July Prompt Discussion

KT: What were your first thoughts upon seeing this prompt picture choice?

Becca: Honestly, at first I thought, “Crap. It’s very pretty, but I’ve got no frakking idea what to write.”

Leigh: That’s pretty. I don’t really have a story for it though.

KT – I just thought it was so pretty. And it reminded me of Giselle. I love that ballet. I’m not sure why this picture made me think of it.I think I’m the only one of us who prefers setting pictures.

How did you progress to your story idea from those first thoughts?

Becca:When I buckled down and really started to focus, I was drawn to the rush of the fog/water around the rocks and to the one little stone standing on end in the middle. Standing stones have such a connection to lore and ritual, and I just started playing with the idea from there.

Leigh: I actually resorted to word association, and started listing the elements of the picture – Mists, moss, stones, etc. Then for each, I did word association, so like Stone went to permanent, altar, frozen, grave, and I came up with about 10 different ideas I started working with. Some were really trope, and I dismissed those quickly. I’d loved the Doctor Who episode The Tombs of Akhaten, and the setting just screamed an Asian influence, so I decided to riff off that.

KT: After my initial Giselle thought, I decided to challenge myself and do a 2nd person pov story. I’ve never written 2nd person before and really wanted to. Since my story was inspired by Giselle – I already had the story, I just needed to trial and error the point of view.

Did you encounter any difficulties while writing this prompt piece?

Becca: Trying to toe that line between the close perspective of this one, arrogant character who thinks he knows exactly what he’s getting into and also dropping these tonal hints about the truth of what was waiting for him. I mean, I’m not sure I succeeded necessarily, but it’s what I was angling for, so that was a challenge.

Leigh: It was really hard to figure out what to write on. Our other prompts had people in them, so there were clear subjects to focus on. With this one, I flailed around for a lot longer before figuring out details.

KT: 2nd person pov is much harder than I thought it was going to be. It took me several tries to get it right. I actually find settings far easier to write for. When there’s a character in the picture I find it far more difficult because I like to make my own. So, apart from getting the pov own, I didn’t really have any troubles with the prompt.

Any other thoughts on the picture choice and story meshing together?

Becca: Not a thought, really, but a fun fact: I gender-switched the MC. Originally, I wrote it as a female character, but I wasn’t liking how it sounded and couldn’t get it together. I decided to flip the hers to hims, and everything fell into place.

Leigh: I think by having just the setting, we did end up with very different stories, even more so than usual.

KT: I love settings. They inspire me in a way words, songs, and pictures of people don’t. This picture sort of called to me, in a melancholy way. Probably why I chose it.

Do you feel writing prompt fiction challenges you as a writer?

Becca: It’s definitely making me think differently. I’m such a planner usually when I write novels, so these shorter pieces have really been helping me learn how to just take a line or a glimmer of an idea and spin it out and see where it goes. It’s been fun.

Leigh: Definitely. I used to do a lot more short stories when I first started writing, but once I started doing novels, it was hard to go back to short stories. This forces me to really focus on the smaller things like sensory descriptions. Plus right now, while things are so hectic, it’s nice to take a little bit to work on the short stories.

KT: Absolutely. It helps me refine my process and I love some of the ideas we’ve come up with. With every short story I write, I feel like my writing is improving. Short stories are a great break from the way I plan my novels. I’m loving these prompts.

The Lovers’ Stone

Commotion in the foyer coaxed you out of your room the day he arrived at your parents’ Inn. Him and his shining smile. The fall of his hair and his easy words lulled you. His party would join him in several days. Several days of wonderful abandon.

The stars in your eyes were a blinker to the cautions your mother whispered. The same cautions fluttered in your own heart, drowned out by love and infatuation.

Your obsession persisted through trysts in his arms in the hollows by your lovers’ stone. The way your lips fit perfectly against his, your breasts as if molded by his hands. You’d never felt so alive, so beautiful, so wanted, so wanton.

In a swirl of dust and gold his entourage tugged him from your grasp. Then the cold set in as you watched, and waited and wanted to cry.

His fiancé, regal in her splendor, dwarfed you with her beauty. With her fancy jewels, her silk gowns, and hair coifed to perfection. You felt the first seeds of doubt, but he washed them away with feverish kisses in stolen moments, behind the hay bales in the barn, left of the kitchen-midden.

In hurried, hidden, lust-filled moments you ignored all signs that could have alerted you. That might have saved you.

To see the meaning behind his words, the selfish intentions that stole your heart and fired the heat in your loins. To feel the betrayal while you watched in slow motion as the promises he made began to crumble.

He saw your uncertainty and smiled it away, kissed your tears from your cheeks, reinforced promises you wanted him to keep. Believed every word he said.

He said he’d meet you in the mists. He’d see you and cradle you in secret down by the telling stone, the lovers’ stone, where the fog swirled around the moss covered debris of the forest you played in as a child.

The stone, he said. He’d take you from here. Away from his riches and your family’s judgment. Away – just you, him and your love.

You waited, and waited, with your hastily packed belongings tied in the stereotypical handkerchief of the runaway. You sat with your eyes on the stone replaying the love you made there over and over again in vivid imagery that made you blush to recall.


But you don’t remember why you fell asleep, or how long it lasted. The pain in your skull lingers, whispering thoughts you can’t quite grasp, memories you can’t quite believe.

As you sit and think, your hope begins to dwindle, now as it did for those brief respites he was with that other, his, woman. You sit at the stones, feet hidden by the mist, and your mind starts to clear, leaving room for the pain in your head to convey its true origin.

The blow. The crack. The blood. The pain.

The knowledge that he never meant any of it.

You scream, you cry, and you seek, but the barrier of the mist holds you at bay. Holds you near the stones, at the stones, the vivid images you once treasured distorting with the truth you don’t want to believe.

Harsh reality hits you and now you call to him, whisper for him as the days melt into each other. Time has no meaning. There’s only lust and hatred, memory and betrayal, promises and lies.

You are the mist surrounding those mossy stones. Calling to the trees, for the wind to carry your word to him, to lull him and fetch him to you.

Just when you’ve given up making him see what he did, of making him pay – he’s there, at the border, the edges of your reach. His face is shadowed. Strain shows in the veins in his neck as they stand out against his pale flesh.

He says your name and for a fleeting moment you’re back there, here, in his embrace, whispering of love and dreams and futures and life.

Now he’s here, within your circle as the mist closes around him, and you. Around you both.

You pull him to you, your intentions to hurt him like he hurt you, to maim and leave for the mist like he deserted you.

“I didn’t know she’d do this…”

His words slowly sink in.

You don’t need to hear the rest. You know deep down what he’s saying, what he means. It wasn’t him. It was never him. Some of who you were returns, comes back to you – but you realize he’s crossed the barrier now. He’s decaying in the mists just like you are, like you intended him to.

It’s too late now.

But at least you have him, and the lovers’ stone with the moss and the leafy-canopy, forever tangled in the mists together.


Tale of the Heartwood

When the standing stones called, you answered. Everyone in Heartwood knew that.

Edmund knew it, too, and when he was little, he waited to hear them. He was sure they’d call him young – the youngest of anyone in the village – because he was special. More special than the others. More special than Mother and Father knew. More special than any of his brothers and sisters.

They called him Moody Mundy, but they’d be sorry when the standing stones called and the villagers draped him in flowers.

But they didn’t call him when he was eight harvests old. Nor when he was ten or twelve or fourteen harvests.

He doesn’t hear them until he is eighteen harvests old and already a subject of gossip in the village. No interest in marriage as the village girls aren’t good enough for him. No trade or skill to speak of. Edmund couldn’t be bothered with the mundanities of life. He knew in his heart his time would come, and when the stones finally sing out – deep like the earth, sweeping like a windstorm – he feels a thrill of vindication.

Mother weeps. Father drinks. The villagers weave garlands for his neck and head and sing to his good name.

Edmund hears only the call of the stones, of his destiny.

He leaves in a parade, the stars sprayed across the midnight blue sky like festival lights. The villagers will celebrate all night – eating and drinking and dancing until the red sun chases them all to bed.

Not Edmund.

He strides forest, heady with the wet, green smell of meadow grass and flowers, feeling the soft, warm breeze brush across his skin. He drags his boots to rid them of the dust from the silly, staid village glowing behind him and takes big, heaving gulps of air until he’s so dizzy he giggles.

The standing stones call, vibrating in his bones.

Edmund runs into the trees, spins under their dark canopy with their twined and twisted fingers, and finds himself surrounding by mist. It clings low to the ground, dense and sinuous, flowing around his feet like a stream as it pushes him deeper into the forest.

The song of the stones is in his heart now, in his blood.

It draws him miles from home, miles from Moody Mundy, to a bare hilltop where they stand in a circle. Craggy sentinels with faces as old as the earth, staring at Edmund as he stumbles into their midst, panting and smiling despite the thin scratches that lace his arms from running through the trees.

The call of the standing stones rises until it almost hurts Edmund’s ears. Then it drops into sudden silence.

Which is when he sees the first light.

It drifts from the darkness, blue like the sky, flitting from here to there as it makes its way toward him. It hovers near his arm, and Edmund thinks he can see something in it – a little figure perhaps. It lands on him, light as an insect, tickling him, but he’s too entranced to move.

Until it pricks him. He yelps and raises a hand to swat it, but it floats away and hovers just out of reach.

Edmund looks around the circle of the standing stones, a little lost. He was here, where they had called him. Where was his destiny?

Two more floating lights appear from the forest – green and gold.

Then three more after that. And five more after that. Until there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens.

They glide toward him, closer and closer until they are a twinkling wall of sky blue, spring green, sun gold.

Quite pretty, Edmund thinks.

Three of them dive toward him, pluck at his skin and clothes. He tries to dodge away, but they rip him by cloth and by blood.

Edmund stares at his new wounds, at the glowing lights all around them, and panic squeezes his lungs.

He is too shocked to even scream as the lights swarm down and bury him under the watchful eyes of the stars.