PROMPTuesday #5: It’s All in the Tone

First of all, let me say, thanks. Your participation in PROMPTuesdays has been inspirational, fun, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and motivational. Just as good writing should be.
And I appreciate it.


I also hope to appeal to the lurkers and encourage you to submit something for PROMPTuesdays. There’s so judgment here and we’d all love to read some new voices, so please consider speaking up. (I’m crossing my fingers.)


Meanwhile, let’s get on to the next prompt. I’m being slightly mostly selfish here because I love the genre and I’d really like to see what you do with it, so…


Write something spooky. It can be a made-up story, something that happened to you, dialogue, an urban legend re-told, anything. Experiment with tone, mood and atmosphere to create a sense of the scary. I’m not thinking gory here, but rather something less overt, more subtle; a story, description, poem, tidbit that uses description to convey a feeling of foreboding and spookiness.


As usual, the rules:


–You must write your entry in 10 minutes. This encourages top-of-mind, primal thinking before the ego and judgmental brain kicks in. Just set a timer, make your kid count to 600 slowly, whatever. It’s an honor system. And I trust you.

–Keep to 250 words or less (adjusted from 150 for previous prompts).

–Use Mr. Linky to post your entry, so everyone can read them. If you don’t have a blog, please post your entry in the comments section.

–A new PROMPTuesday post will appear here every Tuesday morning and writers/just having funners will have until 11:59PM Pacific Standard Time to participate.

–Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.



Let’s do it!


My submission: (which went longer than I expected, but I wrote until the 10 minutes were up...)


They’d laughed the whole way, until they found themselves at a road block set smack dab in the middle of the street their GPS told them to take.


Lanie backed up and steered the SUV back in the direction from where they came. “Well, I guess it’s Plan B,” she sighed.


Just get us there for happy hour,” Devin teased.


They’d been on the road to Palm Springs for hours now, and were running late for the cocktail party that kicked off the annual Writer’s Conference they attended very year.


Lanie re-consulted her navigational system and took another turn that paralleled the highway for a few seconds, then veered off, hugging the mountains that surrounded them. “What time is it?” she asked. The absence of street lights plunged them into darkness, lit only by the Lexus’ headlights.


Devin pressed the light on her watch, “8 o’clock.”


We’re late,” Lanie said. “And I don’t know where we are.”


What about the GPS?”


Lanie smacked the display in front of her. “On the fritz again.”


Should we ask them?” Devin gestured to a group of three people walking just ahead, their white gowns barely illuminated by the car’s lights.


I suppose,” Lanie hesitated. “But…are they Hare Krishnas or something?”


Devin laughed, “So? Hare Krishnas still give directions.”


Lanie pulled the car alongside the walking trio, as her window came down. “Hi there,” she started.


They stopped, but all continued looking straight ahead.


Excuse me?” Devin popped her head out her window.


The tallest of the three turned to look at her, “Yes?”


His voice sounded deep, resonant, as if each syllable were a bass drumbeat.


Lanie took over. “We’re on our way to the Palm Springs Hilton. Can you tell us which road to take?”


A second voice, light, shrill. said, “The construction has blocked the main road. There’s another way, but it’s complicated.”


Devin pulled out the map, “Can you show us?”


I’m afraid it’s not on the map,” deep voice said. “We can guide you there, but it’d be better if we got in the car. We’re headed that way.”


Really?” Lanie sounded doubtful.


Yes,” shrill answered now. “We’re on our way to our shrine, we always walk. None of us have cars.”


Well, OK?” Devin posed it as a question to Lanie. They were Hare Krishnas after all.


Sure, OK,” Lanie pressed the button to unlock the car doors.


The three Hare Krishnas took their respective seats and Lanie guided the car back onto the road.


We’ve just got one stop to make,” the group’s leader said. He turned to look at his group, and it was then that Devin saw what hid under their robes.


21 Responses to “PROMPTuesday #5: It’s All in the Tone”

  1. mommypie says:

    Okay, you KNOW I’m lovin’ this one. I want to do it, I really, really do. But I have Prompt Envy, and am totally intimidated.

    I can’t wait to read yours!!

  2. […] minutes or less, 250 words or less. Today’s assignment: Write something spooky. (I read this aloud to Le Husband and he said it’s not spooky. Apparently, I missed the mark […]

  3. Cheri says:

    Thanks for another good prompt. Looking forward to seeing what means “spooky” to your other participants.

  4. Jamie says:

    She just crept back into the hotel after a night out with her teenage friends. Noticing the sleeping arrangements are mother-son to one bed, son and empty spot in the other, she crawls into bed with her younger brother. Hotels, meant for sleeping, should provide bunk beds so sisters are not forced to get cooties.

    The quiet room is dark, she drifts into sleep, is startled awake, then sleeps again. A noise. Is she awake, or dreaming? A figure lurking at the foot of the bed. A man. Searching. Could it be? The girls lays still pretending to be asleep. She watches carefully. A description? Hard to say. Don’t breathe loudly. Brother, now is not the time to kick in bed. The stranger makes eye contact, noticing she is watching. The girl’s heart seizes. He walks towards the bed. Still she pretends to slumber. Hands reach towards her neck. A scream escapes her. He will NOT take her down.

    The man leaps from the balcony taking with him valuables from a purse, but NOT the fear of the girl. The family, wide awake now, gets into their car and drive home.

    (True story)

  5. Jamie says:

    I intentionally did not read any one else’s first this week … and now that I have … ugh. I love your PromptTuesday but feel so damn inadequate.

  6. ooh, spooky indeed! i may have to try this…

  7. Every July, Isabel spent a week at her grandmother’s summer house in Maine. The house was set deep in the woods, with only a bumpy, muddy path between it and the paved road, which was easily two miles from the property. When Isabel first emerged from the minivan with a week’s worth of groceries for her and her grandmother, the mosquitoes always set on her exposed skin as if she were the last meal they’d be having in months. But once she’d been there a couple of days, the mosquitoes backed off — the novelty had worn off, she guessed.

    Together Isabel and her grandmother worked on jigsaw puzzles. And Isabel drew. She’d been drawing since she was old enough to manage holding a pencil. This summer she was obsessed with drawing horses. She hadn’t mastered them yet. They always ended up looking pot-bellied.

    At two o’clock each afternoon, Isabel’s grandmother retired to her bedroom to “have a lie down.” This suited Isabel, who’d taken to exploring the woods during her time alone. She’d found a massive oak tree with some bizarre symbols dug into its trunk, and she’d started to sketch them. When she got back to the city, she planned to get online to try to figure out what the symbols might mean.

    On her final day in Maine, Isabel trotted out to the tree but stopped short as it came into view. There was something new etched into the trunk. It was a perfect rendering of a horse.

  8. Jamie says:

    SHUT UP! What the hell is under the robes? What? What?

  9. gah! i love you. yours is fantastic. ALL OF THESE are fantastic! i bow down to all of you. :D

  10. […] going to challenge me to keep stretching my wings. And her entry in for this week’s PrompTuesday is positively goose-bumpingly chilling. But I’ve always been a wimp for horror. Still, I have […]

  11. […] totally missed last week’s PrompTuesday from San Diego Momma. But I am back this week! Here is today’s […]

  12. San Diego Momma says:

    You guys ROCK! And ROLL!
    Thanks for playing along.
    I’m loving every word you write.

  13. San Diego Momma says:

    p.s. Jamie:
    Under the robes are:
    1) Ham sandwiches
    2) Meat cleavers

    I’ll leave it ambiguous.

  14. Wade Nash says:

    It is a very strange feeling, one that I haven’t experienced before. That is clearly my jacket. I put it on this morning, long sleeved and black leather, with our club’s angel insignia. And my watch, the Corum Bubble with the roulette-wheel face. And my hand, laying upwardly open, fingers moving slightly, my wedding ring sparkling in the early evening sunlight.

    I didn’t see the tree across the road until after the turn. Pine trees everywhere, actually, but I can’t smell their fragrance. I can’t breathe in, in fact. I try, but it is like I have no breath. I can move my lips, but I can emit no sound. I can look about — but I cannot turn my head. Why am I laying over there, but looking at myself from over here? How can I be looking across the road at myself laying down . . . and at my Harley, laying sideways. At the bottom of my boots, with their nearly new, barely scuffed soles.

    My body feels light and tingly, but my vision is clear. My body is there, but my ponytail is here, laying long and braided on the road before my eyes, under my chin, pointing toward my feet on the other side of the road. I . . . I don’t understand. How can this be? Am I an angel?

  15. Cheri says:

    I wanted something else under the robes.

    Deb, I might not be using Mr. Linky properly. It seems to go back (for mine) to the first ever PROMPTuesday, not the most recent. I am dumb. Sorry.

    And Jamie, YOU ROCKED this with a true one. Well told too. You stop dissin’ yo’ bad self.

  16. Cheri says:

    Okay, I’ve been doing Mr. Linky all wrong. I fixed it. I’ll get it right next week. Did I mention that I’m dumb?

  17. Mommyrella says:

    It was an evening just as uneventful as any other. Mrs. Smith set the table for dinner and poured two glasses of wine. She checked the clock; 6:23. Mr. Smith would be home any minute now. She yelled at the kids to wash their hands and come to the table. Mrs. Smith made the salad.
    The phone rang, as it always did at this time every night. She thought with annoyance that it’d better not be Mr. Smith, saying he was late, again. “Hey, hon.” He said, sounding distracted over the loud muffled drone of sports talk radio. “Hi.” She said, using her clipped, I’m-really-busy-this-better-be-good voice.” “Um, I’m on my way home….” he trailed off. Okay, let’s play the game, she thought with fatigue. “Where are you?” she asked. “Um…I’m just leaving work,” he answered, sounding guilty and ready for the inevitable explosion. “Damn it!” She yelled, “If you could just CALL if you’re going to be late! How many times do I have to ask you….” Suddenly the line went quiet. Mrs. Smith couldn’t hear the radio anymore. “Hello? Honey?” She asked. “Ugh!” She shouted and hung up the phone. Damn him. “We’ll just have to start without him, then.” She thought.

    Mr. Smith didn’t come home that night. The police came to her door at 10pm that night, after she had lied to her kids with a sick feeling in her stomach, telling them that daddy was just working late. She kept calling his cell, but it went right to voice mail. “We’re sorry ma’am.” they said. Nobody ever calls you ma’am unless someone dies.
    There was the usual arrangements, funeral, therapist appointments with the kids, endless family members staying at the house in intervals. Mrs. Smith couldn’t remember any of it. All she thought about was the next Valium. While the kids were at school one morning, Mrs. Smith lay in a drug induced stupor watching old flicks on AMC. The phone rang. She didn’t want to talk, but glanced at the caller I.D. anyway. It read, “Mr. Smith.”

  18. San Diego Momma says:

    Good to see you here Paul and Mommyrella!

    And again: thanks EVERYBODY. I love this.

    Cheri: Not stupid. Mr. Linky can be fickle. Glad you figured it out!

  19. Tony says:

    I haven’t anything spooky this week. I’m in China where I’ve seen way too much horror since May 12. I’ve got this, however:

    My students are moved to tears, very literally, by American concern and support for Sichuan. Today I had my freshmen write a letter. These are 17 and 18-year-olds and much, much younger than American kids of the same age. They are simple, real, genuine kids and they are just beginning to speak English. They’re quickly becoming my favorite class.

    Anyhow, I gave them 30 minutes to write 100 words (they wrote 141) to America to share whatever they like and I told them I would send it to you. They worked on it together, all 45 of them, and they used a dictionary at some points. I did not help them. Not one bit. I have not changed a single word nor corrected any punctuation.

    Here’s what they wrote:

    A letter to America from Class 2 at Hunan First Normal University

    On May 12, 2008, in Wenchuan, Sichuan province, China, a extremely horrible earthquake happened there.

    All of us felt so sad, we should help them in our own way.

    At night, all the students walked around our schoolyard with candles for prayer yelling “fighting Sichuan. Fighting, China.”

    Every student devoted his/her love to people who has suffered this misfortune.

    There are many yellow silk belts of wish. Hope cards on the trees.

    When TV showed us some moving stories about the earthquake, we couldn’t help crying.

    We believe that we can overcome the huge hardship, we will be stronger and stronger. During the earthquake, the people all of the world stand together. One world, one dream.

    Thank you for the people who help us and support the Olympic Games.

  20. Kristine Wade says:

    I wake up lying in the street. Quite literally in the gutter. I wait for the world to coalesce beyond the gray mist that surrounds me. High above, a gaslight flickers. Night, then. It is not my eyes that have betrayed me. I am betrayed by the sun and this damnable fog. How long I have lain here? Long enough to warm the cobblestone beneath my cheek. The stale mouth, the throbbing temples and the stench of alcohol permeating my skin tell me I have again succumbed to my baser urges. She will leave me if she finds out. But wait. Has she not already? Is that not that the very reason I find myself in such a state? Someone told her I was drinking. After I promised. But it was a lie, a vicious slander and I told her as much. She thought me false. And so I drank. How long ago now? Hours? Weeks? I try to push myself upright, but a searing pain catches my breath and stops me short. Now on all fours, I reach around gingerly to finger a rib. Broken, I fear. How? And what is this on my hands? Blood? It is on my hands, the sleeves of my jacket. . . soaking into my shirt cuffs! Mine? Slowly I shift my weight to the curb and check for further injury. A small gash above one eyebrow. Nothing to account for all. . . this. . . blood.

    What have I done?

  21. myra says:

    first of all, i have to apologize, because my word count is a little over. if you know me, you know i always play by the rules, so my conscience is burning. but i had to write this down.

    i’m not good at scary, and mainly write first person. but i have to say, i’m blown away by all the talent here!

Leave a Reply