Prompts are an excellent resource for writers. Even if you have a work in progress, you can use prompts for writing exercises, or to give yourself a breather from your main project.
I’m often tweeting that I’m working on something new when I shouldn’t be. Most of these short story starts are sitting unfinished, but I never see them as a waste of time. They help me explore new ideas or try different points of view – I usually write in a close third-person perspective, yet I like to explore first person and omniscient in short stories. How can a writer find their voice if they hold themselves back from exploring all the options?
Stories can be as long or as short as you want, they just need a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, without further rambling, here are 5 fantasy prompts I hope will get your creative juices flowing, leading you to a middle and end.
It’s that time again. The Furious Fiction results are out. I didn’t make the longlist, but I think I failed to satisfy one of the criteria. The setting was to be a court, and with the results, they said over half of the story had to take place there. The other criteria were: under 500 words, have a character who measures something, and contain the words balloon, rock, and umbrella.
Regardless, I’m really happy with my entry this month. I’ll strive to improve further next month. Please read my entry below.
CONTENT WARNING: Contains descriptions of a car crash, blood, and injury.
My first shower today was scalding – an attempt to feel something. My second is icy, a barrage of rain soaking me through while my umbrella hangs limp beside me. The nothingness only deepens. I’m not really there as I stare through the drab grey bricks of the courthouse. I’m lost in another rainstorm, on the day that shattered my world like a rock through a window.
At twilight that day, I pressed my chin to the steering wheel, peering through driving rain. Headlights dazzled me between furious sweeps of the wipers. I should have gone slower, but I fussed over irritating everyone behind me. If I’d listened to my gut, would I have seen that one car without lights? It sped out from the junction, but I didn’t see it until the terror in her eyes had me slam on the brakes.
I often see other writers ask how to find beta readers. Though I’ve only been working with beta readers for a half a year, I thought it would be worth writing a mini guide for people who want extra eyes on their manuscript for the first time.
Step 1: Find the courage to ask a stranger to read your work.
Before I first reached out, I was terrified someone would steal my manuscript or, perhaps worse, takes my ideas and rewrite them. I joined some beta reader groups on Facebook, where I saw people point out the harsh reality: your work is not worth bothering with. Why steal something still in the editing stages, when it’s so easy to scrape the contents of eBooks and publish them under a new title? It’s highly unlikely someone will steal your work, but you can always have them email you an NDA-like statement.
Step 2: Find where the beta readers lurk.
It’s the last Wednesday of the month, with means the September Furious Fiction contest results are out. Sadly, I didn’t make the long list, but the winning story was incredibly good and topical. My entry, The Clean-Up Guy, is below. This month’s prompt: include a basement or an attic; include some kind of insect; include the words earth, wind, fire, and water.
CONTENT WARNING: Contains gruesome imagery and swearing.
The Clean-Up Guy
Maggots. Always maggots. The job would be a damn sight better if they stopped sprouting near worksites. Leo descended into the dark basement, jaw clenching a little more with each wriggler that popped underfoot. He could’ve used spotlights, but the boss said he was better working blind. A familiar stench explained why – ruptured bowels. Great.
This poem was first published in my newsletter 1st September 2021. I write a poem for each issue. Be amongst the first to read them by signing up to my newsletter, The Thellian Herald.
Summer wanes and the nights close in,
Dragons fly south to sandy Nim,
To lose their fiery reverence,
Invites snow griffins’ insolence,
In autumn time they do rehearse,
To drumming of their wingbeats’ verse,
Then as winter our way glances,
Griffins start their lethal dances,
They summon frigid wind that blows,
Through ev’ry home to dim hearths’ glows,
But dragons come, lured back by spring,
Their roars about this land do ring,
On wing the griffins flee to Nor,
Winter’s legion does rule no more.
Just yesterday, I ate a crisp for the first time in a long time. The taste and texture were just like those my nana served when I was young, throwing me into memories of time spent on the family farm. I wrote the piece below while lost in these unlocked moments. I hope you enjoy my fond recollections.
The Unlocking of Memories
The crisp crunches in my mouth, transporting me to a Sunday afternoon twenty years ago. At the family farm, Nana has laid out the weekly feast. Soft, buttered bread, platters of meat, sliced egg, salad, crisps, and so much more at the savoury end. And the sweet end? Chocolate buns, Victoria sponge cake, rock cakes, and, if I’m lucky, a trifle. No one frowns when I heap up my plate, nor when I go back for more. It’s always savoury then cakes, and perhaps a slice of bread after that.
“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.”Ray Bradbury
Though I loosely outline some stories, I’m a pantser at heart for one simple reason: the characters dictate my stories. More than once, I’ve had an idea for a scene, only for it to go in a completely different direction when my characters decide to do something else. Know your characters, and they’ll tell you where to take the story.