Writing Prompt: The Replacement

I have nothing interesting to talk about this week beyond my renewed obsession with knitting, so here’s a writing prompt that I did today with my writing group, from the excellent Deep Water Prompts. I posted another of their prompts I did here last year, though I usually do them weekly. Enjoy!

They took away my grandmother and sent in a replacement. She wanted something from me that I could not let her have. How did I know she was a replacement? It was in the way she talked, always recycling phrases, sentences. Ever since they swapped her I never heard her speak an original word. The same “rise and shine, dearie” in the morning, the same “sweet dreams, my sweet,” at bedtime. Her inflections never altered, nor the facial expressions which accompanied them.

My mom explained it away as getting old, but I saw further. I caught her snooping in my room, time and time again. A ninety-year old, however malevolent, could only be so stealthy. The first time I found her rustling through my sock drawer I asked what she was doing. With a smile I’d never seen my grandmother wear, she spit out the same “just tidying up, dearie” that she’d said last year, when we caught her in mom’s closet looking for Christmas presents.

Now when I catch her I say nothing, just stare her down ’til she leaves, those eyes–not my grandmother’s–glinting at me with concealed wrath.

I began locking my door from the inside before I left, but she somehow had the key. I bought a padlock and came home to find it cut clean through, lying on the ground. After that I lay string across the lock before I left every day, and after school find it fallen to the floor, a sure sign she’d been looking.

In a way, it was reassuring. So long as she kept searching my room, she didn’t suspect it was in my brother’s.

Was it cruel to have endangered him by hiding it among his action figures? Perhaps. But I couldn’t leave it somewhere easier for her to find, and I absolutely couldn’t hide it outside the house. They needed a fake grandmother to even begin to search inside. Outside, it would be easy pickings.

But my fake grandmother still had to conform to her predecessor’s life, and so could not refuse when mom took her to her doctor’s appointment. It was then that I made my move.

I entered my brother’s room, ignoring his outrage at the intrusion, and opened the drawer stuffed to the brim with his superhero toys. Before he could start throwing things at me, I snatched what I had hidden a week before and left. There was only one safe place I could take the thing now they had an an agent in my home, and that was a place I had sworn never to return to.

I grit my teeth, swallowed my pride, and descended into the cellar.


Writing Prompts Galore

Happy Christmas Eve for those who celebrate it, and apologies for the erratic update schedule lately–I’ve been in transit from North Carolina to Tennessee to Ohio and soon to reverse that process, and that kind of driving takes a lot out of you. Now I’m at my grandparents’ house for seasonal festivities, trying to squeeze in some thesis work while catching up with family and also becoming addicted to The Arcana game…oops.

Anyway it’s about time that I compile another author resource list! This time, prompts. It can be hard to write over the holidays when everything is crazy and you can’t seem to focus over the confusion of relatives you haven’t seen in a few months/years all trying to figure out how to act now they’re together again. Prompts cut through the BS of agonizing over what to write and get down to business. Here are some of my favorite prompt sites, and also ones that seem useful but I just haven’t used yet.

Deep Water Prompts always has unusual and thought-provoking prompts. This site has been my go-to for the last few months when I need to find a good prompt.

Writing Prompts generally has very quality, sometimes humorous options and updates regularly.

The Colormayfade generator has very specific prompts, down to randomized genres, settings, and themes.

Writing Exercises has a list of places to find different prompts, such as image, first line, and quick plot generators. Go crazy.

Awesome Writing Prompts doesn’t update anymore but the backlogs seem to have some interesting prompts.

The word “prompt” no longer sounds or looks real to me, so I guess that’s enough! Happy holidays and happy writing!

Writing Prompt: Secret Keeper

Here’s a short prompt I filled today in my writing group. It’s from Deep Water Prompts, which contains awesome and strange writing prompts. Anyway I’ve never posted any of my actual creative writing on here before so trying something new.

There was a girl on the corner who could lose something for you forever if you asked nicely and paid cash.  That’s what they say about me, anyway. The whisper that goes from ear to ear, between those eager to be rid of a secret. As if once I abscond with the evidence, I take their guilt as well as their cash. Relief in their eyes, as if I had purge the guilt from their souls. But guilt is tenacious. I bargain with those in the habit of lying to themselves.

I never speak when I make a deal. I wait, and they come to me. Maybe they expect a dark hooded figure, because it always unnerves them to see the tall woman in jeans and heels waiting under the lamppost. I never accept less than a hundred, and I never turn down an item. I’ve been given guns, knives, toys, photographs, phones, keys, laptops, anything you can imagine and more.

They wonder how I do it. She uses black magic, she melts it down, she opens her mouth and eats the evidence. It’s funny, really, when all I do is turn them into art and sell them to the highest bidding demon. I mostly do found object collages, but also sculptures and the odd painting. I live in the south side of town, and the little old lady I rent from is most appreciative of my watercolors.

I can never sell the pieces to anyone of this world, of course, but certain buyers down below pay out the horns for that unique aura my pieces bring to the room. Sultry guilt, greed, embarrassment–a prominent political figure from down there once paid an enormous sum for a multi-media piece fragrant with shame and dark excitement. It took me months of meeting on street corners, attempting to blend the scents just right. The piece contains a hairbrush with several long strands of auburn hair, sixty lottery tickets, an unopened gold locket, and several bloody leather bracelets, among other things.

My clients wouldn’t be happy if they knew what I did with their secrets, but really, they were only deluding themselves in the first place. Is one secret among a collage really so salacious anymore? I never promised them anything, after all. Never spoke a word.


Way back in January I made some New Years Writing Resolutions, and no.3 was “Submit a short story to my school’s literary magazine.” Well, folks, I submitted one, and I was accepted! The release party was last night, and you can now find my short story “Cake” right here, in the 2016-17 version of The Peel, a very cool literary magazine.

I was asked to read the story at the release party, which I did, and I didn’t throw up, mess up, or start laughing uncontrollably into the microphone. The crowd was the kind that snaps when they like a line. It was an incredible experience, and the implications haven’t quite sunk in. I’m a person who’s been published. A published person. P U B L I S H E D.

The story is about a cake (surprised?) and only a page and a half long. It was actually a writing prompt I did last year and buffed up to submit on the last night of the deadline, which goes to show–well, I’m not sure what, but it goes to show something.

And after that brief celebration, it’s back to the despair of exam week. Good luck to any fellow students out there!

cake edit

Image 1: An attempt at a context-based visual pun

Surrealist Writing Games

Sounds kind of like Reindeer Games. But detailed instructions to surrealist writing can be found halfway through André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto, which requires at least two hours and a strong cup of tea to make any kind of sense.

Essentially, the goal is to tap into your subconscious. Sit, clear your mind, and begin to write–not focusing on what you’re writing or what you’ve written, only moving forward with the flow of the act. Writes Breton, “the first sentence will come spontaneously, so compelling is the truth that with every passing second there is a sentence unknown to our consciousness which is only crying out to be heard.”

A friend and I tried the practice out: It’s absolutely harder than it sounds, equally fun, and I invite anyone to try it out. We certainly had fun laughing at our results. Below is my most viewable piece.

Slashing and violent do the urges come to us, the authors, creators, merry-makers, weaving lost threads under the suns of our ancestors: what is sense? But the moment to moment daze, understanding flashes of white, of the apples which bloom beneath our feet to perish and make merry the ebullient tomatoes of servitude, sorrow, reminiscing. Do not but fear at the faint thought of the scavenger, whom to all else is nothing. Let carnage strip from beaks, flesh from feathers that reach the night. Every thought is fluttering, passing, self-aware. It hurts!


Writing Prompt Struggles

Every Saturday in a small building perfect for authors (read: cozy couches, stocked with tea, and next to a cookie store), I co-host a writing group. Mostly it’s free writing with company, but for the first 20 minutes we snag a writing prompt off a reddit thread and try to beat the clock. Sharing afterwards is the scariest part, and most of us chicken out of actually reading our piece aloud.

Before inheriting the group, I’d never actually done any kind timed writing prompt (AP exams don’t count). Suffice to say, this practice changed me as a writer. I discovered a deep, abiding love of prompts. The high of quick, nonstop writing, the freedom of inventing characters and plot on the fly–all slightly addicting.

But it took me a while to get into the swing of the short prompt and stop writing the beginnings of lengthy plots. (My writing career bypassed short stories entirely and dove straight into novellas and novels.) Figuring out how to tell something briefly and concisely was–and is–a challenge, but one I am getting much better at.

Of course, the lure of the extended adventure still pulls my prompts off course more often than not, but I’ve managed to trim a few of them into satisfactory self-contained stories.


Pictured above: my good intention to write a short story (left) vs. my deep-seated urge to start a new novel (right)