria Park. I think it’s a black poplar. Its jaunty new leaves springing from those pollarded branches make it resemble a literary character.

Do you have a favourite tree, or one that you simply find beautiful? Can you make it the star of a satire, speculative story or other creative work? Perhaps two strangers meet beneath it, or perhaps its foliage or trunk hides a secret. Perhaps the shadow it casts offers a route to another world. Or could you write a satire about human society by focusing on the many species colonising a tree?

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.

Submit your manuscript to Soft Skull Press

Sad Ghost Cereal cr Judy Darley

Soft Skull Press invites un-agented authors to submit complete manuscripts until 21st July 2021.

They describe themselves as “a home for projects that dissolve categories and hierarchies, provide an alternative to dominant narratives, and make room for new and unexpected ideas and feelings. We aim to create lasting and transformative relationships with writers, and to continually reimagine how a book can be written, published, and sold.”

They publish adult literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and hybrid projects. At this time they are especially seeking and encouraging submissions from BIPOC writers and underrepresented voices of any race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, class, and physical or mental ability.

Authors of accepted submissions retain full copyright license to their work.

For your chance to be published by Soft Skull Press, upload your full manuscript and a statement of intent to their Submittable queue.

There is no submission fee.

In the ‘cover letter’ field, include:

  • A one-paragraph summary of your project
  • The total word count
  • A brief author bio
  • Your contact information

Please submit only one manuscript.

They welcome simultaneous submissions, but ask that if your work is accepted elsewhere, you withdraw your submission promptly.

They also advise: “Please send your work only if you feel it is ready to be read; we will not be accepting updated versions of the same work once submitted.”

Find full submission details here.

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