Prompt: The morning came earlier than I expected

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Couple in bed but apart

“Are you awake,” he says, flatly.

The morning came earlier than I expected. A few short hours for everything to come undone.

Stark light blinds as it reveals. I know only the now, and now, I know I cannot stay here. I have to be away, far away from what lies beside me, this flesh that carried promise, once, and pleasure, lying leaden upon these unfamiliar sheets.

I do not know where I am, exactly. I do not know exactly where I can go.

The weight shifts, scattering heaviness, lazily threatening to pull me down again. “Are you awake,” he says, flatly.

It’s not quite a question. I do not give an answer.

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Prompt: A very large bowl of fruit

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A pile of fruit

via Wikimedia

It was a very large bowl of fruit and as I waited I looked at it wondering if it could possibly be real, to be placed here so tantalising and ostentatious, brazen yet not brass, the closest most people these days got to fruit. It must be fake. Either that or it was some obscure kind of test, the sort you heard about where the actual interview counted for nothing, just how you responded to the fruit.

I continued to stare. The fruit didn’t look back, just basked mutely in my admiration and perplexity, giving nothing away. That yellow one was a banana. You could slip on a banana skin, in the old cartoons. Ba-NA-na. I rolled the word around my mouth and tried to imagine the taste, slippery and yellow.

It seemed inefficient, on the whole, as a means of delivering vitamins. As a decoration, short-lived. Yet precious. It wasn’t as if fruit grew on trees, these days.

Prompt: Write about a scent

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I probably wrote this around this time last summer. It’s hot.  

Dull, wet and heavy, the scent of concrete excreta hit his gag reflex the moment he stepped outside, instantly light-headed in what should have been fresh air. It was so humid the air was practically rain, a perverse kind of sticky rain that slurped at his nervously acrid temples and left him no cleaner, the kind of rain that would rain if rain could rain in soup.

With a barely perceptible swish, the glass doors closed behind him.

View from Tokyo Metropolitan Building

Tokyo in summer. It’s hot. By Caroline Hutchinson.

In pursuit of my Muse

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I like to write. There’s no chaos of voices to cut through to get my point across, the words jumble themselves up less when I fix them down on paper, and pinning them down, I’m often as surprised as anyone to learn what I think.

But one thing I’ve found about writing is that it doesn’t happen on its own. Mine is a unruly Muse, and she ain’t nobody’s bitch. Sometimes she just ups and leaves, sometimes for months at a time. The longer she’s gone, the harder it is to win her back.

Absinthe - the green fairy

Are you… who I’m looking for?

There are those that will tell you that writing is like a muscle: exercise it and it grows stronger, neglect it and it grows weak. While it’s my belief that the aphorism that burns half as bright is twice as annoying, there’s probably something in it. It’s certainly more likely to lead to some kind of meaningful production than absinthe, much as the Green Fairy may resemble the Muse under certain lighting.

So, how to work those creative pecs? One way, and something I’ve been doing for about four years now, is using writing prompts: short, thought-provoking starting points that get the words out on the page without much regard for polish. When done as part of a writer’s gathering, it can be fascinating to see how differently people can interpret the same idea, and it’s not uncommon to expand and polish promising ideas: there are examples of this here and here.

What I’m proposing now, however, is to post my prompts sans spit and polish, be they good, bad or ugly. I’d welcome any ideas or feedback – let me know if there’s a plot idea you think I could run with, an image that resonates, or a word you think I should never, ever use again. And when I have a writing six-pack, my Muse will never leave my side.