Friday, October 21, 2016

The First Prompt

It has been suggested to me that, as an exercise to warm up the creative juices, each day before I sit down to work in my current work in progress I should spend fifteen minutes writing in a "stream of consciousness" manner on a given prompt.

What this means is ... find a writing prompt, set a timer, write whatever comes to mind based on that writing prompt within the time allotted. Don't worry about editing and you go. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. Just write it and allow your creativity to flow.

(I should mention, this type of "by the seat of my pants" writing is the complete opposite from how I normally work. I am a very strict and rigid outliner.)

So ... this is my plan for the winter of 2016-2017. Each day before I go to work on my work in progress, I will select a prompt at random and write whatever comes to mind. I won't edit, I won't worry about typos, grammar or punctuation. I'll just write.

Then I'll post what I write here.

It promises to be an interesting exercise. So without further ado, here is today's prompt:

It took us three days before we started seeing shapes in the fog.

Benji went on and on about not being able to breathe. He's say things like, "The fog is a poison gas. I know it. It's burning my lungs. Can't you feel it?"

I couldn't. It was just fog. Sure, it was dense. Thick. Almost solid, like cotton candy. But there was still air. It made walking hard, that's for sure. In a week Benji and me'd made it maybe five miles.

There're others out there. In the fog. You can hear them talking sometimes. Trying to start a fire, complaining of the cold. There's too much moisture in the air for a fire. The fog's too thick. All they're doing is burning energy. Maybe that's enough to keep them warm. For a little while, anyway. But it'll exhaust them, too. Make them tired. Weak. They won't have the strength to push on through the fog.

Nobody knows where it came from. This fog. When you hear somebody talking, making their way just like you are, you shout to them. Ask them where they've been. Who they've seen. Trade statistics like that. Each time you ask, any word on what this is ... where it came from? Always the answer is, "No."

Benji and me, we were working. Pouring a concrete patio at some doctor's house. The doctor's wife, she was a looker. Leg that went all the way up. Red hair. Freckles. Benji thought she could've used with some make-up, maybe a dye job. Not me. I would've convinced her to leave the doctor if I could've supported her lifestyle.

Anyways, me and Benji, we were pouring concrete when the fog came. Fast as a muscle cramp, it rolled in. Knocked Benji into the dirt. Pushed against me, backed me up one step at a time to the doctor's back door. Took me an hour to wade through the fog, to find Benji.

I grabbed him. Pulled him back to the doctor's house. Pounded on the door. The wife, the redhead, she opened the door, let us in. A little of the fog spilled in with us, hung there inside the back door like it was waiting for something, waiting for somebody to invite it in.

Phones still worked. At least then. For a day or two. The redhead called the doctor at work, some clinic down the road a couple miles. He said the fog was there, too. Said the radio's telling people to stay inside until the National Guard can show, figure out what it is. Says he'll make it home as soon as he can.

You can hear him on the phone, talking loud, even though it's pressed tight to Red's ear. You can hear him tell her not to let "the workers" in. He doesn't like the looks of "those men." Guess Benji and me are "the workers." Guess we're not supposed to be inside.

-- Time's Up --

Well, fifteen minutes really went by fast. I was getting into that. I'm not sure where it was going, but I was enjoying getting into the head of that character ... getting an idea of what he's all about, how he sees the world.

For those interested, that's 479 words in the fifteen minutes. I didn't go back and edit after the fact, but I also couldn't help stopping my fingers from correcting minor typos. When I get into a rhythm, fingers seem to hold down the Shift button quite a bit longer than necessary and I end up with words like THen or WHen (which I unconsciously go back to correct). I also inevitably get letters out of order on certain words when I type, so I end up with teh instead of the, which I also unconsciously go back and change. By the time I've hit the backspace and realize what I did, it's too late

Maybe one of these prompts will generate a nice idea for a short story I can flesh out one day. We'll see. That's it for today. Time to get to work.