Writing Prompt: Failure

Have you ever failed any anything? We sometimes forget that with failure comes unique opportunities to learn and observe our reactions (or the reactions of others). It can be a job interview, a failed relationship, a bad date, a wardrobe malfunction, a failed exam, a botched driving test or a missed opportunity. Think about times when you have failed. What happened? What did you learn from the experience and how did you react? What did you feel and how did that failure affect your life or the lives of others? With failure comes a wealth of material for story telling. Write some examples of either personal or witnessed failure. Create a 300 word narrative describing the conflict, reactions and resolutions.


Writing Prompt: Texture

Beige, brown, shades of creamy white, magnolia and dark wood. These were the colours I chose for my first house. They were safe colours, practical and inoffensive. They go with everything, I said. I was around 29 years old when I bought my first house. It was a new build in a housing estate outside of Edinburgh with a mock tudor set of windows that gave the house a bit of character, but apart from that, it was as cookie cut out as the rest of the homes in the three blocks that made up the neighbourhood on that hill.

I chose the colours because I didn’t really know what I liked and I didn’t dare put a foot wrong, not when there was so much money at stake. Looking back, I could just as easily painted the house blue or red or added splashes of colour to give it warmth, but the truth is, it never felt like home, I never believed it was really mine. It felt temporary, like it wasn’t worth inserting anything of myself into it because at any moment, I could leave and my tastes would no longer apply. It would sell easier as a blank canvas, I though, not really know when or to whom I would ever sell it.

As it turns out, I stayed 10 years. Too long, too too long in all than lifeless interior and beige.

I’m planning some construction work on my current house, the next one I bought, but not the next one I lived in. The next one I lived in was a rental, but it was only a year. When I chose this house, I fell in love with the openness of the kitchen, the brightness and green of the garden. It was bathed in sunlight and I could picture myself sitting on the grass or on the patio having BBQs. This is not something I ever wanted to do at my old house, there was too much rain and cold and it was too remote for company.

As I look at the construction plans, I can picture the finished room, the new kitchen, pictures on the walls and coloured and quirky cushions on the sofas. I see a huge TV and a cabinet with a hundred vinyl records. I see reds and dangling lamps, a hole in the wall fireplace, a skylight, folding glass doors into my bright flower-filled garden with iron bird feeders. I see a hard tile floor of dark grey ceramic textured tiles and a shaggy rug of light grey and flecks of red woven into the soft material. I tiptoe in the room then plant my shoeless feet firmly on the tiles and they’re warm from the underfloor heating. There are pictures in frames and images mounted on canvas. I run my hand along the shining countertop of the kitchen that smells of coriander, basil and parsley, from the red pebble textured pots on the window sill. There are comical pictures of movie posters or an artist’s interpretation of them. There are magnets on the fridge from all our travels. The cats are curled up on the light grey sofa, curled up on the throw of burnt orange and yellow. One of them sits on the red poof of my reading chair, next to the fake but warm fire produced by the electric fireplace. There are bookcases with all of my treasures on either side of the overstuffed chair. There’s a light hanging over it producing a warm glow from the energy efficient bulbs. Amongst the soft finishings and sleeping cats, there I sit, in a room of my design and at last, I feel at home.

For this prompt, try to focus on different textures and colours. Describe a room or something will multiple textures. Have fun.

Writing Prompt: Bookcase

I’m getting ready to rip up my house and add an extension. I’ve been in denial about how disruptive this is going to be to my life for three-four months and I’ve buried my head in the sand with regards to how much this is going to cost, but the builders are engaged, the movers are booked an I’ve started packing my things into cardboard boxes that are being recycled from my last house move. They’ve survived the elements in the garden shed, though I had expected them to deteriorate, they seem to be able to handle the books I’ve stacking into them.

This exercise is making me aware of how many books I have (and in some cases multiple copies of particularly loved works) and how many I have yet to read. As I’ve been putting them into boxes, I’ve been creating a little pile of books I’m not prepared to part with during the demolition.

Among the books I can’t bring myself to store for three months are the following:

  1. Candide – This book is one of my favourites and I think i’ve read it about 10 times To be fair, it’s short, but that’s not the point. It’s funny, sad, crude and manages to convey everything about the nature of human beings. It flashes a mirror into the face of mankind and forces us to acknowledge that we’re never satisfied, are hypocritical, unforgiving, petty, ignorant and yet, we can also be romantic, charitable, ironic and mindlessly optimistic in the face of all the other reprehensible characteristics. It’s a perfect little book that reminds me that sometimes, you just have to laugh.
  2. Dracula – It’s one of the most original, well craft stories of all time. The narrative is unique in that it tells the story from all of the main characters points of view through a collection of note, diaries, journals and audio recordings. Dracula is evil incarnate and the characters that fight him, both men and women (unusual for that time) are heroic in a way I’d like to think I’d be when faced with a monster.
  3. Lolita – This controversial book stands out in it’s twisted 1st person narrative. The main character, “Humbert Humbert” is one of the classic voices in modern literature. His opinions and thoughts are sickening, yet compelling. There is something sympathetic in his tale but taken as a whole, it’s shocking, sad, drives me to anger and although I hate Humbert Humbert as a character, there’s a fucked up comedy to the story and how he delivers his case to the reader. I think I know every word of this book. It reminds me of what human beings are capable of and what a precarious world we live in. Unlike Dracula, Humbert Humbert represents the real monsters among us and that’s worth a spot in the list.
  4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – There is nothing I don’t love about this book. The characters are funny and original, the plot stands above the rest as one of the most imaginative science fictions books of all time and it never fails to make me laugh. There’s nothing I can really add to this. I’ve read it and listened to the audio book countless times and it never gets old. There is something comforting in the familiarity of the story and I think it’s safe to say that although I’ve probably covered it 20 or 30 times, I think I’l be reading it 20-30 more before I check out.
  5. The Age of Innocence – never mind that it’s the first Pulitzer Prize winning book by a female author (though that’s a strong recommendation). It’s tragic, beautiful and makes astute observations about American society (late 1800s) that makes you feel like you’re there watching the splendour, riches, hypocrisy and subtlety of the New York upper classes. As you read it, you feel like a fly on the wall, willing our hero and heroine to drop kick convention and do as they please. On more than one occasion, I’ve practically yelled at the pages with full knowledge that there is nothing anyone can do to change the inevitable car crash that our characters are heading for. Yet, I love watching the struggle unfold and wonder if, under the same circumstances, I would behave in the same way? It makes me think of our 21st century sensibilities and I wonder, are we really better off or have we just managed to disguise our prejudices better? I can go on about this one for ages, but it’s better if I leave you to read it or watch the beautifully crafted film adaptation by Martin Scorsese.

So, that’s my bookcase. These are the books that never leave my side and I can’t store away. If you had to cling to only 5 books, which would they be and why?

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