Writing prompts and exercises

There’s something about writing prompts that just seems to work. The prompt, if it hits the right nerve in the brain, can set off a whole host of associations and ideas for stories, characters and situations. So, if you keep reading below, you’ll find the start of a new, untitled, story about a thousand words long.

I’ve used a random noun generator website for the prompt for this piece. About a thousand words created out of an unconnected selection of words, pulled together by a story that feels like it could keep on growing. As always, very interested in constructive responses to what you all think. Thank you for reading.

The random nouns were:
1. Color
2. Poppy
3. Rise
4. Voyage

Images below from stockfreeimages.com

Poppy Prompt
Poppy Prompt
Shipwreck prompt
Shipwreck prompt

It was ten months since the last voyage to collect the precious product. The trip had ended badly and cost them a fortune. Two miles from their destination, a vicious shipwreck off the usually calm Gannet coast had cost Gallant Industries ten good men and almost every single kilo of the rare product. Even the spare collected poppy seeds had been washed overboard or ruined beyond salvaging. The losses to Gallant Industries had been nearly catastrophic. The unfortunate ship’s captain had been hanged by Gallant himself.

The disaster was why, on this occasion, Gallant decreed that his youngest son, Frances would be going along on the ship to prevent any further silly mistakes. Frances was handed a golden canister, in which half a kilo of precious poppy seeds would be kept once they arrived. Frances was under strict instruction to keep this cannister sealed and at his side at all times once it was refilled.

Frances had protested only once before being suitably chastised. His father had not brooked a second argument. He had also dangled the carrot of great riches and land at him, “Should the trip be without incident and of great profit to us all.” Frances felt his father’s bargaining might have worked better the other way around.

It took a forty mile journey from WestBridge Estates to reach the coast in a bone-shaking carriage. Eager to be shot of the rusty suspension, Frances practically threw himself from the vehicle. His father was, possibly, too cheap to get decent carriages with actually cushioning. The sun was about to rise as Frances arrived at the docks, and laid his eyes on their ship, the Golden Serpent.

He was accompanied by his bodyguard, Suri. She was already by his side, having slipped soundlessly from the carriage and unfolded her immaculate self in mere moments. She wore no colour, purely beige and black stripes wrapped around her muscular body. It was a dress very much in the fashion of current society style, only it was really two pieces of fabric like his hose, and in the folds of material were all manner of secret and deadly weaponry. She didn’t speak very often, and right now was watching every shadow with the practised nonchalance of an alley cat. But he was comforted by her presence nonetheless. He wondered if his bullish father had ever tumbled her. Somehow he suspected not.

The Serpent’s deck was getting busy as crates were loaded for the voyage. Frances crossed to the edge of the deck and tapped the shoulder of a sailor who was tying incredibly complicated knots.

“Where is the captain?” Frances demanded.

The sailor made what could have been a smile, it was difficult to tell under al the black teeth. “O’ah Tharr,” he said, poking with his thumb at the highest deck on the ship. Sure enough, there was a tall man in appropriately embellished clothes strutting around on the top deck, barking orders now and then at the scurrying crew. Frances waved to him.

The Captain didn’t wave back but ushered a rapid command to a man on his right, who came directly for them.

“Are you Frances Gallant and his, er, lady-friend?” the man asked, holding out his hand. “I’m Patrick Gambell, the first mate around here. I’m here to make your voyage on the Serpent as pleasant as possible.”

“Well, thank you, my good man. Yes, yes we are here on behalf of my father.” Frances shook hands, felt the many calluses on the first mate’s fingers, so rough they nearly drew blood off his fingers. “I’m so pleased to be joining this voyage, it reeks of opportunity does it not?” he inclined toward his silent companion, “And may I introduce this lovely lady, she is…”

“Suri,” Suri stuck out a single hand and shaking it briskly. “I take care of him.” She seemed to leave that deliberately ambiguous.

“Suri, Delightful. Always nice to have a lady on board, brighten the place up a bit.”

“I must speak to Captain Vladimir,” Frances said. “The technicalities of this voyage requires extensive discussion and fine tuning.”

“Sorry, sir, Mr Gallant, but the Captain is busy now, coordinating the loading and whatnot.”

“That is unacceptable. I must see him now…”

“We are almost loaded and he gave instruction to send you both to your quarters. Then we will convene for a lunch before setting sail.”

“I…I….” Frances stared angrily over to the Captain, who was glaring in turn at everyone except him and Suri.

“I’ll have the cook fix you a tot of whiskey while you wait.” The first mate gestured, “Follow me, please, lady, gentlesir.”

Frances scowled mightily. As they walked onto the deck, he broke away and up to where the captain stood giving orders, “Now listen here, my father runs this ship, and I…”

The captain spun and gripped him firmly by the upper arm, which hurt just enough to make Frances freeze cold, his nerves freezing painfully under Vladimir’s touch.

“Welcome aboard,” the captain said, his face a mask. “If you wish to remain aboard, you will follow Mr Gambell to your luxurious lodgings, and join me when I deemed it appropriate Is that quite clear, your lordship?”

Frances wanted to burst into tears. The pressure on his arm was unbearable, his whole chest felt numb.

“Yes, yes…” he gulped. “S, see you this evening I s, suppose….”

“Good man,” the captain released his grip and shook his numb hand briskly instead. “Welcome aboard. And welcome to Suri, too.”

Suri was right behind him, but hadn’t lifted a finger. She shook the Captain’s hand as well, and as she did, she leaned forward. She said something to the captain, soft and gentle in tone, but Frances felt rather than saw the captain flinch. He smiled a little, slightly gratified though his cheeks flushed at the humiliation of it all. A moment later, he and Suri followed Mr Gamble down the miniature staircase to their quarters. The Captain’s dark gaze followed them all the way down.


Writing prompts and exercises

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