Writing Prompt #8: Cyclone Storms on North Pole of Jupiter!

The image below is a “composite image” collected by Nasa’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper, which is part of their Juno mission to Jupiter. There is an interesting article here if you’d like to know more about it.

When I saw this, I immediately thought this storm (or storms?) would make for a nice writing prompt. Cosmic Horror is the first thing that comes to mind for me, but I’m sure there are a lots of other possibilities.*

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

One idea for writing prompts I’ve been seeing a lot of lately (again, on Twitter mainly) is a six-word story prompt or some other number of words. Besides being fairly easy, I find such a prompt serves as a nice vehicle to explore possible story ideas or sketch out a broad theme. If I can’t think of something pithy that encapsulates a story with a beginning and end then perhaps something leading into a theme. This type of prompt could also serve as a entry point into a poem, either using the technique in a similar way as brainstorming for a story or perhaps coming up with a line that inspires a larger poem.

I could see this image-as-a-prompt working in other mediums, such as painting or drawing, music, or even making a quilt … pretty much anything.

Can you think of a six word story using the above image as an inspiration? If so, drop it in the comments.


* I originally saw this on Twitter, courtesy of Science Fiction writer Bert-Oliver Boehmer (@BOliverBoehmer).

Play Misty for Me (1971 Movie) Writing Prompt #7

We watched Play Misty for Me last night, which was a 1971 thriller directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Jessica Walter also starred and did a good job, I thought, playing the villain.

The book reminds me a bit of Stephen King’s Misery, which came out sixteen years later as well as of course the famous Hitchcock movie Psycho. Also, Misty later came out as a novel in 1982 by Paul J. Gillette.

We both thought the movie was pretty solid and enjoyed it.

After watching the film, I began thinking about using films as writing prompts for short fiction. There are a lot of directions one could go doing this. Here are a few ideas:

  • The film (and Walter of course) did a great job foreshadowing the insanity that would come later in the movie. I wonder how it might be to rewrite things so the villain is justified in feeling how she does and in her actions? Maybe take another character and change their perspective or circumstances so that the reader is encouraged to have a different take on the character than in the film.
  • Write a story along similar lines but with a completely different ending. There are tons of movies and books that are similar to this one; there is always room to take a common theme and make it into a story of your own.
  • Find a scene in the movie and write a totally original story using that scene as your mental springboard.
  • Pair a character and an object that are in the film but have little to do with each other and write a story based on that.
  • Write a similar story to the movie but in a different genre or perhaps mix multiple genres together. I wonder how Play Misty for Me would work as a romantic comedy (remember Serial Mom?) or maybe a steampunk western? How about on a malfunctioning space station under attack by a coalition of aliens and humans?

Finally, a couple of interesting facts from the Wiki page about the film:

  • In Keeping Up Appearances, Rose asks Emmett to “play Misty for me” while being dragged out of the church while under the influence of tranquilizers.
  • In Clint Eastwood’s film Dirty Harry, a cinema marquee that clearly shows the title of Play Misty for Me is visible at the very beginning of the film as Insp. Detective Harry Callahan is on his lunch break prior to the bank robbery which opens the movie.

Writing Prompt #6: Book in a Tree

Today’s writing prompt comes from a hike we recently did where I found a book stuck up in a tree, which I thought was a little unusual—especially since it sat there for three weeks. The talented painter, Dave Stone, gave me the idea for this writing prompt with a comment he made on my personal blog about the Book in a Tree. Thanks, Dave!

Produce a piece of writing or art that is inspired by this picture of a book in a tree.

For bonus points, choose any book, place it in a tree and mediate for a minute or two, clearing your mind. Then randomly pick 2D6 different words from the text and work those words into your story.*

If you come up with a piece of writing using this prompt, let me know about it in the comments: I’d like to read it. You can also use this prompt for visual arts, music, pretty much anything creative that you’d like.


* You don’t have to put the book on a tree. You can put it under a potted plant instead or if you aren’t a plant person then build a little stonehenge thingie out of spice bottles and place the book inside the spice circle!

Writing Prompt #5: “Don’t Slip” by Magpie at Midnight

Today’s writing prompt comes courtesy of Rose Thompson, who blogs at Magpie at Midnight, where she is “a sometimes artist, film maker, and writer.” I like bananas quite a lot. Besides being packed with valuable nutrients, they are a staple of the classic comedy I grew up with. Can you think of an opening of a story involving slipping on a banana peel or just bananas in general, humorous or no. 🙂

The Magpie at Midnight

When I was a kid I used to spend my weekend mornings watching the TV with my sister. On the UK terrestrial channels we used to get mornings of programming that included a range of different programmes and quiz shows, and these frequently included slapstick inspired cartoons like Tom and Jerry. We used to watch a lot of stuff, and much of it I cannot remember. But do remember moments from the cartoons, and it was not unusual for these cartoons to feature a banana skin and a crucial moment in the chase.

It’s been a long time now since I saw a chase scene in which a crucial moment depends on an unfortunate encounter with a banana skin. However I recently saw this actual banana skin on the road and felt compelled to take a photograph of it. I was very attracted to the bright warm yellow on the…

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Writing Prompt #4: Book you are reading paired with random text

Today’s writing prompt comes from your own reading, because what you read can fuel your own writing, either deep within the opaque corners of one’s mind and-or self-consciously, welling up to the surface of things.

First, consider the cover of whatever book you are currently reading as general inspiration. See where the artwork takes you in the quest to create something new. You can also work in the text too if that proves useful.

I’m currently reading Under Twin Suns, an anthology inspired by Robert W. Chambers work, edited by James Chambers and published by Hippocampus Press. Pretty nice cover!

Second, pick a book of any sort, go to a random page and pick one sentence, again at random. Work that sentence as an ingredient into the soup that is your new creation.

I picked a random book from my collection, closed my eyes, opened the volume and plunked my finger down on the page. I opened my eyes and read, “Behind these apocryphal tales is the visionary technique of rising in the Planes.”

You can simply work the sentence into your work in progress—with proper attribution of course—or unlike Mr. Nero the Cat, you can try and think out of the box.

Some ideas that quickly come to mind as I type this are:

  • Sprinkle all of the words in your sentence throughout your text. This is what I did for a bit of microfiction I wrote back in 2019 called “I Want My Blanket,” that appeared in Sloth, published by the good folks at Black Hare Press.
  • Write down each word on a separate scrap of paper. You can then manipulate the words in various ways for your project. For example, you can pick one piece at random, use the word in your project, pick another word, and so on. Another possibility is to allow the scraps to fall and only use the ones that are face up or are face down, etc. William S. Burroughs liked to perform various manipulations with words using methods like these as well as many others.
  • Instead of using the words from the sentence you picked, try and find synonyms, antonyms, or (if possible) homonyms for some of the words.

If you came up with something using prompt, please let me know in the comments. I’d like to read your masterpiece!

Writing Prompt #3: Doggo

Today’s prompt comes courtesy of Storybot on Twitter, where I follow them. Their app is also available in the Google Play store.

“Write the first line that’s inspired by this photo.”

When this prompt come up in my Twitter feed, I wrote, “The first thing I noticed after the wizard turned me into a dog was that he smelled like food,” for my first line.

What is the first line that comes to mind when you see this image of a piebald doggo? Write it below in the comments. (I’m particularly burning to know what John of Varnish comes up with!)

Writing Prompt #2: Arrows and Forest Squash

Use this prompt as a jumping off point for your own short story, poem, narrative, fragment, etc. and see where you goperhaps the picture or the text taken separately or mashed together somehow will lead you somewhere useful or fun…

Suggestion: Create something new that somehow brings both pictures into your work.

Bonus points if you can work in the picture from prompt #1

If nothing gels using both pictures, try using just one. As usual, bring other elements such as music, visual art, and so on into your brainstorming session. Use whatever techniques serve your end goal to create something new!

If this prompt leads someplace interesting, leave a link leading toward your new creation wherever that may be. Of course you can also post your masterpiece, if it is short, directly in the comments.

Writing Prompt #1: Stacks of Railroad Ties and “here’s the thing” …

Use this prompt as a jumping off point for your own short story, poem, narrative, fragment, etc. and see where you goperhaps the picture or the text taken separately or mashed together somehow will lead you somewhere useful or fun…

Visual Prompt:

Text Prompt:

We had no intention of choosing sides until we were sure who was going to win, but here’s the thing…

You can also bring in other elements, more pictures, other words, music, memories, anything that helps you create whether that be a novel, an exercise in free writing for, say, one minute or something in-between.

If this prompt leads to something interesting, leave a link leading toward your new creation wherever that may be. Of course you can also post your masterpiece, if it is short, directly in the comments.