In honor of NaNoWriMo, I’m going to spend the month of November offering you all some writing prompts! Here’s the game: A few times each week I’ll post a picture and a setup. Your task is to write 500 words or less. That’s about a page (single spaced). If you want, you can email me what you come up with (linda dot p dot epstein at gmail dot com) with “writing prompt” in the subject line and I’ll pick a few to post on the blog. Please don’t submit your writing in the comments section, I’m not posting them there. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, for the next few days I’m going to post some of my clients’ writing on a picture/setup I challenged them with. You’re welcome to run with this one, too.
Here’s one from Joe McGee. The task was: Two people are walking in the woods and come across this object. Write a scene where they use the object. You can use dialogue, but it should be <50% of the writing. 500 words or less.
Parker whistled too loud and caught an elbow in the ribs for it. He couldn’t help it, he was happy. How could he not be happy when he was about to get rich?
“Ow! What’d you do that for?” he said, rubbing his side and glaring at Sabrina.
“Because, fungus brain,” said his sister, “you’re going to chase her away before we even have a chance to set the trap.”
Parker grumbled something about sharp elbows and foul moods. He pushed his hand deep into his pocket and fished around. There it was! Small and smooth and jagged at one end. Not three hours removed from its spot next to his front teeth, top row, left side. He’d tied the string and held still while Sabrina slammed the door. Pop! A little tang of blood and a squishy socket was worth it when you knew how to catch the Tooth Fairy. And if you caught the Tooth Fairy…
“Tell me again what happens when you catch the Tooth Fairy?”
“You get rich, doofus,” said Sabrina. “And I get half.”
Parker didn’t argue. Half of rich was better than all of none. Besides, it was her trap. She’d caught goblins in it that told her all their secrets and once she’d trapped a lost daydream and turned it into a poem. Sabrina knew things and Parker knew she knew what she was talking about.
“I’m going to buy a llama,” he said.
Sabrina kicked up a pile of dead leaves and watched them spiral to the forest floor. “That’s stupid.”
“Oh yeah? What are you going to buy?”
She stopped and glared at him, arms crossed.
“If I tell you, you promise not to tell mom?”
“Cross your heart?”
“Cross my heart,” said Parker.
But he didn’t say the last part. They never said the last part, not since Noah.
Sabrina nibbled on her lip a moment. “I’m going to buy a whole lot of prayers. Mom’s always praying, but that didn’t help Noah. I seen how it works. You need to give them enough money in those baskets on Sunday. It’s like…like protection money. That’s what I’m going to do. Buy enough prayers for you, and me, and Mom, so…so we don’t get sick like Noah.”
Parker just nodded. Sabrina knew things.
“That’s a good plan,” he said.
She smiled at him and took his hand. “Come on.”
They found the old breadbox right where Sabrina said it’d be, in a small culvert near the lightning-split oak.
The faded green paint reminded Parker of the weeds he often pulled from around Noah’s grave.
“Go on,” she said. “Put the tooth in.”
It made a plinking sound when it hit the bottom.
“Now we wait,” she said, holding the lid. “Wait and pray.”
Parker followed her behind the tree. His tongue found the hole in his mouth. His thoughts found the hole in his heart. A llama was a dumb idea. He was going to buy prayers.
Joe McGee’s debut picture book, PEANUT BUTTER AND BRAINS, is forthcoming from Abrams Books. It’s a story about a zombie who would rather eat a PBJ sandwich than brains. McGee is a graduate of the Rowan University Master’s Writing Program and is currently pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. McGee’s fiction and poetry have won national recognition, including a Writer’s Digest award-winning short story, “Ink Soul.” McGee writes stories for picture books through young adult literature. He is a former airborne Army officer and the father of three young boys.