Week 11 of Odd Prompts: 2023 Edition

Writer, writer, pulling an all-nighter,
How does your prompt garden grow?
With silvered words all aiming towards
Those paragraphs lined in a row.

That was terrible, but let’s talk methodology for a moment. How do you get your prompt ideas that you submit — overheard conversation snippets, perhaps, or a fragment of one idea ruthlessly combined with another?

And then the responses – where to start there? Do you stew all week on the possibilities, or have a Friday evening ritual? Are you literal, fantastic, seeking laughter, prefer to twist the norms? What takes you from the starting point and into story?

Sometimes, we need a new way to generate getting the creativity going, before kicking old processes back into gear. Prompts don’t have to be the only idea generation happening here at More Odds than Ends.

Cedar SandersonThe ears on the helmet were a dead giveawayAC Young
Fiona Grey“You must keep this code private.”Cedar Sanderson
AC Young“And the winner of the Most Beautiful Unicorn Award is…”nother Mike
Becky JonesI watched it fade into the distance.Fiona Grey
Leigh KimmelIt was time to pack and move out, but the more you packed, the more stuff you found that needed packing, and you were running out of time.Becky Jones
nother MikeThere was something different about the gryphon races this year…Leigh Kimmel
SparesHis feet grew colder
SpareI got lost on the way to Eldra’s, and that’s where everything went wrong.
SpareOne of the submissions to the committee constructing the Key Commandments of Bureaucracy: “Nothing is ever a bureaucrat’s fault. If a set of coincidences suggest that a bureaucrat is guilty of anything, the picture created by these circumstances is clearly wrong, and thus the bureaucrat must be found innocent, and a non-bureaucrat declared guilty.”
SpareWe were halfway to Mars when…
SpareThe square dance calls were the code.

Give us the details! Writers like more details! Put them all in the comments, and see you next week. Maybe this week, you’ll do it differently.

Header image by Fiona Grey



  1. The process? okay. Normally I start out by copying the prompt over to a file today (the day after the new set goes up), and scribble down any odd thoughts that occur right away. But then I like to let it settle in the back brain for a while. See what comes up… and fairly often, give that first sketch a shot about Saturday or so. Maybe scribble it up and then reread and revise once, lightly, but for these weekly shots, you get pretty direct versions. So right now, I’ve copied it over, made a couple of notes, and now it’s soaking in…


  2. There are precious few things that inspire, or that I choose to let inspire. If it’s an ‘external’ thing, it sits and *lingers*. But some thing just.. ERUPT. The ATH (guest) post of “Only Human” was written in a ***BLUR*** of activity. It Had To Be Done – YESTERDAY, IF NOT SOONER! I simply couldn’t NOT do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My turn for inspiration and process. I use snippets of overheard conversations, especially if I’ve misheard thanks to language brain (listening in the wrong language). Dream fragments are good, too. For things like names, often a misspelled word becomes a name, at least for fantasy characters. MidJourney can be a nice creative boost, especially seeing what others are doing – the newbie rooms are good for a nice variety, and I should go into the challenges to poke around, but never remember. Oh, and things that annoy me. 🙂 Though I’d rather let those go; they’re rarely the main focus or even the conflict. Life annoyances are background details, which hopefully makes things more realistic.

    I have numerous notes files of ideas and can usually tell if an idea is “sticky.” If I don’t get it written, sometimes it fades. I like to let things percolate in the back of my brain, and sometimes fades turns into nothingness, sadly. But typically, it builds like a jigsaw, with pieces snapping into place.

    And on rare occasion…it must be written, and written now now now, whether or not I have time or even want to write the story. The one I put in for But Not Broken was like that.


  4. Prompt supply: Generally something related to what’s going on on a Monday, but not always. On my last two holidays I’ve noted down things that would make nice prompts, and submitted them one at a time on my return.

    Prompt responding: I’m horribly impatient for my next prompt on Wednesdays, I’ll probably check multiple times if the next week’s up before it actually is. Then I’ll keep the window open in my web browser and gnaw on it occasionally. In the evening I’ll copy it into my prompts document.

    If I’ve got a decent idea I might start writing it then. Some weeks nothing really coalesces until sometime Thursday or Friday. This week I got an idea on Wednesday, even running through potential scenes in my head on the way home, but when I sat down to write it, it didn’t seem to quite fit, so I held off. Yesterday I came up with something else (which fitted the prompt in pretty much the same way), and I’m currently about 400 words in.

    I try to finish the prompt before I go to bed Friday, so I have time during the week for other fiction. (But not always – I deliberately submitted the 2021 Halloween uniprompt on Halloween.) However, I’m often more successful at the former than the latter.


  5. Cedar Sanderson’s prompt cycled round to me this week: The ears on the helmet were a dead giveaway

    After an abortive idea of a human with cat ear enhancements, I went with a cat-human hybrid.

    Sleek Claw touched down on the asteroid. She stood up and looked around. Her ears, poking their way through her helmet, twisted, trying to find even the smallest sound making its way through the very thin atmosphere.

    She was a hucat – the result of an experimental DNA merger, attempting to add the very best aspects of cats to human stock. The experimenters were disappointed in the results, so they dumped the hucats on a barely-survivable planet. The expectation was that they would die off, leaving a slightly better planet behind for human colonisation.

    It didn’t work out that way. The still-bipedal hucats thrived, creating their own unique culture, and eventually returned to space on their own.

    Sleek Claw couldn’t hear anything, but there was a tunnel into the asteroid nearby. She padded softly over to it and headed inside.

    Normally, an ion, a male hucat, was considered the better warrior. Both sexes could lose control under high emotion, becoming purely instinctive killers, but ions tended to be able to maintain better control under stress. However, for some missions an ion was the worst choice.

    Ions had no interest in young that wasn’t their own – widely believed to be a consequence of the cat DNA inserted into the hucat genome. It wasn’t unknown for ions to brush a cub aside if he or she got in the way of his mission – and if the cub was human, it could result in serious injury or death.

    A ness, a female hucat, wouldn’t do that. Even in the midst of a killing rage, a ness would do all she could to avoid harming a cub.

    Sleek Claw carefully protracted her claws, making sure she didn’t harm her laser rifle while doing so, before retracting them back into her fingers. She padded silently down the tunnel, her ears twisting, trying to catch even the slightest sound.

    Somewhere in the asteroid was a pirate’s nest. The pirates had hijacked a freighter and were holding the crew and their kids hostage. The hucat special forces had been called in, and Sleek Claw was tasked with finding the hostages and rescuing them.

    Finally, a sound. Sleek Claw stopped and listened carefully. It sounded like someone was moving a long distance away – the other side of the asteroid possibly. She followed the sounds through the tunnels – the asteroid appeared to have been mined to a honeycomb, it was a complete maze under the surface.

    Six hours later, Sleek Claw thought that she was finally approaching the populated areas. The occasional sound had increased in frequency, and was now almost continuous.

    She crept around a corner and came face-to-face with a guard. It didn’t look as if he was paying particularly good attention. Sleek Claw saw the sudden widening in his eyes as he saw her, but he didn’t have any more time to react, as she pulled the trigger on her laser rifle. The beam went through his neck, severing arteries but immediately cauterising the holes. The guard fell to the ground, dead.

    She was through the initial sentry cordon, without setting off any alarms. Now to find the hostages.

    Instead she rounded the wrong corner, and came across more pirates.

    Before she had a chance to shoot, one of them screamed “Hucat!” and the group dropped their weapons and fell to the floor.

    Sleek Claw was sure it was her ears that had given her race away. Nonetheless she was sickened by their behaviour. Ions kept fighting as long as there was a chance of winning, and nesses never gave up before battle had been joined. To just assume defeat and surrender was cowardice beyond anything conceivable to a hucat.

    Nonetheless, they had surrendered, and honour demanded that it be respected. She locked two of them in a suitable chamber, and forced the other to guide her to where the hostages were being kept.

    Word had preceded her. The guards in charge of the hostages didn’t make any attempt to stop her, even handing over their weapons. The cowardice they showed was despicable. But she had honour.

    Sleek Claw reported in, and the remainder of the extraction team were dispatched.

    Before long, the hostages were heading back out into space, free once more, and the pirates were all prisoners.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. AC Young postulated…

    “And the winner of the Most Beautiful Unicorn Award is…”

    [Apparently a beauty contest, with unicorns? Hum… of course, one possibility is that the kids are competing, which may make it important that everyone gets an award. Since my unicorn must be the most beautiful, instead of those silly gold apples with the Goddesses fighting about who is the most beautiful… gotta think about this a little more…]

    [drat. I want to dig up my old series about the Hollywood vet dealing with various bio-engineered and robotic pets. Anyway, something like this would probably fit in there, if I can find it…]

    Dr. Lovelace gritted his teeth and looked around the fairgrounds. How had he let himself get roped into being a judge for a contest like this? Well, it was good publicity for his veterinary business, but still… the families and children with their pets, competing for some kind of prizes. And the next one… the most beautiful unicorn?

    He watched the youngsters parading their unicorns in front of the judges. Didn’t the organizers know the old stories about the golden apple and the fights over who was the most beautiful? And yet, they wanted the judge to make an award like that?

    There were eight contestants. Three robots, he thought, with the kind of overly smooth pace and power that robots tended to have. Still, their artificial pelts were beautiful, even though he didn’t particularly like the rainbow of colors effects. And their horns glowed, even under the spotlights.

    The other five were all bio-engineered wonders. Long, silky manes, hooves that seemed to glitter as they pranced and paced their way along, eyes that blinked and seemed all too human, and horns that spiraled out to fine tips.

    Darn it, they were all gorgeous. How was he supposed to pick a single winner… wait a minute. Wait a minute!

    He chortled to himself, and looked at the nearby auto-printer. He tapped at his personal aide for a moment, and then watched as the auto-printer started chugging out awards. In a moment, he had eight awards, and a smile.

    He waved his hands, and quickly got all eight lined up in front of him. Each of them had a youngster riding, looking at him with nervous eyes, and glances at the others. He grinned, and raised his hands.

    “And the winner of the Most Beautiful Unicorn Award is…”

    He paused for a moment, and he could see all of them lean forward. That’s when he swept his hand across the lineup and said, “Each and every one of you! You are all the most beautiful unicorns here, and I know each of you deserves this award!”

    Then he grabbed the awards and started passing them out. The youngsters all grinned and took theirs.

    [I really want to work in what I ran into once in a behind-the-scenes session with a group of judges, where they basically tried to work it out so that everyone got some kind of award. Something like that… except my hands are killing me today, so I am not doing much.]

    [or we could have something like…]

    The fairgrounds were full, with families, friends, everyone who could get there for the competition. They had already awarded the strongest centaur prize, the longest Möbius strip, and several others. But the highlight was ahead. The judges waved the contestants into the cleared area in front of them, and lifted the glittering trophy. One of them started to say, “And the winner of the Most Beautiful Unicorn Award is…”

    Which is when Six-Gun Adolphus rode through the crowd on his black unicorn. Everyone jumped back, and he laughed as he grabbed the trophy.

    “Me, of course! Thank you all!”

    He waved the trophy around, then raced off into the sunset.

    Meanwhile, on the fairgrounds, the families tried to reassure their weeping children. The unicorns shook their horns and stamped, but they knew it was not a time for them to make a great fuss…

    [well, that’s kind of silly!]

    [Sorry, not getting much done this week. But maybe there’s a seed there to use later?]

    Liked by 1 person

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