Your weekly dose of pen-spiration. 🙂 Have your own writing prompt to share? Leave it in the comments and help contribute to the end of writer’s block! Also, if you’re on Pinterest, please feel free to follow my Pen-spiration board for writing quotes and exercises!
Here we are–September. SEPTEMBER. Can someone please tell me what happened to August, or even the first seven months of the year?
September is going to be a big month for me. About a zillion people I know are getting married (just a rough estimate, don’t quote me on that number). My puppy is getting spayed. Oh, and my new book is going to become available. [Insert ear-piercing squeal here.] This will be my second book and it is absolutely nothing like my first; while my first was based on this here blog you’re reading, the one coming out this month is a memoir. I’ll save all the dirty details for a blog post when the book hits the shelves, but I had to take a moment to document the reality of it. Eeeeee!
Annnnywho. I hope many of you are enjoying this extra day off of work. Working or not, here’s this week’s set of prompts to get your creative juices flowing.
Although the challenges for my stories are a little different than traditional writing prompts, I do have an appreciation for the good ol’ fashioned method. Every Monday, I’m going to start posting five writing prompts for my fellow writers who might need a less aggressive jump start to their writing for the work week. Here is the first set!
It’s a miracle I’ve gotten any writing done this past week since my hands have been full with this little cutie-patootie:
Miraculously, I did crank out a story and I gave my blog a little bit of a makeover. (Didja notice? Didja didja?) Enjoy this bit of Sunday reading! Challenge is revealed at the end of the post…
“I’m a celebrity, you know,” Gretchen tells me, running long, purple fingernails through her French poodle’s spirally fur.
“No you’re not, Gretchen,” I say as I turn my back to her. She sits on the front porch with a glass of peach-flavored iced tea. She doesn’t respond, but huffs with an air of disagreement.
Gretchen hired me six months ago to tend to her garden twice a week. A compulsive liar, she’s told every fib under the sun, plus some from another universe entirely.
“Pick off those dead leaves, dear,” Gretchen instructs, pointing at a curtain of ivy ten feet from where I’m standing. Only a moment ago, she’d told me not to bother with anything other than the tulips today.
“Yep,” Gretchen says with a stretch, “back in 1979, I was on the cover of Modern Wife magazine.”
“Why were you on the cover of Modern Wife?” I inquire, my bullshit detector picking up a signal.
“Why do you think?” she asks. “I was a model, and I portrayed a damn fine wife if I do say so myself.”
I pat the dirt, pet it light I might stroke a kitten, wondering if this story could be true. It certainly seems true, not like the others Gretchen tells that involve copulating with werewolves and singing in an a capella ensemble with Prince.
“I’ve tried to bond with Gretchen, thinking it was odd to spend 15 hours a week with a woman I hardly knew. Now, as she flicks cigarette ashes onto the flowers I treat with such care, I would rather bond with a grizzly bear.
I make my way to the ivy, plucking away leaves with browning edges like burnt paper. “Do you want my autograph?” Gretchen asks, adding, “I’ll give it to ya for five bucks.”
Gretchen does this all the time: tries to swindle money out of me by feeding me bogus stories. “Did you know I sponsor starving lemurs in Africa?” she once asked. “You can feed 50 of them for a 20 dollar donation.”
If only she knew what five bucks can do for me. If only I could pay 50 dollars to sit on my porch and bark commands at some poor woman. “But Gretchen, I already have your autograph,” I say, “on all of my checks you’ve signed.”
Gretchen purses her lips, old and weathered from a lifetime of cigarettes. “I think you might just be jealous that you’d never get featured on the cover of Good Wife magazine.”
“Isn’t it Modern Wife?” I scowl, ready to hogtie Gretchen in ivy and stamp burning cigarettes into her eyes. She will spend the whole afternoon concocting a new tale. For now, Gretchen mutters a “hmmph” at her being caught, again. Sometimes I can understand why she does it. How I would rather the world see me as a model or a lemur-saver than as a poor girl surviving on plucking dead plant leaves. But that’s the difference between Gretchen and me. I want to believe that at her age, I will have real stories to tell, true memories to share with the woman tending my garden.
Gretchen says, “My mom won the Nicaraguan lottery once…”
The challenge for this story was: Every sentence contains exactly three 3-letter words.
The spell is broken, the spell is broken! I have slayed the mighty Writer’s Block!
My husband dragged me to see 300 in the theater last night. It was a trade-off: I would only agree to see it with him if he agreed to see a chick flick with me. (Really, all he needed to do was mention that 300 would involve hundreds of half-naked men with air-brushed abs.) Now that I have suffered through it (okay, okay, it wasn’t that bad), I can only compare my victory over Writer’s Block to one of the many intensely gory scenes from the movie last night. I have shed the blood of Writer’s Block and declared my creative freedom!
I do hope that whole spiel was corny enough for you. In all seriousness: the challenge for today’s story was suggested by one of my readers. (Thanks Krista!) I will reveal the challenge at the end!
Belle’s mom wouldn’t let her use curse words. Once, when Belle called her brother an “ass,” her mom duct-taped her mouth shut for two whole hours. Belle never understood what was so bad about curse words—they’re only words, after all—and that only made her want to say them even more.
Belle could count only seven curse words that she’d heard. Whenever she was angry or frustrated, she mouthed them to herself. They made her woozy, the way they rolled off her tongue. She knew a day would come when she would speak one aloud and she’d be grounded, probably even spanked. But Belle wouldn’t be stopped; she was hooked.
The problem was that Belle grew bored of the seven curse words she knew. She’d heard there were many more bad words out there—dozens, actually—but she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to learn them all.
On a Saturday afternoon when her mom fell asleep on the couch, Belle opened the phone book and punched the number of a random person: ANGUS, GEORGE.
“Hullo?” George muttered.
“George?” Belle asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” George responded.
“Can you tell me what’s the baddest, most awful word you’ve ever heard?”
George laughed, a gurgly, hearty chuckle. “How old are you, deary?”
“Seven,” Belle stated proudly.
“Why’d you call a stranger to ask for such a bad word?” George asked.
“Bad words are cool. The way they sound makes my heart flutter. But my mom never uses them, so there’s no way for me to learn them.”
George went mute—so mute that Belle feared he may have hung up. She opened the phone book to browse for another name, but then George began, “Well, there’s…” and he spouted off twenty-two of the worst, foulest words Belle thought must have ever been uttered. When he was done, George let out an exhausted breath.
All Belle could say was, “Wow…”
“You’re a rebel, deary. That’s rad. Now don’t go tell your mom you learned those from me.”
Belle, frozen by wonder, squeaked out, “No, never. You are so cool!”
Belle ended the call and ran to her room to record as many of the words as she could remember. When she was done, she stashed the paper under her mattress.
Later that afternoon, Belle’s mom found her daughter asleep on the floor where she’d thrown a tea party for her dolls. Her heart warmed at how pure and lovely Belle appeared there, a touch of drool collected where her head rested on her arm. She couldn’t ask for a better daughter.
The challenge was, as submitted by a reader: Write a story without any dotted letters (j,i). It doesn’t matter if they are capital or not. If the letter, if lower case, would have a dot, then you can’t use it.
It’s been…over two weeks since my last post. I could blame it on the fact that my mother-in-law came all the way from Maryland for a ten-day visit. I could blame it on the fact that I’ve been running until my legs turn into pudding as I train for the 10k I recently signed up for. (I still suspect I had been drugged at the time.) I could blame it on the fact that I’m writing a memoir. Unfortunately, I can’t blame any of those things. The truth is, guys, I straight-up have a miserable case of [bleeping] writer’s block.
Let me prove it. Here is a picture of (some of) the various scraps of paper on which I’ve jotted down the beginnings of stories that went a whole lot of nowhere:
And that picture doesn’t include all of the stories I’ve started…and scrapped…on my computer. It got so bad, I even made a list of the things that usually inspire me.
1. The soundtrack to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
2. The Sixteen Horsepower station on Pandora.
3. Watching children playing.
4. Sipping a glass of wine.
5. Going somewhere new for the first time (even if it’s just a street in my city I’ve never been down before).
6. People watching in crowded places.
My writer’s block isn’t from a lack of ideas. I’ve got ideas coming out of my arse. (Not literally.) It’s just that after the first paragraph or two, my mind just goes BLANK. As easily as turning a light switch on and off.
So, my sincerest apologies for the lack of new stories. I’m Determined (with a capital D) to finish the story I’m currently working on. I just felt that, in the meantime, I should probably post something and admit that, challenge myself as I might, I’m still not immune to the writer’s block monster that gets us all at one point or another.
Let’s all admit it: this time change is kicking our butts. (Okay, Hawaiians and Arizonans excluded. And anyone who doesn’t live in the US. You know what? Just forget it. I’m probably just being a wuss anyhow.) Although this is my third day as a complete zombie, I am quite enjoying the extra sunshine. So is Winston, who was basking in the sun this evening as I was cooking dinner. That’s right…cooking dinner while the sun is still shining outside. AWWW YEAH.
Standing over Ted’s bed, Anita says, “What do you remember?” The window is half open, blowing in the refreshing breath of summer. Ted wishes it would blow everything away—the chaos dancing in his skull, the fire in his gut, the nauseating vividness of his memories.
The night he was abducted, Ted had been at his brother’s wedding reception, drinking white wine and dancing the mamba. He’d stepped outside to have a cigarette when a surge of pain coated his head, like he’d been hit with a hammer. In just the second it took Ted to blink, he found he’d been transported to what appeared to be a museum. Lying flat on his back, he was surrounded by sculptures of bodies, plastic skeletons, and thousands of body parts that had been embalmed.
Ted rolled to one side to see a group of creatures wrapped in leathery green strips of fabric, as if they’d been mummified. They hovered around Ted and began taking his measurements. The creatures worked in silence and ignored his efforts to try and communicate. He yelled, he shrieked, he wriggled and kicked, but the creatures pinned Ted down and suppressed his movement.
Ted tried to ignore that he was surrounded by jars of brains, fingers, and tongues—tried to push away his fears of the horrible acts these creatures were about to commit. The creatures covered his head with a foil sack and the silent air filled with buzzes, beeps, and clangs, leaving Ted to faint over the commotion.
Now, in his parents’ house, Ted sips at a cup of liqueur-laced coffee with his mom. He stares at the stub where his left leg used to be, considering the prosthetic the doctors recommended. He wants to feel lucky that he woke up in the hospital to the sight of his little sister, Emma. Lucky that the doctors describe his recovery as immaculate. Ted knows he will feel lucky, one day, but for now he’s still haunted, unable to live in the moment. Even though he survived, Ted wonders if the creatures will ever return and let the research commence.
And the challenge for this story was: The last word of every sentence contains at least two M‘s, but the letter M does not appear anywhere else in the story.
Let me set the scene right now: troops of raindrops marching across the roof, homemade pizza in the oven, and an “it’s-almost-Friday” electricity in the air. It’s also worth mentioning that my pizza is topped with some of the bacon cheddar cheese I recently purchased at the Trader Joe’s that just opened up in my city. Top this off with the fact that a new episode of The Big Bang Theory is on tonight, and you have one crazy happy woman right here. (Minus the big, fat spider my cats just found. Nothing happy about that.)
Okay, let’s dive into this story business. You’ll find the challenge at the end of the post!
Kristina was pretty, but not the kind of pretty like on the covers of the magazines she got when she went into town. The warm, fetid smell of cow dung clung to her skin like a parasite, and her nose was always just a shade lighter than the fresh-picked red apples her mom served for dessert. Yet it surprised no one when I admitted I’d fallen hard for her.
I met Kristina purely by accident, but not the kind of accident like the both of us grabbing the same eggplant at the grocery store and my walking away with her phone number. It was May and I was on my way to talk to Barry Bowers, who was selling a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette. On a sprawl of farmland that grew a meter for every inch I advanced into it, none of the dwellings was marked with an address. Barry had told me he was two miles past the Blacksmith Ranch. By now I was sure I’d gone two miles or more, so I pulled over at a split-level with a tattered American flag softly swaying on a short pole next to the front window.
In the front yard, Kristina was hunched over a muscular black lab, clutching his collar in one hand and a garden hose in the other. The dog began to whine as I drew closer. Kristina tossed the hose into the grass and rose halfway, still holding the dog back. Her bangs were matted to her face and a smudge of dirt sat on the very center of her chin. She was plump, but not the kind of plump that suggests she didn’t care for herself.
“Howdy,” I called. “Is this where I can find Barry Bowers?”
“Stay,” she told the dog. Drawing closer, she dabbed her palms with her shirt. “He’s still, oh, half a mile down that way.” She waved her hand to the north. For the first time since I’d exited my car, Kristina glanced at my face rather than some abstract spot below my neck. The enlargement of her eyes told me she knew exactly who I was. She didn’t say that she did, but she knew.
Behind me, a bird whistled a disarranged song. I willed my eyes to part from hers, but they resisted. Her small eyes–no mascara and no eye shadow—were just chocolate gems as pure as a newborn’s. It was love at first sight, but not the kind of love that hits so hard and so fast it crashes and burns.
“I…have to go,” I muttered, somehow knowing this wasn’t the last involvement I’d have with her.
We eloped in Vegas ten months later. Kristina was stunning, baring her slightly yellowed smile and her clusters of freckles. I sent the photos to a celebrity columnist for The Los Angeles Times. They all expected my wife to be thin. Tan. Blonde. Dazzling. Kristina was nothing like that, and that’s why I loved her.
We lived happily ever after, but not the kind of happily ever after I have to describe. All that matters is that it happened, and it happened with Kristina.
The challenge for this story was: There are no words containing two or more consecutive vowels.
Hope everyone has a great Friday and an even greater weekend!
YES, it’s finally hump day! (Was my excitement believable? I sure hope so, because in actuality I think this might be one of the slowest weeks ever.)
Before I lure you in to read today’s story, I do have to preface it with a heads up that it’s a little. . .well, “bloodier” than what I typically write. It’s not so grotesque that you’ll lose your appetite, but it’s a wee bit more twisted than my past stories.
Okay, now that I’ve given my disclaimer, here’s the story. The challenge is revealed at the end!
Troy and Macie were adamant about buying a house where a murder had taken place. It could be anywhere in the world, they said, but it needed to come with a disturbing story.
Carl, their realtor, certainly did his research. The first house he showed to Troy and Macie had once been owned by a bipolar dance instructor named—legally—“Gagagoogoo.”
“Tell us what happened,” Macie begged, her pupils pulsing with anticipation.
“During a bitter divorce,” Carl confided, “Gagagoogoo chopped off her husband’s index finger. She used it to pull the trigger of the gun when she shot him four times in the gut.”
Troy and Macie both sighed and exchanged defeated glances. “It’s a good story, Carl, but I don’t think it quite has the ‘disturbing’ effect we were hoping for.”
“Think John Wayne Gacy, Joachim Kroll, Charles Manson,” Troy said, “and really give us a good case of the heebie-jeebies.”
Carl worked round the clock to find the sick and twisted history his clients wanted in a home. A butler who stabbed a married couple to death with the broken stem of a wine glass, and then forced their children to finger paint with their blood. A young man who dismembered his three roommates’ bodies and hid all of their limbs in various mailboxes along the street. Each one was eerier than the next, but none satisfied Troy and Macie’s craving for gore. There must be millions of homes for sale all over the world, Troy argued. One of them was perfect—full of pain, tragedy, and trepidation.
Carl was quick to assure them he wouldn’t quit until he found the quintessential house of horrors. He talked to realtors in Rome, Guatemala, Tasmania, and Uruguay. Carl began to lose sleep, always dreaming of blood on the walls, eyeballs under the floorboards, and human bones in the vegetable garden.
On the first day of winter, a year into his search, Carl finally snapped. He marched up to Troy and Macie’s log cabin-style house, rubbing his eyes from his 70th sleepless night in a row. “Carl, have you finally discovered the awful, hair-raising home we’ve been waiting for?” Troy asked as he greeted Carl at the door.
“I’ve searched high and low,” Carl whispered, slurring, “and I’ve concluded that the only suitable home for you is. . .your own!” Clumsy with exhaustion, Carl revealed a broad axe and swung it into Carl’s lower body, carving through his skin and cracking his coccyx with a nauseating clap.
Macie ran to the door, crying as she yelled out for someone, anyone, to please come help. As Carl’s emblazed, crazy eyes met Macie’s, he couldn’t help but feel victorious in finally giving the couple the bizarre, unsettling house of murder they’d been after.
If you didn’t figure out the challenge at first, you may have picked it up in the last few sentences. It is: There are at least three words in each sentence that contain the next sequential letter of the alphabet, starting with A. In the first sentence there are at least three words containing A; in the second sentence, there are at least three words containing B; and so on, all the way through Z.
For the record, the last three sentences were HELL to write!