Tag Archives: prompts

P is for Paddy

I am doing the A to Z Challenge and am running a bit behind but am trying to multipost as part of my catch up. To make life ‘interesting’ (I should have made it simple) I am writing on the spot based on a set of prompts using Rory’s Story Cubes- so I have 9 pictograms to work with. For April 18th:

  

After years of clock watching and packed lunches and exhausting commutes the day had dawned that Paddy had dreamed of since the day he joined the civil service. Forty years done, grey hairs earned and he was retiring.  The pension wasn’t exactly a fortune but Paddy had been saving since his thirties so he knew it would be enough for what he wanted to do. Pottering around his garden and growing apples for his home-made cider. 

There were so many things that Paddy planned to spend his time on now that it was all his own and the fairer hours of the day no longer belonged to the taxpayer. He might learn to ballroom dance or take up a new language. Nothing too expensive – he was prudent and didn’t want to gamble his long term future on anything too rash in the first few years. He knew of colleagues who sold up and moved abroad to enjoy their retirement somewhere sunnier. They could get plenty of exercise just hiking and walking and not need to spend huge fees on a gym. That idea appealed to him, the hiking at least, so he had bought the walking sticks at lunchtime and planned to take them home with his small box of possessions packed under his desk. 

It it was five to five in the evening and Paddy started to tidy the desk. The ‘out of office’ email message was already set up to say “Gone Fishing!” As the second hand of the clock climbed to 12 he stood up and put his coat on, quietly picked up his box and walking sticks, and headed for the door.

He  hadn’t wanted a tea party following a collection from people who couldn’t really afford it and would resent being asked for a presentation by someone who didn’t know him of something he didn’t want. And he didn’t want a fight with his immediate colleagues who would feel he should get this after his years of service. So he was taking all the holidays he had saved up, six weeks in all, and given notification of his retirement in an email timed to send at 6pm. He laughed to himself as he walked to the bus stop. “Gone Fishing!” He would have plenty caught when they realised he had gone. 

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O is for Opening Lines

I am doing the A to Z Challenge and am running a bit behind but am going to multipost today as part of my catch up. To make life simple (I wish) I am writing on the spot based on a set of prompts using Rory’s Story Cubes- so I have 9 pictograms to work with. For April 17

  

“The secret to unlocking your ideal murder is not just in the planning but in knowing your prey” read the blurb on the dustcover. Karen half snorted at this presuming it was an honest mis-shelf by a trainee shop assistant or an ironic dig sticking it in the self-help section. But no, here it sat unnoticed in the farthest corner behind a copy of “How to Read your Aura.” It was mostly untouched apart from where someone had used a scissors to cut the corner with the original RRP. Karen opened a page at random. “Burial Alive –  do’s and don’ts for a motionless mound”. She fumbled the book in surprise and lost the page. Surely this was a joke. She opened it again at the index and ran her finger down the headings: “Beheadings – Accidental or Intentional; Cadaver Maintenance- Sweeter smells; Doorway to Death – your guide to tripwires; Immuration – Be the best brickie. ” Karen looked around furtively trying to work out if she was being set up – where would the hidden cameras be??!? But she was all alone in the deserted anteroom. Nobody there – just the books. She started to feel jumpy. She looked again at the dustcover. There was no publisher’s name. Perhaps it was cut off with the RRP. With a flash of inspiration she knew she would take it. Take it, not buy it – there could be no record! 

Karen dropped the book into her voluminous shoulder bag and headed for the door. Her hands were shaking with the tension. And her shoulders. Everything was wobbling. 

On the other side of the world in a little shop in Delhi, Surinder picked up the book in the corner of the self help section. She flicked through the pages noticing the sad and desperate faces in the photographs. She turned to the blurb on the dustcover- “
The key to unlocking your perfect murder is not just in the planning but in knowing your prey”.  

Surinder shuddered and quickly placed the book back on the shelf. Not her thing at all she thought  turning to a book on Angel magic. 

N is for Nothing to See Here

So a quick recap for anyone joining me today… I am attempting the A to Z April Challenge with the added complication of writing inspired by  prompts from Rory’s Story Cubes (a wonderful little invention my brother discovered some years ago and shared with me.)

April 16th’s prompt for the letter N was:

  

The masks on the front of the theatre were meant to signify the ancient Greek symbol for drama – the comedy and tragedy that are the yin and yang of the stage. But for those who lived and worked in the theatre they represented the flow of life. Beyond the heavy plays, the raucous comedies and the song and dance of the musicals there was a far greater drama in the day to day. 

The accidents in rehearsal or set building or while hanging from lighting rigs could halt or postpone careers. The heartbreaks and troubles that actors had to put aside while they lifted the mask of performance every night (and two matinees a week). The days when colds, flu or stomach bugs left cast or crew reeling – and yet the old maxim prevailed – the show must go on!

So they would draw themselves up, and play their part, lock their disappointments or concerns deep inside, reach for that inner strength and carry on, because if nobody could see the reality then the illusion could  be the reality. 

M is for Moonlight Meeting

Continuing my A to Z Challenge with added frustration of trying to write a story to a prompt using Rory’s Story Cubes.  (And an unexpected life event just threw me a loop)

April 15 the dice gave me:

  

 So the shortest string from the top…

Moonlight filled the birch grove where Daniel and Emma sat. They held hands  and talked about the future…the cicadas drowning the conversations from curious ears. All of their ideas kept leading the in one direction and no matter how they fished for alternatives it didn’t seem to matter. Emma’s star was in the ascendency and Daniel’s trajectory wasn’t close. They would have to lock themselves into her career path for the next few years even if it did mean her being on the other side of the world with the promotion. But Daniel could fly over three or four times a year and look for something there while he was visiting. Both were scared what this meant for their marriage but only time would tell if they could make it. 

I is for Imagination 

So a quick recap for anyone joining me today… I am attempting the A to Z April Challenge with the added complication of writing to random prompts provided by Rory’s Story Cubes (a wonderful little invention my brother discovered some years ago and shared with me.)

Today’s prompt for the letter I is:

  

When the shouting started she would go there. To the quiet space in her head. Where the words couldn’t hurt and anything was possible. Gran had said she was a day dreamer but really it was a safety valve a protective mechanism. In her mind she had slipped away and was scrambling among rock pools near a once visited seaside searching for anenomes and tiny crabs.  

It had started at home on the bad days but now she increasingly found her imagination taking over. The brown paper bag of potatoes in the pantry was really a wriggling undulating sack of kittens stolen from every back yard from here to the supermarket and if she could undo the stitching they would get out and engulf her in furriness. If she looked at anything for enough it lost its meaning and became something new.   The fluffy clouds rushing past the kitchen window resolved themselves into a bowl of steaming rice and a swan as she stared out at them. The broken tile in the shower was really the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that, once solved, would complete the human genome, repairing the flaws that caused disabilities. Her thoughts took her into so many places she didn’t need to stay in the one place she didn’t feel safe, her home.  

Tonight it was harder to focus. It was like all the noise was locking out the doors to her imagination. She stared at toilet bowl from where she was curled up inside the bath and thought of a quest to find something marvellous, magical..the Holy Grail. She was a knight on Crusade…she was…

The crashing sound outside the bathroom door was followed by a screech. The shadow of a baseball bat raised and swung. She turned the tap open fully to drown the sounds and slipped her head under the water. That was better. The sound of the sea waves in her ears and the shell and fish transfers on the tub helped. She was in a yellow submarine floating along at the bottom of the ocean. She let her imagination take her as the water crashed above her head and she held her breath. The air bubbles floated to the surface as her problems disappeared. 

H is for Holidays

I have just realised that my theme choice for the A to Z Challenge means that I am trying to succeed at two challenges – to blog 26 times over he month of April is the main task. But I am finding that it is also quite a challenge to throw 9 dice and try to craft an instant story from the pictogram prompts. 

When I throw the dice for the letter H the following nine pictograms fall for me to string together. 

 

But to make it even more interesting I will throw in an expansion pack (Enchanted)  

The annual camping trip was a boring ritual but they had done it since Eloise was a little girl. It mainly consisted of muddy fields, ants in the food stores, camp fires that took hours to light and lost sheep that wandered into the tent at all hours. One year they had ended up abandoning the whole thing because of the cockroach infestation but apart from that it generally passed with very little to remark on.

This year they were camping at an commercial campsite with lots of activities organised for the families. There were songs and nursery games for the little kids, clowns and magicians for the older kids. It was possible to pay for day excursions and experiences such as rock climbing and white-water rafting in the hills or paragliding on the lake nearby. But all in all it felt very sterile, not close to nature as they had been in previous years. So when they found out that there was a two night bivouac excursion up into the mountains Eloise had begged to be allowed to go with the other teenagers. Her parents had hummed and hawed, concerned about so many hormones in such a confined space but in the end they relented and on the Friday afternoon the teen team headed off hiking. 

About an an hour into the hike they met a tiny old woman who appeared to be in a hurry to get down the mountain. She approached the team leaders and a frantic conversation ensued. Eloise couldn’t hear much of it but the gesticulation suggested the lady was entreating them not to go up the mountain. She shrugged and rubbed her eye as a bug had flown into it and it was starting to water. 

At around 7pm they reached a small clearing and struck camp. It was obvious that this was used regularly with the cold remains of a stone-circled fire in the centre and all the brush and shrubs within easy reach cleared, presumably to start previous fires. Two of the boys headed off to collect firewood while the rest of the campers assembled their makeshift covers. Soon a rosy fire was crackling away with beans bubbling and potatoes roasting in the embers. 

The entertainment was the usual campfire fare, ghost stories by torchlight and tales of alien abductions. The girls huddled together and the boys feigned bravado but by 10pm they were all bundled up in their two shelters. It was colder up here in the mountains and Eloise was glad her sleeping bag covered her head to toe. The night sounds replaced the laughter and the chatter died down as the fire cooled. From under a loose flap of the bivouac Eloise could see the fireflies in the dark recess at the edge of the clearing like fairies dancing just out of reach of the humans.
The camp was slowly bathed in pale light as the full moon emerged from behind a cloud and her eyelids closed as she drifted to sleep. 

In in the morning it was the silence that woke her. Eloise was always a heavy sleeper when she camped – a combination of fresh air and exercise. But this morning the silence was eerie. She sat up and looked around to see if she was the first up and saw…..nobody. The camp was empty, abandoned, sleeping bags and clothes strewn along the ground. She was the only one there. 

Eloise sat in the chair by the window. The ticking of the clock was the only sound in her hospital room. She hadn’t spoken a word since they had found her, wild eyed and dishevelled in the remains of the campsite. The doctors said she might never speak again. They never found the remains of the others. Just lots of blood on the bushes round the hillside. Wolves the inquest had ruled. 

G is for Go ahead without me

So, in an attempt to get back on track I am publishing my prompts and will edit as I go on. G is now complete. 

  
The Storycubes for ‘G’ gave me:

A pill + a snake + cactus + dinosaur head + axe + Viking helmet + angry face + sun/throwing star/sheriff badge + necklace/scarab. 

The shelf was weighed down with the mementos of his travels. Each peculiar item a bookmark for a chapter in his life. He had begun training as a circus performer shortly after he flunked his first year engineering exams and in time it had led him into stunt work. 

The Shuriken was the first trophy, a prop from his time as third ninja on the left in the brawl scene in his first proper movie. The throwing star was blunt but polished to look deadly and it caught the light from the low-laying winter sun. A plastic cactus, comical in its proportions, was from a low-budget Mexican crime romp where he had doubled for the Disney Club graduate who was trying to be relaunched as an adult actor. 

The Viking helmet had one horn broken, not as a result of the stunt he had performed but the after party in a country pub somewhere in Ireland. Beside it stood a stone axe authentically hewn from real rock and tied to a sturdy branch. It was covered in dried mud and fake blood and the wooden shelf sagged from its weight. 

The dried up rattle from a rattle snake was almost totally obscured by the model dinosaur bone, the relative size of the two reptiles they represented clearly displayed. One had been a gift from a make-up artist he had dated on location, the other he had misappropriated from the props truck on his final day of filming. Mary lifted the final item carefully, a costume amulet he had worn on his last film, “The Curse of the Pharaoh” and dusted around it. 

She slowly righted everything to its proper place and turned to bed behind her. For a while she had blocked out the sound of the ventilator as she remembered her strong and vibrant boy. The fearless acrobat who could fight and run and crash and fall.  So different from the shell of a man now locked comatose in his room. 

She picked up her book and started to read aloud from the chapter she had paused at.