It’s National Novel Writing Month, in the game that writers love to hate. Goals! Sprints! Tears! All at the same time! Whether you’re working on a novel or not, accountability can help keep the creativity flowing. Maybe just a prompt to keep the spark alive?
Want to play? Send a prompt into firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s that easy! Just add “spare” to your subject line if you don’t want a direct trade.
|Fiona Grey||“I’m glad the bells made sense.”||AC Young|
|AC Young||“If right-handers who are good with both hands are ambidextrous, does that mean left-handers similarly gifted are ambisinistrous?”||Leigh Kimmel|
|Becky Jones||The rabbit had a quest for you, but you have to guess what it is…||nother Mike|
|nother Mike||The little purple dragon sat on its haunches, staring at him with its golden eyes. Then it grinned, a big wide grin…||Fiona Grey|
|Leigh Kimmel||The elevator stopped between floors four and five. When the doors opened, they revealed a completely unknown floor.||Cedar Sanderson|
|Cedar Sanderson||The skull-faced cat graciously offered a slender, silky paw.||Becky Jones|
Testing the waters? Busy with NaNo? Cat keeps sleeping on your keyboard? Grab or submit a spare!
|Spare||The tentacles tickled more than she expected.|
|Spare||It’s a hexagonal world, after all.|
|Spare||When you go home / Tell them of us and say / For your Tomorrow / We gave our Today. (remembering 11/11)|
|Spare||Who let an octopus into the kid’s treehouse?|
|Spare||The disheveled young man was wearing a hospital gown, and asking where the Pacific Ocean was…|
See you in the comments. That’s where the writing magic happens.
Header image by Fiona Grey, Hocking Hills, Ohio
Fiona Grey provided this week’s challenge: “I’m glad the bells made sense.”
Initially all I could see were the restrictions, but I figured out a way in.
A man of medium age stepped confidently onto the stage. Arrayed at the front was an array of bells. The man started by ringing the middle bell, then quickly rung the one to its right, and so on to the end of the row, each one tuned to a higher pitch than the previous. He returned to the middle bell. He quickly rung all the bells in order from the middle to the leftmost, the lowest pitched bell of them all.
After ringing all the bells once (and the middle bell twice), the man stepped backwards, bowed once to the audience, and began. It was described in the programme as a freestyle classical-inspired bell solo. It was fifteen minutes long, and was very avant-garde. Sometimes a bell was rung two or three times in a row. Other sequences involved a series of bells rung once each. The only constant was the rhythm, with each ring occurring on a constant beat.
After he had finished, he stepped back once more and bowed to the audience. The audience in the concert hall clapped politely (none of them thought much of the piece). It was anyone’s guess what the audience on the TV thought – for the whole thing had been broadcast to the nation in an attempt to prove that scientists could be interesting.
Crucially, it was also broadcast in foreign climes.
Dr David Dunlop was a specialist in fluid behaviours. In the past he had worked as part of an international team studying whales – he was part of the subteam looking into how they swim in varying currents.
Now, he had been conscripted into a team of quite a different type. The military wanted a new type of torpedo, and David was required to ensure that they passed swiftly and smoothly through the water with minimal fuel usage.
The torpedoes were to be nuclear-tipped. The ultimate goal was to station submarines off the coast of their enemies, and use the new torpedoes to blow up their coastal cities. This would be their first act in any future war, the intention being to so demoralise the enemy citizens that their enemies would be knocked out of the war before any military personnel needed to be risked.
The entire scheme was top-secret, especially because the use of such weapons would be a violation of the rules of warfare – deliberate targeting of civilians and all that. None of the scientists or engineers who had been compelled to work on the new weapon were permitted to communicate its existence or nature with anyone outside the team. And all their communications were monitored, all their conversations recorded, the entire time they were in public was spent on CCTV, to make absolutely certain that they couldn’t pass on the secret.
David was trapped. He was working on a weapon of hell, and unable to warn anyone. But there might be a way. The whale team he had been a part of had developed their own “whistling language”, partly as a bit of fun, partly as a way to explore whale-type communication.
The language had 15 notes, each of which could sound double or treble-length in some words. And best of all, outside of the team, no-one knew any of it. It had never been published in any of the language journals. No-one had put any of it online. The only records of the language were the bound paper printouts that one of their number had produced to remind all of their time together when the work finished and the group broke up.
The Concert of the Scientists was an annual event. David hadn’t taken part before, but this year he thought that he should. He just needed to practice the group’s Whale Tongue, until he could confidently say what he wanted on demand.
David decided to use bells. They were easy to play, so he didn’t need to learn any potentially complex techniques. He needed to transpose the language, but with a suitably spaced out set of bells it shouldn’t be too difficult for his ex-colleagues to correctly interpret his message. The double and triple-length notes could be played by playing the same note two or three times in a row.
It took months of practice. He missed the deadline for that year’s event, but deliberately entered the next year’s. With another year’s worth of practice under his belt he stepped up on stage and delivered his message.
He had no idea if any of his former colleagues had been listening, or even if they’d grasp what he was trying to say. All he could do was to continue to do the work he was required to do to a sufficiently high level (as determined by the military) and hope that his warning had got through.
Three months later he got his answer. A small group of special forces from multiple countries infiltrated and captured the research facility. The special torpedo research was publicised, and David’s country became an international pariah.
All Dr David Dunlop would ever say on the subject was “I’m glad the bells made sense.” Neither he nor the scientists who decoded his message would ever reveal what was in it.
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I keep thinking of all the songs that mention bells… listen to the bells… and wondering if I would have caught the special message… very nice!
[…] writing. Not as much as I’d like, but writing. And one reason is the prompt challenges at More Odds Than Ends. This week, Week 45, my prompt came from Cedar Sanderson: The skull-faced cat graciously offered a slender, silky paw. […]
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I slammed down my tequila, and looked around for the lime. If that bartender has abandoned me again…well, it was an otherwise empty bar. I reached behind the counter and got my own citrus.
I was starting to think nothing would make me forget the dentist. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw her.
The little purple dragon sat on her haunches, staring at me with its golden eyes. Then she grinned, a big wide grin…and picked up the drill.
I’d leapt up before I’d let a fantasy creature do more than numb my mouth. I must’ve looked like a stroke victim when I got to the bar, my face stiff and immobile from the shot she’d given me before turning purple.
And scaley. And with those itty bitty wings.
I reached behind the bar and grabbed the bottle this time. My hand slipped on the liquid before grasping the neck in my still-sweaty palm.
Of course dragons were real. I’d been hiding in the human world for decades now. But complaining my mother’s visits were as bad as a fang canal didn’t mean she needed to take the joke literally.
I really hoped she hadn’t eaten my real dentist. That’d be taking it too far.
I took another shot and put my head down on the sticky wooden bar.
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Oh, my! You gotta keep an eye on those dentists…
Becky Jones suggested…
The rabbit had a quest for you, but you have to guess what it is…
Harry smiled at the kids, then reached down into the old top hat and waved his hand around. He blinked as his hand hit… well… then he grabbed and pulled.
The white rabbit popped out of the hat, back legs waving, and ears flopping.
The kids roared. The rabbit looked up at him, and said in a whisper, “I am here to start you on your quest.”
Harry pressed his eyes closed, then opened them again. He frowned a little at the rabbit, and whispered back, “What can you tell me about it?”
The rabbit seemed to grin. “Well, that’s the problem. I’m not allowed to tell you anything about it! But you’re going to need all the help you can get.”
Harry tilted his head, and grinned at the kids in the audience. Then he put the rabbit on the card table beside the hat, and said, “Now, you stay right there, and I’ll finish my act.”
The rabbit nodded. Harry smiled at the kids, and raised one hand. Which suddenly held a cane…
You knew you were in trouble,
When you tumbled into the rabbit hole,
Down, down, down, and meandering around,
Then the rabbit hopped across your path,
Flopped its ears at you,
And challenged you to a quest,
But refused to tell you what it was!
“Just follow the red lines,
You’ll know when you get there.
But don’t listen to the kittens,
Or you’ll be in trouble!”
Then it hopped away,
And left you to stray,
After the red lines,
Glittering and gay!
[That’s about it for now…there’s a rabbit glaring at me, and I need to find out what it wants…]
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[…] To read prompt responses, play along, or simply offer encouragement, visit More Odds Than Ends. […]
I made it. Sort of. I’ve been a *trifle* distracted this week! https://www.cedarwrites.com/2021/11/16/odd-prompts-bring-home-the-dead-snippet/
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You’ve had the best kind of distraction!
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Just keep calm…
And write on!
And now mine is finally up on my LiveJournal at https://starshipcat.livejournal.com/1052274.html. A little bit more insight on a story I’d begun a while ago. Now hoping to see how the pieces fit together, and to have time this winter to actually get it finished.
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Oh! Nicely sinister..l
[…] fourth prompt is from week 45 of […]