Writing Prompt 10: Dystopian Mall

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(Credit: ©Seph Lawless)

I’m working from the Hudson Valley Mall in Kingston, NY today. I’m sitting outside Dick’s Sporting Goods (free WiFi!) in one of those massaging chairs that make you look ridiculous when you’re sitting in them because they vibrate you from head to toe. There’s also a disconcerting seat probe that pokes you in the nether regions during the massage. I’ve already paid my dollars to get shaken and poked, but I wanted to do a writing prompt before I continue into the depths of the mall.

Malls are dying. Radio Shack is in Chapter 11. There were a few flashlights and a lot of empty shelves at the one here. Several restaurants are boarded up. A clothing store has big yellow signs that read, “Everything must GO!” There are some lonely looking baby t-s hanging limply from some hangers. When I stumbled across this article on Huffington Post, Abandoned Mall Filled With Snow is an Ice Age Dystopia, I thought, “What a great writing prompt!”

I’m a fan of dystopian fiction. One of my favorites that I read last year was The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. It’s a story about a group of misfits including Edgar Hill, an overweight slob of a father and under-performing husband who has to race against time and overcome his own short-comings, not to mention 100 mile canyons and a very strange council estate, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever. It’s a great read and the characters and situations keep you interested right up to the end (of the world). I really enjoyed it and hope you will check it out.

For the writing prompt, there are a few questions we can ask:

How did the mall become abandoned in the first place? Zombie hoards? Aliens? End of the world meteor?

Who lives in the mall now?

Why are our story characters there? Do they need to find the recipe to Auntie Anne’s pretzels? (Why are those pretzels so damn good?)

The photographer, Seph Lawless, is also a great jumping off point and a good model for a lead character. He’s a photographer and political activist who uses a pseudonym because he fights against “injustice and oppression by any medium necessary…a pen, a lens, a brush, a voice …even your body.”

He’s also a published author. His book, Autopsy of America, was written in 2013. According to his website, “The book captures the plight of Americans and the devastating effects that globalization has had on American cities. The book chronicles his journey across the United States with an emphasis on the most abandoned and economic deprived areas of America.” I couldn’t find a link to the book, but I will post it if I find it.

Please send me any links to any stories you create based on this prompt, I’d love to read them!

Have a great writing day. I’m going to go look for an Auntie Anne’s pretzel before they go bankrupt and the zombie hoards take over.

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Writing Prompt 09: 5 Most Mysterious Sounds Ever Recorded

The YouTube Channel Dark5 has some fascinating videos featuring “the greatest mysteries of this world and beyond…”

For this week’s writing prompt I chose the 5 Most Mysterious Sounds Ever Recorded for inspiration. Take one of the mysterious sounds from the video (I’m really fascinated by the very first one) and write a story that explains the sound’s origin or show us some people interacting with the sound in some way that still leaves the mystery intact. You could also explore the idea of another kind of mysterious sound unrelated to any of these.

Please submit the story you’ve written to the Stories are the Wildest Things Podcast. If your story is chosen you’ll get to hear your story read to our audience. Leave a link to your story in the comments, or send it directly to pauljennynyc@gmail.com

Thank you to everyone who’s submitted a story so far. I’d like to get a few more submissions before I make my decision about the story to be read on the next episode. If you haven’t heard from me yet, you will soon.

Have a great writing week!

Writing Prompt 08: Showgirls Playing Chess Backstage

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I found this gorgeous photo on Twitter in the feed of @ClassicPixs. It’s a 1958 photo by Gordon Parks. Parks was a photographer, musician, writer and film director.

This is him:

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I want to read a story based on this photo of showgirls backstage playing chess.

  • What is the brunette relating to the blonde and the redhead?
  • Why do they play chess every night (or was this a special occasion)?
  • Who wins?
  • What story does Gordon Parks have to tell?

Post a link to a story inspired by this prompt in the comments section. I might have to tackle this one myself.

Writing Prompt 07: The 10 Most Expensive Houses in the World

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Flickr photo “Greystone Mansion” by Graham

Take a look at these sprawling mansions by clicking on this link to HowStuffWorks.com.

  • What motivates someone to build and live in these mega-homes?
  • What happens if you lose your money and have to move into a “regular” home or no home at all?
  • What if you are an impostor living as a guest in one of these homes?
  • What happens when you are found out?

Write a story exploring one of these ideas and post the link here.

Have an amazing writing day! Stories are the Wildest Things.

Writing Prompt 06: Can a Story Change the World? Writing Stories for Peace

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Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

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Flickr photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

Conflicts are raging in the world as I write this post.

Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright appeared on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ yesterday and summed up the state of the world right now by saying, “there are an awful lot of things that are going on that need understanding [and] an explanation.” According to the Kansas City Star she also said, “To put it mildly, the world is a mess.”

My Huffington Post news feed certainly reads like the end of civilization:

What small thing can we do to bring peace to those who hate and rage? How can we comfort those who are facing horrors as an everyday fact of life? Is it possible to make a difference with just one small voice?

Stories are the Wildest Things because they can change the world. Sometimes stories can make change that lasts for generations and sometimes our stories are here for the briefest of moments and then gone. But even if it’s just for a few moments of solace in the midst of chaos, stories can help us see the world from a different point of view. Can we tell powerful enough stories to stop the escalating chaos in the world?

I don’t know if that is possible, but I do know that as we write and share our writing with the world, those who read our stories are opened up to new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new ideas about how the world works and what our place is in this world.

I challenge you today to write a story for peace.

It doesn’t have to be about how to achieve peace or about peace and what it means. It doesn’t even have to be a peaceful story.

Create something beautiful out of this chaos. Write a story that will live on as a reminder to those who come after us that hate and rage does not have to define us. Be creative. Move us. Make us feel something. Do it in 1500 words or less. Then share it with others. Invite others to take part. Starting a dialogue through story can be a powerful thing. Let’s change the world by writing stories for peace.

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. How many anniversaries like this will we have on our calendars by the time my four-year-old grows up? Will he grow up and know a time when we have not been at war?

Have a peaceful day.

Writing Prompt 05: World’s 10 Most Mysterious Photographs

For this prompt choose one of the 10 photographs from this fascinating video by Hybrid Librarian and write a story that relates to the actual photograph or the circumstances surrounding or suggested by the photograph. I’m particularly drawn to the photograph of STS088-724-66, the Black Knight satellite.

An alternative would be to write a story about an album of mysterious photographs that someone finds or is given.

  • Why are the photographs in the album?
  • What do they depict?
  • What does the protagonist need to do to solve the mystery of the photographs?

When you write a story using this prompt, please send me a link. If you have any other ideas based on this prompt, leave a comment. Thanks for sharing!

Stories are the Wildest Things.

Writing Prompt 04: Write a Character who is the Opposite of You

Flickr photo "Opposites" by Karen Cox

Flickr photo “Opposites” by Karen Cox

What is the opposite of “you”?

When you think about who “you” are, what are the list of qualities you identify with yourself?

Are you loving, honest and polite?

Are you helpful and always there for your friends?

Make a list of qualities that you identify with and then make a list of everything that is the opposite.

Instead of loving, honest and polite, make the character hateful, lying and rude.

Helpful and always there becomes spiteful and withdrawn.

Write a story whose protagonist is the opposite of you. Try to avoid clichés and really show us how this person functions in the world. Let us see what they want and why they want it. Then throw in some obstacles that get in their way. Post a link to the story in the comments section.

Have a great writing day!

Writing Prompt 03: Retro Car of the Future

Flickr photo by Marlo Klingemann

Flickr photo by Marlo Klingemann

I love old photos of what people thought the future would be like.

You could use this photo to write a story about the characters as they are: a mom and child who live in the fifties but have a “futuristic” lifestyle, or you could write about a future where everything is very retro.

Please share a link to your story in the comments and follow Stories are the Wildest Things for more great writing prompts, tips and techniques to inspire your writing.