And the top entry that will appear in Writer's Digest magazine is . . .

Digital drum roll, please …

With the 100th post in the e-bag, let’s start off the next Promptly century right—with your writing prompts, submitted in response to the 100th prompt.

To strip out my personal bias (I figure you get enough of that on a thrice weekly basis), I turned the prompts over to a fellow WD editor to pick a top entry to run in the July/August 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Ultimately, she chose Mark James’ entry (he’ll also nab a subscription or renewal to the magazine), which appears below, followed by the other prompts in response to the post.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed, and here’s to the next 100!

(Image: Bill Longshaw)

* * *


WRITING PROMPTS:
Your Prompts


Feel free to take the following prompts home or post your response to any of them (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings. If you’re having trouble with the captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to me at writersdigest@fwmedia.com, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll make sure it gets up.

You’re Satan’s confessor. Write his first confession in a thousand
years.



(By Mark James)

*

A beautiful woman arrives at the funeral wearing bright red shoes, where everyone else is dressed in somber clothing.

(By Dolly)

*

You’re on an elevator that suddenly shudders to a stop between floors. In the elevator with you are the UPS man, a young man with glasses dressed in a business suit, and a very pregnant lady.

(By HiDee)

*


Earth is rocked to its core by an onslaught of pounding thunder. Bolts of lightning rain down from the skies, illuminating the darkest of nights. Storm clouds blot out any and all traces of the stars.


Zeus is angry.

(By Alex)

*


Womb dreams are the best. Well, I don’t have anything with which to compare them, but from what the Caregivers say, they are sublimely better than postnatal dreams.

(By Katrina)

*


You’re walking quickly along a busy sidewalk, dodging people, late for work, when you pass through a slow moving crowd, all eyeing a homeless man who is passionately shouting and kicking a parking meter. You roll your eyes, attempting to push past when the man shouts your name. You turn to see that he is merely addressing the meter, but something in the way he spoke your name makes you stop. “So this is what has become of my ex-husband,” you think to yourself.

(By Temira)

*

Seamus O’ Hanrahan stood on the deck of his ship and looked out over the water, watching as the orange fingers of flame turned to red in the darkening twilight. They navigated by the path of the sun during the day, and by the stars at night, but sunrise and sunset were outside of time. They spoke of the eternal, the never ending, the time and place outside of time and place. These were the times when seafaring men knew the size and strength of the vast ocean.

(By Kim Kennedy)

*

A little girl was walking down the street, wearing a red dress, and looking for something. She asked the first person that she met, “Have you seen my _______?”

(By Paula )

*

“If the lion’s sleeping tonight, and the moon’s in Aquarius, that must mean you’re here to . . . “

(By Mark James)

*

You are 22 years old and have just graduated college with no job prospects. Over the last semester you discovered your true passion in another major. It is too late to turn back and you are now out of money. The only jobs available are those in retail, fast-food, and manual labor. A Bachelor’s degree just isn’t enough anymore.

(By Nathan Honoré)

*

The combination of stale air spiked with a jolt of eucalyptus greeted her nose. “Is this it?”



“Yes, ma’am.”



She sighed and sank to the floor. This couldn’t be it.

(By Martha W.)

*

You walk into your apartment just in time to catch your cat on the phone saying, “Dude, it’s gonna be WILD!” The cat looks at you. You look at your cat. And then the cat says, “So I guess we’d better talk.”

(By Khara E. House)

Learn how to help your writing career survive—and grow—in the
current economy. Break into corporate writing. Discover the art of taxes
for writers. Absorb lessons and insights from an author-turned-agent.
Read Elizabeth Berg’s thoughts on life after Oprah. Click

here to check the March/April 2010 issue of WD out.

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  9. Mary Grace B.

    Hey, there, uh Father. OW!! Geez, these things are cramped. And DAMN, we have better lighting in most of the lower circles. Oh, and if this Armani suit gets wrinkled, I’m sending the bill here.

    Anyway, I haven’t done this in a long time, and I got something I need to get off my chest:

    A few years ago, I ran across this Mormon housewife, see? I find Mormons entertaing. Anyway, she wanted to write something based off of some ridiculous dream she had (something about a forest or a meadow or a lea or some other bullcrap like that). So I showed up on her doorstep and we had coffee. She was cute, but kind of vapid. She started describing the guy in the dream as tall, dark, and handsome—like me if I weren’t blond, she said. So she goes on and on about him and this girl and how they’re all secluded in this field, and I could tell she was totally into voyeurism, and then inspiration struck.

    I told her: make the guy a vampire.

    Now, what I meant by "vampire" was "worldly seducer", like an updated version of Dracula—he was pretty damn cool before Hollywood got to him. But THIS woman somehow interpreted "vampire" as "whiny, obnoxiously possessive teenage boy who has no clue how to emote." I didn’t know that then, of course. I found out about a year and a half later, when teenage girls started gushing over their precious Edward.

    So I read the freaking books. I saw the freaking movies.

    THEY’RE HIDEOUS!!! AND IT’S ALL MY FAULT!!!!

    I mean, have YOU watched them? Well, probably not, bein’ a holy man and all. But still, they’re all so mind-numbingly boring. Had this woman ever heard of a vampire before I said anything? And since when do they have glitter-skin?! I mean, REALLY.

    The thing is, I’ve helped promote teenage abstinence. Kids aren’t getting it on at parties anymore because the girls are too busy waiting for their personal Eddie-kins or Jakey-poo or whatever, and where does that leave the boys? Well, at least Playboy sales are on the rise. But still, if word gets out that I started this whole thing, it’ll RUIN my reputation!

    What do you mean, "It might not be my fault?" Of course, it is! Almost EVERYTHING’S my fault. I usually like it that way, but this is just too much.

    Say, I feel better now. Thanks, preacher-man. You’re a good man, and I know how rare those are. Hey, if this holiness thing doesn’t work out, I’ll make sure you get it easy down there.

    Well, I think that’s all for now. By the way, the name’s Louis, or maybe Nick…yeah, I feel like a Nick today. Well, if you don’t know me, you know my work—that trick with the planes nine years ago was one of my best. I’ll be seein’ ya.

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  10. Denise Oltersdorf

    "The Confession"

    The confessional is dim and a little musty from sins left on the floor like September’s leaves. With the priest in place the ritual begins.
    "Forgive me Father for I have sinned. Its been 1000 years since my last confession."
    "1000 years, the Priest repeats, "could this be your most recent sin?"
    "No father, my last confession was in 1910, since then I have accomplished much."
    replied the weak one.
    "My son, sin is not an accomplishment, it is an abomination to God." corrected the priest.
    "I fully understand your position Father, but you see I don’t only play for the other team, I am the Quarterback, so to speak." confessed the fallen one.
    "My son, God loves all His children, not matter what their sexual preference is. However, He is very clear on this matter." protests the Priest.
    "I’m not talking about being gay, per say, although I’ve never been one for limitations on anything." boasted the deceiver.
    "let’s just concentrate on the business at hand, shall we?" asked the Priest. "Why are you here, son?"
    "Well Father, like I said, I have accomplished much in the last 1000 years and I was just wondering if Christ was ready to pack it in? Why with immorality on the rise, God being virtually eliminated from any official capacity, other than the church gigs. It’s practically an underground operation. The youth is violent and greedy and the adults are depraved. I mean business is about as good as it gets. I’m at the top of my game." declared the tempter. The Priest collects himself and asks, "Are you try to make me believe you are satan?"
    "Believe? squawked the confessor, "I’ll do you one better. I want you to be my promoter. This is a chance of a lifetime for you. Imagine, the power and resources at your finger tips, once you become my go-to-guy."
    The priest fingers the cross around his neck as he contemplates his response, his mind racing. "You realize, he says, your very presence here suggests the opposite." If this "gig" wasn’t a threat to your operation, I dare say, you would not risk being in His presence." "Why bother with the insignificant?"
    Satan chuckles, "See Father, that is exactly why I am here. You are a master spin doctor." "The way your mind works, AMAZING!"
    The Priest rises to his feet, and pronounces, "We are far from underground, we are a force. We are a movement. A movement of Light, a movement of Life. Glory be to God. Get behind me Satan you have not power here, but if you are truly here to confess, I am here to help. Shall we take it from the top?" the Priest offers. Silence. The priest leaves the confessional and opens the curtain to the confessors side. Empty, he sees a coin on the floor and picks it up. It’s hot. The priest hot potatoes it from hand to hand and reads, "In God we Trust"

  11. Nadine Gallo

    Bless me father, it’s been, let’s see, I could be mistaken but I believe it’s been a thousand years since my last confession, which didn’t go very well so it kept me from coming back. I find it hard to take the blame for plagues and mass destruction when I really had nothing to do with it. I did the penance, but as you know, the spirit is willing and the flesh is weak. Of course, the shipwrecks off the Canaries I do accept as my fault. I got those sailors so drunk they just didn’t know where the life jackets were. So, man overboard!

    It’s not fair that I have to take full responsibility when people are often to blame for their own misfortunes. I don’t tempt everybody all the time. It’s a time consuming thing to tempt someone. You have to find out what their weaknesses are and lay little traps for them so there’s no way I could take care of all that for everyone in the planet. Sometimes I think I’m actually a nice person and just have this bad rap to live up to. I mean if you are constantly told how evil you are, what do you expect? A sudden change of attitude? I don’t really enjoy being greedy and hateful. It’s depressing. Wears you down.

    My wife, Mrs. Satan is embarrassed by my reputation. We move into a new neighborhood and in no time we’re ignored by the neighbors. I couldn’t even find the time to tempt all those people. It is my job, really, so I try to do it, knowing perfectly well that I’ll have to file a report. It’s an awkward position to be in. Our little devils have trouble at school. We get calls all the time. They’re bullying, they’re stealing, they’re tripping other kids in the halls. I could spend half my life in the principal’s office. Of course, I could make the most of it and tempt him to steal the lunch money, but I don’t. So you have to admit, I try to be good.

  12. Patricia

    “What does it mean for someone to go through confession and doesn’t ask for forgiveness?” Satan asked in a blasé tone.

    “Perhaps, such a person subconsciously wants to be forgiven,” I replied smugly.

    “I doubt it, I’m a creature of habits and impulses, which some would say are evil. Personally, I think anything can be misconstrued as evil, depending on what the overall goal is.”

    “So what is your goal? What do you hope to ultimately achieve?”

    “To simply continue what I’ve always done – whatever I want.”

    “Please forgive me, as I pry,” I pleaded nervously, “One rarely gets such an opportunity to directly talk to you. When was your last confession?”

    “About a 1,000 years ago.”

    “And what led you to make a confession back then?”

    “Curiosity. I’m sucker for rituals.”

    “Indeed. Who did you confess to?”

    “No one significant. To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember his name.”

    “Interesting.”

    “What?”

    “I don’t believe you.”

    “Why?”

    “You’re known as the Prince of Lies.”

    “That’s just one of many titles people have bestowed upon me. In fact, I tend to be quite honest, in most respects. The problem is that I am made the scapegoat for a lot of foibles mankind refuses to accept personal accountability for. I guess that’s why I felt compelled then as I do now to confess.”

    “What is your confession?” I asked with intrigue.

    “I’m tired of being branded the source of all the ills of the world. In fact, a lot of it is done more in His name than in mine. So I guess my confession is that I’m jealous. Jealous of Him for having so many devoted to Him, even when they blatantly commit so-called justifiable evil – in His name no less. Meanwhile, I’m just an afterthought, just to appease everyone’s guilt.”

    “So why don’t you just change?”

    “Like I told you,” Satan said with a smile, “I’m a creature of habits and impulses.”

    “That’s a poor excuse.”

    “Perhaps, but it’s the truth.”

    “So you’re complaining about something you refuse to change.”

    “Basically, I’m a hypocrite. Another title that was placed upon me.”

    “Again, why come to confession, if there is no absolution?”

    “Just to vent, which was basically what I did a 1,000 years ago and will probably do so again in the next 1,000 years.”

    “So there is nothing I could say or do to convince you to seek redemption?”

    “No. It’s funny though,” Satan stated with a smirk.

    “What’s funny?” I inquired.

    “That’s what the last confessor said a 1,000 years ago, just before I killed him.”

  13. Linda Breeden

    He sat hesitantly, seemingly unsure of what was expected.

    “What is your confession?” I asked gently.

    Flushing red, he responded, “I have sinned many times over and feel the need to confess what I have done.”

    “Go on.” I responded.

    Eyes downcast he said, “I have caused the human race to grow in death, hate, and vengeance.”

    Startled, I asked, “How did you cause this?”

    He turned his head from me, glancing up with slanted eyes as he responded, “In 850 AD the Indian people in the southwest weren’t worth my attention. They struggled to defend against the enemies that their God provided in the form of animals. I found it amusing and paid little attention until suddenly I noticed that the hills were full of pueblos. Imagine my surprise when I discovered, only a short 250 years later, that they had built them to defend against their enemies and were working harmoniously together as a village of people.”

    “Go on” I said, with a sense of unease.

    Looking me full in the eyes he continued in a soft, monotone way, “I still didn’t think it would be a problem, but you can’t let things like that continue. So I cut off their water supply by sending years of drought. When that happened, they couldn’t find food and they began to argue and fight.” He paused, with a slight, satisfied smile on his lips.

    “The people began to move from their homes, fleeing to places where they could find food and water. Having discovered what not having these things can do, they refused to share with others less fortunate. This single village weakened and became smaller tribes all across the southwest. Not wanting them to form into a village again, I made sure the climate was unpredictable. I caused volcanoes to erupt, which cooled the air and shortened the growing season, meaning less food.”

    He sat up straighter as if his pride were overtaking him.

    “Less food meant less work on my part, " he explained. "It forced them to take those creative ideas and apply them to survival. I didn’t plan the cannibalism and human sacrifice that resulted and almost felt a twinge of regret about that.”

    “Are you asking for forgiveness for all of this?” I asked.

    He stared at me, confused.

    “I don’t know what forgiveness is, so I don’t guess I’m asking for it.”

    “Why are you here then?” I asked, keeping my voice calm and my face without expression.

    “Well, after a thousand years of control over God’s people, I guess I wanted Him to know directly what I had accomplished in spite of His grace.”

    “Oh He knows.” I responded calmly. “But that is not your problem at the moment.”

    “Yea?” he snarled. “What is my problem?”

    “You are but one of the Devil’s minions and you are taking credit for my work!”

    His eyes popped in surprise as he disappeared in a blaze of fire, his shrieks echoing. The church then vanished as I descended the steps to my real office in the bowels of hell, muttering, "…twinge of regret indeed!"

  14. Kate Thompson

    I sat on my side of the grill, awaiting the next penitent. I heard the opening of the door, followed by a strange swishing and rustling, as if the person were having trouble getting inside. Perhaps a lady in evening dress? I wondered. Amidst mumbled cursing – most shocking and definitely not female – the penitent finally seemed to gather himself, close the door and sit down.

    The air became unusually warm, even stifling. I breathed in, about to speak, and the man on the other side cleared his throat several times. I paused, giving him a moment to collect himself. He was by no means the first to enter a confessional and have trouble beginning. The air swirled hotly and smelled of something terrible, though by the time I identified the smell as that of rotten eggs, my ears were assailed by a near explosion of the words, "Forgive me, Faaa…..," followed by the obvious sounds of the penitent gagging and then collapsing hard against the wall.

    Rushing out from my side, I lurched toward the other door. Heat and sulphur engulfed me as I jerked it open and there, slumped over and clearly dead, was Satan. Too far gone for heavenly intervention, he had choked upon his words.
     

  15. Martha W

    Mark, Loved it! Awesome job…. I swear I almost went for that one, but couldn’t get it straight in my head how to work it out. So, I did one for you… even though I’m not nearly as good at them as you are…

    And, damn it. I owe $2.

    ==============

    "If the lion’s sleeping tonight, and the moon’s in Aquarius," he said, "that must mean you’re here to . . . "

    Amber waited for the end. The new guys were always a hoot.

    The kid’s big blue eyes glittered out from a pale, porcelain face. He didn’t crack a smile or move one inch in her direction. But every muscle was alert, intent, waiting.

    She shrugged, gave a little nod. "Yes?"

    He muttered, more to himself than her. "Not even a little help?"

    "Excuse me?" Her nose scrunched, drawing her manicured brows together over plain brown eyes.

    The name stitched on his shirt called him John. How original. "Work with me here."

    Her mind was racing. What did he expect, a gum drop trail? "Um. I need some incense." The truth always worked best, especially when dealing with a newbie.

    "Oh my. You need help."

    She nodded. "Yes. I need something lav-"

    John waved a hand between them. "That isn’t important. Come with me."

    Amber stood mute. He pivoted on his heel, headed to the back of the store. He didn’t even check on her. Just assumed she’d follow.

    Careful to not touch anything, she began to inch the way she came. Toward the front door.

    "Amber Rae." His voice held impatience now. Like she was the child and not he.

    "How did you know my name?" She had to yell now. He was no where in sight.

    He stuck his head around the end cap and beckoned her to hurry. "How did you know to come here? How do we know anything?"

    She trailed behind him, curious as to what he would do. "Tell me."

    "You’ll see."

    She stopped in her tracks. Refused to move another inch. "Tell me."

    He spun on her, wings spreading from behind him. Fury etched the beautiful face with harsh lines, red blotches spread across his cheeks. "Fine. You wanna know? I’ll tell you. But it’s gonna cost me."

    She clapped her hands over her mouth, muffled her surprise.

    John grabbed her arm, whirled toward the exit. "Oh, no you don’t."

    "Don’t what? What do you want?"

    "Nothing." His tone sharpened, stabbed at her conscience. "Only your safety. But no. Gotta play twenty questions. Cost me my admittance."

    Amber went completely still. This was against the rules. "Admittance to what? Is this a cult thing? I’m not anybody important."

    He shoved her out the employee door, pushed her against the wall and covered them both with his wings. "Depends on your definition of cult."

    She grunted at the impact. Spun out of his reach.

    "No, no, no. I’m your guardian angel. I’m here to protect you."

    As if waiting for those words, the world imploded around her. Bricks and metal brackets whizzed like missiles, smashing into the wall beside them. A sharp sting in her chest had her looking down.

    She stared at the metal pole impaling her to the wall. With her last shuddering breath, she whispered, "I’m telling Michael on you."

  16. Mark James

    Zac. . thank you.
    Martha . . . look. . . no pieces.

    I couldn’t believe he was doing it again. And this time, I had him by the paws. I walked into my house just in time to catch him on the phone. "Dude, it’s gonna be WILD!" He looked at me. I looked at him. Then my cat said, "So I guess we’d better talk."

    “Planning another night outside my bedroom window?” I swiped at him.

    He jumped off my desk, hissed at me. “You’re lucky my claws are gone.”

    I hung up my phone. “You’re lucky I don’t eat fur.”

    He leapt up onto the couch, wrapped his black tail around himself. “She’ll be here soon.” He stretched his mouth in what would have been a grin on a man. “You better keep my bowl full if you plan on getting any – – ”

    He didn’t think I’d do it, but I yanked the pillow right out from under him, watched him tumble to the floor. “I’m still part dog, you little fur ball.”

    The fall didn’t hurt him. He twined between my legs, purred. “Be nice, Ajax. You don’t want your new girlfriend finding out you’re all dog when it gets to be a full moon, do you?”

    The doorbell rang. He ran across the back of the couch, landed on top of the TV.

    “One word,” I said, “and I’m going shopping and find out how much to stuff your body.”

    When I opened the door, Charlene was standing there, holding a bag bigger than her. I grabbed it before it slipped through her little hands. “What are you doing carrying all this stuff around?”

    She walked past me. “You said I could stay a while.”

    I kicked the door shut. “I didn’t know dolls came with their own condos now.”

    Charlene made a face. “I’m too old for dolls.”

    “Come on. Your room’s down here.”

    She followed me down three steps that led to the back of the house, and crowded in behind me when I pushed a door open. “I never had my own room before.”

    I dropped her paper bag of things on the bed. “All yours, kiddo. We can fix it up. Cinderella, Barbie, that mermaid, whatever you want.”

    “Where’s Hector?”

    He came out of the shadows and jumped up into her arms. She buried her face in his fur, and laughed when he purred and rubbed his head against her cheek.

    “I’m having company tonight, Charlie. Think you can stay here, in your room?”

    She put Hector down, looked around. “By myself?”

    “No way, kid.” Hector jumped onto her bed. “You can swing me by the tail.”

    She sank down next to him. “Does your girlfriend know you have a talking cat?”

    Hector gave me a sly look. “Does she, Ajax?”

    I licked my lips. “It’s kind of a secret.”

    A strange shadow came over her face. “Okay. My dad had lots of secrets.”

    Which probably explained why I found her under a bridge next to his body. “She won’t be here for a while,” I said. “Pizza tonight?”

    “Yeah. And the little fishes for Hector.”

    I headed for the living room with Charlie and Hector trailing after me. This being human and having a family thing was tough.

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