Writing Wednesday: Phrase Prompts

A close-up photograph with a pen and faded ink on a notebook.

Today is another prompt post. I didn’t have a specific form in mind when I wrote these phrases—you can use them for any of your writing. Feel free to mix them around, change them, or use them verbatim.

  1. The sea met the sunrise, and I couldn’t believe my eyes.
  2. Yesterday, at the corner of Brook and Augustus, the stop sign fell over.
  3. My grandmother, lying on her death bed, says to me, “In my 88 years, I’ve never seen a shooting star.”
  4. She called her on Monday and left a voicemail—she hasn’t listened to her message yet, and it’s already Saturday.
  5. Wind breathes through the thick trees, rustling them against an overcast sky.
  6. After he returned with the groceries, his daughter double-checked the list and squinted at her wife.
  7. They met in the ship, shared a smile, and made arrangements for dinner just as the bell started to knell.
  8. The margin between reality and unreality broke under the weight of their exhale.
  9. I rose in a cloud of warm, weak smoke once the demon summoned me.
  10. I stand at the bus stop and the preteen boy beside me asks, “When do you think this rain will stop?”
  11. In the dead of night, the witch climbed through my window and I breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
  12. Portrien approached me with an arrow through his feathery wing.
  13. A man in her forties jealously glared at me while he walked toward the train station.

Add some if you have any, or combine them, or do whatever! Happy writing, everyone.

 

Writing Wednesday: “An Electrifying Feel”

A photograph of a misty cityscape.

A ray of light glitters on the skyscraper
and blinds me on my way down the stairs,
past the sleeping neighbours in my apartment building—
past the doorman—a woman—who nods to me silently,
acknowledging the headphones and wry smile
glittering on my face.

A thick mist blinds taxi drivers for a few blocks,
white and grey on the concrete world,
and sits and rests from its time in the sky
gathering droplets to cover this city on some night
or some day or afternoon
when the cluster of moisture ascends back home.
My walk down the street fills me with tension
but no fear. The haze around me is a repeat
of the moments my eyes and ears opened this morning
to the honking and faded taxi cab on the curb.

My clunky, comfortable boots smack the concrete,
like kneading it for baking, like turning the molecules
from liquid and paste to elastic crumb.
Dirt lines the sidewalk, dry as sand, and sifts under my heels.
these combat boots are not for battle–just for fashion,
and the pounding menace to delight every step
on my way to an okay job that keeps my mind off
who made all these molecules and why.

My cousin waves quickly at me through the bakery window
down the street from my open-concept office
her face and hands covered in almond flour.
She and her celiac disease founded “G-F-Delish”
and though the wheat dominating the world does not hurt me,
her cakes and pies and cookies are divine. I return her wave
and cross the gratefully empty intersection, Work looming
high above, the sky reflecting in the windows.

The office has a single floor in this building
like all the other businesses above and below us.
My job title boasts Senior Information Technician
on my business cards and resume,
but amongst the simple network setup, the modem, the router,
the dongles on desktops without wireless adaptors,
I am the Data Analyst and Bookkeeper for
this beloved startup, in the heart of a beloved city.
At my desk, my computer, my software,
I alter, needlessly, the lines and borders
above and below the numerical statistics on my screen.

The founder works a second job, building this new company
on the side. She is kind and assertive. She hired me on conditions,
not demands or requirements or experience,
out of the pity and knowledge that I couldn’t make rent.
A year into the job and we have grown,
and our finances improved, with the charts in this program,
the numbers from my keyboard, and the co-workers
quietly sipping coffee or tea or water at their desks.
These women around me, with their myriad shoes,
blazers and cardigans, humble their prowess,
and continually build us up—build the business—
build the world.

We are small, like bacteria in the gut regulating acidity,
and we are mighty enough for ourselves,
for the paychecks and satisfaction;
for the clients and customers here and around;
for the clattering of keyboards;
for the joy of production.

Writing Wednesday: Flash Fiction – “Rumourmongers”

A photograph of a row of same-coloured bicycles in a bike rack.

Rumourmongers

The group of teenagers who loitered near the bicycle racks after school always chewed gum. They would pass around a few packets—all different flavours, some new and some classic—as soon as the bell released them from the prisonous building nearby. I would have to be quiet and polite to them if I wanted to retrieve my bicycle easily. They weren’t violent to me, or any other student. They were beautiful and some were pale and some were dark and all of them knew everybody. That was their threat: they had connections. In comparison, the lowly bicycle owners had none. All of them had last-year’s-model luxury car from mommy or daddy to get to and from the high school.

I stayed behind after classes ended. I wanted to ask the teacher about the trigonometry quiz he had handed back before the bell. I had barely passed, and though he didn’t leave any remark about seeing him, I wanted to do better. The semester had barely begun and I was off on the wrong foot. He was gruff and short—in tone and stature—and gave me a double-sided worksheet to bring to him tomorrow. I thanked him, left the room, and glanced from the hallway to the confusing shapes on the page while I walked to my locker.

The Rumourmongers stood around the bicycles when I exited the school. Only a few of the bicycles were unclaimed, likely the band players who had practise. I approached the group with my head down, eyes up.

“Excuse me,” I muttered. My backpack hung onto my body by one strap, one shoulder, and a boy a year below me grabbed the dangling strap.

“You’re later today,” he said.

“Yes,” I said.

The general rule was to give them as little information about yourself as you could. You answered questions honestly, but sparsely.

“Get into trouble?”

I reached for the lock wrapped around the frame of my bicycle. “No,” I said.

A girl behind me snickered. She said, “I bet he was doing the opposite—being a brown-noser.”

I fumbled and put the first two digits into the lock. The boy tugged on my strap again and I lost my grip on the meal and plastic, sweat beading on my palms.

He yanked me to face him. “What class did you come from?” he asked.

“Trig.”

“You any good?”

“Too early to tell.”

The silence among them startled me. They had paused in their gum-chewing, allexchanging glances, trying to assess my response. They knew I was guarding myself. They knew there was something I refused to tell—out of pride or shame, that’s what they were trying to figure out. Both were dangerous. They would shatter my pride, if I were proud, and extend my shame, if I were ashamed. Were they in need of a tutor? Would they want to use me? Or were they the best in their math classes?

I knelt by the wheels again and put in the last two digits, hastily pulling the lock out of the metal bar keeping the bicycles ensnared. I clicked the lock back around my bicycle, swung a leg over the frame, and edged it out from between the bars.

“Have a safe ride,” the girl said.

Were they up to mischief now? Were they vandalising? Was the slandering no longer satisfying? For the three years I had known them—and they, me—we could leave our belongings with them, but never our lives or secrets. Did I now have a reason to suspect the integrity of my bicycle? There were no other racks on the property, nowhere safe if they were screwing with our wheels.

They stared at me as I bumbled off the sidewalk and across the parking lot. I paused, waiting to cross the street, and peered over my shoulder to watch them. They were huddled together and talking.

“Fuck,” I said. I crossed the street and sped home. There was no point wondering what news they would say about me. I’d find out by first period tomorrow.

Writing Wednesday: Writing Prompts

A close-up of a notebook and fountain pen with faded writing.

I absolutely love writing prompts when I’m trying to go through a writing exercise. Often, freewriting—just starting from nothing and going at the words—leaves me blank. I like to have a jumping point for my writing.

Now, I’m a poet and a prose writer, but I remembered an event I went to where the mediating author gave us prompts based on our own experiences. So I figured I’d include some journaling prompts for any of you personal writers! You can, of course, adapt any of the prompts for any form of writing you see fit. And don’t feel confined to the guidelines. Writing prompts exist to inspire you, so take what works and leave what doesn’t.

Prose
  1. Write a short story from beyond the grave.
  2. Challenge yourself to a flash fiction under 500 words.
  3. Get three sentences from three different books, and use them to create a story with the theme of “exile.”
  4. Write a flash fiction without using one of the following letters: S, R, N, or T. Your optional theme is “distance.”

Poetry
  1. Using sonnet rhyme scheme (English or Petrarchan—your choice), write a poem about a blind date.
  2. How many synonyms can you think of for one of the following words? Use them in a poem addressing the notion of “paradox.”
    • Path
    • Write
    • Turn as a verb
    • Turn as a noun
  3. Write two connected poems: one celebrates something and the other inquires about it.
  4. Write a concrete/image poem (one that has a shape) that contradicts the content.

Journalling and Personal Creative Non-fiction
  1. Think of your earliest memory—and then add a butterfly to it.
  2. Create an onomatopoeia for something a family member or friend does. Write about that activity or action.
  3. Think of something that stands out in your memory that is red, yellow, or blue. Describe it, only naming it once.
  4. Write about the first time you saw something sublime in nature—the ocean, a mountain, a canyon, a waterfall… What was it like?

Feel free to leave any prompts, or your feedback, in the comments!

Writing Wednesday: October Goals

For this week’s Writing Wednesday, I’m sharing goals for the upcoming month instead of posting some of my creative writing. I figure it’s time I get a bit more transparent and permanent with what I want to achieve. Call it accountability, if you want; I’m calling it a reminder.

I love October. It’s my favourite month of the year. I love the way it’s written, the linguistics of the word, the change of season, my birthday in the first week, Thanksgiving in the second week (#Canadian, don’t forget), the chance of frost in the third week, and Halloween in the fourth week. It isn’t a December mess with Christmas and New Year’s fighting for a week.

So it’s only natural my biggest goal is a terrifying one. I have to counterbalance the wondrous ambience of this month, aye?

Word Goal 1: 70,000 by October 7

I have to reach 60,000 by September 30, and then I can do the 10K in the first week of October. I’m behind on my word count (and scene completion) goals right now, but I have a good feeling about this weekend and my writing.

Word Goal 2: 80,000 by October 15

The deadline for this goal falls near the end of a week-long break from university classes, so I’m confident I can achieve this one.

Big Goal: Finish this draft of THE PILGRIMAGE

I want to have this done by November 1. That deadline might cause some trouble, since it’ll come very quickly. I write by scene and have yet to complete approximately half of the story. I don’t know how word counts will reflect the completed scenes, so I can’t set a word count goal. My original goal for this story was 70,000, but once I reached 35,000, I knew that was too low. We’ll see how this goes!

I have pinpointed 4 struggles.

  1. The keyboard for my desktop finally wore out under my 110WPM fury. I am stuck with my laptop and its terrible keys that are much too slow for my fingers. I’ll be replacing the keyboard in the second week of October when I’m back up north with my family and have access to decent electronics shops. Until then, however, I’m left with this aged machine.
  2. It’s midterm season for university. My time management skills have improved, so the second and third weeks of October will be a test of those skills. Luckily, I don’t have many tests this semester, which means I won’t have to stressfully study as much.
  3. I’m trying to maintain relatively good grades and progress with readings in my courses. A lot of my time is spent reading and re-reading material for class, and I read unfortunately slowly.
  4. I want to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, but I also want to edit THE PILGRIMAGE during November. I’ll see if I can balance writing something for the heck of it and editing something I take seriously. There’s no shame in giving up one. (I’d be giving up NaNoWriMo, as is my tradition.)

I’m going to do what I can: manage my time carefully, remember to look after myself and my Self, and wake up earlier. I can function more easily by waking up earlier instead of staying up late. (The quiet mornings also give me a good space in which to meditate and do yoga.)

I’m shocked at my own motivation, to be completely honest. I won’t question it. I’m going to embrace the fiery in my ribcage and get this story told.

What are your writing goals for October?

Writing Wednesday: “Plane of a Face”

the rhetorical roller coaster throws me for a hypotenuse and I fall

straight edge straight down straight across straight up

a corner…

a tunnel…

a freedom and an insurmountable height, straight ↑

what’s your angle?

turn my face into a light bulb, an onion bulb, a tulip bulb, a bulbous mass of

cells and cellophane

wrapped in sharps, shape edges

a package a packet a pamphlet a parcel

mould me in rectangular, angular, ruler lines

a compass curve — an abyss’s swerve

turn my triangles upside ↓

Writing Wednesday: Ghostly Flash Fiction

Decorative image of a person obscured by a white linen curtain.

I died a few days ago, and moving into the Afterlife was a struggle—but why would it be very different from moving in the Mortal world? Bureaucracy. I thought I would bypass it when I died, but then again, the alive now occupy the dead.

I was given a grace period after I died. I was permitted to watch the funeral services—I was cremated, and I still felt a little queasy at being burned; but that still felt right. My family and friends were initially sad, and I was sad too. Their soft faces hung down and some cried. One of my friends, bless him, cried for the first time in my existence. We had known each other for thirty years. My mother and her shaking hands, from grief and age, decorated the stand with photographs, trophies, a few of my books, and flowers. My step-father picked the urn. He has impeccable taste.

The services were short and secular. The funeral home was gracious and solemn. My step-father and my mother hosted a party, of sorts, after the service. They even hired a caterer, who brought vegan sandwiches for my group of friends and traditional funeral finger foods for the ageing family members.
Their rainy smiles from the service parted into cool, jovial breezes as they remembered me. I took some time to explore the house, the one my parents had moved into after their youngest moved out. Their style was definitely old. I felt my spirit smile softly, the grin growing with every laughter from the sitting room or the kitchen.
When I went up the carpeted stairs, still not sure of the feel of it under my feet, part of me expected to find a childhood bedroom. But there were only two bedrooms, a computer room, and a three-piece bath. Quilts everywhere. Vacuum lines on wall-to-wall carpet.

I didn’t get to see everyone leave the house. I was guided by Grim’s Guards (the spirits who bring the new recruits, because, in their words, “There are too many people for a single Reaper to handle.”) to the next phase for my… initiation, I suppose.

Based on the religious society I grew in, I expected judgement. But there was none. No gates, no gavel, no figure of Good nor Evil to cast me into a group of Better- or Worse-Thans. Instead, I was debriefed with hundreds of other spirits from around my city on what to expect in the Afterlife.

I’m still learning, and of course I’ve forgotten that session.

Eventually, I was released to find housing, and I had fifteen days before Grim’s Guards re-processed me.

Because a spirit wandering around will inevitably get into trouble.

Prompt: You’re a ghost looking for a new home in your neighbourhood. Where would you choose? (Source: WritingExercises.co.uk)

Writing Wednesday: “Margins”

I exist I exist I exist I exist
and though the world is not my mirror
its people are
pools of water
bits of shiny windows
lenses of a too-dark sunglasses
and I can see myself
in someone’s face
somewhere

I exist and I exist and you exist and we exist
in glimpses and small fragments
only pieces
compared to our whole mosaic lives
sleek tiles assembled together
to create larger pictures
portraits and murals to stand against
the framed masterpieces deemed Divine and Right

we assemble together
struggle to become large
because under scrutiny
we are nothing;
under a magnifying glass
we are nothing;
under the skin of many hands
we are nothing
up close and personal and individual
a single target in a sea of repeated images
we are puddles to splash in
and distort
at the feet and hands of
small ignorance

but we exist we exist we exist
and we will
unfortunately take more than
a small chunk of reflection
to build skyscrapers as tall
as the ones covering our light

Writing Wednesday 25

Writing Wednesday: “Sentimental Scenic Sin”

Writing Wednesday Poem Sentimental Scenic Sin

Sentimental Scenic Sin

I am a desert cactus and you are an aloe branch
sitting on the grocer’s stand
somewhere in Bangladesh. The vacuum-sealed
bell peppers eyeing me across the aisle
shine for moister air. You are a riverbed
to the Atlantic, where a ship sunk,
four murderers destroyed their innocence, and a ravished
corpse drowned; and I
cook vegetarian curry in an apartment building
with flat-packed cans of tomatoes.

I mailed you
a book covered in ships and a hardbound cover; you will find
the blazon’d trail of dusty graves and
sediment layers which lead to me.
I shoved the map in a mailbox and
you peeled back the tongue-moist glue
too late—I have written a love letter on
the fibres from yesterday’s Amazon. She is a musician and
you are a computer technician in Buenos Aires.
I am a cactus tended beside the balcony door, and you
are aloe consumed by the neighbour’s
blender, for the spouse’s
newest trend in
health food smoothies.

I am a driftwood pipe and you are an ivory tusk
on display in India next to the English colonial
tradition. I sigh against lips of a skilled
flute player who moved in down the street, from
neon-lit streets in Japan; she
studies political science and I will not marry her.
You smack glass windows, angry-fisted,
because the sky cried on your laundry and you have no socks
for your corporate meeting.
You bring in eighty thousand a year and remember me
through the glare as you gaze to a Catholic city, and
I would have married you if you lived on an elephant
because they can swim
better than I.

Writing Wednesday: WIP Excerpt

Zephyr stood in one of the Academy’s courtyards, his bare feet gripping carefully arranged stonework, and tried to focus his sight. His classmates stood around him like a circle of mirrors with varying faces and bodies. Any one of them could be him, with their dark skin, dark hair, and pale robes extending to their wrists and ankles. They fitted like a jumpsuit, but flowed, unfitted, for easy movement. Zephyr stole a moment to look around at his peers to his left and right, trying to remember if he knew their names at one point. But their faces were set like water in glasses: still and heavy, but without hardness. Their eyes gazed into the Void, a place beyond their sight, but still glimpsing the world around them. When Zephyr had shown this look, this pose for concentration, to his twin sister Dwyn, she laughed at him.

The Void? Really, Zeph?” she had said. “We call it spacing out. Maybe even closer to going into a trance. You Mages sure are… upbeat.”

A student across from Zephyr had broken her concentration on her own Void and Zephyr caught her blinking rigorously. Any bodily movement and the Senior Apprentice would scold them, force them into group meditation again, and restart the class. They were nearing the end of the lesson. Zephyr looked at the girl’s face—it was Nerissa, standing a few people away from her ex-girlfriend Harlow. He glanced between the two: Harlow entirely lost to the Void, encompassed in that liminal space between “here” and “there,” and Nerissa readjusting herself quickly. She’s supposed to be top of the class, he thought. At least I know you don’t need to be perfect to be number one.

And you’re number two, he reminded himself.

He closed his eyes tightly, visualising colours until his mind’s eye was a kaleidoscope of jewel and earth tones, shifting between vibrant and muted, saturated and dull. He opened his eyes and transitioned to the Void.

“Presence is key,” the Senior Apprentice said. She stood somewhere among the students, but Zephyr only heard her voice. He saw no lips move and could not pinpoint where the sound originated. Like a ventriloquist, he thought. Throwing her words into the wind like sand.

“If you lose yourself at any moment, you will stumble. You stub your toe. You knock over a dish and it breaks.” Each of her words brought a vague memory to Zephyr, as out of frame as the stones and students in his peripheral vision; as unfocused and blurred as what his open eyes stared at. The Senior Apprentice’s voice became more ethereal, like smoke in a breeze, as she said, “Each of these mishaps, these misfortunes, occur because half of you is somewhere else. It does not matter where it is: it only matters that it is not with you. You can look for it and wait for it to return, but”—she smashed something into the center of the circle and a few students gasped. Zephyr witnessed the clay pottery pieces spread like a stain on the courtyard. He almost lost himself to a curiosity to look for designs on the pieces or where the pot originally sat before the Senior Apprentice had retrieved it.

But he stayed in the Void. Nothing. Nothing.

“Even good things can happen when you are not here,” she went on. “Hours pass and good news arrives. Water boils. Plants grow. You sleep, possibly dream, and wake up. It is impossible to be present at all times, but it is possible to be present when it is important.”

An uncountable amount of time passed as the students stood in their circle in silence. A collective breath moved through them, an inhale and an exhale, not synchronised or perfectly paced, but existing within each of their lungs as they meditated.

Zephyr released involuntarily, letting his chin fall closer to his collarbones, and his face flushed before he noticed an felt a slight, invisible tap in the back of his head. He whirled around and saw the Senior Apprentice behind him. She stood with another woman in the shade of the cloister encircling the courtyard. She spoke to the Mistress—the head of the Academy, a master of magic—who fixed her gaze on him. The Senior Apprentice turned to see him. A gust of wind blew into the courtyard and brought the smell of fragile dehydration, typical of Ysenia and its entire existence in clay. Zephyr blinked and squinted against the billowing dust, and abruptly felt the warmth of the sun. He lifted his brown face up to the sky, noticing it centered above the courtyard, and looked back to the women. The Senior Apprentice pointed at him and the Mistress nodded. Zephyr glanced to the other students, all of them in their Void, and left the circle.