Writing Prompts

Good morning everyone! Lovely sunshine today…when I’d rather see rain. How’s that for perversity? But we did get a sprinkle yesterday and it froze last night, so there’s front on the grass this morning.

The cats have already gone in and out, in and out, in and out. A very short train has just chugged by on the track not far from our yard, headed south with a dozen or so empty gravel-hauling cars. I’m not sure where the gravel comes from, but they use it to build and maintain track north of us.

I learned a few things about my writing, and about you, dear readers, when I did a search for my most popular blog posts two days ago. One of the rules of the Mystery Blogger Award as to list your ten most popular posts and I discovered that my MOST-VIEWED post of all time was this one:
WRITING PROMPT SOURCES

I wrote this shortly after WordPress discontinued their Daily Prompt. Since I was never very devoted to following the Daily Prompt, I haven’t really missed it, plus other sites have stepped in to fill the gap. So I think it’s time I update my data, for those who are interested in writing prompts.

If you’re looking for a daily prompt WORD, check out the following:
RAGTAG Community
Word of the Day
Fandango’s FOWC
Your Daily Word Prompt

The following sites offer a weekly photo prompt, and would welcome new contributors:
What Pegman Saw
What Do You See
Friday Fictioneers
Crispina’s Crimson Challenge

The 50 Word Thursdays prompt, cohosted by Kristian and the Haunted Wordsmith, offers both a photo and a line you’re supposed to use somewhere in your story, plus the story is to be written in multiples of 50 words.

And  Sammi Cox offers a weekend writing prompt. She gives participants a WORD, plus a specific word-limit. This week it’s 77; last week it was 47.

I’m sure there are more but I think I’ve put enough links in this post. If you’re looking for ideas and topics, the sites I’ve listed could keep you writing all week long. 🙂

Tempted but Resolved

Fandango’s One-word Challenge this morning: TEMPTATION

Merriam-Webster says: tempt implies the presenting of an attraction so strong that it overcomes the restraints of conscience or better judgment.

This word automatically brings to mind the Bible verse:
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” — James 4:7

You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to understand that thought. Should some temptation sidle up beside you, if you turn your face resolutely and head in the opposite direction, you will much more easily overcome the thing than if you look its way — even if you’re arguing with it.

In another sense, temptation is like that proverbial rat the dog played with, then buried, but he left the tail hanging out “just in case.”

Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of temptation:
the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.

We do occasionally use the word TEMPTATION in the less menacing sense. We feel a desire to do something, though there’s some question involved. As we face the New Year, the clean page, the sense of starting-over, a lot of us are tempted to make New Year’s Resolutions. I have.

Is this wise? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you keep them? Would you advise a friend to make one, or to abandon the idea?

To be on the safe side, my resolutions are a January-only thing. I’m hoping once started I’ll develop enough momentum to carry them on from there. But for the month of January I’m resolved to:
—spend more time in the quest for physical fitness. (Read: diet and exercise!)
My arthritis is getting me down and I’m resolved to start fighting back
—deal with sewing projects that have lingered in the spare room closet too long
—post a haiku a day on my other blog, Tree Top Haiku

O-E-D defines RESOLVED as firmly determined to do something.

As I understand it, the success of a New Year’s resolution depends very little on the project contemplated, and almost entirely on the resolve of the individual. I know from past experience that the temptation to do something else will certainly come along and crook an inviting finger, just to test the strength of my resolve.

Which reminds me of a quote I just read yesterday:  🙂

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

—Robert Benchley

Wars, Words and Testy Judges

Back in the mists of ancient history a Norman army from France crossed the English Channel and battled the Anglo kings at Hastings.

Back then the Brits lacked a BBC and a Winston Churchill to rally the troops with:
“We’ll fight them at sea and we’ll fight them on land; we’ll fight them in the fields and we’ll fight them in the ditches…etc. We will never surrender.” In those days of poor communications one doubts there was any kind of significant country-wide clarion call of “Rally the troops!

Consequently the Normans took control of England. Lacking a successful counter attack and rout by the inhabitants, they claimed everything, grabbed all the castles, fortresses and whatever other good stuff they spied— as invaders are wont to do. They settled down to enjoy the spoils and make the Anglo-Saxons work for them.

They brought with them many weapons of war — and their language. There began at this point a steady trickle of French into the Saxonized English of the day:
“Non, non, stupide anglaise chef! Quelle offence! Such ignorance. This is NOT a spitted cow. This is a roti de BOEUF. And this is NOT pig. Non, non, this is PORC. We do not have zee PIG to feed us at our table!”

The phlegmatic cook, having sprung from an old English “Farmer in the dell” lineage, hadn’t adopted the Saxon swine yet — which was just as well. She didn’t do so well with roti de boeuf, either, and slurred it to roast beef. She was pleased, though, to be elevated from cook to chef. (Wouldn’t you be?)

Fast forward almost a millennium, to where a Yank calling himself Fandango gives us the word prompt: PENDING.

Thus today we’re prompt-writing about this word, originally forced onto the French by the Roman conquerors of Gaul, then delivered via the sword and the trickle to the Brits. As Norman rule was suspendu over Britain, this word slowly wormed its way into the emerging English language. By now it’s established itself in oodles of English subdivisions — much like Norman DNA in general. And from there it’s crossed the Atlantic.

Definitions given by my Collins Canadian Dictionary, First Edition:

Pending:
– while waiting for
– not yet decided or settled
– imminent

Impending:
something (esp something bad) about to happen

Suspend:
– hang (something) from a high place
– cause something to remain floating or hanging
– cause to stop temporarily
– to remove (someone) temporarily from a job or position, usually as a punishment

Depend:
– to put trust in; rely on
– to be influenced or determined (by)
– to rely (on) for income

Expend:
– to spend or use up (something)

Real Life Uses:

Judge Smith was motoring sedately along the highway, expending serious thought on the impending decision over custody of the Watkins’ dog. Considering the vicious ongoing battle for ownership, she’d suspended all visiting rights pending a dog psychologist’s report on the dog’s behaviour in the presence of its master and its mistress.

Little did Judge Smith know that Sam Slatter had expended a lot of energy intoxicating himself on a suspension of fermented barley and hops, and was heading toward a STOP sign to her left.

The county had suspended a flashing red light above the intersection to doubly warn motorists that they MUST, MUST come to a complete stop at the white line. How well Sam perceived this sign and/or light was dependent on how clear his vision was. And it wasn’t. Sad to say, his befuddled brain’s reaction time was as impaired as the rest of him.

The impending arrival of Sam’s vehicle was not noticed by the judge, distracted as her thoughts were. She only caught a glimpse of the oncoming vehicle on her left periphery and the question flashed through her mind, “Will it stop?”

Sam made a brave attempt to brake when the Judge’s vehicle swept in front of him, but the momentum of his vehicle couldn’t be checked. There was a dull crunch as he clipped the tail lights and rear fender of the Judge’s car.

Several days later Sam’s fog had mercilessly left him to his fate. Worse, he could see clearly now that the person whose car he had damaged was sitting in the judgement seat above him. What could he say? What could he do but sniffle as his license was suspended indefinitely, pending a police report on his past behaviour behind the wheel.

The Watkins’ case came up next. Worse luck for them, Judge Smith was in no mood to be patient. The dog was awarded to the husband’s aged uncle and all visiting rights were denied.

Differing Opinions

Fandango’s challenge word this morning is CONTRAST

I offer this poem as my response:

THE DOCTOR
by Edgar Guest

I don’t see why Pa likes him so,
and seems so glad to have him come;
he jabs my ribs and wants to know
if here and there it’s hurting some.

He holds my wrist, ‘cause there are things
in there which always jump and jerk;
then, with a telephone he brings,
he listens to my breather work.

He taps my back and pinches me,
then hangs a mirror on his head
and looks into my throat to see
what makes it hurt and if it’s red.

Then on his knee he starts to write
and says to Mother, with a smile:
“This ought to fix him up all right.
We’ll cure him in a little while.”

I don’t see why Pa likes him so.
Whenever I don’t want to play
he says, “The boy is sick, I know!
Let’s get the doctor right away.”

And when he comes, Pa shakes his hand,
and hustles him upstairs to me,
and seems contented just to stand
inside the room where he can see.

Then Pa says every time he goes,
“That’s money I am glad to pay;
it’s worth it, when a fellow knows
his pal will soon be up to play.”

But maybe if my Pa were me,
and had to take his pills and all,
he wouldn’t be so glad to see
the doctor come to make a call.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Of Downfalls and Updrafts

The young woman rushed along the street in a fit of desperate emotion. Life was over for her! What dreadful future predictions played out in her mind as she headed for the Clifton bridge? Was the weather as dismal as Sarah’s spirits that day? Surely you wouldn’t start out in the bright sunshine to fling yourself off a bridge?

Yet that’s exactly what Sarah was about to do. She’d just received a letter from her fiancé breaking their engagement. She’d never hold her head up again. Back in 1885 this rejection would have seemed like the end of the world to the heart-broken young miss and she was going to end it all. Leave all the heartaches of Earth behind.

A nagging voice in her head — we all know it, that voice of “all hope lost” — drove her on. “Love is lost forever. There’s nothing ahead for you but a long and dreary spinsterhood. You can’t live without him. And the shame! Jump, by all means. Jump.”

Sarah walked onto the bridge and looked down through her tears to where the river wound through the gorge 245 feet below. Another wave of despair swept over her and she climbed over the railings and onto the parapet. One last sob and she leaped into the emptiness.

But air isn’t empty. And in this case a draft of wind, coupled with her volumnious petticoats, considerably impeded her descent. To Sarah, the fall must have felt like slow motion, as the wind caught and swelled her wide skirt and crinoline. Down she drifted, not into the water below, but onto the riverbank where she sank deep into the soft mud that prevented her serious injury.

Astounded watchers below rushed to the spot and pulled her out, shocked but unharmed.

Sarah later married and lived to be 85.

Wikki tells us:

Sarah Ann Henley was a barmaid from Easton, Bristol, who became famous in 1885 for surviving an attempted suicide by jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a fall of almost 75 metres.

And poet William E. Heasell wrote a verse about the event:

An Early Parachute Descent in Bristol

Once in Victoria’s golden age
When crinolines were all the rage
A dame in fashionable attire
Would change her life for one up higher
So up to Clifton Bridge she went
And made a parachute descent
But though, ’twas not the lady’s wish
A boatman hooked her like a fish
And thus a slave to fashion’s laws
Was snatched from out of Death’s hungry jaws
This story’s true I’d have you know
And thus it only goes to show.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My response to today’s writing prompts:

Fandango: LEAVE
Word of the Day: DISMAL
Ragtag Daily Prompt: WALK

Ads and Fried Termites

Word of the Day prompt this morning: IMAGINATION
Merriam-Webster’s word of the day: AUDACIOUS
Fandango’s One-word-challenge: TRAP

I posted this article years ago, but will post it again this morning, as it fits the above prompt words.

As you all know, a writer’s mind is a constantly swirling inkwell. I see, hear, read, experience things – and my mind traps this new info, wanting to turn it into stories or articles. It’s in my genes; I come from a long line of storytellers. After all these years I’m still trying to decide if this swirling process is pearl or peril. Is God sending these inspirations, wishing to speak through me – or is it that “muse” some people speak of that’s made chaos of what could have been my well ordered life? 🙂

I have dear friends whose minds seem to turn in orderly rotations around the fulcrum of “clean and neat.” It’s deep in their genes and I admire the results they achieve in their homes. Many times I’ve decided to give up writing in favour of having a sparkling house like some others. I may spend hours editing, trying to achieve “clean, neat, and in order” in the articles I write but this doesn’t leave me time to give my physical surrounding that same care. ☹

Some women look at the world with their eyes, where I tend to see the world with my mind or imagination. For example, if I walk through my house and see light shining in the windows, I might think about doing an article on light versus darkness; my friends will see that the window needs cleaning and get to it. Or they make a mental note to do it later–and remember.

I make notes, too, but they get lost somewhere. (The fate of many of my literal lists as well.) Then there are times when some really brilliant or audacious idea pops into my head, but I can’t drop what I’m doing. I try to snatch a moment to rush to the computer and type in a title –and maybe a few lines– before I forget it. When I’ve finished what I’m doing, I’ll get back to that file and let the creative juices flow. If I remember.

A few weeks ago I noticed a file in my hard drive entitled “Ads, ads, and termites.” I stared at the screen for a minute. What kind of ads was I thinking of? Kijiji, perhaps? But why the repeat? And how do termites fit with ads? I was mystified and didn’t bother to open the file.

Yesterday I saw it again and the fog started clearing. “Ads, ads” wasn’t advertisements; this stood for adjectives and adverbs. I was thinking about adverbs and adjectives, then read something about termites, and somehow a comparison popped into my head. I’d been reading a missionaries’ letter –they are working in Cameroon– and they wrote something about termites. But what? Sigh…

I opened the file; here’s what I’d typed in:
Adjectives, adverbs, and fried termites. (Fried termites?)
The almost-pure-white butterflies flipped and flopped in lazy circles over the crisply sun-burned lawn, searching for a choice bit of vegetation on which to lay their tiny greenish-yellow eggs.

I know adjectives and adverbs have fallen into disfavour these days. You’re supposed to cut back on them and rather choose strong nouns and verbs. Like “The ivory-coloured butterflies winged figure eights over what once was lawn, searching for some living green on which to lay their eggs.”

But what does that all have to do with fried termites? Whatever the case may be, I fear they will be forever trapped in some crazy mental link-up now! Whenever I hear termites, I’ll think of ads.

Much like the incident my mother-in law told me about. One day while she was still a girl at home her brother Jake asked her a question: “When you see a falling star, do you ever think of onions?”

“Onions! No, never,” she answered.

“You will from now on,” Jake said with a laugh.

Oh, brother! she thought, but she told me his words have proved true: after that day, every time she saw a falling star she was reminded of that dumb joke. And since she told me, I’ve thought of that silly “onions” joke, too, every time I see a falling star.

So be warned. It’s possible that, from now on, every time someone mentions adjectives and adverbs you may find yourself thinking “fried termites.”

Perhaps I’d better find that letter, read it again, find out what my comparison was and tell you, too. Right now the letter is buried somewhere in a pile of correspondence we received, but if I’d clean my house once…