The Generative Writing Speculative Fiction Club
In my real life, under my real name, I am the facilitator (don’t call me president) of the Curiouser Writing Group. We are a generative speculative fiction writing group affiliated with the Kelly Writers House located on UPenn campus.
We are fans and writers who meet on Tuesdays evenings to write using different prompts.
Sometimes, we just write for fun. Most times, our small flash fiction pieces end up becoming scenes, characters, and chapters in our stories. A few times, it turns into whole novels.
I love to be challenged by other people’s writing prompts. Moreover, the energy and motivation from being around like-minded young people are unmatchable.
Since my first post of Curiouser writing prompts got a good reception, why not do a few more?
Read my fiction. Better yet, do try these at home.
Writing Prompt #1: Make an Everyday Object Fantastical
Speculative fiction is about making the ordinary extraordinary. And strange, scary, and whimsical.
Every house has a mailbox. We all get mail.
But what if the mailbox is haunted? Let’s see.
The Spirits in the Mailbox
My letters keep disappearing. I hate bills! But when the electric company called me inquiring why was my bill unpaid, I froze. “When did you send it?”
“Shut off notice was sent two weeks ago”, the customer service rep said.
Laura broke up with me. She stopped calling. She said she left me a note. I became more puzzled. Then it hit me. I couldn’t remember when I got her last letter. I was so used to email notifications. I was taking mail for granted.
I decided to investigate. I put a hidden camera. Was the mailman stealing it? Was it the neighbors? The camera captured the moment the mailman deposited the mail. I counted four letters. I reviewed the footage. Nothing.
No one took the mail. No one. But it disappeared. Gone.
“It is probably espíritus chocarreros“, said Lupita, my Mexican neighbor, she of the green-painted fingernails and long braids. “They haunt small places.”
“But where is my mail going?”
“Another dimension”, she said matter of factly. “Did you try burning sage?”
I was desperate, curious. Of course, I did so. The next day I woke up to a mailbox overloaded with letters. Even Laura‘s breakup letter was there. What? How?
Playful spirit or not, I signed up for electronic billing just in case.
Meanwhile, the minty smell of the sage was a welcome relief. It seems it got rid of more than one spirit. As a bonus, it cured heartburn.
Sadly, it did not cure heartache.
Writing Prompt #2: Your Character Discovers an object from the past
Your character discovers a present-day object but in the far future. What is it? How does it change the character? What does the object say about us?
I chose a xeno-archaeologist as the discoverer.
Do they see value in the object? Or do they think is useless?
Does whoever discovers the object tell others or keep it secret? Why?
The Future Discovery
Franz‘s mouth opened when the shovel hit the object. It sounded like metal. While others dug for treasure, he did it for knowledge. Explaining the past was not a hobby but a passion.
The object was a box. Inside was the true treasure, a book–heavy, old, but well preserved. He could sell it for a billion credits to a collector. It would make a great conversation piece in an office.
With a tiny brush, he swept the dust and tried reading the title, but he could not. It was in English, a language extinct since the 23rd century, although a few words are still in use on standard Solarian.
Tammy Wills opened the box containing the mysterious book from the past loaned to the Science Institute by Franz Morgan. Her years of training in ancient literature made her realize this object was a dictionary.
She sighed. She hoped for a novel. Still, a dictionary was transgressive, almost dangerous. It was full of word definitions, new knowledge, and lost terms. Lost concepts and lost ways of thinking.
Because of it, the book felt new. A new way to reconnect with their 20th-century ancestors.
She opened it, wide-eyed, and with care, wearing gloves. The book was precious. To think this was at one point the international language of trade. The tweezers in her hands were so heavy despite the thin pages.
“We cannot afford to lose you again”, she said to the book. “Our people will find clues to our lost history and culture.”
And she read it, one definition at a time.
Writing Prompt #3: Put Your Character in a Helpless Situation
The idea behind this prompt was to put your character not only in danger but to put them in a situation they could only survive using wits rather than strength or magic.
Readers love when a character defies expectations and outwits an opponent. I picked a vampire as the opponent.
What kind of danger can you put your character in? How can your character find a way out?
Death by Vampire
Trapped. Damn! No escape.
Either he eats me or converts me. Neither one is a good option. I don’t want to die. Neither do I want to live forever–not like a vampire. I love the beach so much.
What is the point of living forever if there is no sunlight? Or a sexy tan? Think. Quick.
He stares at me like a predator. I play the submissive victim.
“Before you kill me, you must know, I have leukemia. It is in recession, but you will be drinking poisoned blood.”
He slaps me so hard, that it stings. “You are lying. I can smell your blood. It is tasty.”
So he wants to eat me. I crunched the floor like a baby. I resigned myself to death. Fluffy, my cat, stares at me, hungry. I forgot to feed him. He meows, asking for food. My hands are tied at the moment. I sighed.
“Wait, before you kill me, I ask a boon, a final wish.”
“What do you desire?”, he asks, piercing my soul with his glance. I shivered.
The cat meows again. I can’t feed him. Who would care for him when I am gone? Will she stay trapped in here while after I die? His eyes pierced me with urgency.
I don’t want to die. Think fast. “Is it true you vampires can shapeshift? Or is it just a legend?”
“It is true.”
“Can you please bite me as a bat? It will feel less intimidating. Please. I offered my neck willingly.
Smoke filled the room. He transformed and rushed towards my neck. I closed my eyes and brace myself for the inevitable.
Fluffy does not see a bat. The starving cat sees a mouse with wings. Good thing I read Puss in Boots as a child. Better yet I forgot to feed Fluffy.
These three are just a few samples of what we do weekly. Writing groups are essential to improve your writing.
Moreover, considering we have about ten minutes for each, there is also the pressure to put pen to paper. I am always amazed about our creativity given the randomness of the prompts and the short time to do them.
Reader, did you enjoy these small writing exercises? Would you like to try them? Did I hear a “sure”?