Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Truth or Dare

WRITING PROMPT: Monday Matchup #14
Welcome to 2011! Feel free to take the following prompt home or post a
response (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 (we’ll draw for the holiday prompts Wednesday).
you’re having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your piece and the prompt to me at, with “Promptly” in the subject line, and I’ll
make sure it gets up.

Write a story involving a game of truth or dare, your favorite food, and a movie theater.

Also, what are you and your writing doing Jan. 21-23? Join us in New York for the Writer’s Digest Conference.
We always have a blast, and it can be a great move for your craft and
career (at one of our recent events, agents Janet Reid and Andrea Hurst
signed clients, and went on to negotiate six-figure deals for them). On
tap this year:

  • Our signature agent pitch slam, featuring at least 57 agents representing a variety of genres and styles
  • Sessions on the future of publishing, craft, platform, social media, freelancing and much, much more
  • Panels and Q&As with agents and other pros
  • Our off-site poetry slam in SoHo.

Click here to learn more. Hope to see you there!

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10 thoughts on “Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Truth or Dare

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  5. CosmicMidwife

    I was not happy, Sir, not happy at all.

    “It’s not like we were doing something wrong,” my daughter said. “It was a game.”

    “A game,” I pointed out, “that led to your visiting unknown houses after dark, begging for – I can’t believe it! – condoms from strangers. Lara, you’re ten. This isn’t an appropriate game for you and your friends.”

    “Condomettes,” she corrected me.

    “Excuse me?”

    “Condomettes,” Lara repeated. At my blank expression, she continued. “Mom, you know. Ketchup packets. Mustard. Like from McDonalds.”

    I nodded slowly, biting my lower lip. Tears in my eyes, I glanced away from Lara’s earnest face. Her three best buds stood solemn and wide-eyed. I waved them out of the kitchen, turning toward the wall to stuff an oven mitt in my mouth.

    “Miz Bates?”

    I ditched the oven mitt and spun to find one of Lara’s friends. “Yes, Steph?”

    “Miz Bates, if you would play the game with us, you’d see. It’s not bad.” She smiled tentatively. “It’s just fun.” Mistaking my silence for hesitation, she encouraged, “Even my mom plays Truth or Dare sometimes. We’d let you play with us, just to see. ‘Kay?”

    “Give me a moment,” I answered tersely. When she turned and the kitchen door closed quietly, I turned and choked back laughter until I hiccupped.

    Really, Sir, condomettes!

    It seemed safe enough, during my turns, to accept Truths. Yes, I’d had a crush on a movie star. Yes, I flunked an important assignment when I was their age. Yes, I slipped candy into the movie theatre rather than pay for stuff there. No, I never snuck out through my bedroom window.

    In return, Sir, I learned that Gloria lied about an afterschool detention, Sumaya can’t date until she’s a doctor, Martina threw up to avoid eating liver and onions, and Stephanie’s older sister does exit through her bedroom window.

    The Dares were pretty innocuous. Martina had to eat a pickle without making a face. Gloria had to talk on the phone for three minutes without stopping. Stephanie wore our cat like a hat to get the mail.

    If laughter is good medicine, Sir, we must be the healthiest gals on our block. I have pictures of Stephanie juggling Fluff Bucket; would you like to see them?

    Well, okay then.

    “So Mom, when are you going to take a Dare?” We were back inside, and good cheer floated through the room like the scent of hot-buttered popcorn.

    I wavered only a moment. How hard could it be? Downing pickles, yacking on the telephone – well, wearing the cat…

    “Okay,” I said, relaxing my guard. “Hit me with your best shot.”

    A… look passed between them. A look that made me wonder if ten-year-old girls hunt in packs.

    And that, Sir, is how I came to be carrying an extra large cotton candy under my coat into your esteemed movie theatre.

  6. Lily Elderkin

    We all sit in a big circle, wide enough so that all of us can see one another and giggle as the bottle turns. We decided not to play traditional boring game Spin the Bottle or Truth or Dare. We combined them so that each person the bottle landed on had to take a truth or a dare from the last victim.

    I know that it will happen tonight. I’ve been in love love love with Dan Major for two years, since I was nine and I thought he was the cutest boy in school. Before that, I kind of liked him but I also liked Tyler Grandee and Carl Fee. But then Tyler and Carl started dating my friend Lydia (who was dating both of them at the same time because that is what you do when you’re Lydia). Anyway but I started being in love love love with Dan Major when he smiled at me during fourth grade Art, and I totally knew that we were meant to be.

    That’s why I know that it will happen tonight, because we are meant to be and Dan still sometimes smiles at me and anyway Lydia invited him over to her party because now that she is turning twelve, she is allowed to have boys over as long as there’s no kissing. Of course there’s going to be kissing but Lydia’s parents don’t know that, do they?

    The bottle lands on me. I totally totally knew it. Tyler Grandee was the last one to be picked so he squints at me and tries to come up with something. “Um, truth or dare?”

    “Definitely dare,” I say, because no girls have picked dare yet and the boys ooh-and-aah over my courage and all. And Dan totally totally smiles at me!

    Tyler isn’t that smart so he sort of sits there for a second till he says, “Ask Lydia’s dad to go to the movies with you.” There’s ‘eew’s and Lydia makes him change so he says, “Fine, Lydia’s brother. Your favorite food.”

    I have known Tom since I was five and he pushed me at the playground. That’s when me and Lydia became friends and Tom and I became enemies.

    “Now. Dan, go with,” says bossy boss Hannah Carpenter who loves (but not loves loves loves) Tyler so she’ll do anything he says.

    Dan stands up and totally totally smiles at me. He totally totally wants to kiss me.

    We find Tom reading a book. He’s fourteen so he does that. “Tom,” I mumble, “want to go to the movies with me?”

    Tom looks at me. Dan looks at me. I look at Tom. “Maybe when you’re older.”
    I escape with Dan. He gives me a weird look. “I’d never never have done normally,” I explain.

    He shakes his head. “Everyone knows you love Tom. Everyone knows Tom loves you. Everyone knows you’re meant to be.”

    I stare at him. I guess I don’t love love love Dan after all.

  7. Kelley Moore

    "Chicken Noodle Soup"

    I was eleven years old when Sally Whitcomb and Barbara Gulligan came to my house in an act to befriend me. The rain showers ended their three day stint, and the sun was bright and hot on the white tresses of my mother’s wrap- around porch, with a sky blue as the pearls daddy gave her on their two year anniversary. I was sitting at the kitchen table eating chicken noodle soup. I caught a fever when the rain started and momma knew it was my favorite food. She was wiping down the green countertops with her hair back in a bun and net. She was so beautiful then, in her white apron and sundress. I remember the kitchen’s checkered floors as shiny as a gentleman’s black boot; she was always cleaning. And papa was always working.


    I heard the knock at the door. Sprinting out of my chair, I ran toward it yelling to momma in the wake of my renewed strength, “I’ll get it!”


    There they were, my two new friends. Barbara’s eyes were large behind thick glasses, but her freckles were cute when she smiled, and her orange, red hair was neatly combed in two braids. Sally on the other hand had messy blond hair, and she looked aggravated. Her lips were pursed together like she wanted to pull my hair, and her face was dirty as if  she beat-up the boy down the street for trying to kiss her. I awkwardly said, “Hi.”


    “We’ve decided you can be our friend only if you play the game Truth or Dare. You can fess up about your crush on Sally’s boyfriend, or you can come with us to the Reel House.” Barbara said smartly.  I looked at Sally and said, “I don’t know your boyfriend, and I don’t have a crush on him.” She responded, “That isn’t good enough. If you want to be our friend, you have to come to the Reel House, and go inside by yourself.” With the thought of me venturing into the  movie house, giggled.


     In those days, people didn’t talk openly about murder unless it was with close friends and a glass of whiskey straight up. Neighbors often visited each other, but being politically correct was as fashionable as smoking cigarettes, and discussions in such an austere subject matter would be dismissed for table talk. Little girls like us could walk across town without fear, and stop in every shop along the way.


    Sometimes, stories get passed along when people start asking questions. The Reel House was an abandoned cinema in town that once showed movies like Gone with the Wind, and Wizard of Oz.


    The building’s red paint was peeling off the siding, and the sign that said Reel House was crooked and ominous against the intricacy of carved molding along its exterior. The man who owned the building was reputable in the town and surrounding towns. For years, people came into his world of silent movies and popcorn and looked upon him as one would look upon a caretaker. No one questioned why he never married or had children; it wasn’t common for business owners to be alone, but Tom was the kind of person that would let people in for free, and donate to the church during the holidays. His name was Tom Dillard, and he didn’t have time for a family because for all those years he was bringing smiles to people’s faces, he had a dark secret. He was a serial murderer that kidnapped woman from the city, and hid their bodies in the basement of the cinema.


    One of the kid’s from school was talking about it to his friend one day while walking home from school. I was an earshot away. The boy said  his uncle, a policeman, discovered the bodies under the projection screen in the basement of the cinema because people in the town were worried for Tom and reported him missing. Tom Dillard was later found in the woods a mile away hanging from a tree with a cord around his neck. Since then, it was said that the movie theater was haunted.


    It wasn’t until I was in college that people started to write about serial killers, and Tom Dillard. What people didn’t know in my home of small town suburbia, was that Tom was married with two children. His wife left with the children, and it angered him because people stayed together then, and if anyone knew the other side of Tom, the side that was violent, he would not have been able to open the cinema and start over.


    The woman he stalked and killed looked like his wife, and they came from the metropolitan area;  he dismembered them, and hid them in the cellar of the Reel house until the corpses started to decay, and when he realized he could not conceal his crimes any longer, he opted out of his life by committing suicide in the woods by Shady Park. It was unavoidably a town catastrophe as the victims had to be identified and townspeople questioned by authorities, but shortly after the cinema was shut down, people went on with their lives and forgot. I on the other hand, wouldn’t forget that day with Sally and Barbara.


    I didn’t need to be friends with them, but I wanted to prove to Sally that I wasn’t a coward. I looked at them through the screen door and said, “Let’s go.”


    We walked through town; the hints of autumn were at our feet with fallen leaves. We passed by the bakery; you could smell the fried dough and pastries from the sidewalk as we went by the big window. Rita waved at us-her face and hands were powdered with white flour. We walked further along, passed the Five and Dime, and library. The library was busy with people during the weekend, and our triage had to walk around ladies walking their poodles, and teenage boys and girls walking hand in hand.


    Then, we turned down a path beyond the bustle of the day that led to a secluded old road that was open to the town when the locomotive was running. This road was a shortcut from school. Not everyone walked this way, but the ones that did, knew it well because of the brook that ran along its border.


    As the path widened, then narrowed, then widened again, we came to the end of the path where it met the dirt road. The Reel House was straight ahead. Sally, Barbara, and I were in sync by the way we stared at it, trying to find meaning in its dusty trap of lumber in disrepair, obsolete and foreboding. The day was lengthening, and the hue of the sun was foretelling. If I were to complete the dare, I would have to act fast before nightfall came and went.


    I walked ahead of Sally and Barbara toward the main entrance. They didn’t move, but Barbara impulsively cried out, “Be safe Clair.” The door opened easily, and although the bronze knob was rickety, it didn’t fall off. I was in a narrow hallway with dusty red carpet. My heart nearly popped out of my chest when I heard a noise ahead of me, but was it only a raccoon. It passed by the stairway at the end of the hall that led to the seats. I quietly thanked the racoon for sparing my pride because I would have bolted out of there screaming if I didn’t see it walk by.


    I made my way to the stairs that led to the rows of seats, and then I walked down the aisle. There was a big stage with a roll screen that had a tear down the middle. The little light from the front windows made the room shadowy. Above, was a balcony. As I went to turn around and go home, a bright light shone through a small window near the stairs. The light hit the projection screen, but no sound or pictures. I walked up the stairs and looked for a way in. There was a door along the hallway that blended into the woodwork. I found a latch inlayed in the door and opened it. This was the room where the movie reels were kept, and the projector played the film. The projector was there, but without a reel. Then behind the projector, a young boy my age came around with a look as if he were doing something wrong. He was dressed in suspenders with a polo shirt, and dress shoes. He had a little grey cap on his head. I asked him if he was lost, but his face turned red, and he ran passed me into the hallway, toward the main entrance. I left the room. It was hard to breathe from the dust and rot of the building.


    I walked hurriedly out the main entrance to Sally and Barbara. They were sitting by the dirt road drawing pictures in the sand. I came upon them and asked, “Did you see what direction that boy went?” Sally looked at me dumfounded and said, “What boy? There was no boy. Stop making excuses for crushing on my boyfriend.” Then Sally got up, wiped the dry dirt off her bottom and walked away toward the school.


    Barbara looked at me sadly with her big eyes through those glasses. “I’ll walk you home Clair,” she said, and we walked together down the path all the way to my house. By the time I got home, the sky was darkening, and Barbara was a small figure on my front lawn. “I’ll see you at school,” she said, and waved. I went in the house.


    Barbara and I became close friends. There were times I thought I wouldn’t know what to do without her because she was so caring, and a smart student that helped me along. Sally was always a popular girl growing up. We weren’t friends, but she didn’t hate me. She got pregnant at sixteen and had to finish school early. Barbara and I went on to separate colleges, but we lost contact. I recently found out that she died at twenty five of a rare lung cancer.


    As for me, the memories of my hometown are as rich as a penny, simple and lackluster. My momma’s house went to the bank after papa passed away. The town grew in population, abandoned roads opened up, and new buildings were built. Some of the shopkeepers remained. The library was expanded with townhouses and ordinances behind it. I didn’t need to return now that my family was gone, but I did while I was in college when momma and papa still took trips to the zoo, and walked their Sunday walk through Shady Park after church service.


    I spent a lot of time in the library. I read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of grass, and The Canterbury tales, but I also researched the history of the Reel House. I learned about Tom Dillard as a person, and how everyone really cared for him. He knew everyone’s name from Cleermont to Brushwater Falls. Most importantly, he had a special friend-a young boy who lived locally. This little boy would sit in the projection room with Tom, presumably fascinated by the picture show. The newspaper I found in the archives had a picture of this boy; he wore suspenders with a polo shirt, dress shoes, and grey cap. Under this black and white photograph of him, a caption said he slipped and fell in the brook along a path near the Reel House, and drowned. It was a tragedy for his family, but I think it is sad to know his ghost was still there in the projection room, alone without the movie reels and picture show.

  8. Dare Gaither

    “Who’d you sleep with to get my job?”

    Cathy jumped at the unexpected question.
    She hadn’t seen Greta come into the break room.

    “Is this a game of Truth or Dare?”

    Cathy flashed a curt smile as she studied Greta’s face.
    She again felt stubby fingers urgently touching her,
    the rough nails scratching her soft skin.
    The memory of afternoons spent earning her recent
    promotion filled her with disgust, but her physical qualifications
    had easily trumped Greta’s superior intellect.

    Greta stared at Cathy in silence.
    Her eyes lingered on the cup of Brown Cow yogurt
    Cathy lovingly placed on the table. Cathy’s ritual lunch of
    yogurt and granola was the one thing you could count on
    amid the chaos and crises of daily office life.
    Her stash of goods was sacrosanct.
    No one messed with Cathy’s yogurt.

    “There’s a Hitchcock marathon at the Palace theater tonight.”
    Greta said casually. “Wanna go?”

    Cathy nearly dropped her spoon.
    The two women clearly hated each other.

    “Why, you planning to murder me between shows?”

    “I appreciate the suggestion, but that won’t be necessary.”

    Greta savored the look of fear that crossed Cathy’s
    flawless mannequin face.

    “Suit yourself.”

    As Greta turned to leave, she heard Cathy open
    her cup of yogurt. She hadn’t noticed the tiny
    pin-prick in the foil lid.

    “Non-fat yogurt is healthier.” Greta offered cheerfully.

    Cathy laughed.
    “Nope, I prefer my cream top. At least I’ll die happy.”

    She scooped the creamy mixture onto her pink tongue
    with a defiant flourish.

    Greta sighed with satisfaction.
    It’s amazing what you can do with a chemistry degree,
    even if it doesn’t always get you the promotion you deserve.
    The slow-acting poison was undetectable.
    Stress and a high-fat diet could easily cause a heart attack.

    Greta settled into her seat at the Palace.
    She enjoyed the darkness and solitude of the old theater.
    The curtains slowly opened as familiar images flickered on the screen.
    Hitchcock had always been her favorite.
    It was a perfect evening for a murder.

  9. Denise Ball

    All alone for the weekend, parents out of town and Jenny coming over for an all-girls weekend. I was so excited, we were going to see the new release of “Pretty Woman” at the movie theater. I could not believe my luck, total freedom…or so I thought. I cannot believe Jenny told Mark. She knew my parents made me promise. I swore to them I would not invite Mark over. We have been dating for over six months now; I do not know what their problem is? Oh well, it does not matter now does it.

    To think that I went to all the trouble of baking Dorito nachos…what a waste of time. I should have suspected something when they arrived together. I did not even know Mark knew where Jenny lived. Of course, Mark brought beer, seems his favorite past time these days. The speech my mom gave me before she left kept playing in my head, “We trust you Sharon, no alcohol and no Mark.”

    How to save face was my only concern. Mark was buzzing. He kept teasing Jenny and I to play, “Truth or Dare”. He kept laughing saying how fun it would be for the three of us to get to know each other better. He started to scare me a little and I had no idea how to get out of it…again my mom’s speech was running repeatedly in my head. I kept stalling, hoping that after dinner, onceMark saw the movie we were going to go to, he would leave.

    During dinner, Mark and Jenny kept drinking. I started to get mad. I knew that I could not let Mark drive home. He was 18 now and was not going to call his parents to pick him up and I knew that Jenny was drinking too much too; they kept laughing and pressuring me to play that dumb game! I had to think fast as my plans were quickly flying out the window along with being the good, trusted daughter.

    Instead of risking some rather embarrassing questions in front of my best friend (who knows EVERYTHING about me) and my boyfriend who is excessively grabby right now, I told them I was just too tired to play and would like to watch a movie at home since we missed the movie at the theater. I was not going to play “Truth or Dare” and Mark could watch a movie to sober up and drive home when it was over. Curiously, both Jenny and Mark agreed and we all settled in to watch a boring movie. I was still angry about missing “Pretty Woman” on its opening weekend.

    Well Diary, you can probably imagine what happened next…I fell asleep, as I always do while watching movies at night. I guess this is what my BEST friend and boyfriend were counting on, me falling asleep. They sure were surprised when I woke up, just as they were playing their own form of “Truth or Dare”. Until the next tragedy…good night Diary!


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