Prompt Response

Prompt Response

A year ago, I wrote a couple of stories in response to a writing prompt. I don’t usually do that and, honestly, I really dislike writing prompts.  They’re too much like that old favourite: write about what you did at the weekend.

I always hated that as a kid. Wherever I was, my weekend was full of aliens, magic, spaceships and adventure, but it was really clear that what my teachers wanted was a description of how green the trees were in the park, or how the sea sounded at the beach. Perversely, I now blog about what the animals did around the farm, which is barely a theme or two from writing about my weekend, without the aliens and magic.

I think, perhaps, that my perception of and reaction to writing prompts is the problem. It’s all about creativity and the prompt is just that, something to set the thoughts rolling. Why is it any different to write a story triggered by a deliberately chosen phrase, or by seeing one of the geese racing around the paddock whilst tangled in a bucket? 

I’m blaming it on pressure, on the need to react, to meet someone else’s expectations, which probably says more about me than the prompts or the people who generate them. Perhaps it’s the lurking feeling that it’s like an exam question, subject to that all-important guidance– read the question carefully and answer exactly the question asked. That’s great advice for an exam, but stifling when in search of creativity. 

Inspiration is a rare and precious thing, to be seized and nurtured whenever it pops up. Read the question and then ignore it; answer what you think they should have asked. Especially on those prompts which really are like an exam question and nail you down to a detailed scenario – “you’re a duck and you’ve been swimming on the same pond all your life, eating the same bread and then someone tosses a croissant in the water, so write about your new diet”. Given the prompt, are you now seeing a safari expedition to study pink elephants and go abseiling on sunbeams? Why not?

A year ago, I wrote two stories based on a pair of prompts. I’ve just done it again, for the same venue. The difference, I suppose, is I’m no longer worrying about meeting anybody’s expectations. I’ve taken the prompts, parked them for a week, looked again, parked again… been utterly uninspired… and then, out of nowhere, I have something, and now I’m having fun. Oh, and those prompts were just a handful of words, not a whole world.

Of course, as I stared at this year’s prompts (printed and pinned to the back of a door, two words to define each topic, albeit with an array of explanations, hints, and suggestions not to be constrained by anything in the explanations…) I grumbled about not being inspired. In fact, I got annoyed enough to mutter and makes puns about it, even thinking that it was taking so long to come up with a story so I could scarcely call it a prompt response…

I’m still not a fan of writing prompts, but they do serve a purpose, something to make me look at the world differently, find a different angle on something mundane.

Yup, take inspiration wherever it comes –making the tea, hanging the laundry, rescuing that goose from the bucket, or deliberate writing prompt. It’s all the same – alien invasions, magic lands, amusing chickens – if it finds a story in you, then write.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC )and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.



Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

“What Comes Around” ~~ by Mark Huntley-James

“What Comes Around” ~~ by Mark Huntley-James

Some decades back, I was offered a research fellowship, funded by a precursor to Cancer Research UK.  Sadly, although it was a hugely tempting invitation, my personal circumstances meant that I turned it down. Maybe if I’d taken it, I might have made some ground-breaking contribution to cancer research.  More likely, I would have made a tiny contribution, all part of the satisfaction of helping to piece together a larger puzzle. None of that happened, but on the other hand, had I taken it I wouldn’t have met my partner, so no regrets.

As it turns out, whilst I declined my chance, one of my relatives joined a clinical trial around about the same time. It’s a story which has only come to light in the last few years, and perhaps only now because my ageing relative has survived cancer twice, and that second occurrence presented some peculiar circumstances.

Family, supposedly, is where they have to take you in.  By my definition, family is where I have the strangest conversations, and think it perfectly normal. A few years back, I received a phone call at oh-god o’clock on a Saturday morning – a friend called to let me know that my ageing relative hadn’t felt well the previous evening, took a taxi to hospital, and had been diagnosed with appendicitis.  Strictly speaking, the first diagnosis was cancer – something about a blob like that on an x-ray in a patient that old must surely be cancer, and the other symptoms didn’t quite fit with appendicitis.

So I phoned and  had a conversation which went something like:

“Hi, so how’s the appendicitis?”

Apparently, this is not entirely normal, but it’s the way things work in my family.

The answer was, “Fine, fine, but my sense of taste is off and I can only eat the vegetarian option.” By definition, that’s pretty much the end of the world. Then I got the natural counter-question. “So, how are your heart tests?”

“Oh, fine, just one more to go.” (Which came out as all clear!)

And finally, the kicker:

“That’s good.  Did you ever see the pathologist’s report on your mother? She could have died of a heart attack at any moment.  By the way, they found pre-cancerous cells when they took my appendix out.”

Really, that sort of conversation is normal in my family.

So, from surgery on a seriously inflamed appendix, my ageing relative was also diagnosed with an almost-cancer and put on a course of chemotherapy. A few years on, and those pre-cancerous cells have recurred occasionally and been knocked back down with yet more oral chemotherapy. Equally importantly, they are monitored regularly with a simple blood test.

Now, it emerges, said relative also had cancer twenty-five years previously – a benign tumour that could be removed with some minor surgery.  However, instead of getting treatment immediately, my relative joined a clinical trial – the tumour was benign and easy to monitor, therefore perfect for assessing drugs to shrink tumours. After eighteen months, the now-shrunk tumour was finally removed, and my family had made a small contribution to the development of cancer treatments.  Twenty-five years later, other small developments have come together to stop pesky pre-cancerous cells in their tracks and watch for any recurrence with simple blood tests.

It’s easy to focus on the horrendous impact of cancer, both on the sufferer and on their family, whilst forgetting the positives, the advances in treatment and the patients who volunteer to be a part of that process. All of those major break-throughs and revolutionary treatments are built from countless tiny steps and small contributions.

Thus far, I am part of the fifty percent of my immediate family not diagnosed with some form of cancer. Should that day come, and a physician says ‘we have this experimental treatment…’ I  hope I have the courage to sign up and make my own small contribution.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (writeedge.blogspot.com), his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Something to Talk About ~~ by Mark Huntley-James, #OMP Blogger

Something to Talk About ~~ by Mark Huntley-James, #OMP Blogger

There are so many things my mother never talked about.  One of them was money, so it was quite a surprise to me, as her executor, to learn that she actually had some.  Since she never talked about it, I was also surprised by one of the charities she made bequests to.  The British Heart Foundation made sense – she had a heart condition – and likewise the diabetes charity, but the one that initially puzzled me was Cancer Research UK, because I saw no immediate connection.  There didn’t need to be one, but the other causes she supported were things she had had a close association with, so I expected something.

Of course, illness was another thing my mother never talked about.  Yes, she would tell you all about her glucose levels, how the latest pills were doing, but she only ever mentioned her own health.  She skipped over Grandad’s health twenty years ago, yes he was quite ill so she was staying with her parents to help out, but that was about it.  I knew he was ill, in a subliminal way, because his vegetable patch wasn’t dug over – the first time in all the years I was old enough to notice – and he looked short.

I don’t have any good way to describe it properly. Grandad was taller than me and broad in the shoulders, but now he looked short. My mother did say he wasn’t feeling well.

What my mother avoided mentioning, discussing or otherwise bringing out into the light of day was that Grandad had cancer. Some months later I took the umpteen hour drive down again, and saw him in hospital a few weeks before he died – he looked terrible, but he was being discharged and I drove him home.  Just being away from the hospital perked him up and by the time I left at the end of the weekend, he was looking good.  Of course, no-one was mentioning the C-word, let alone the terminal diagnosis.

I’m sure I must have worked it out, but I wasn’t telling myself either.

So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of my mother’s bequests.  They all touched her.

Nine months ago, I was asked if I would like to contribute a story to a charity anthology and I agreed.  It seemed like a good idea, supporting a worthwhile cause, and there it was again, Cancer Research UK.

I wonder what my mother would have thought?  She didn’t really talk about that sort of thing.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog (writeedge.blogspot.com), his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers have been recently published (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy