Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Prompt

They come from cafes, malls, parks and trains. They can border on the bizarre. They can be like putting a puzzle together, or chipping a statue out of stone with only a face, or perhaps a hand, poking out to guide you.

Let’s take a stab at an occasional Stolen Dialogue prompt series—basically, snippets of dialogue overheard in the real world. Perhaps as a remnant of my reporter days, if a louder-than-normal conversation is happening nearby, I often jot down a few lines of stray conversation to decode and use as a mini writing challenge, or to get a feel for a different dialogue beat. Here, if you’re up for it, is a snippet from last weekend—and here’s to hoping we all have productive writing weeks.

Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your 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.

“It’s new, but it doesn’t look new.”
“It never did.”
“They never do.”

Great Creative in 2010: Tap into inspiration. Learn strategies for making time to write. Plan your own low key writing retreat. Check out 26 writing contests that can get your book published. Create a book trailer with cinematic flair. Learn Sue Grafton’s writing secrets. Click here to check the February 2010 issue of WD out!

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0 thoughts on “Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Prompt

  1. Teever Handal

    “It’s new, but it doesn’t look new.”

    “It never did.”

    “They never do.”

    “Still, it is new.”

    “Oh yeah, you can tell.”

    “Price sticker.”

    “That and you know.”

    “Well you know gives it away, doesn’t it.”

    “Every time.”


    “Sweet tea?”


    “I wouldn’t have one.”

    “Me neither.”

    “That other thing I got works fine for me.”

    “Oh yeah, and what I got works even better.”

    “Matter of opinion.”

    “S’pose it is.”

    “But I do like yours more ‘n that.”

    “Who wouldn’t.”

    “Possibly the guy who bought that, but no one else.”


    “Anywho, yours at works better than his.”

    “Oh yeah.”

    “Get some lunch.”

    “Nah, t’aint hungry.”

    “Wonder what he paid for it?”

    “Didn’t get his money’s worth.”

    “No he didn’t.”

    “Say, really, what the hell is that?”

    “Don’t rightly know, thought is was sumthin, but…”

    “Yeah, thought it was like my…”

    “What the HELL is that?”

    “Oh I know what it is, it’s a…what the hell is that?”

    “Well it is new, whatever it is.”

    “Doesn’t look it.”

    “Never did.”

  2. Bob

    “It’s new, but it doesn’t look new.”
    “It never did.”
    “They never do.”
    “It’s ageless.”
    “Hmm…I suppose so.”
    “I had an uncle like that, once.”
    “Like what?”
    “How so?”
    “He was one of these guys who looked like he was in his mid-fifties all of his adult life. I imagine that it sucked when he was in his thirties, but once he was past seventy…”
    “Yeah. He probably liked it, then. Still, I don’t really see the analogy. I mean, this thing is not like your uncle.”
    “True. True. So, would you want one of these things?”
    “I don’t know. They’re pretty expensive.”
    “I suppose you could get a used one.”
    “Yeah, but, how could you tell?”

  3. Nathan Honoré

    Walking through the store, ten minutes before closing on a Friday night, two friends wandered through the hallowed halls of a Target store. Ben and Pete landed in the section usually reserved for ten to fifteen year-old girls, the shoes department. Ben went to the bargain wall and saw them. They were the most glorious bin of moccasins he had ever seen. Ben recently found out he was 1/64th Native American, and now felt deep connections to all things that were remotely related. Pete watched impatiently as Ben rummaged through the sizes. The moccasins had half-inch fringes around the entire perimeter of the shoe, with a thin, pale fabric surrounding it.
    “It’s new, but it doesn’t look new,” Pete stated.
    “It never did,” Ben responded, with a hint of Native American mysteriousness in his voice. “They never do…”
    Pete rolled his eyes and walked away as Ben continued through the bin, a pseudo-crazed look in his eyes. Pair after pair, he tossed them aside. As he finally gave up, he looked back one last time. And of course, the right size was hanging on the rack right above the bin he had been searching rigorously through for the last six minutes, four minutes until close. Much like Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he stepped carefully, one foot at a time. He then raised his hand to his hairless chin, measuring the worth of these fine pieces of footwear.
    “Come on dude, if you’re going to buy the damn shoes, buy them.” Pete complained.
    Ben slowly removed the coveted moccasins from the rack saying, “These are no shoes, Peter. These are moccasins, just as my ancestors wore.”
    Pete stormed off. Ben felt the fabric tenderly. He had never worn any non-skater shoes and wondered if he could pull them off. It was a huge step, but it would probably be worth it to be more Native American. His friends at school would love it.
    -Please take your purchases to the nearest register and exit the store…
    “Come on Ben, pick up the shoes and let’s go.”
    Ben still stood there, moccasins in hand. Again, he took agonizingly slow steps towards the checkout. “Who cares what they look like? Maybe nobody will even notice I’m not wearing Sketchers,” he thought, even though he knew they totally would. “This will only increase my minority authenticity. Now I’ll be able to put it as my ethnicity on MySpace.”
    “Dude, look sharp,” Pete said.
    A forty-something man with stained pants and patchy facial hair approached Ben saying, “I’m sorry young man, but you’ll have to put those back and exit the store.”
    “But…I want to buy them.”
    “Well, I guess you shouldn’t have take so long. The registers are closed, son.”
    Ben hung his head, putting those perfect moccasins back in their rightful place, and exited the store with Pete.
    “You took way too long, dude.”
    “Just another case of the White man keeping down my people. He should’ve just given me a blanket filled with smallpox. It hurts just as bad.”
    Ben would never come back for the new, old looking moccasins.

  4. Mark James

    Zac, this prompt was fun.
    Martha, thanks. I totally get it now. And yeah. You’re making the jar fat.

    If I had only one more day left on Earth, I’d spend it with my little sister.

    “It’s new, but it doesn’t look new,” she said

    I glanced at the clock on the wall. “It never did.”

    Her voice was low, tight with concentration. “They never do.”

    “What do you call that again?”

    My sister picked up a saucer. “Depression Glass.”

    “I can see why it’s depressed.”

    She was comparing two ugly glass saucers. One was green as neon grass. The other one was a sick white color, like milk got caught inside it. They looked like refugees from a bad Martha Stewart show.

    “You did good with the gift certificate, Nick. Don’t spoil it.”

    “You’re paying good money for that? Seriously?”

    “No,” she said. Her voice was still low, distracted. “You are.”

    “What are you looking at?”


    Her cell phone rang. I watched her face change from the woman who’d solve any problem, even if she had to kick ass to do it, into the scared girl her turd husband had made her into.

    Growing up, she always kept me out of trouble, but now, she couldn’t seem to keep bad things out of her life.

    She flashed me a nervous smile, turned her back on me. She knew how I felt about him. I heard the pleading note in her voice, and I wanted to wring Arthur’s neck, do it in person. I hated working long distance.

    I eased around in front of her. “Tell him to come do lunch with us. I’m buying.”

    She shook her head, pushed me out of her way.

    I went after her, whispered in her free ear, “I’ll be good.”

    Loretta looked like she wanted to believe me, but she shook her head.

    I grabbed her phone. “Hey, Art. It’s Nick. We’re having lunch at Carlo’s. Why don’t you come? Haven’t seen you in forever.”

    I hadn’t seen him since Loretta’s birthday in June. “Yeah. I’m sure. Just lunch. New Year, new start, right?”

    I knew he’d go for something dumb like that. He said he’d come, and I gave the phone back.

    She mumbled a few more words, then dropped the phone in her purse. “What are you up to Nickolas?”

    “Nothing, big sis. Just buying you and your husband lunch.”

    “Nick, do I look like I suddenly turned stupid?”

    “Before or after you got married?”

    “Don’t start.”

    “I’m not.” I glanced at my watch. “He coming?”

    “He said the game was over and he’d be on his way.”


    She picked up a plate. Canary yellow this time. “It’s hard to find this color, but look at the price.”

    I looked at my watch instead. If things were going right, Arthur should be getting in his car right about now, and when he started the engine, he’d hear the last quiet seconds of his life. Right before the bomb went off.

    “Come on Ettie, treat yourself,” I said.

    She gave me a hard look when I called her that, and I saw the girl I’d grown up with, the woman she’d turned into, before that monster got his hands on my little sister.

    I shot a glance at the clock on the wall.


    New year. New start.

  5. Martha W

    Nice prompt, Zac.

    Had to go with a little teen angst… *grin*


    "They’re new… but they don’t look new."

    Amy shrugged her shoulders. "They never did."

    "They never do." A mild version of depression settled on Jenny’s petite features. The corners of her mouth drooped and tears clung to thick eyelashes framing her blue eyes.

    "What-" Amy leaned forward to see her best friend better. Letting out an exasperated sigh, she said, "Jen, these jeans are supposed to look like this."

    The tears spilled over. "I know, but what if it looks like I just don’t have any money? You know his family… What would they say?"

    Amy stepped into the dressing room and snapped the door shut. She was fed up with the whining. "They’ll think they look just like the pair they bought Kurt last week."

    Jenny’s eyes went wide as she swiveled her hips in the mirror. "They look like boy’s jeans? Oh my God!" She jerked at the button and zipper in her haste to remove the offending garment.

    A laugh rumbling up her throat, Amy simply watched in fascination as her friend hopped on one leg while trying to pull the other out of the tangled mess of fabric. "No, they don’t look like boy jeans."

    Jenny stopped tugging to stare at Amy. "What’s so funny?"


    Yanking the last of the pant leg from her foot, Jenny flung them at Amy. "Why’s that? Because I’m worried about my date?"

    "Because you’re worried about the guy. Good Lord, Jen. The boy practically fawns over you."

    Troubled eyes pierced Amy, telling her that more was going on than jeans. "Except when you’re around."

    "He doesn’t like me."

    "Why’s that?"

    Amy wondered if she could handle the truth. But there in the slumped stance of her friend was the answer. This was not the time for this particular secret. "I wouldn’t let him cheat off me in math."

    The tension left Jenny’s shoulders as she easily swallowed the lie at face value. "That’d be like him, huh?"

    "Just like him."

    "You know, I don’t think he hates you though."

    "Why is that?"

    "He’s having a party, wanted me to make sure I invited you." Jenny was back to her bubbly self. "See? He doesn’t hate you."

    The combination of Kurt and a party made Amy’s skin crawl. Go there again? No. Never. "I don’t think I can make it. Maybe next time."

    Jenny gave her a passing hug on her way out of the dressing room. "Too bad. I’ll miss you there."

    Amy lagged behind a minute, catching her breath, steadying her heart. Of course he would ask for her. He thought he had control. After she’d walked out on him, he had vowed to never let her forget that night, those things.

    One month. She would graduate and he would be history. Just one more month.