The Creative Prompt Thread

This thread is coming from here.

Creating things and reveling in the creations of others is a key aspect of happiness and mental well-being. We live in a society, however, that doesn't have a whole lot of space for people to create just for fun. This thread is an opportunity to give anyone here who wants it a chance to do that.

For the past couple of years, I've been working as a Communications Coach. One of my services is a creative prompt course that gives people a chance to explore a wide range of artistic activities without the pressure of having to do something "perfect." In talking to some people here, I feel like this might be a great way for everyone to explore their artistic side.

Format / Instructions:
1) I will put up detailed instructions every Monday in this thread.

2) Each prompt is meant to take a set amount of time. Generally, this will be 20-30 minutes. Don't go over the set time, even if you don't finish. Remember: Finishing isn't the goal, the act of creating is the goal.

3) If something in the prompt is spoiler tagged, don't look at it until instructed.

4) You can feel free to share the results of the prompt in thread, or PM me, or just keep it to yourself!

5) I'm not going to give any critical feedback unless specifically requested (and even then it will be framed in the exploration of exploring a different possibility, not in criticism.)

6) If you would like people to be able to respond to your work, please indicate at the end of your post. Say "I am open to public reactions." If that phrase does not appear at the end of someone's prompt, don't comment on it at all.

7) If you want to give feedback to someone, and they have indicated they are open to public reactions, the feedback must be positive. We're all hardwired to be super self-critical. It is telling (and in some ways damning) that we refer to people who evaluate art as "critics." We probably all have a memory of writing or drawing something as a kid, and we probably experienced an adult either intentionally or accidentally diminishing it. "Is that supposed to be a lion?" or "That's cute but mommy only has two arms not four!" In this space, there is none of that. These prompts are about nurturing creative impulses and celebrating everyone's ideas, no matter how much they deviate from the cultural ideas of what makes quote unquote "good" art. Anyone who puts up critical feedback to someone else will be asked to delete the comment.

8) Throughout the coming weeks we will be engaging with all sorts of mediums. Some prompts will build on prior prompts. I'll keep a list of links to the prompts themselves for anyone who wants to jump in late. I will ask you that if you limit yourself to one of these a day, even though they don't take a lot of time. Part of this process is about having time to think about and soak in what you've done previously.

9) If something is unclear, feel free to PM me.

Whew, with all of that said, first prompt is coming up!

[Holding for Creative Prompt List]

Creative Prompt #1
Creative Prompt #2
Creative Prompt #3

Creative Prompt #1

Outline a true story that contains one lie.
The lie can’t be a trivial detail such as “the red ball was actually a blue ball!” It should be a substantial embellishment or event. The goal is to weave it into the narrative seamlessly so that nobody reading the story would be able to discern it. Eventually we will be working towards writing this story out, but for now, you just have to outline it, utilizing a basic hero’s journey narrative structure (which I'll cover below.) We’ll forgo some of the optional steps of the hero’s journey, but you should feel free to include them if you want to.

Outline Instructions

For outlining, you just want a sentence or two filled in for each of these steps. Don't worry about being literary or flashy with your writing, you are just creating a checklist of events! Here are the steps:

Establishing the status quo world: What details will you use to establish routine? How will you convey the world prior to the events of the story? You don’t want to linger here, but you want to provide people with a context that they can feel familiarity with so that when you disrupt it they feel the stakes.

Inciting incident: What sparks the journey? What disrupts the status quo? This is an essential component to all narratives.

Crossing the threshold: What does the main character of the story do that takes them out of the status quo and into the adventure? This is a decision rooted in action. The protagonist should make an active choice in this beat.

Test, allies, enemies: What obstacles does the hero overcome? Does the hero make friends or meet people who advance the plot? Does the hero run into someone who tries and impede their progress, and if so, how does the hero deal with that enemy?

Approach the inmost cave: What happens right before the hero confronts the very the thing that sparked their journey? Is there a moment of respite? Use this step to put all the narrative pieces in place and build tension.

Ordeal: This is the climax of the story, the final challenge for the protagonist.

Reward: This is where the hero attains some sort of reward. This can range from a tangible object to a feeling (such as relief, joy, happiness, etc.) For darker stories where the goal is not attained or where the hero fails the ordeal, the reward can be knowledge or greater understanding.

Take no more than thirty-minutes on this exercise, and complete it in one sitting. If you run out of time before having a sentence or two for each of the above steps, that's okay!

Good luck, and enjoy!

A few of you have shown me outlines via PM, and I wanted to express that gratitude to all of you (as well as all of you who are participating in private or planning to participate later in the week) for trusting me and being up for trying this out.

To answer the most common question -- no, don't tell me where the lie in your story is! Keep it secret, for now.

I also wanted to put out a reminder for everyone to hold on to their prompts, as we'll be building off of them in coming weeks. I will encourage you to avoid tweaking or editing the prompt -- but do ruminate on it for the next few days.

Thank you everyone!

Status Quo
Silently, I was very angry going into my freshman year of High School. Four years of torment and pain lay behind me with the prospect of a new start ahead. But how do you re-invent yourself in a small town school where everyone who knows who you are follow you like the plague?

Inciting Incident
When your Civics teacher, a short ex-Marine bodybuilder, offers you the chance to earn glory (his words) by fighting kids from other schools, you jump at the chance. You agree to join the Wrestling team, even though you've never done anything like it before.

Crossing the Threshhold
October rolls around and Mr. Guerin tells me that there is a meeting for parents of kids that want to join the team. I take the flyer home and tell my parents that I want to join. My father smiles and agrees to take me while my mom just stares and tells me I can quit whenever I want.

Test, Allies, Enemies
From the first practice, I can tell that Doug is going to be a problem. He's only a sophomore, but has already started in on the other freshmen. He plays football, so he's stronger than us and he seems to enjoy rubbing our faces in the mat. Ben and Clint joined as well. They were supposed to be my friends in Middle School, but felt belittling me daily basis was a better use of their time so I should hate them. Doug's enjoyment of our collective pain eliminates any resentment we have and we become closer friends than we ever were.

Approach the Inmost Cave
I watch the scales fall and my heart goes with them. Junior year was going so well until now, the first official weigh in before practice. I had just seen Doug's weigh-in. 159 lbs. As I watch the scale teeter between 160 and 161, I know I have a hard choice to make, and not much time to make it. I will get creamed regularly if I bump up 178, so do I strain myself to lose an additional 8 lbs. to go for 152 or do I fight my tormentor for the varsity 160 that had been mine all last season?

Ordeal
Watching Doug pound a smaller sophomore, I make my decision. f*ck him, 160 is mine. We face off and he is all smiles. Victory must be forgone conclusion in his mind. That smile goes away ten seconds in when an Ankle Pick leads to a single leg takedown. Gone are the days he can just do a push up and reverse. The moment his head is high, I'm spinning around on his back a hooking a Half Nelson, and it's deep. From there, I have all the leverage I need and Doug topples over to his back.

Reward
I use the next 45 seconds to pin him. He's shouting now, and doesn't seem interested in shaking my hand, though Schoalzinski is (the previously mentioned sophomore target). The 160 lbs. varsity spot is mine for the first match of the season. And the second, as this wasn't a fluke occurrence. Despite his best efforts, he can no longer topple me from my spot. After his third loss, he curses me out in front of the coach, who tells him to cool off and gets a few choice words his way as well. And just like that, Doug is off the team. Our underclassmen breathe a sigh on relief. Best part is, two months later, I break my thumb in a match and the 160 spot is empty going into Regionals.

IAOTPR - I am open to public reactions

Thank you for being the first to publicly share, Grenn!

You have an immediate grasp of the narrative structure of the hero's journey, and even though this is just an outline, I can already see the story in my mind's eye! That's extra impressive because I know almost nothing about wrestling. There's also a lot of characters that I can already see popping off of the page. Great job, and I hope you had fun writing it!

I’m SUPER interested and if you’ll allow me to tag in, I’d like to give this endeavor a go. Probably not until next week, though, this week is too hectic for extracurricular activities.

Of course - and I am so excited you are going to be joining in! All are welcome. Jumping in at any point will be fine, and the first post in the thread is going to be a collection of prompts, since some will build off of prior work.

WOW!!

I just finished the exercise. It helped me solidify and legitimize some of my deepest core values. I wrote it all in a journal. I will post it here in the near future. I will need to refer to my journal as I post. No time for that presently. I need to sleep. I work in the middle of the night.

Harpo, I can’t thank you enough for doing this. I feel like I’ve crossed a hurdle. This must be what catharsis feels like.

Yay ! I am so thrilled to hear that and looking forward to seeing your work!

I’m putting this in a spoiler tag to save space. I’m worried that I’ve done this wrong by making too personal and possibly too specific.

I’m open to public reactions.

Spoiler:

Creative prompt

Outline

Status quo: true story. Strange thing happened to me. Im a Local short haul tractor trailer driver. Work in middle of night. 90 minute freeway runs. Between Los Angels and Orange County. Southern California. To Pass time while driving: talk to other drivers on mobile phone, listen to music, podcast, audiobooks, think about stuff. I’m a believer in science, and a skeptic (not a scenic), follower of critical thinking techniques.

Inciting incident: Working. Driving on freeway. I see a bright light from behind me. Light grows brighter and brighter. So intense that all I see is light. Temporarily blinded. Light goes out suddenly. Now blinded by darkness. Eyes adjusting. Event lasted about 3 seconds.

Crossing threshold: Searched for news stories. Likely explanation, car accident causes downed power lines. Bright light could be power surge? Days later, another bright light, but far away, still dramatic. News search fails to provide explanation. Days later, news article describes mysterious bright lights in Southern California.

Test, allies, enemies: Friends and family generally unimpressed by story of bright lights. Jokes about Russian hackers. A friend who is a workmate becomes fascinated with the bright light story. Work friend is intelligent but a believer of “woo”. Some mild hazing from other workmates escalates towards harassment.

Approach inmost cave: Conversions with sympathetic work friend (woo believer). Discussions of WWII, history of China and Japan, Catch-22 novel, Chinese medicine, MDMA, E.T.s, science of happiness. Also discussions of workplace conflicts, other drivers’ lack of integrity, honesty and how being honest is liberating, how being honest can be scary, how being honest may reveal your faults. Also conversations about drivers with ultra conservative views, how I try to be honest with them about my liberal values while not being confrontational.

Ordeal: fellow co-worker, another driver, hears an ugly rumor about me. The rumor is untrue but the co-worker believes it. Tries to get me fired. Lies to supervisors about something I did.

Reward: I learn from the ordeal about how to be a better pacifist. Being a pacifist does not mean you’re weak. How to advocate for myself without becoming rage-full. Ideas about extreme pacifism (oxy-moron). Compassion for one’s oppressors. Using critical thinking to confirm and validate pacifistic ideals. Lessons on being a practical pacifist.

You did great! Personal is perfect, so long as you are comfortable, and length doesn’t matter. Whatever you can get done in one 30 minute session is acceptable - there is no too long or too short.

What I find most of the time with personal stuff is that no matter how specific you get, people connect to the granular. I’ve never worked as driver, for example, but there’s a lot in this that I connect to precisely because you put yourself into it. The workplace politics, the experience of being separated from a group you are part of because of your beliefs, all of that is very universal. And when we see and hear stories about those types of things it helps us feel less alone. So great job!

I want to participate. I want to get back to my writing in a real way so I'm going to do this even if it's poor. Gotta re-start somewhere.

I chose what I thought would be the perfect true story, but it's already so outrageous, I really struggled to find a place for a lie that would actually be meaningful to the story. I'm still not convinced it's a very good lie, but it's there. Also, it was really hard to add a lie to something otherwise fully true. It felt so ... dishonest.

I've not decided about public comment, but welcome through PM.

Spoiler:

Status Quo
I’m dating a girl in high school. We’re convinced we’ll be together the rest of our lives. She’s just as romantic as I am and we enjoy hours together talking, watching movies, cuddling, making out, and planning our future. One of the happiest relationships I’d ever known.

Inciting Incident
My girlfriend calls me up to say she’s been in a car accident with her cousin, but that she’s okay. Just a hurt arm. She had been trying to show her cousin where I lived.

Crossing the threshold
I go to visit her, bringing flowers and chocolates. I accidentally touch her arm and she winces badly. Her arm had shattered the window during the accident. She wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Just before leaving, I tell her that I hope she learned her lesson (to wear a seatbelt).

Test
The next day, my girlfriend calls and asks to meet at the library. She confesses that her accident was a lie, something she completely made up. She says she has often struggled with the truth. She apologizes. I am understanding and forgiving.

Approach the inmost cave
Months pass, our relationship continues well, but then begins to slowly fade, though neither of us are willing to cut it off. We hold on because we’re in love and planning to get married after high school. Inwardly, though, I start to question where we are at and to unconsciously distance myself emotionally.

One day, my girlfriend calls me complaining about an ex boyfriend who’d just returned to the state and was pursuing her. He showed up at her work twice and pressured her to break up with me, forcibly kissing her, and professing his love.

She had told her parents, but they liked the ex from before and didn’t actually know me very well. They suggested to her that she was misunderstanding his advances, and since things hadn’t actually ended between them so much as he moved away, she should give him a chance now that he’s back.

Ordeal
Two days later, she calls me after school in a panic. The ex-boyfriend had shown up at work and physically kidnapped her from the building, knocking her unconscious. She awoke parked at a gas station, grabbed his cell phone and started to run while calling the police. The ex tackled her in a field just as the police arrived. He had a gun. Professing his love again, he committed suicide in front of her.

Her mother came to pick her up from the hospital, then dropped her off at home and returned to work.

I got in my car, not wanting her to be alone after such an ordeal, then realized how ridiculous her story was. No mother would leave their daughter after such a day. I took her for a walk and sat at a park, where she feigned falling asleep and startled awake from a nightmare.

That evening, I purposefully went late to pick her up so her mother would answer the door.

“How was your day?”
“Fine.”

Caught you.

Reward
I end the relationship. Girlfriend blows up, stalks me, violently returns things I had given her, and spreads lies to turn my friends against me.

But I didn’t marry a pathological liar.

Establishing the status quo world:

My wife had the better job so when we married I was the one to make the move from city to village. Life was good. Just the two of us pottering around. Work, hobbies and the occasional argument. Nothing remarkable to interrupt our daily routine.

Inciting incident:

Cosy. That's how we referred to our little home. After the birth of our first child and the addition of two cats cosy became crowded and we made the move to a Victorian detached house.

Crossing the threshold:

It was like a constant weight above my head. Some nights while crossing the landing I would pause and stare upwards at the blank white ceiling. Searching for...something. A seam. An indentation. A patch of darker paint. There had to be an attic. This style of house always had one and there was certainly room enough. To this day I've no idea why it affected me so. Maybe like an absence of light will cause the mind to fill in the blanks the lack of any sign of that room allowed my imagination to fill with dusty, cobwebbed spaces full of treasures. And yet the ceiling remained stubbornly blank.

Test, allies, enemies:

My wife outright refused to entertain my request to perform some "exploratory maintenance". I could understand why. I'm not an expert in DIY and she became adept at appearing and gently but firmly removing the hammer from my hands on nights my obsession got the better of me. She also vetoed my request to call in a builder. The move had shrunk our bank balance considerably and while comfortable we didn't have any spare cash to spend on unneeded remodelling. During our house warming, my brother in law who happened to be in the trade informed me that the thing I was looking for was called a scuttle hole.

Approach the inmost cave:

Our son was distraught when the first cat went missing. We put posters all round the neighbourhood to no avail and blocked the cat flap. Our other cat was happier indoors anyway and didn't seem to mind. The day she also disappeared our son became inconsolable. My wife fed him home-made ice cream and sat with him making more lost posters. I toured the street with a bag of treats returning at dusk to climb the stairs and stare once again at that nothing space. That plain white void where a hatch should be.

Ordeal:

I was the only one left now. No wife to pull the hammer from my sweaty hands. No son to cry in fear at the sight of my feverish expression. The step ladder shook as I climbed it. I raised the hammer and my face to the ceiling and there it was. Like a perverse optical illusion. As if it had always been there. The scuttle hole.

Reward:

They at least are safe. The one bright spark in an otherwise bleak existence. Missing them is a physical pain but their safety keeps me this side of sane. For the most part. One day I might allow myself to see them. To find somewhere I can catch sight of them from a distance. But for now, I keep myself to myself. I never stay in one place too long. My caravan has many advantages but some comforts I've learned to let go. I've not set foot in a house in years.

(I am open to public reactions).

Strangederby,

That was so good! It has really left an impression on me. I can’t stop thinking about it. So mysterious.

Thank you. That means a lot.

Grenn.

I really like this. Especially they way you build sympathy for the protagonist and a satisfying sense of justice when Doug is beaten. Can't wait to read more.

Rawkgwj.

This is tantalising and makes me want to read more. The clash of political views is a conflict that really adds to the mystery.

I probably shouldn't have used real names.

Grenn wrote:

I probably shouldn't have used real names.

You didn’t use last names. I think it will be ok.

Creative Prompt 2

Provide a visual for your outlined story from Creative Prompt #1.
This visual can be either created or discovered. You should spend exactly twenty minutes either creating this image on any visual medium you would like, or searching the internet for an image that speaks to you. Set a timer for twenty minutes when you start creating or searching. If you have more time use it, even if you feel like you already found the perfect image or the created image is "finished." You can always circle back to a previously discovered image, and the goal for creating one isn't perfection, so just see what happens if you keep going.

How the image ties into the story is entirely up to you. You can depict one or more of the steps in the outline directly, or you can find something that matches tone, theme, or mood. Feel free to go abstract or literal. If you’d like, this image can be a hint about that aspect of the story that is a lie, or a further misdirection. Or it could just be a captured moment, an emotional texture, or even a private joke that only you will understand.

After you have your image, reveal the spoiler section below and spend ten minutes answering any one of the following questions.

Spoiler:

What does this image illuminate about the story?

What feelings and emotions do you wish the image to elicit and why are those feelings important to the story?

What is the most unexpected connection between the image and the story?

What did you learn about the story in searching for or creating this image?

If you had to create/search for a second image, how would that image differ from this one?

Good luck and enjoy!

To answer a question that has come up a few times in PM, please feel free to jump in at any time with whatever prompt you are on. If you couldn't do the first prompt last week, you absolutely can do it this week even though I've posted prompt #2.

Enjoy!

Thanks, OP. Am finding this really helpful.

strangederby wrote:

Thanks, OP. Am finding this really helpful.

That makes my day. I really dug your outline!

Heard this on the conference call this evening, hopped over, read the first prompt, saw it was the hero's journey, opened up word, and typed for 30 minutes.

I LOVE the Hero's Journey. It's something I use as a consultant almost every day. The ability to frame and structure anything as this journey between the conventional world and the special world is something I already know will be a cool reflection activity at the end. In fact, I'm going to keep a "reactions" journal for myself from these prompts because yeah, this first one cut deep. So here's my first prompt, I took it the whole way and went full Hero's Journey because I love it so much. Open to feedback! I'll also see if I can dig up the PowerPoint I use with clients talking about how Star Wars is the Heroes journey, it's a fun deck full of gifs:

Spoiler: Prompt #1

The Ordinary World
William was a normal kid, born to a middle-class family, raised in a Christian, conservative home. A totally ordinary family of 5, living out the American dream in the heart of Texas. His parents: the son and daughter of second-generation farmers, fated to meet at summer camp, he was the lifeguard, she was the cute, shy, mysterious brown-eyed girl. Their son, oldest of three kids was their pride and joy. There was only one thing wrong: It seemed he always found trouble, or trouble found him, no one was really sure. They bubble wrapped him for years, moved out of the city to build a cocoon of safety around their baby boy and protect him from whatever “it” was that landed William in the hospital three times, the principles office eight times, and seemed to rear “its” ugly head every three years. He was smart, a little socially awkward, but they knew they had raised him right.

Call to Adventure
William was now 18, time to follow in his parents well worn foot steps, he set off to college, one state over. Away from the safe embrace that had kept him from trouble, or at least as much as his parents could manage. That where his family had gone to school, that’s where he would continue their legacy. It was the early 90’s, the thick, viscous energy of oil and gas pulsed through the economic veins of the region. The opportunity was there for William to get his engineering degree, achieve the success of his father, raise a family, continue the cycle.

Refusal of the Call
But “it” came back, or maybe “it” had never left. Far removed from the doting, loving gaze of his parents for the first time in his life, he took full advantage of his new-found freedom. Falling in with the party crowd, he soon drank his way through case after case of Bud, until a new 50-pound heavier William came home for Christmas. He was too ashamed to tell his parents, he’d failed his first-year calculus class, it was the first time in his life he’d ever faced adversity.

Meeting the Mentor
The happy story would have William confront his demons, fall in with the right crowd, get his grades back, and pick back up on his train to success. This didn’t happen. He continued with a toxic roommate, bad friends, worse grades, and entered the summer after school finished not knowing if he’d be allowed back to university. Perhaps the summer working at the garden centre was the meeting of the mentor, but those of us who know how this story ends (or begins again), know it was just preparation. Back under the loving care of his family without the influence of alcohol and a physically active job, William was able to get back to his pre-college physical form. This was all the preparation he’d need for when his mentor entered his life in the most unlikely of forms: an 8:13 am walk to the mailbox showed a mistakenly addressed letter “To: Ashe, From: Anne”. William opened the letter, read it, and wrote back.

Crossing the Threshold
This strange lady “Anne”, who was looking for Ashe, turned out to be a young lady just starting her freshman year at the rival, cross-state college. For William, who’d had a slew of bad interactions with women in his formative years, this new, interesting, mysterious lady brought him excitement every time he opened her letters. Her kind words of encouragements, from a total stranger no less, helped him find his footing in college and as these two new, fast friends grew and learned, William began to blossom once again into the man his parents always hoped he would become.

Test, Allies, Enemies
School was no easier that year. After acing the first half of his organic chemistry class, William proceeded to do almost impossibly bad on the final exam, scoring a paltry 31% and just scraping by a class that was a major prerequisite for his degree. Finding friends became easier with a cohort of students with similar interests. In fact, William, in a fit of brilliance, identified the smartest kid in the class and said to himself “I want to be that guys friend”. At their next class evening out, William decided the best way to win friendship was to buy everyone, all 26 people around the table, a martini, and thus William “Martini” was born. But it worked, and William had a new friend, John. Whether the enemies were time, classes, bad professors, or too much liquor, William conquered these obstacles with the help of his new friends. All the while, William, and the mysterious lady, Anne, had become closer and closer friends. The end of the school year was drawing near and William knew he had to drive the 6 hours cross states to go meet Anne, this mysterious lady whose letters had brought him joy, purpose, and meaning.

Approach
Full of nervous energy and excitement, William barrelled down the interstate, when he really should have been studying, eager to meet this “Anne” and walk around her city, a place he’d never been, with a stranger he’d never met. Their afternoon together was straight out of a movie script. Two awkward kids parked on opposite sides of the busy mall lot, heads swiveling back and forth, one looking for the pretty blonde, the other searching for a curly black mop. What followed was a whirlwind journey, wandering first through the mall, not stopping to buy or look at anything, but to marvel in being in each other’s presence. The mall followed shortly by lunch at a local café where William was extra careful to chew thoroughly, make fleeting eye contact, and try and carry at least an interesting conversation. They finished their afternoon together with a walk around the local lake and agreed to keep in touch over the summer. William drove home full of joy, happiness, and a feeling he’d never felt before, was it love?

Ordeal, Death & Rebirth
William continued to have more and more success in college. Two years, then three years removed from his traumatic first year, he fully spread his wings into a class leader, made many friends who are still with him today, and reached scholastic and personal achievement that seemed eons away after failing his first semester calculus course. William and Anne continue to keep in touch. William was a bit dense, not the most adept with women, but also fully absorbed in his studies, and probably missed a lot of the signs that he should have asked Anne for a date. They met once more in third year. And then as William approached his graduation and an uncertain future that may have taken him many states away for work, he and Anne arranged for what he hoped would be the start of a future, the start of a new story.

In his rush to prepare the most romantic picnic of home cooked food, he smashed the side of his truck up in the parking lot getting groceries. Furious, and knowing his father would be irate, he threw together the picnic and drove to meet Anne for lunch. His original intent was to have an open and frank conversation with Anne about his future prospects, her not finishing nursing school until the next year, and promise that if they had a relationship, he would do everything possible to drive any distance to meet her at least twice a month. Maybe it was the anger over his truck, or it could have been the cold cloudy day, or maybe, just maybe “it” was back again. The misfortunate that William had seemed to shake, the gut feeling of disaster, pain, misfortune, it was lurking near. He could not see it, he barely could feel it, but William knew in his heart, he could not ask Anne to be his girlfriend. Their picnic was beautiful, their conversation perfect, but William drove home with tears streaming down his face, he had failed again to do the one thing he had come to do.

William didn’t hear from Anne for three months, this was the longest they’d ever gone without a call, without a letter. He thought ever day about the picnic, was it something he said, something he did? In the middle of a fugue, both at not finding his promise “oil and gas career” after graduating, and upset with Anne, he visited his friends back at his college. Just as William was getting ready to head back for home after a weekend of frivolity, John gave him a letter. On the front “To: William, From: Anne” and when he looked close, he could see what looked like a rain drop, or was it a tear drop? Staining the return address. William ran out to his truck, tore open the letter, and read. Soon his own tears mixed with Anne’s across her beautiful cursive script. The four pages in his hand were filled with emotion, fear, love, anger, uncertainty, and shame. William knew in that moment, what “it” had been at their picnic: Anne was pregnant.

Reward, Seizing the Sword
After fully ameliorating himself that there was no biological possibility that the life growing inside of Anne was his, William began his drive home and started thinking about life. About his future. About Anne’s future. About their future as friends. He soon knew he had two options: 1) forget about Anne and leave her to her own devices or 2) embrace her and her unborn baby, show her the love he knew she needed as a friend, and be there for someone who had been there for him. William turned the car around, two hours into the drive, and headed for Anne.

The Road Back
They sat together in a restaurant booth. Anne finally being able to talk to someone. William was only the second person she’d told after her mom. Her dad didn’t know, neither did her siblings. They talked for hours until the sun had set and the manager turned the sign on the door: “Closed”. They went back to the lake they’d first walked around together. Sat on a bench looking at the reflection of the moon on the lake. It was at that moment that William realized “it” was gone. Replaced instead with a feeling he had chosen, that feeling he thought he had felt when he first met Anne, now crystalized having spent hours with his friend. William, for the first time in his young life, felt love.

Resurrection
Anne’s choice to not only keep her baby but commit to raising him inspired William. For the first time in his life he began to ask questions of himself, his upbringing, his family, why did they cocoon him? What was “it” that seemed to follow him for so long? Was “it” inside him all along” Was “it” gone? Over the coming weeks, reinvigorated by daily calls with Anne, William finally realized what his calling in life was, he finally realized what he was supposed to do. His marks were good enough, he applied to Stanford. William was going to get his graduate degree and then make a career of helping others like Anne.

Return with Elixir
A letter arrived at Williams house in the fall: “To: William”, a bold crimson S punctuated with the sharp green “Cardinal”. He was accepted. The morning of January 6th, William started his MBA. As he was walking out the door the phone rang, it was 8:13 am. “William, he’s beautiful, his name is Callum” and in the background he heard the sweetest sound in the world, a newborn baby’s cry.

That's great staygold - thank you for sharing it! I love how you utilized some optional Hero's Journey steps in your story and I'm super impressed with the details and depth you brought to this outline.

I've gotten a few images from people and they are super cool and evocative. If you do want to share your second prompt, I will encourage you to also share the answer to the question in the spoiler section of the prompt, just make sure to keep it spoiler tagged so that people who haven't gotten to that part of the prompt yet don't have it in advance.

Here’s what I came up with for prompt #2. I would have liked to have been more detailed, but I decided to stay within the time limit of the exercise.

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://i.postimg.cc/135H0MVp/7-B2735-AB-A2-A9-4-E6-A-B9-B6-F623-C8864-E82.png)

I am open to commentary.

Bonus questions:

Spoiler:

My journey story is intended to be more of a spiritual journey. As an atheist I feel conflicted talking about spiritualism, but such is the true nature of our existence. What I mean is that nothing is ever as simple as it appears to be. An atheist can have insights into their own spirituality, just as a devout follower of religion can have doubts about the existence of god.

I’m trying to imagine a second image, but I keep coming up with variations of the first one. Maybe something having to do with the Id, Ego, and Super Ego. How they sort of exist in balance and opposition to each other at the same time.

Staygold,
That was dope!

A few days ago I was taking to a friend about how the hero’s journey relates to Star Wars. A common thread in hero’s journey stories is that at some point the hero learns that his father is god, or a god. Thus making the hero a Demi-God.

If my life was a hero’s journey story, I would learn that John Lennon was my father. Then he would appear as a force ghost and help me write songs. Haha. Now THAT would be an adventure!

Rawk thats amazing.

Religious implications aside, this closely resembled my thinking at the time.

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://www.channelfutures.com/files/2014/04/davidvsgoliathcolorcompwipbynickhuddlestonartist-d68tsu1_0-877x432.jpg)

I couldn't find a picture with the giant smirking in the time limit, though.

These are awesome!

I would like to put out there that though you should follow the time limit for the exercise for purposes of sharing here, if you are inclined to keep working after you compelte the exercise you should absolutely feel free to do so! The exercises are springboards, let them take you where you need to go.