The man in the alley

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Photo by Elti Meshau from Pexels

The night was cold and I quickened my steps home, wanting to put on warm pyjamas, wrap myself in a blanket and soothe the chill of the damp out of my bones. As I turned the corner into the alley, that’s when I saw him. He was a dark shape at the end of the alley, outlined against the night by a lone street light.

His silhouette suggested he was human, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that thought crossed my mind. What else would he possibly be? But, something wasn’t quite right. There was a crookedness about him, slight and barely perceptible. I felt dizzy as I looked at him, as though his posture tilted the way the world was oriented and somehow I was the one that wasn’t quite right.

He remained unmoving there, standing right next to the entrance to my apartment.

I took a deep breath, felt in my pocket for my keys and gripping them in fingers that felt like blocks of ice, readied them as a weapon. My heart pounded and I picked up feet that now felt like leaded anchors, taking slow laborious steps towards him. I saw the steam of his exhales mingling with the air as I got closer, and I became acutely aware of the sound of my boots hitting the pavement: the clop-clop of the heels echoing hollowly off the walls of the buildings around us, an intrusive noise in the otherwise unnatural silence.

He shifted suddenly. I stopped. That one move made me more uncertain of him. His stillness had become predictable, but now he’d changed the game and I no longer knew the rules. It was a game I didn’t want to lose.

“Hello?” I called.

This post was the result of a five-minute writing prompt—I’ve made some edits so it’s readable—from a workshop I recently attended, hosted by The Story Midwife. I’d highly recommend going to it if you’re:

  • struggling with writer’s block,
  • just starting out writing,
  • have never written before,
  • have been writing for a long time and want to connect with the writing community,
  • want to jumpstart into a creative life, 
  • ….and many more reasons.

Do you have a highly-effective writing prompt or method of practice that keeps you focused on the page? Please share!

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Lykos: seven sentence short story

I like to attend writing conferences and workshops; they’re great for networking, inspiring new ideas and motivating work on current projects. A few years ago I was at a workshop hosted by Edward Willett, a science-fiction writer based out of Saskatchewan, at the When Words Collide writing conference in Calgary. This particular workshop was themed around creating a short story using only seven sentences. I’ve used it a few times to get my creativity flowing before delving into work projects, or a novel.

Here is the format (I hope you forgive me for sharing, Edward):

  1. Introduce what the main character wants and actions he/she takes to get to a goal.
  2. Write actions that make the situation worse.
  3. Based on this new situation, your character takes a second action to accomplish the goal.
  4. Results of the second action he/she takes make everything worse.
  5. Based on the new situation, your character takes a third, final action to accomplish the goal.
  6. Three options are now available: the third action either accomplishes the goal, fails to accomplish the goal, or there is an unusual but oddly satisfying different result.
  7. Denouement: wraps up the story, provides a moral, tells how the character feels, or how his/her life continues.

Lately, I’ve been inspired by tarot card decks—the art and individual card meanings creating story ideas in my mind that are begging to be written. I combined that inspiration with the seven sentence structure above and drafted this today:

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Cards from the Wildwood Tarot deck
  1. Wanting nothing more than to become a wolf, Juniper took to tracking a wolf pack on nights of the full moon, hoping to get one to bite her to begin her shape-shifting process.
  2. One hot midsummer, she got lucky—or unlucky, depending on your perspective—and stumbled on a pack dining on a fresh deer corpse.
  3. Heart pounding in excitement, she ran into the midst of their group, crying out in surprise and elation at finding them and then in pain as a silver-grey wolf took a bite out of her calf.
  4. Exulted that she had received the bite that would begin the transformation, she started to back away, wanting to go home and let the change happen, but stopped when she heard multiple menacing snarls and growls.
  5. Moving quickly, she got down on all fours and began to eat what they had been eating, her stomach turning as she bit into the still-warm flesh of the newly-murdered deer corpse.
  6. The wolves moved closer to her, surrounding her, and she felt them nip and bite at her, tearing her flesh from her bones.
  7. Trying to get up and run away, the pack covered her and she let out a howl of pain, in her last moments sounding like the wolf she hoped to become.

I’d love to read anything you come up with if you use this prompt. 🙂 Share in the comments!

Procrastinating? Propel yourself with a prompt

As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of writing prompts. I always have ideas for stories and I jot them down in a notebook, but when it comes time to actually sit down and formulate a story from beginning to end, I get overwhelmed and attempt to fight the urge to run screaming from my laptop. I don’t always win this fight. Most of the hikes I go on are actually me running as far as I can, just to get away from this feeling. And then I come home and write something, even if it’s just a rambling entry in a journal, and all is well.

The moral of that story is, I really enjoy writing. It’s cathartic.

ENTER: THE WRITING PROMPT

The best way to get started on writing is to start small.
Step one: Google writing prompts and find one that sparks some interest.
Step two: Freefall write about it. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and just write. Don’t stop to edit, don’t worry about grammar, or punctuation, just write it out.
Step three: Either build what you wrote into a story or, don’t. Whatever you do, you’ve already done yourself a favour by writing.

Here is my result from today’s writing prompt:

Write a first line that has an impact.

For additional fun, I wrote one about my morning: Today, I write while sitting under the light of a blood-red sun which burns through the wildfire haze in the sky.

For the rest of my prompt-writing session, I wrote a bunch of first lines for a murder story:

  • When I woke up that morning, I had absolutely no intention of murdering anyone.
  • As I blearily rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I pondered what to make for breakfast; a simple thought that certainly didn’t alert me to the fact that on this day, I’d become a serial killer.
  • While I washed the blood from my hands, I had a quick flashback to my morning, where I had sat peacefully on my balcony, drinking coffee, with no knowledge that I was going to kill someone today.
  • I numbly cleaned the blood from the knife and then in a panic, tried to scrub it off my hands; what had I done?
  • As I stabbed the figure writhing on the ground, a scream pierced the silence, and was absorbed by the elephantine trees that surrounded us.
  • My heart was pounding in my ears and I could feel the blood rushing to my limbs as I gained control over the figure beneath me.

…well, that’s all the murder I’ve got in me for today. Thanks for reading!

Do you write from prompts? Feel like sharing what you wrote? Post in the comments, I’d love to read it!