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  • Gary Clarke

Writing to a prompt - Killer

I find that one of the best ways to overcome writer's block is to go to a prompt generator and use it to kickstart ideas. Boundaries are often a way to kickstart creativity and this is exactly what happened with this short story.

The Prompt

The prompt for this story was to use the phrase 'I'm not really surprised you murdered her' as a piece of dialogue than opens the story.

My approach

I struggled with this prompt a lot. My first attempts at writing were Pratchett-like stories of the absurd that revolved around a wife writing a shopping list of cleaning supplies whilst watching her husband bleed out on the floor. I found the mix of morbid material and dark humour to be an unsustainable combination so I put the work down and spent some time thinking.

Luckily we had a thunderstorm that night, and as I watched the lightning light up the clouds, the image of a man looking out of the window of a hospital room came to my mind. From there I worked backwards and wrote another story, from here the work flowed a lot better and let me make some tweaks to the original prompt. As the story progressed the prompt evolved alongside the story until I ended up with the finished text.

The result

‘I can’t believe you murdered her’

There was a stillness to the room as he looked down at the bed where his wife lay in still blood-soaked sheets. She was still connected by wires and tubes to now silent machines, whose only sign of life were small, blinking red lights.

A long strip of paper was hanging from a cream box on a wheeled stand next to the bed. There was a single black line printed on it. His eyes followed it down, tracing his happiness back in time as the line began to jump around the page: first unevenly, then more and more uniformly until they were a consistent pattern of bumps and spikes. He wished he could feed it back into the machine and reverse what had happened, but it couldn’t happen. She was gone, but as he looked at her there was a thin hope that the machines and doctors were all wrong and she would wake up and they could continue with their lives.

‘I can’t believe you murdered her,’ he said to the empty room as he looked down and stared blankly at the newborn baby, cradled and asleep in his arms.

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