PROMPTuesday #8: You Know What They Say About a Picture

This PROMPTuesday is about what lies beneath. So this week, I’d like you to look at this picture:



…and very quickly write down the first three words that come to mind. Now, start writing, using those words anywhere in your story. (Be sure to name the three words in your post or comments for our FYI.)


Oh! And the genre is “memoir.” (It can be a fake memoir.)


Here are the other 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.
  • Please have fun. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Together, let’s rediscover the simple joy in the writing process.
  • Post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

    May the writerly force be with you.


    And for a more detailed background on PROMPTuesdays, click right here.


    My submission:


    The words: Mirror, solace, blue


    Us kids looked for tree frogs all summer, and when we found one, we’d shout, hold the tiny thing in our palms, and try not to jump as it leapt to the ground. Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bob encouraged us from the patio, where they’d just spread an assortment of lunch meats and bread for dinner. We smelled the limburger cheese from where we stood, a 50-yard sprint back to the lake house. Mom and Dad lounged on the porch swing, the first time we’d seen them quiet together in weeks, and as we ran to our food, all four of us first scrambled onto their laps. Not yet sensing the omnipresent tension, I hoped our combined weight would hold them there, root us together. At that moment, I didn’t even want to run to edge of the lake house property where the woods began, and let the trees swallow me, just gobble me up and offer solace against what was happening to my family.


    Earlier, I’d walked in on my mom, staring at herself in a mirror hanging in the back bedroom. Just a few seconds passed before she knew I was there, and her fake smile burned my eyes. That night, I held a flashlight inside my sleeping bag and cast iridescent designs against the blue fabric. My caught breath smelled like the limburger cheese.


29 Responses to “PROMPTuesday #8: You Know What They Say About a Picture”

  1. Cocktail Maven says:

    Three words: Cold, Sediment, Lost.

    It was during the summer of my twelfth year that I became an only child. That was the year my brother was lost. He took the little rowboat out on the lake early one morning and simply never came back. He wasn’t supposed to go alone. We were always supposed to stick together,to watch out for each other. But it was early and cold, and I was tired. I yelled at him and told him that if he wanted to fish that badly then he should just go already and leave me in peace. Now, thirty years later, I still look for him on the shore. I stand knee-deep in the water with the sediment sucking at my feet and I expect to see Danny striding up with that classic smirk on his face, his “you’ll believe anything, won’t you?” look. I keep hoping he stayed away all these years just out of spite. It was six months before we found the boat, caught up in some reeds. A family of ducks had made a nest in it. There were no holes, no damage of any kind, nothing to indicate where the boat and my brother had gone. Just seeing the boat made me angry. It should have had the decency to stay lost. Like my brother. Like Danny.

  2. Eden says:

    “Fake memoir” — hee. Have you heard there’s a new genre now called “imaginary nonfiction.” Wouldn’t that be… oh I dunno… fiction? ;) I read about it at the Brevity Blog.

    Will do when it’s not 1:30 a.m.

  3. Momma Mary says:

    My submission is here!


    @ Cocktail Maven: Great job with that. ;)

  4. Sorry, I published it on my blog instead. Here’s the link.

    Deb, would you mind deleting my last comment? Thanks.

  5. Zellmer says:

    This was fun. Thanks for the writing assignment. Here’s where you can read mine.

  6. “my caught breath”

    love that, deb.

    and the piece is lovely.

  7. Cocktail Maven says:

    Deb – Wow. I REALLY like your contribution. It’s so beautiful and evocative and REAL. I already feel like I know these people, and I want more. You should think about running with it and seeing where it takes you. Smells like a bestseller to me!

  8. Cocktail Maven says:

    Thanks for the comment, Momma Mary! I appreciate that. BTW – I want to go to that lake house in Kansas you write about, fictitious or not. What’s the address? Sounds like a marvelous time, and I need the break! :)

  9. robyn says:

    My three words: blue, serenity, jpeg. Just kidding. I would do this prompt if I weren’t lazy. ;o)

  10. My three words:
    Wood Drake (it’s one thing)

    It had only been three days since I left James and everything that we were and everything that we’d built. I had woken at the mellow sound of the Wood Drake on the water before the sun had even contemplated lighting my side of the continent, and made myself a fresh pot of coffee. I walked through the thick cold air, naked and barefooted, to the front door, carefully balancing the hot mug in one hand while grabbing a wool blanket in my other. It was draped across the wood chair by the door, right where I’d left it last spring, feeling no better than when I’d arrived. It smelled of dust but I didn’t care. I was older than the dust that day. I wrapped that musty blanket around my body and enjoyed how it scratched my shoulders. It reminded me that I was alive. I inhaled at the sight of the lake spread out in front of me, settled into my quiet seat on the front porch, and held the ceramic mug close to my lips, feeling the steam warm my nostrils. Daisy had made that mug for me on Mother’s Day years ago, a relic from that other life. I thought maybe I should feel depressed, sort of felt obligated toward it. But while I watched the morning fog curl around my unpainted toes perched on the railing, I felt the freedom I had wanted for so long.

  11. MommyTime says:

    My words: serene night reflection

    The memory that immediately comes to mind:

    One of the most wonderful nights of our honeymoon started as a disaster — with the accidental deletion of days worth of photos from our digital camera. Days during which we had hiked quite a long distance up a glacier on a mountain in New Zealand, for example, on a guided hike we’d reserved spaces on months before. They weren’t photos that were easily duplicable.

    Of course, “disaster” might seem like a strong word for losing photos. But on your honeymoon, losing photos is pretty much the worst disaster you can really tolerate. But here’s what made up for what we lost: spending the night on a small ship in the middle of Milford Sound. Mile high mountains sheer down precipitously into a mile-deep fjord that runs into the sea. In the evening light, as we went to board the boat, the reflections of those towering peaks in the glasslike water was magical. We took lots and lots of new photos, which we still have. Serene and stately, the mountains dwarf the pindot of humanity that is our boat, and remind me every time I look at them that human “disaster” is but a small small thing in the scope of the world’s majesty.

    Unrelated: I have no idea how you found your way to my blog today either. But I have read yours before — and re-read your About page more than once (perhaps through MommyPie?) — anyway…thanks for the visit and the comment and the great prompt today. I’ll be back for sure!

  12. MommyTime says:

    Cocktail Maven, that was stunning. Do you know the story “Death by Landscape” by Margaret Atwood? It’s a longer version of what you wrote, but yours is, if anything, more powerfully beautiful.

  13. Wade Nash says:

    TO COCKTAIL MAVEN: I want more. What happens after they find the boat. Did they find a shoe nearby? Something? Where is that kid??

  14. Wade Nash says:

    TO MOMMY TIME: I know how devistated you must have felt about losing photos. (That happened to us recently on a trip to New Orleans right after we took a series of photos with a semi-renown musician.) It is cool you had the opportunity to return and take more.

    BTW, I liked Bill Pullman’s character’s quote in LOST HIGHWAY (David Lynch) about photos. “I like to remember things how I remember them, not how they were.” There is something to that, I guess.

  15. Wade Nash says:

    TO SAN DIEGO MOMMA: Wow. What can I say. You conveyed the lower-stomach tension that only family strife — and a child’s confoundment of adult’s splitting up — can provide. I think of the Limburger as an analogy of that same not-understanding-grown-up-sensibilities — and yet the child has obviously tasted the cheese to try to move forward toward understanding the strange (and off-putting) world of adults. By the end of the night, the child is reflecting on the offensive result of partaking in the world of the adult (Limburger).

    I liked this piece. In many ways, it reminds me of Joyce Carol Oates writings in her wonderful book “Haunted.” You are an amazingly talented writer.

  16. Wow, People of the PROMPTuesday, you all ROCK!!!

  17. […] minutes or less, 250 words or less. This week, the story begins with a picture. It made me think of these three things: Wood Drake, Freedom, […]

  18. Da Goddess says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t read anyone else’s entries before I started writing. I would have never even tried it if I had.

    Great stuff from everyone!

  19. Tony says:

    Three words: Blue, water, empty
    On the stiffening dock at Uncle Raymond’s, beneath Montana’s sheltering blue,I think of grey faces – the old, the tired, the faces in whose rheumy eyes the water dances to the music of old ways, faces born when sound was empty, sight was blank, winter drew near and with it the wolves’ growls, and loons disappeared and took with them the air beneath their wings leaving behind the cold that made those faces, time etched deep in every line, noses hardened by memories of seasons past, moons gone by, love lost – all blue and water and empty spreads Montana and on that stiff dock, winter approaches.

  20. San Diego Momma says:

    Each and every one of these is so good for so many reasons.
    Thanks ALL for participating. I’m so inspired by your writing and I love to see the many different ways these exercises are approached.

  21. Amanda says:

    Deb, I really did write mine yesterday. I think I wrote it first on some random Word doc I had opened. Seriously, my computer some how turned off (I think my daughter pulled the plug (not really, but she would)) and later when I saw that it had recovered a Doc I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t save it. So I wrote. and I was inspired. And I am too tired to re-write right now. Lame, I know.

    Your submission is awesome. truly.

  22. Cocktail Maven says:

    MOMMY TIME: Gosh. I don’t know what to say. Being favorably compared to Margaret Atwood is high praise indeed, and a little overwhelming. I don’t know whether to be frightened that I may have just written the best thing I will ever write or ashamed for not working on my myriad writing projects. Either way, I’m very honored. Thank you. I’ll look for the Atwood story, but maybe I should put fingers to keyboard and let this prompt lead me to a completed piece first.

    SAN DIEGO MOMMA: Many thanks to you as well for creating these wonderful prompts. I feel like I’m slowly making writing a part of my world again. You’re amazing, no matter WHAT your overactive brain migh tell you! ;)

  23. Kelly Fordon says:

    Lonely, Escape, Beauty

    I am lonely in the way that the sick are lonely without anyone to share in the experience without anyone to tell them where the boat they are on will go. Though I would have given a lot to escape my children a few years ago and take off in a small boat on a quiet beautiful lake, now I am on that lake and I want most to go back: to the days when I was healthy and my hair was full and the children were small and they lit up when I entered the room. Now they are older and I am tired and that boat is not a means of escape anymore but a vehicle that will take me away from them against my will. The picture that would have looked so beautiful to me years ago, has grown scary and insistent.

  24. […] in Historic Places” meet-up here in town, e-mailed me earlier today to say that one of the PROMPTuesdays inspired her to complete a 2,000-word short story […]

  25. […] know I’ve done the whole study a photo thing before, plus I’ve done the listen to this song deal in a previous PROMPT. But now, in a deliciously […]

Leave a Reply