What's Happening Here? The Collective Inkwell Story Prompt.

I like to watch people.

Okay, that probably sounded kinkier than planned, but that’s okay, we’re all friends here. The point is, I love people watching. One of my favorite places to have done this was New Jersey, where I saw a wider variety of people than I’d ever seen before. It was a people watcher’s paradise!

Usually when I watch people, I try and imagine their lives. Either what they are doing or thinking at the moment or what their lives are like. I like to think I’m accurate in my guesses, but the only way to know is to follow them around. And usually the police get upset when you do that. When I was younger and didn’t have a car, I took the bus a lot and would write about the imagined lives of the people on the bus. Man, some of those people had incredibly bizarre lives!

So, what does this have to do with you?

The name Collective Inkwell isn’t just our chosen online studio name. We want to help inspire and foster creativity in our community.

Following suggestions and positive feedback from our story contest earlier this year, we want to invite you to take part in more creative writing exercises. We’ll try some different things from time to time depending on how popular they are.

First up, the photo story prompt.

Here’s the idea. Using the photo below as your prompt, you leave a comment with a short story describing the scene below. Feel free to use this only as a launching point, if you like. Be creative.

We look forward to seeing how you interpret this scene.


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11 responses to What's Happening Here? The Collective Inkwell Story Prompt.

  1. HeikeM

    What is she talking about? I wish I was back home, this so called human life is so boring. Listen to her – that soft human voice grating in my ear, the sad brown eyes boring into my brain. Why did it have to be me? And all I get is this useless demon round my neck. Instead of getting us out of here it’s trying to pull me down. As if the human beside me doesn’t do that already quite well. From down below it all looked so interesting, the hustle and bustle, something to have fun with. But their pathetic lives don’t make me want to do anything. They suck every little bit of energy out of you. I remember when, it seems eons ago, it was fun leading them into derelict houses, making them take the most horrendous risks. But now it’s just boring. They don’t want us anymore. Maybe I should try and get a real job. Listen to her – still trying to appeal to my heart. Does she not know that I don’t have one? I am an estate agent – does that not tell her anything?

  2. John

    “Joey, I’m so sorry.” soothed Cheryl.

    Joey mumbled a grumbling response and took a deep drag.

    “There’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve all seen him. He’s real.”

    “Oh yeah? Well that won’t stop me! I can do it. I really can. I’ll… I’ll… Oh, man I don’t know.” he exhaled, running his fingers repeatedly through is crown of thatch-like hair.



    “You can’t BE Jim Carrey. He’s out there. Somewhere. And we can never know when he might return.”

    Joey exhaled again and reached down, tucking his fashionably long imported silk necktie back into his shoe.

    “I know. I know” he replied dejectedly, taking another long drag. “It’s just that I fit it, man. I just do. My lips stick to my teeth ALL THE TIME. And the hair. I’ve got it. It’s a gift and I can’t let it go to waste.”

    Cheryl shifted slightly closer.

    “I’ve only got so much time. My Dad is bald. Bald as a baby’s ass.” He tensed and blurted “What am I gonna do with that?”

    “Joey?” she cooed in his ear. “You’ll always be MY Jim Carrey.” She reached for his shoulder as he inhaled a long, cool breath.

    “And Joey?” she breathed.

    “Yes?” he replied, slightly looser now, turning to look into her doe-brown eyes.

    She hesitated. But she had to say it. It was in the air and it would not go away.

    Cheryl took a deep breath and squeezed his shoulder lovingly. A squeeze that released the years of pent up anger, the frustration, the repressed ennui.

    “That’s a Bic pen in your mouth” she said flatly.

    Joey flinched then exploded to his feet. “You’re just like all the others!” he screamed.

    His eyes went wild and seemed to stare past Cheryl, as if staring into an abyss. He leaned dangerously forward, teetering on the balls of his feet, bent as if supporting the weight of all that hair had finally, finally come to bear.

    “I’M BIC-CING MY ASS, DO YOU MIIIINDDD?” spit Joey in a long, almost incomprehensible cadence.

    They both stood there breathlessly for a moment, staring into each other’s eyes. They slowly sat again, slightly further apart now, but their connection still remained.

    He spoke softly now and leaned into Cheryl’s supportive shoulder. “They wouldn’t sell me cigarettes without proper ID.”

    The surrounding promenade emptied slowly of its workday traffic. The sun slid from white to gold and dipped out of site, it’s last cold rays illuminating the tips of Joey’s tousled spikes of hair. Cheryl quietly moved on, looking for another John who actually had some money to spend.

    John’s last blog post..JJT: Holy smokes, that’s a lot of recovery. Ain’t it a Drupal site? $18M Being Spent to Redesign Recovery.gov Web Site http://sn.im/recgovcost

  3. Sean

    She could brush all the “I’m so sorry” and You don’t deserve it’s” in the world against his tightened shoulder, but they both knew this was it. He lost the client and the job. He’d be lucky if she stuck around until the moon kicked the sun from the sky.

    “We’ll make it work.” Her fingers tightened on his shoulder and crept up to his neck.

    No we won’t, he thought. She’ll be out of here just like all the others. That was the thing about being an asshole. People would put up with all the shit you could shovel, but the second the dollars turned to desert, they would leave without a glance behind.

    He took an impossibly long drag on the cigarette, inviting the pain inside where it belonged and then sent the cloud to scent the air. He shook his head at no one. Things would be so much easier if he could just find it inside him to care.

  4. David Wright

    Why wasn’t she getting the hint?

    It was over. This time, it really was. And she’d given him the perfect out with that little blow up earlier. All that was left for him was to take the out and say the words.

    Adam wasn’t really that upset over the fight, but it was just the thing to broach the topic. Again. He’d tried a half dozen other times to tell her that it just wasn’t working. Somehow, their breakups never stuck. The conversations always ended with crying, pleas for second chances and promises of change.

    Either she was clueless or a master manipulator. In any event, he’d had enough.

    No matter how hard a person tried, though, they could not change. Not in Adam’s experience of people, anyway. Natalie was a jealous and insecure woman intermingled with bouts of extreme charisma. He suspected she was manic depressive or ADHD or whatever the fuck they were calling it these days.

    Whatever its name, the end result was the same. She was toxic and their relationship, though two years old, had run its course. There was nothing left but the goodbyes.

    He sucked a deep drag of courage from his cigarette, searching the nicotine for the right words while she went on in one of her more manic phases, talking about the cool things they would do later in the week, how much she missed him today at work and whatever else she could think of saying without leading down the brambly path of no return which he was determined to take them.

    He waited for a pause in the conversation. Though to call it a conversation would be to imply that two people were talking and for the past 10 minutes, that hadn’t been the case.

    Finally, he dropped the cigarette, squashed it under his shoe and found the courage to look at her.

    Something in her eyes stopped him from speaking his mind, though. Something unfamiliar, an emotion he’d not seen within these pools before. She looked as if she wanted to say something.

    “What?” he asked, his voice trailing off as her own mouth opened.

    “I’m pregnant,” she said.

    After a long moment, Adam found another cigarette.

  5. David Wright

    Heike M – Beautifully sardonic. Thank you.

    John – awesomely funny, thanks.

    Lori – Sounds all too familiar. Thanks.

    Sean – Very realistic. Love the closing line.

    Friar – I knew I could count on you for the definitive literary entry!

  6. Keely H.

    “Look, we’ve been friends for a long time, I won’t think you’re a total ass, now why’d you have to meet me here?” Said Sashi.

    Sashi was an 9th grade math teacher at Grover High School. Mark had called her cell phone less than 10 minutes after the final bell had rung. He had said he was in the quad and needed to talk. She had suggested he come to her classroom since many of the students were stilling milling around waiting for after school activities to start or simply putting off the quiet desperation of their home lives by lingering with friends.

    Oblivious as always, Mark had insisted he needed some ‘fresh air’.

    She hoped Mark would keep his voice down. It was embarrassing to be overheard by her students gossiping about personal matters and to make matters worse he was smoking in front of the teenagers.

    “I ran into my ex-girlfriend, the really pretty one that I could never quite get over, remember?” Mark took a long drag of his cigarette.

    “Amanda?” Sashi suggested wearily.

    “Yeah, Amanda.” Mark looked at her for a moment. “Surprised you remember that.”

    “Surprising if I didn’t is more like it.” Sashi thought to herself privately, but said nothing. Instead she only nodded for Mark to continue his story.

    “I asked her how soon her baby was due.” Mark took another drag and blew the smoke out with exaggerated dignity. He’d always had a flare for the dramatic.

    “Well, that was big of you, politely asking about her life even though she left you for someone else. It shows you’ve moved on.” Sashi volunteered impatiently. She didn’t want this to turn into another sob fest of why Amanda was the best thing that had ever happened to him. She couldn’t endure another one of those. Not here. Not now.

    “Trouble is she wasn’t pregnant. She started crying and she told me that her mother had died in a car crash two months ago, that she’d been putting on a lot of weight from comfort eating. Then she told me it was none of my damn business and slapped me really hard before getting on the subway. Do I still have the hand print?”

    Sashi shook her head, no.

    Mark looked crestfallen as if a red mark on his face was a token of love he’d wanted to hang onto.

    “Even if she’s gotten a little chubby, we could’ve gone out for coffee or something.”

    Sashi reminded herself that a good friend wouldn’t laugh. A good friend certainly wouldn’t let out an enormous guffaw and start rolling around on the pavement in hysterical mirth. That would be unkind.

    “Word to the wise, Mark.” Sashi counseled. “If you ever think a woman is pregnant again let her bring it up first.”

    Sashi didn’t hear Mark’s reply. She had already gotten bored with the conversation. Instead she interrogated herself.

    Why did she always have to fall for the clueless pretty boys in the shiny corporate drone jobs? Perhaps it was because their lives seemed so simple. Coffee, cubicle, coffee, meeting, coffee, cubicle again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    When Mark described his days to her it sounded like he spent more time gazing wistfully at the corner office than getting any actual work done. To this day she had no idea what his job title actually was and what duties it entailed.

    Pretty boys like that never had to decide whether or not to believe a student when the student came in after class and explained that he hadn’t done his homework because his drunk father had set his math book on fire. That conversation did not exist within the safe air-conditioned walls of the cubicle and certainly not within the coveted artificial wood-paneled interior of the corner office Mark would, no doubt, one day attain.

    It was definitely the simplicity that made him so appealing. He was like a prime time sitcom and she was like any other hapless viewer mesmerized by the glow of the screen, comforted by the clockwork regularity of the laugh tracks.

  7. Kool Aid

    “Hi,” she said, quietly, touching his shoulder. “Do you mind if I sit here?”

    He shrugged one shoulder absently. “It’s a public place, do what you like.” Shyly, she sat, but not too close. He didn’t even manage a glance in her direction he was so intent on his solitude. She turned to face him, her knee brushing against his leg.

    “I… Uh, I can tell you aren’t really wanting to talk…” she started, “but…” Her voice trailed off as if waiting for him to respond. He didn’t.

    She gathered courage, like the smoke gathering around his head as he exhaled from his cigarette. She blurted, “Did you know you look like a young Ted Danson?”

    His body stiffened and he turned slowly to look at her bright smile, her espresso skin and dark chocolate eyes. “Yeah,” he muttered. “I get that a lot.”

  8. Writing Prompts: Creative Copy Challenge #14

    […] it the The Cure for Writer’s Block and the idea is to use complete sentences and sometimes visual prompts to inspire a short paragraph or a short story. We’ll only be doing one a week, though, so as […]

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