Writing Prompts and Challenges posts

Writing Spark #50

While on a hike, your character discovers a small tower buried beneath the ground.

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Time out of Mind: Epilogue

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Congratulations! You have made it through our time-twisted story and emerged from the other side, hopefully victorious. 

I hope you have had fun and created at least a little something unexpected. I would love to hear what you thought of the challenges, and the bonus challenges as well. 

For today, our challenge is done and the Asylum releases you. Go forth and be inspired! Spend your time wisely.

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Time out of Mind: Challenge #5

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Both teams now know there’s something strange going on with this pivotal person’s timeline. Now we have both agencies sending their teams to find the same person, to kill or to protect or simply to find out what’s going on. 

After all, it is not a simple thing to fake historical records. One of the first things that the manipulation of time did was to make historical records more reliable and enabled the agencies to be able to do thorough, accurate research. For someone to have changed those records to lay a false trail through history has a number of implications. 

More than that, it is possible that this person has changed more than their own personal history. They could also have changed the records around the pivotal moment itself, perhaps inflating its importance, or their role in it all. If history is not reliable, what can they truly believe in? 

The teams do find some breadcrumbs to follow, a hint here and a clue there, and the trail leads to a particular time and place. One team might be more efficient than the other, but thanks to time travel, they both arrive at the same moment to try to answer the same questions. 

The person in question is, in fact, there. Not only that, but they are ready for the teams’ arrival. Expected it, perhaps. 

Now is the time to decide what has really been driving all of this. What are this person’s goals? Why would they have set up such a trail, when they would have known that these agencies would send teams to meddle with the timeline? Was that their aim all along? Why is this particular place and time important? 

The trap is closing. Now it’s time to find out what it’s all about. Tell us what happens when all three parties are finally in the same place at the same time.

Bonus challenge: circles within circles. Put as many circles or circular images in as you can.

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Time out of Mind: Challenge #4

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

The first team is not pleased to arrive home from their next mission to find their work undone. They worked hard to prevent that pivotal moment. It might have been undone, but they are not to be outdone. 

It’s time for some more drastic measures. After all, this is an important occurrence; if it was worth fixing once, it’s worth doing twice.

But they’re not quite reckless enough to risk encountering themselves or the competition that clearly interfered; that’s a risky business and it’s usually best to avoid running into another version of oneself. There are lots of stories about what happens to time travellers who do this and few of them end well. You are encouraged to use your imagination to think about what these stories might entail.

So this time, the team is seeking to go further back in time to solve the problem. They are focussing on the person responsible for the pivotal moment, and locate a particular spot in that person’s life where they can interfere. Perhaps it is a near-death experience that they want to make an actual death experience. Perhaps it is a formative moment that sent the person down a certain path, which is ripe for guidance in a different direction. Think about what they might look for and what they might do to this person, within the rules set down by their agency, though this might be classified as an ‘extreme case’. 

Now that your team has a plan, send them off on their new mission to prevent the pivotal moment from happening. 

Before we run off on this new adventure, it’s worth wondering what the competition is up to. After all, the timeline must be maintained, and that means that the person and their history leading up to that moment must protected. What are the timeline protectors doing to ensure this?

There is a wrinkle, though: the person is not where the records say they should be. Whether one team or both appears, this person is absent. In fact, they might find something else instead: a decoy or perhaps a trap waiting for them.

Tell us the story of what happens when one or both of these teams goes to find the younger version of our responsible person.

Bonus challenge: the grandfather paradox. Have a member of one of the teams encounter one of their ancestors.

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Time out of Mind: Challenge #3

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Your team has stopped the pivotal moment from happening and history has been changed. Ultimately, they believe, for the better. 

Enter their competition. After all, it would be infeasible for there to only be one agency tasked with making sure that history isn’t ruined. Perhaps this other agency was established at a different time or by a different governing body; whatever the cause, their perspective on the matter is a little different. To this agency, protecting the integrity of the timestream is paramount and time travellers must not make large changes. No-one has yet found time’s breaking point, after all, and this agency would prefer that we never did because it would suck if reality completely unravelled.

It’s possible that they have different information about the pivotal moment and its impact. It’s possible that they simply have a different perspective on the validity of this moment. Perhaps it is an important lesson for humanity to learn or a trial that must be endured, or a key to a future possibility that will better everyone’s lives. Or perhaps it is simply human nature expressing itself in the most fundamental way. 

Whatever the case, this agency believes that the original pivotal moment must be protected at all costs. Good or bad, the outcomes must come to pass. Even if this means constructing a new way for the person responsible to make that moment happen.

So this agency also tasks a team to go back to the pivotal moment. Again, take a moment to decide how big this team is, the type of persons that are tasked with protecting the timeline. Their skills, their personalities, their likely tactics. What are they allowed to do and what are they willing to do?

How the pivotal moment was averted is part of historical record now. As are the impacts of it not happening. Send your new team back to set things right and show us how they do it.

Bonus challenge: sounds good. Use as much alliteration and assonance as possible.

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Time out of Mind: Challenge #2

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You now understand what your pivotal moment in future history is. You have an idea of the impacts it had and how it influenced humanity in the decades and centuries that followed. But have you forgotten about the time travellers? Because it’s time to bring them in. 

With a discovery like time travel, there’s bound to be some trouble. Someone steps on the wrong butterfly and a tsunami never occurs. Someone tries to kill their future mother-in-law because holidays with the extended family are such torture. Someone accidentally bets a science fiction writer to start a religion to prove a point. Chaos ensues. 

It’s inevitable that rules emerge about what you can and cannot do when traveling in time, for everyone’s sake and sanity. It’s also fairly inevitable that an agency is created to attempt to fix such occurrences, to try to put things back to how they were always supposed to be. An agency that attempts to right what other time travellers have put wrong. They work for the betterment of humanity through fixing history.

Give the agency a name. Perhaps a symbol or a badge they wear. 

How big are the teams they send back in time to repair things? A single person, a pair, a handful of personnel? Focus on a single team and decide who they are and how long they’ve been doing this type of work. How good at they at their work? Take a moment to think about what kind of persons make up this team.

What sort of tactics are they allowed to employ in the name of fixing history? What must they avoid? How ruthless are they allowed to be, and how ruthless is this team in particular likely to be? 

Because this team has been selected for one of the most important missions in the history of this agency: they must go back and prevent the pivotal moment from happening. Whether it led to good or bad things for humanity, it was a mistake and should never have happened. Humanity’s future history should have been different and it was time to fix it.

The orders have come down. The coordinates have been entered. The team is geared and costumed up and ready to go.

Now tell us the story of the pivotal moment again from the point of view of the team sent back to stop it from happening. Show us how it never comes to pass.

Bonus challenge: splintering. Use as much fracturing and splintering imagery as possible.

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Time out of Mind: Challenge #1

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You have an idea about the pivotal moment in our future history. The one that determines the path humanity will take. Now think about that moment in more detail.

Think about how the moment itself unfolded. How it was communicated to the world. The pictures and videos that came out about it, the ones that would become iconic. The symbols and songs that would come to stand for it. 

Now think about the person ultimately responsible for it. If it could be traced back to a single person, who would that be? The person who made a discovery or cracked a mystery? The person who was in control and gave commands? The person who stood out front of it all, in the spotlight, or the one in a lab or a control room, far away? Who is, ultimately, credited with this moment having come to pass? How did they get to where they could have such an impact?

Walk this person back to just before the moment broke. Consider all they have done to be standing there, on the precipice. How sure are they that they are about to succeed? Is what’s about to happen even what they intended? 

Now tell us how it all happened and unfolded.

Bonus challenge: go purple. Include as much heavy, wordy description as possible, as flowery as you like. 

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Time out of Mind: Prologue

Welcome to the Asylum. The doors are closing behind you, so settle in and make yourself at home; you’re going to be here a while. Or perhaps no time at all; it’s hard to say. Because today, we’re going to delve into time travel and see where – and when – it takes our minds. 

Some time in the future of Earth, wondrous human minds discover how to bend the fabric of time. At first, it was just about creating a window to the past, and it allowed a new rush of truth to obliterate the biased histories we’re all used to. But, inevitably, that was not enough. Seeing the past is not enough and it’s not the same as being there. So of course, the most brilliant of minds turned to making travelling through time a reality. 

No-one is quite sure when they succeeded, because once time travel has been invented, it has always existed. But succeed they did, and now, no-one can be truly sure what has been changed. The only people who can know are the time travellers themselves, as their disconnection from the time stream allows them to remember the original and the changed time streams. Which has a whole other set of implications for their poor, stuffed brains for you to keep in mind. 

There are a few truly decisive moments in history that caused ripples for years to come. The end of a particular war, perhaps. The detonation of the first atomic bomb. The discovery of a new technology, like the internet. A pandemic with an awful death toll. Moments that determined the path of the decades, even centuries that followed. 

Today, we’re going to start with such a decisive moment. One that changed something important in the way that we live, a change that spread out into the future and altered the path of humanity. What was that moment? Was it a new discovery? Was it something starting or ending? A revelation? A creation or a destruction?

What impact did it have? Was it the start of a downward spiral or ascension into the stars? Did it bring death that razed the planet, or did it allow humanity to transcend death entirely and enter a new state of being? How did the future unfold, following this moment? Good or ill, it’s up to you. 

Take a few minutes to decide what this pivotal moment in time is, and what followed. Our future historians are going to be very interested in it, so let’s give them something to work with.

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Mind and Spirit: Epilogue

Congratulations! Your ghost’s story is complete and you’ve made it to the end of the Asylum. 

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the journey and stretched some writing muscles in the process. Did the caveats work for you? Did it all come together in the end? Will you be sharing what you’ve written today?

Thanks for taking part in the Asylum. If you have any feedback, please let me know, so I can keep it fun, fresh, and developing into the future. 

In the meantime, you are free! Now get your meat suit out of here.

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Mind and Spirit: Challenge #5

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You know your ghost’s purpose and its time to resolve it, one way or another. It has learned how to communicate with the living, and how to claim and drive a meat suit. It has gained some friends or enemies: the living are lining up beside, behind, or opposite it. It is time for the ghost to go after the thing holding it in this world.

So now it’s time to bring all those threads together. Things are coming out into the light and up to a climax, for better or worse, and by the end, your ghost will be both dead and gone from the world of the living. Whether the ghost winds up at rest, banished, or obliterated is up to you. 

You know the pieces in play. You know the tools the ghost has at its disposal. Your final challenge is to tell us the story of the ghost’s endgame. 

This time, the caveat is to drain the colour out of your writing and give this piece a monochrome theme. Focus on the balance – or imbalance – of light and dark through the last part of your ghost’s story. 

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