These nuggets of fictive gold were created using writing prompts gathered by culling random lines and phrases from books (or other sources, see below). The word stichomancy means “divination by lines” and refers to a fortune-telling technique. Employing it for writing prompts is a procedure that we honed to a fine art at our critique group meetings in a bookstore. It’s uncomplicated: grab a random book, flip to a random page, and point to a random line. The art lies in spotting those lines with the quirkiest personality when taken out of context. We became especially adept at creating surreal and demented lists to work from, and assigning them to each other. (Much more fun to see someone else grapple with it than to inflict it on yourself!) The results are brief, largely unedited, and often ridiculous.
The bulleted list of sentence fragments at the top is the fodder. The assignment is to take those disparate phrases and wrangle them into a single, short, coherent (with any luck) little gem. We typically skew ours toward bizarre humor, but there’s no rule against using a more serious tone. As you can imagine, the quality level varies. Not all works of microfiction are successful. Bonus points for running the list in order, or for using it all in a single sentence.
Sometimes the fragments come from song lyrics, sometimes from books. We’ve also pulled prompts from blogs, menus, TV dialog, and conversation.
When we’re feeling competitive we’ll both use the same prompt and see who comes up with the best/most ridiculous result.
There are other kinds of prompts that we use sometimes, but this is our favorite.