Volume 1 Prompt 31


It’s time to get spooky, dear writers. Set your ghosts (and imagination) free with your best short tale of a haunted house.

(I recommend Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House but if you don’t have the time for a novel between now and Thursday, a little Netflixing might be in order.)

Volume 1 Prompt 30

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What was that?
Just there out of the corner of your eye? Was it the girl you have a crush on, looking your way? Was it your husband, checking illicit text messages? Was there something there in the shadows, waiting for you to pass? Your partner checking his gun before getting out of the patrol car to investigate a strange man, laying on the sidewalk? A moth fluttering around a streetlamp?

This week, dear readers, I want you to look at what you cannot see directly. Explore your character’s peripheral vision, what is possible to discern and how they infer that sideways information.

As always, 500 words or less due by Thursday at 8 pm EST.


Volume 1 Prompt 28: Fire

In Japanese, the kanji for autumn has two radicals: grains and fire (秋). Before living here, I did not understand how this came to be but if you happen to visit a rural landscape in September and October, you’ll have an immediate explanation: after the farmers harvest the rice and late summer vegetables, they burn the dead plants in giant bonfires in the middle of their fields. Japan is a mountainous nation and the farms lie in the nutrient-rich valleys, dissected by streams. In the countryside during autumn, if you manage to ascend to even a slight elevation, you are afforded the sight of smoke rising over shorn squares of yellow and brown, crisscrossed with rivers, usually running full from seasonal rains and passing typhoons. Autumn has become a smoky season for me.

Thus the decision to use the word fire for this week’s prompt, coming just after the autumnal equinox (for us inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere, at least). It is a heavy word, weighted with possibility. Fire played a significant role over the course of humanity’s evolution and while many no longer encounter physical flames directly, it still exists as a regular linguistic feature in metaphors, verbs, and adjectives.
Fanning the flames. A flicker of recognition. I’m on fire. Burning with desire.

So, dear writers, this week I am giving you permission to play with fire.


Week 27: Prompt

Hello there.

This week’s prompt is brought to you by regular contributor Sunil Sharma.
To quote him directly (so you can get the full feel of the prompt):

The Voice
Heard on a bus, train, tram; or radio show or on phone or an ad on TV. Voice that leaves one mesmerized!

So have at it, dear writers. Let’s “hear” what you can do.


Week 25: Prompt


Welcome to week 25. This week’s prompt requires a little research. What happened on this day in the year you were born? (“This day” being the day you write the story.) My suggestion is to look at the headlines and go from there. Like for instance, on September 10th, 1979 Cleveland began bussing students, arson was suspected in 2 more barn fires, Louisana was hunting down some escapees, and a hostage guard survived a slit throat. More story possibilities than I know what to do with, actually. Find a story that you can follow back to the people involved. Those are your characters.

I look forward to reading your stories on Thursday evening. Now get writing.

Week 24: Prompt


A little late this week because, well, Mondays. Yesterday was a bit more tiresome than usual due to my classes starting up again and the fact that I am from Jacksonville. It has given me a lot to think about, regarding gun rights and violence and racial disparity. I will write about it elsewhere but essentially I am just saying, I absolutely lost track of time. It happens.

This week, due to my own hectic schedule and a suggestion from a contributor, I am changing the rules a bit. Double-double, two weeks, 1000 words. This prompt is very specific. Write about someone who is the last of something, anything you like, but something. Like maybe they are the last hot dog seller or the last member of a royal dynasty. Think about how it would feel to be the last of something, to know that no one after you will do what you do or think how you think. Once you figure out what your character is the last of, then I think the story will practically self-construct.

In a few days, I will make an announcement about some changes to Mercurial Stories but until then, focus on your stories. With so much time and so much space, I am expecting great narratives from you all (or as we say in Jacksonville (aka Jax), y’all).

Get writing.

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