Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prompt Production

Writerland has been very empty for me lately, the place it usually occupies taken up instead by things of a decidedly more mundane nature. It's hard to be creative when, as I've grown fond of saying, life is being stupid in my general direction.

But I wanted to share a little of what has been happening in my creative brain over the last few weeks, largely in the form of the output from the Toasted Cheese prompt chats. The chats are held each Sunday, and while I don't make it to every one, I sometimes do the prompts on my own during the week. That scoundrel, Lieutenant James Sterling, who's grown into his own since I played him last summer in a Dresden Files roleplaying game, invariably turns up when it's time to do Toasted Cheese chats.

Here's a sample of what happened in the last prompt chat I wrote on. Standard "James has a filthy mouth" disclaimer applies.

Prompt: tell about a tempest in a teapot.
Reg and I struggled to hold the basement hatch shut against the howling wind. "You're trying to tell me," I shouted at him, though he stood right beside me, "that this fucking teapot holds the answer to all the weird shit that's been going on in town lately?"

"Yeah!" he shouted back.

"God, why can't normal things happen to me?" I complained at a more normal volume.


I raised my voice again. "Nothing! Where's Del?"

There was a loud thump and a squeaky cry of pain from outside.

"Shit. Let it open a bit," I told Reg.

"I don't know --"

"Do it!" I barked. "We can't let Del be out there with that thing!"

We relaxed our holds on the hatch and the roaring winds immediately took advantage, pulling the sturdy wooden door upward. Reg lurched forward, standing up on tiptoe before managing to adjust his balance. The door opened about three inches.

"Del!" I cried, squinting against the rush of air.

I could feel a weight shifting on top of the door. I flicked a glance at Reg, who nodded. He felt it, too. Several fingers appeared on the edge of the door, gripping it so tight the knuckles were white.

"Gimme yer hand, Del!" I released the door with one hand to extend it toward the visible fingers. A second set of fingers joined the first, a foot away.

"Del!" I edged closer to the opening, hoping she would let go with one hand so I could grab it.

I heard a faint voice: female, but incomprrehensible in the wind. I couldn't wait any longer. Reg's face was red from the exertion of holding the door mostly by himself. I reached for the second hand and grabbed the wrist on the outside of the door, then pulled. There was another shriek, and the hand struggled to pull away from me for a moment, then relaxed. "I've got you!" I pulled with all my might, releasing my hold on the door entirely.

The basement door flapped open wide for a moment as Reg failed to adjust to the sudden extra work he had to do to hold it. In the moment it was open I could see outside. It was like a scene from The Wizard of Oz out there. A whirlwind made visible by the objects it had collected: planks, doors, what looked like a horse trough, howling madly away, and at its center a plain, unadorned, everyday bright red teapot, its top rattling as if it were in the process of boiling. I thought I could even hear a whistle amid the sound of the treacherous wind. As I pulled, the first hand let go of the edge of the door and latched onto my wrist. I hauled in the body attached to the hands and in a moment Delia came flying into the basement and landed on my lap, bowling me over.

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