Steal from the real to get your pen moving

WRITING PROMPT: Steal From the Real

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Take something you’ve learned in the past week — a fact about someone, a bit of info on the news, a life lesson, etc. — and write a scene revealing what it really means to you or one of your characters, in a method of your choosing. (A personal essay? A fictionalized scene? A hybrid?)

(Image: Salvatore Vuono)

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2 thoughts on “Steal from the real to get your pen moving

  1. Mark James

    Martha, nice job with the whole time paradox thing.

    Before last night, I thought I knew about dying. I was wrong. I only knew about killing.

    Rain showers made the concrete steps down to the subway slick. Manhattan at rush hour is like a quick moving river; you flow with the current or you drown. I went down the steps too fast, keeping him in my sight. The postcard that came with his picture said to do it in a crowded place.

    I thought about doing him right there, but if he fell on those steps, he’d plow through too many people, so I followed , waited.

    He hurried down the concourse of Grand Central Station, ignoring all the stores. The only ones who stopped to look at the chintzy overpriced trash were tourists and little kids.

    At end of the concourse, you could go left or right. He froze, like he a robot with a bad motivator chip. Maybe he was. Not all my clients were hundred percenters.

    I lagged behind, loitering in front of a store with dirty windows and toy dolls that looked too old to do anything but hang together in a war against gravity.

    He turned around, headed right for me. I tried to leave, but he caught my arm.

    “You’re the one they sent, aren’t you?”

    It wasn’t supposed to be like this. “Yeah. I’m fulfilling the order.”

    “It’s been a long time,” he said. “A hundred and ten years is a long time when everyday’s the same and your life goes no place and it seems like there’s only exit door in the whole circus.”

    I eased my arm out of his grip. Up close it was easy to tell he wasn’t more than sixty five percent human. The rest was gears and other things I could hear squeak and jitter with every move he made. “Then let’s go some place and I’ll take care of it for you,” I said.

    “I paid for the Preservation Chip,” he said. “It was part of my last upgrade, going back,” he put a finger to his chin, supported the elbow with his other hand, “must be back thirty years ago now.” He leaned on the grubby display window of dolls and electric junk, pressing his palms to the glass. “I’m no different than they are, except they have to wait for a slow death of falling apart.” Almost without stopping to take a breath he said, “I’m ready.”

    I’d heard those PC’s were like a curse. Didn’t matter how bad you wanted to off yourself, no go. That’s where Peace Offering, my company, came in. For a price, we gave Mech Humans with PC’s, peace.

    Standing behind him, one hand behind my back, I said, “Close your eyes.”

    He was so ready, that he slipped them closed, just like one of those dolls he was staring at. I took the stiletto out of its sheath under my sleeve, and slid it into the back of his brain. It was electro-sheathed. No pain for him. He slid down to his knees, head down, like he was praying, then he fell over sideways. He was smiling.

    Last night I learned that dying could bring a smile, and that smile could look an awful lot like peace.

  2. Martha W

    Zac, loved this prompt!


    "Did you know porcupines float in water?" he said.

    "No. Did you know little boys fit in a UPS box?"

    A pause. "They do not."

    "Hhm." That’s all Annie needed. A runt following her around. Where was this kid’s mother?

    She felt his eyes follow her as she moved up the aisle. "Did you know a giraffe can clean its ears with its tongue?"

    She spun around to face him, unprepared for the large brown eyes and freckled nose staring up at her. Even needing a new set of clothes and a shower, the curiosity blazing a trail across his impish face made him adorable. She crouched down in front of him. "What’s your name, son?"

    A brief flicker of pain turned his eyes deep chocolate, all trace of youth gone. "Michael."

    "Where’s your mom?"

    "She’s here." He rubbed his hand across his nose. "I’ll leave you alone."

    She stood, ruffled his hair. "Okay, kiddo."

    As he turned, she caught the glint of tears gathering in his eyes. "Bye."

    She watched him disappear around the corner and felt a piece of her heart leave with him.

    But she didn’t have room for that.

    She turned back to the store, made sure she was the last customer there. The .45 nestled in her pocket, she stepped toward the counter.

    "Did you know you’ll mess up my life too," he swallowed hard. "–if you do that?"

    She didn’t need to look to know it was the little boy. "That’s not possible, Michael."

    "So much more is possible than you can imagine, mom." His voice was low, only for her, and much more grown than even moments before.

    "Mom?" She laughed. "I’m no one’s mother."

    "Not yet," he said. "But soon."

    She shook her head, still refusing to look at him.

    "Just do the right thing, mom."

    Finally, Annie worked up her nerve to look over her shoulder, but he was gone.


    Michael blended back into the shadows, watched her as she stared unseeing at the place he had stood. If this didn’t work…

    Her shoulders squared and she strode to the counter, reaching into her pocket. He sucked in breath as she dug deep, hesitated, let it out in a rush as she pulled out a five-dollar bill to pay for her soda.

    He stared down at his tattered clothes, watched as they were replaced by new. Fresh tears washed his cheeks clean.

    As she made her way out of the store, he heard her whisper, "Thank you, Michael."

    "You’re welcome, mom." He blew a kiss as he slid through the portal to his new home.


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