Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Sixth 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:

Your main character finds a box of scorched human hair. Whose is it? How did it get there?

John scrubbed the tears from his eyes. What good would they do? Dad would have hollered at him. Shouted. Told him to man up. "Stop being a little sissy," he'd have said. But Dad was gone now and the tears, they weren't for him. They were for Mom who lie on the recliner upstairs, comatose after the funeral.

His mother had sent him into the basement after a box of photo albums she had yet to unpack. She and Dad had moved into Deer Field, the assisted living community off Route 29, two months ago when Mom discovered Dad shook so bad every morning he couldn't zip up his own fly. It was a fast two months, though, in some ways, not fast enough for Dad.

He spent the time in the hospital, the hospice. Now he'll spend the rest of eternity in that coffin under the ground at the Cyprus Lanes Cemetery. Why did it have to sound like a retirement community of it's own? Then, John supposed, it was a type of retirement community. A community for those who have retired from life.

The basement of Mom's townhouse would have been nice. It was finished, carpeted, drywalled. But for some reason the lights refused to click on, so John found himself rummaging through piles of boxes stacked shoulder high with a flashlight clamped between his teeth. Why had they needed to keep all this crap?

There were boxes full of papers: John's report cards from grade school, essays he'd written in high school, his doctoral thesis on [INSERT SUBJECT LATER]. All of which should have been recycled or burned. There were boxes of books. Some with spines so broken they were falling apart, and others that looked like they had never been opened (and likely never would be opened). Boxes of kitchen equipment. Pots, pans, a meat thermometer, and some kind of pastry baking dish that fell apart when he lifted it.

In a far corner of the basement, behind several stacks of boxes John had already looked through and moved aside as not containing the desired photo albums, a small plastic box crouched in the shadows. John would have expected to need a key to open it, but that wasn't the case. It was more a tote, the kind with overlapping tongues on the lid to keep it closed. Perhaps Mom had loaded the albums up in plastic in case of flooding.

When he opened it, however, instead of stacks of photo albums, John found something his brain couldn't process. There were dozens of plastic bags, like the zip-closed sandwich bags you buy at the grocery store. Each bag was then filled, stuffed to the point of bulging, with what appeared to be hair.

John lifted one of the bags from the tote and pried apart the zip seal. A waft of something burnt, of staleness and rot, shot forth from the bag. It was hair inside. Long curls of auburn hair, and the ends of each strand were singed as if they'd been caught in a fire.


Again, it's been a little while since I've been at this. This time, however, I haven't been writing at all. In the past I've been so excited and ready to go that I haven't felt the need to perform this daily exercise. However, with the holidays upon us, and a major illness to get over, it's been a couple of weeks since I've actually opened my laptop. Here's to the new year. We'll see if resolutions will hold true for 2017 or not.

For anyone counting ... 511 words today in the 15 minutes (and change; it might have been 15:14).

It's an intriguing concept, but I don't know if I'll come back to this particular idea for a full story.