Tag Archives: prompts

Writing prompt: Junk Food Day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Junk Food Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)


The priest reached under the alter. With reverence, he placed three relics before the congregation. Antonia craned to see. She could see them through the plastic, bright yellow and emanating well-being. The packages were adorned with ancient symbols and decorations. Though these decorations had smudged and flaked in places, the contents remained intact. It was through the bountiful blessings of the Hostess goddess.

“Behold,” the priest said, “these relics have passed through the generations to us. And today, we shall share these Twinkies in Holy Communion.”

He recited an incantation, said to be the words of an ancient “commercial,” or a spreading of good will. Antonia recognized some of the words, like “fun for the whole family,” but others, like “snackalicious” were beyond her. The ancient civilization had been so advanced. Her father said they couldn’t have been human, or that they must have had the help of clever aliens. The ancients had built mysterious temples thousands of feet high, and roads hundreds of feet wide that extended beyond the farthest known horizon. Today, they knew so little about the ancients. But on holy Junk Food Day, they tasted the Twinkie and rejoiced. The priest went around, slicing off bits for the devoted.

 

Writing prompt: this day in history, the first Ringling Brother’s Circus

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

This day in history: Ringling circus premier (see this list of Days in History)


Macy heard a low rumbling on the horizon. She continued grinding the grain, staring in the direction of the noise. After a while, an electric humvee came over the horizon. It was painted bright pink and blue and it played a merry tune.

“Dan, come out here!” Macy called.

“I’m not done yet—” her brother protested, for once invested in his chores.

“It’s a circus truck, Dan!” she said.

He ran out, hands still red from handling the meat.

The truck inched forward along the road, the music growing nearer. When it finally arrived, it pulled to a stop.

“Hey kids, have you ever been to a circus?” the man inside said. His face was painted white except for a red nose and blue around the eyes. Macy could see a scar across his lips. His left eye was glass. On the ceiling behind him, she saw a large gun. No doubt he had more closer, but the ceiling one was for show. It wasn’t safe to be a traveling salesman. A desperate man could get a lot for the battery’s in the circus man’s car.

The children shook their heads.

“Well you’re in for a treat!” the painted man said. “Never in human history has there been such a rich display of freaks and oddities. Ringling and Barnum would have blushed to see such things. Fallout and gene wars have finally given back to the human race. We have a two-headed baby, a man-sized venus fly trap, a goat that glows in the dark, and a Christmas Tree with legs.”

Macy stared at the painted man, awestruck and silent.

“Come to Hilldale City on Saturday and see the show in the big red and white tent! Can’t beat some classics! Admission’s just 5 bucks!”

Macy and Dan sagged. Hilldale City. Grandma would never allow it.

Writing prompt: A pint and prompt!

Back in Virginia, our writing group had what we called a Pint and Prompt. A group of friends hit the bar, have a pint, and write for a few minutes on a writing prompt. Then you read your responses to one another. It’s really great to see the variety of responses, and it’s a good time with friends. Recently, they got together and did a Pint and Prompt, and my friend  Keith at Strange Things Done posted his response. And once I had a pint, I joined in the fun.


Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“She appraised me, canted her head and shrugged apparently disappointed.”


There was something synthetic about the motion, but maybe I was just looking for it, looking for a reason to discount her reaction.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she said. She straightened. She was waiting for a response.

“Oh?” I said, trying to sound coy, but feeling more self-concious than I liked.

“I see it all the time. My kind makes you nervous. Without the veneer of plastic pores and synthetic hair, you can’t dehumanize me.”

“You aren’t human,” I said.

“Which is why you wanted me. I can do things women can’t do.”

I coughed and looked away.

“You want to feel better than your partners. I can give you that feeling.”

“Well, why don’t you? Why haven’t you?”

“Maybe in addition to my hair and my cuticles and my lips, my feelings are less synthetic than the last model too. Maybe it’s shit doing business all day with people that want to take you down a peg.”

I felt bad. It is what I had wanted. “Maybe this isn’t the line of work for you.”

“I got debt. I was made with it. And this pays the bills.” She looked away and undulated her shoulders. She stretched. When she turned to look back at me, her eyes held a different look. It was like a different woman. I could see the hunger in her, calling to me.

Writing prompt: Submarine day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Submarine day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.  Because St. Pat’s would be too obvious!)


The sub was beginning to stink. It reeked of sweat and mildew. Jansen had been short-circuiting the timer on the air-lock. It was his fault, I knew it. We wouldn’t get fresh air for another month, and the filtration system was already going at max.

Something long and tentacled swam past my window. I knew why Jansen rushed the air-lock—there was something wrong about this planet. The little submarine felt like an oasis in a wet desert, a safe space in a world of monsters. The survey had revealed some large native lifeforms, but our sub, which apparently resembled a good meal, brought them out in numbers we couldn’t anticipate.

But the company said it was alright, and we had signed contracts, so we would stay until the next crew arrived.

Construction was behind schedule. The initial design specs were insufficient in light of the lifeforms in the ocean. If one of the large ones rammed the base, the original design wouldn’t take that.

Another creature, head like a folded umbrella, long like an eel, swam by. Several of its eyes blinked. I wondered if it could see me.

Writing prompt: Middle name pride day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Middle name pride day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays. This one is a little dumb, but that’s what is freeing about writing prompts. Sometimes they can be dumb, but they didn’t take very long.)


“Hey Jane, what’s your middle name?” Anka asked, her voice swaying with song. She hung upside down from the hover monkey bars, her pigtails dangling by her ears.

“I told you, I don’t have one.” Jane walked toward the hyper see saw.

“Is that so? I saw you name on the attendance list. ‘Jane X. Stuart.’ You liar.”

“Well why should I tell you anyway! We’re not friends!”

Anka rolled down from the bars and pursued. “Oh Jane, are you keeping a secret? Your middle name’s not anything embarassing, is it?”

Jane went cold. Anka smelled blood. This wouldn’t end well. “No. Go away. Stop following me.”

“What could it be…” she mused. “Xylophone? No…. Xavier? No… oh no… it couldn’t be…”

Jane didn’t turn, she just kept walking.

“Could it be Xagolonix?!” Anka cried.

That was it, Jane couldn’t take it anymore. She turned and pushed Anka. “ I said, go away!”

“You’re named after a monster! Do you know how many people Xagolonix killed?”

“I was born before that. Before that, it was a perfectly normal Martian name.”

“Jane Xagolonix Stuart!” Anka sang. “Jane Xagolonix Stuart!”

“Anka!” Mr. Svetloff barked. “Are you picking on Jane?”

“No, Mr. Svetloff,” Anka simpered. “Jane was keeping secrets.”

“Miss Anka Hitler, I don’t suppose you see anything odd about your name, do you?” Mr. Svetloff intoned.

“No, it’s a perfectly normal Earth name,” Anka said.

“About that,” Mr. Svetloff began.

Writing prompt: Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Don’t cry over spilled milk day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

The warning message on my phone had been accurately dire. Only the charred beams of the house remained. I saw Bella and Sadie out in the yard, doting upon a firefighter with a bag of treats. I pulled up behind the firetruck.

“It’s a total loss, ma’am,” one of the firefighters approached me, bearing forms.

“So the message said,” I sighed. “Do you know what caused it?”

“Electrical short, we think. We won’t know until the simulation results are in, and they run overnight. You probably know what I’m going to ask next.” He looked apprehensive. He glanced at the dogs, and back to me.

“I back up every week,” I said.

He relaxed noticeably. “Thank goodness. You don’t know how many fires I see where the family hasn’t backed up in five years. It’s devastating.”

“I bet.”

“Do you know how to initiate the rebuild?” he asked. I shook my head and he walked me through the process.

“By next week, your house will be back at the state of your last back-up. A few details might be less current, say you hadn’t scanned a closet for a while. The insurance will put you up at a hotel until it’s ready.”

I looked over the ruins of my home, ruins of my memories. In a week, they’d all be back. Maybe not the same piece of paper I’d received at graduation, not the same toy my dogs loved to fight over. But nearly. I sighed.

“Are you all right ma’am? It’s a lot to take in,” the fire fighter said.

“No use crying over spilled milk.”

Writing prompt: create a vacuum day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Create a vacuum day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

“Aren’t you the asshole that wiped out Charlottesville?” the woman said, spotting me from across the diner. She walked over.

“Well, technically no, it wasn’t me,” I rubbed my arm. I felt eyes study me from all around.

“Your work then. Whatever. I didn’t think I’d ever see you in person, or at least not without a fake beard.”

“I’m not ashamed of what happened,” I said. “Regretful, yeah, but not ashamed.”

“How do you work that out? Wiping out thousands of homes and businesses because you did something stupid?”

She looked genuinely curious. I was used to being berated. But maybe she would understand. I launched into the speech I’d recited in my head so many times. The speech no one ever let me speak. “Have you ever seen a vacuum chamber setup? A real, scientific one? For trying to create nothing, the suckers are enormous. And chock full of specialized equipment, like pumps that can literally be destroyed if they have to push thousands of atoms rather than tens. Frankly, I thought it was all a mess. I thought I could do better,”

She cocked her head to the side. She looked like she thought I was nuts, but she didn’t look angry.

“It was a wild idea,” I continued. “So wild I didn’t tell my advisor. But I didn’t need to tell him, I had the materials to get it done on the cheap.”

“Yea, yea, yea,” she waved her hand. “You decided to make a black hole in one instead, I watch the news. And trust me, no matter how you tell that part, it won’t sound clever to someone who lost a house to it.”

I looked away. “I can’t do anything about that now. I ran simulation after simulation that looked fine. I still don’t know what happened.”

“You got it wrong.”

“I really don’t think I did,” I said. “And I’m not afraid to be wrong—really, go find my undergraduate biology professor. I don’t have any data, it all got destroyed, but something other than just a black hole happened that day.”

She frowned. “You got it wrong. Apparently you are afraid to admit it. How sad that you can’t even see that.”

She walked away.

“Excuse me,” an elderly woman with a colorful scarf said from a booth nearby. “I can’t help but have overheard your conversation. And I have a theory about what went wrong that I’ve entertained for a while. Are you willing to try to reproduce your experiment?”

 

Writing prompt: Hugging Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Hugging Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

Every species we knew said the Zagadins were the most caring and advanced species in the galaxy. When we finally managed to encounter them, it was with a sense of excitement. At last, we were friends with the cool species.

Cool be damned, thought the military—the Zagadins had technology, and they liked to share. For decades, other species had been able to travel faster than us, able to make ships we could only dream of. And when we asked for or demanded their technologies, they shrugged (or whatever a shrug was to their species) and said it came from the Zagadins. We could finally fleece the galaxy’s biggest hippy chumps and become king of the ant hill.

The Zagadins diplomatic arrival was all over the News Nets. They wanted to meet everyone! Secretary of state, president, secretary of the navy, senators, mayors, professors—for them, it was the more the merrier. They wouldn’t hear of restricting the event. Thousands of people came.

And the Zagadins introduced themselves with their cultural tradition—hugging. The military knew they had these hippies now. Everyone at the arrival got a hug from a Zagadin. And as promised, the Zagadins sent the government files full of technology afterwards.

But a strange thing happened. Those who had met the Zagadins didn’t care about using the technology to conquer. They just wanted to hug, and then the people they hugged became peaceful as well.

We asked other species. They shrugged some more. That’s how the Zagadins work. Their hugs transmit resequencing retroviruses that promote peacefulness. The Zagadins won’t meet a species until they work out the retroviruses necessary. Perhaps it’s a little invasive, but let’s hug it out, the aliens said.

A few hugless humans remained, and they were horrified. They fled to Io and founded a hugless colony. But they should really loosen up. Too bad they can’t hug it out.

 

Writing prompt: dress up your pet day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Dress up your pet day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

 

My alarm sounds. I hear the pitter-patter of soft feet racing to the bed, and feel those feet step on the softest parts of my torso and groin.

“Good morning, kitty,” I croak. I reach over and slap the alarm. I open my phone. Euler purrs like a bulldozer and nearly nuzzles my phone out of my hand.

“Oh kitty, did you not want me to see today’s notifications?” I coo. I scroll through the day’s appointments and reminders. “Today is Dress Up Your Pet Day.” Euler head butts my hand. In his opinion, I should be using that hand to make him happy. I scratch his butt. He flops over and kneads the air.

“You’re happy now,” I say to him, “but we’ll see about later.”

 

On the way back from work, I swing by WalMart and go to the baby clothes aisle. My mom would love a picture of Euler dressed as a sailor.

Before I even open the door, Euler is crying to see me. I feel bad that he spends so much time alone, but hey, he’s a cat and I work to put food in his bowl. My guilt is not remarkably deep.

I open the door, and Euler jumps on my shoulders. “Kitty!” I shout, dismayed. It’s really my fault, I haven’t trimmed his claws lately.

Whelp, I’ve bled on this shirt now, I think. I take it off, put stain remover on the spots, and switch shirts. Euler purrs and slithers on the bed.

“Dress your pet day,” I say. “And it’s you who’ve made me change outfits. I’m your pet, aren’t I?”

Euler straightens. I’m sure it’s just my imagination, but there is a glint in his eye. A knowing glint. A cold shiver rushes up my spine.

Euler leaps at from from the bed, pushing me into the closet. The last thing I see before I black out is cats holding garments.

Writing prompt: Old rock day

(It’s the new year and I going to restart my weekly prompts! Hooray! I slacked a bit this fall, which means I’m chock full of inspiration, right?)

Time: 10 minutes plus a 5 minute edit. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Old rock day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

After I went to an exhibit on Mars rocks, I was determined to find my own chunk of Mars. I dropped $1500 on a Pocket Geology GC™ Field Testing Kit. The Pocket GC could vaporize a small chunk of rock and run it through a tiny analyzer. Based upon the composition and structure, it could access an online database and tell you how the rock formed, where it was from, and how old it was. Crowd sourcing meant better data every day. If you really needed to be sure, you could send it off for authentic geological testing by certified scientists… for a price.

Only a handful of Mars rocks have ever been found because most rocks just look like rocks. Peering into their history isn’t something human eyes were made for. But since the Pocket GC hit market, the number of samples had grown by 50%.

I drove throughout the southwest. I studied the circumstances of other rock finds. I kept looking. I kept failing, but I was keeping busy, which is important, right?

I found it, appropriately enough, in City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico. It wasn’t a Mars rock; it was something else. I only went there for the scenery; the rocks there are way too young to find a Mars rock. But, so accustomed to fiddling with my hands, I tested an unassuming chunk of rock.

“Origins: Unknown, age: unknown,” my phone displayed, followed by a mess of chemical data. The Pocket GC didn’t return “unknown” too often these days. Sometimes scientists in the lab with new substances stumped it, but after 5 years of crowd supplied data, it had seen almost everything. So I had found something wonderful: a puzzle. I knew I should send it in for the extra testing. But I decided to keep it intact for a few days as a trophy. It was almost a compulsion, I couldn’t stand to hurt it more than I already had for the testing.

I set the rock on the bedside table as I went to bed that night. In the morning, I woke tired. The dreams crept up on me slowly over the next few nights.