One way that for writers to develop and fine-tune their craft is to do writing prompts. A prompt can be as simple as a sentence or a picture, or sometimes just a part of a sentence. For example, if I said, “When Anna woke up that day, she had no idea….” No idea what? That she was going to meet the love of her life? That it was her last day alive? Go ahead and come up with your own answer, then write it down. Ta da! Writing prompt!
Okay, so that’s a writing prompt. Pretty straightforward.
My writing teacher has a big stack of random images that she sometimes passes out and gives us a job: pick a picture or two tell about the character, describe the scene, etc. And….go!
So I thought I’d share my last two with you, just for fun. The first one had me in giggle fits in my class on Tuesday. Full on church giggles right after the instructor from next door came over to tell us to turn it down. Look at it! I mean, COME ON. The guy is standing in the stirrups, naked as the day he was born, with tiny angels blowing trumpets on his shoulders. Can you say “overconfident?” I chose it immediately, then sorted through the stack of pictures and found the only other Greco Roman looking picture, and it was of COMPLETELY BORED looking women. The scene wrote itself:
When he rode into the square with his angels perched on his shoulders, Aden was sure that the queen would be impressed. Who wouldn’t? And yet, she sat on her throne as if made of stone and glared down at him like he were an ant or a flea.
Four hundred miles across hot sands, without a stitch of clothing, having to stop every five miles so his angels could rest in the shade of his stallion, and this unnatural monarch had the nerve to look completely uninterested? Honestly, what did women even want these days?
One of the queen’s handmaidens crept close to whisper in her ear, with a glance that looked strangely like longing. The queen didn’t respond, merely narrowed her eyes and scanned the newcomer from head to toe, not even stopping to linger on his most impressive assets. His legs began to tremble with the strain of standing so upright and noble in the stirrups but he refused to sit. He would not be cowed but a harem of women, of all things.
Aden tried to feign indifference, casting his eyes over each of the women on the dais in turn. One wrangled a horde of naked children, sun-browned from head to toe, but his gaze stuck on the lady who held the scales of justice. Her arms shook like his legs. A kindred spirit.
The queen waved a dismissal, turning back to her ladies in waiting. Aden thumped down into the saddle and released a long sigh. One more kingdom, one more failed attempt .
Last semester I got this lovely pastoral image, which, to me, looked like a small Italian village full of somber looking people. This is what came of it:
Maria died on a Tuesday. This wouldn’t be important, the day of her death, except that Tuesday was the day that the town was to honor the newly deceased Pope with as much fanfare as a town of 1300 souls could do.
And so it was quite inconvenient that the town’s oldest nun decided to kick the bucket on Tuesday.
The townsfolk gathered in the square before the sun rose to decide how to handle the situation. Word had spread shortly after midnight, in the indefinable way of small towns. The priest told an altar boy, the alter boy slipped out to tell his family, and before the sun rose every resident knew the exact manner and time of her passing.
“Tragic,” murmured Eva, who wondered how long propriety demanded she wait before she could point out, rightly so, that she now held the title of the oldest resident. She pulled her shawl over her face and schooled her features to look grave. Her daughter, a short plump mother of four, patted her arm absently, wondering how long she had to wait before she could run home and start breakfast. Every inn and bed and breakfast in the village rumbled with the snores of out of town visitors, here for the annual Papal parade, which promised to be larger than ever before and yet somehow more quaint than usual. Recent historical events demanded their best, after all. If the tourists were smart, they would sleep in. Early risers would only be disappointed by the empty kitchens and cold tables that waited for them.
“I’m not surprised one bit,” Tomas, the town’s happiest drunkard, declared, weaving between the somber citizens, his bottle of watered down house red sloshing over his gnarled fingers. Only Tomas would voluntarily drink the swill that Bernard’s “Olde Restaurante” served to the most tightfisted foreign tourists. “She looked downright ghostly the last time I saw her. Like a vampire. All pasty white and beady eyed.” Everyone knew that Tomas had asked Maria to marry him about a thousand years ago– she had tossed a bowl of pasta in his face and joined the sisterhood the next day. Many thought she had made the right choice and those who had disagreed were reconsidering their stance at that moment. Better to die alone in the convent than with old Tomas splashing cheap wine all over you.
Four-year-old Annabelle stood patiently with an armful of flowers. She didn’t understand all the commotion, but she did know that when a person died, they needed flowers. She wasn’t sure what a dead person did with flowers, but she was certain that they needed some, and she had come prepared with every type of flower that grew by the roadside between her house and the square.
The mayor clapped his hands for attention and the scattered crowd tightened around him.
“My fellow citizens, as you have all heard, our town has suffered a great loss. And yet I think we can all agree that in death, as in life, Sister Maria has ruined everything.”