Tagged: shared prompt

As I Lay Here With You

  • dark thorn stuck in the skin
  • and there he lay for eighteen months
  • It was fascinating.
  • “I mean, obviously.”
  • as I lay here with you

Kent’s Take

k-avatarAs I lay here with you, I think of him. Not just his physical aspect, warmth and solidness, but his humor and his regrets. So I wonder about your regrets. We began as colleagues, and bonded over the riddle of the dark thorn stuck in the skin of a quarantined banana. It was fascinating. We ruled out every known kind of plant that produces thorns, so in the end we failed to determine whether this one might be dangerous, or deduce anything useful about where those bananas had been. But researching it side-by-side for a year and a half was how you and I fused into a single entity. He knew it was happening. He collapsed on the sofa the first night, sobbing, and there he lay for eighteen months. One day he was gone. I hear that now he only eats bananas.”

“I mean, obviously.”

 

Jen’s Take

by jenAs I lay here with you, I am reminded of a weird, feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty, where it was the prince who pricked his finger and fell asleep. Instead of a misadventure with a spinning wheel, the prince encountered an enchanted rose bush belonging to a witch. He made a ham-fisted attempt at plucking a bloom for his girlfriend and got jabbed. The dark thorn stuck in the skin of his index finger and he fell over, unconscious, on the garden path, and there he lay for eighteen months until he was awakened by a kiss from the valiant female gardener. It was fascinating.

“I mean, obviously.” Jacinda smiled. “That’s why you never shut up about it.”

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Cotton Umbrellas, and Useful Knowledge

  • cotton umbrellas, and useful knowledge
  • throw other people’s lives into disarray
  • Whenever she wore pants
  • Should it ever leave the ground
  • scattering in all directions

Jen’s Take

by jenFor years Lolita’s sartorial choices were the talk of the internet. Whenever she wore pants instead of a short skirt it would throw other people’s lives into disarray. Fashion bloggers never knew quite what to say, their clever words scattering in all directions like so many cotton umbrellas, and useful knowledge of how the masses could emulate Lovely Lolita’s style never appeared. Lolita dreamed of turning all of her cast-off clothing into a giant hot air balloon. Should it ever leave the ground, she thought she would enjoy looking down on all those who had previously looked down on her.

Kent’s Take

k-avatarHer imagination was like a giant, colorful balloon filled with fish and sneakers and harmonicas. Should it ever leave the ground, the townsfolk would be flabbergasted by cotton umbrellas, and useful knowledgescattering in all directions.

Her balloon would always throw other people’s lives into disarray. They couldn’t reconcile her chaotic visions with their own preference for beige humdrummery. To see the creative faculties of her mind soaring over the trees made their earwax buzz.

Whenever she wore pants, her balloon sailed in figure-eights. Whenever she wore shoes, two tiny banjos were elected to parliament.

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2013 Holiday Prompt

In this special holiday edition, the stichomancy prompt phrases were all taken from Christmas carols. Jen and Kent both tackled the same set, with markedly different results. Whose do you prefer?

  • so lively and quick
  • dashing through the snow
  • he began to dance around
  • tis the season to be jolly
  • nine ladies dancing
  • when we finally kiss goodnight

k-avatarKent’s take:

“I forgot these things were so lively and quick,” Herb remarked, drawing a bead on one of the creatures dashing through the snow in the clearing.

“And I forgot they bite! Ow!” exclaimed Remmy as he began to dance around holding one boot up out of the deep drifts, a creature dangling from the toe.

Herb chuckled, prompting Remmy to ask him with some vehemence just what was so damn funny.

“Oh, nothing. Just, tis the season to be jolly, I suppose,” drawled Herb in reply.

Remmy shook the xenopod loose and stomped it, muttering about better times before the invasion. “I’ve had enough for one day. Let’s go get drunk at the Nine Ladies Dancing. I’ll buy.”

“Okay,” Herb said. “I’d like to see that sweet little barmaid again anyway.” Herb’s opinions on the invasion were slightly more mixed. “When we finally kiss goodnight, I’ll find out what those suckers on her tongue feel like.”

bonus points for using them in order!

 

by jenJen’s take:

My blind date with Bertram started out well enough. I found him to be so lively and quick-witted that I was able to overlook his unfortunate ears. I thought him quite galant when he offered to pay for dinner, but halfway through the meal he began to dance around in his seat like he had to pee. Then he grumbled at our waiter, “It’s winter, dude! Tis the season to be jolly well sozzled so you don’t notice the cold! Bring me a yard of Schnapps! And one for the lady.”

He finished his shots in record time, and most of mine, all the while telling the tale of a bachelor party he’d recently attended where there were no fewer than nine ladies dancing naked. I was unimpressed.

Bertram’s fate was sealed when he said to me, “Hey babe, when we finally kiss goodnight, I’m going to slip you the tongue.”

Horrified, I left him at the table and went dashing through the snow and wind all the way to the subway station so he couldn’t follow me home.

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Dizzy Fracas

Today we offer two versions of the same prompt, one written by Kent and one by Jen. This prompt is a simplified form of the stichomancy prompts we use most often. Instead of phrases or sentence fragments, we have a short list of words that must be included.

  • dizzy
  • fracas
  • gender
  • curve

k-avatarKent’s take:

In the tumultuous midst of a fracas

Said the dizzy lad, “Here’s where your mistake is

Although I’m quite slender

I assure you my gender

Has no curve: my bosom all fake is.”

by jen

 

Jen’s take:

“All I said was I like the gender with curves,” Sam said, gazing out the window at the flaming chaos below.

Gina replied, “Well, Samantha, this is a pretty conservative town. An announcement like that coming from the new librarian is bound to make some of the gentry dizzy.”

“I suppose you’re right. I should have expected it. But, Gina, this fracas is making me horny. Take off your spectacles and kiss me!”

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Fear-Joy

Today we offer two versions of the same prompt, one written by Jen and one by Kent. This prompt is a simplified form of the stichomancy prompts we use most often. Instead of phrases or sentence fragments, we have a short list of words that must be included.

  • concerned
  • concentration
  • fear-joy
  • murderous physicians

by jenJen’s take:

Murderous physicians fill me with fear-joy,” Joanne told her concerned therapist. “Doctors in general frighten me with their looks of caring concentration, their probing questions, their needles, and nasal-lights. And yet, their deadly intentions, the dangers they represent, are a turn-on.”

 

k-avatarKent’s take:

Fear-joy heightened all Carlos’s senses in the waiting room. The idea that he was perhaps waiting to see one of the murderous physicians he’d read about made him giddy, stoking the fetishistic core of his mind to a white glow. He directed all his concentration at a magazine. Outwardly, no one would know of his agitation. He did not look at all concerned.

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Hotel Room in Prague

Jen and Kent both took a stab at this prompt. Who do you think did a better job? Why?

  1. Character – the human fly
  2. Setting – hotel room in Prague
  3. Object – camcorder
  4. Situation – inventing something

k-avatar

Kent’s Take

Spike always loved climbing in the old cities, clambering over all the ornamental stonework and making faces at the other gargoyles.

But he mostly hated climbing hotels. Other buildings’ occupants could usually be counted on to be thoroughly sick of whatever sad excuse for a view lay beyond the window, but in hotels everyone is still getting used to the scenery. And paranoid as hell that some lunatic might come in over the ledge and do some hideous thing that the papers will hush up to protect tourism.

At the fifth floor of the Prague Hilton, Spike heard moaning. Slowly he pulled himself high enough to glance in. The first thing he saw was the camcorder on a tripod. The next thing took him some moments to comprehend. It was something that had never occurred to him, although it looked like fun.

He climbed on, secret witness to an invention of passion.

 

by jenJen’s Take

By Eastern European standards, the room was luxurious. By Misty’s Vegas standards it was merely not squalid. But it would do.

The light on the camcorder blinked steadily, letting Misty know that her every move was being recorded for later broadcast by Czech television.

Shifting her weight entirely to her left hand, Misty slowly, slowly lowered her knees toward the floor while pointing her toes toward the gilt ceiling and flourishing madly with her right hand.

The chandelier she hung from swayed slightly and Misty worked with the movement, augmenting it until she was swinging several inches in each direction. Her movements stabilized the arc, controlled it, and she was ready for the final motion, the twist that would make this move her own.

Taking a deep breath, Misty thrust her feet outward and her head down, while simultaneously rotating clockwise.

It was beautiful.

Prague would forever be known as the city where “The Nightingale” was invented.

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Setting Prompt

During October we will be sharing passages that we’ve written independently from the same prompt.

Today we have a different kind of prompt, the setting/picture prompt. A member of our critique group brought this in for us all to try.

Here is the inspiration photo we were provided:

Lava Rocks

Kent’s Take

Evans knew he could trust Smith. He inched backwards down the sheer face, his safe descent relying on Smith to hang on to the other end of the rope because the weather-beaten basalt was too hard to drive in belaying pins.

Evans actually felt he had the better half of the job, because soon now his progress would take him into precious shade. Smith had to bake in the cruel desert sun at the edge of the drop.

It did take skill and concentration to place his feet, choosing spots between the vertical ridges of eroded lava-rock, where the folds of this infernal theatre curtain couldn’t trap his boots. He could feel the heat through his gloves, through the thick soles of his boots. The glove was becoming threadbare from gripping the abrasive stone to keep himself from swinging, so as not to fray the rope.

If his theory was right, then at the lowest point in the chasm he would see fossils, imprints of life that thrived in magma.

Finally, shade.

And then, weightlessness and swirling fear.

Smith had theories of his own.

 

Jen’s Take

by jenThe Monsters of Rock play Red Rocks

The members of Metallica regretted their experimentation with Japanese radiation the minute they grew too large for their tour bus. Luckily, in their enhugened state, the walk from Los Angeles to Denver took only half an hour.

Lars Ulrich was the first to straddle the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, and he looked around in wonder. Darkness was only just beginning to creep up from the horizon, and Lars shielded his eyes from the sun’s last rays. Below him the mountains jutted, rough primeval and snow-capped. To the east, Lars caught his first glimpse of the amphitheater nestled as it was among the peaks. The ruddy, rusty stones that gave it its name looked warm and inviting, but Lars knew they were no warmer than any of the surrounding grey rocks. The parking lot was alive with tiny moving dots of many colors, but Lars could hear nothing but the rush of icy wind around his head and the occasional roar of a passing jet.

James and the others joined Lars at last and together the Monsters of Rock gazed down upon their fans, wondering where they would find instruments large enough to play.

 

What do you think? Who handled this prompt better?

And A Couch That Opened Out

During October we will be sharing passages that we’ve written independently from the same prompt.

  • and a couch that opened out
  • don’t make it just a flesh wound
  • Men’s wallets are like women’s purses
  • stealing a hat was beneath contempt
  • “Does that hurt?”
  • the biggest frog

Jen’s Take

by jenYolanda was the reigning queen of the Times Square pickpockets. So far no one had been able to top her score from the previous spring when she managed to lift both a Gucci bag and a couch that opened out into a trampoline from the same unsuspecting socialite.

Today Yolanda had to make an example of Jimmy the Hat Thief. As every pickpocket knew, stealing a hat was beneath contempt. Men’s wallets are like women’s purses, though, in the respectability hierarchy.

“Does that hurt?” Yolanda asked Jimmy as she poked him with the hat pin from his latest prize.

Don’t make it just a flesh wound,” Deak encouraged, “or he’ll never learn his lesson.”

Yolanda considered, then said with an evil grin, “Bring me the biggest frog you can find in Central Park.”

Kent’s Take

“Does that hurt?” Hackney twisted the hatchet.

“Yes, but keep going. Don’t make it just a flesh wound, it has to be convincing.” Simpson gritted his teeth.

Stealing a hat was beneath contempt, but still drew notice from the law. A pound of flesh, or the biggest frog in the county, those were the choices.

Men’s wallets are like women’s purses, as far as the penalties for misuse. Karaoke. Bad business.

Better to pass on the right. Just spend one fitful night — choose between a bathtub and a couch that opened out.

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What do you think? Who handled this prompt better?

Varnishing My Study

During October we will be sharing passages that we’ve written independently from the same prompt.

  • varnishing my study
  • like calling a leg a “limb”
  • each kill a man
  • a stuffed owl
  • I am still on a merry-go-round

Kent’s Take

Even after completing my hazing ritual and varnishing my studyI am still on a merry-go-round of ennui, riding a stuffed owl of disenfranchisement, pondering why we must each kill a man with a harmonica to gain entry into this occult club, puzzling over whether it means the harmonica is to be the weapon or if the victim must have it on him (I covered both bases, just to play it safe), and vexed by habits of linguistic imprecision (like calling a leg a “limb”) in a world where language is already so rife with ambiguity and clouded meanings.

One sentence = Bonus Points!

Jen’s Take

by jenJohannes Van Der Oppenstüffel, the reclusive Dutch billionaire, was sponsoring a competition to choose his next bodyguard. The first task he assigned the hopefuls was to scour the grounds of his immense estate in search of a stuffed owl. Once that was accomplished, he told those who remained, “You will each travel to a foreign city and you will each kill a man named either Karl or Geoffrey. When the task is completed, you will call me with the details. And when I say ‘details’ I mean I want you to be specific. Nothing like calling a leg a ‘limb’ will be allowed.”

Five hours later the first call came.

I am still on a merry-go-round in the Tivoli park in Copenhagen” came the rough voice, “but Karl is dead, his head crushed by a cotton candy machine.”

“Excellent,” replied Johannes. “Return to Amsterdam immediately to take up your duties. You will begin by varnishing my study. If you know what I mean.”

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Oh, It’s Too Confusing

During October we will be sharing passages that we’ve written independently from the same prompt.

  • Oh, it’s too confusing
  • The hell I am
  • his cranium was large
  • particularly the gas attack
  • hastily procured a saucer of milk and one of sardines
  • Can you use it to pay taxes?

Jen’s Take

by jenHis cranium was large, some might say overlarge, due to several instances in his early childhood, particularly the gas attack. Unfortunately that giant melon did not house an equally over-sized intellect.

Oh, it’s too confusing,” he said of the internet. “Can you use it to pay taxes?

I sighed. He always got dumber when he was hungry. I hastily procured a saucer of milk and one of sardines as well, in hopes of staving off further degeneration of his intellectual faculties.

“We’ll talk about that in a minute,” I said, “But first you’re going to eat this nice snack.”

The hell I am,” he replied belligerently. “Not unless you make it a smoothie.”

 

Kent’s Take

Oh, it’s too confusing,” Felix sighed. His cranium was large, but mostly filled with styrofoam peanuts. Consequently, there were few things that did not confuse him. A 1040-ez lay far outside of his area of proficiency.

“You’re making too much of a fuss,” Felicity replied.

The hell I am,” Felix growled back.

“Just follow your instincts. You know you have the poise of a panther.”

“I do? Can you use it to pay taxes?

“Here, stay put and take slow, calming breaths.” Felicity dashed to the kitchen and hastily procured a saucer of milk and one of sardines. Upon her return she said, “These will help you concentrate.”

Felix lapped at the milk dubiously, and swerved away from the sardines altogether. But he had to admit that his mind responded to the unconventional tonic. Soon it filled with visions for how to cope with the IRS, visions Felix found invigorating – particularly the gas attack.

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What do you think? Who handled this prompt better?