Welcome to our regular Monday feature, where you'll find different kinds of writing prompts and exercises. Each week, we'll give you something to help exercise your mystery-writing muscles.
This week’s prompt is story starter I like to call Post-It Note of Doom. I've adapted it from one of the 1000+ prompts available on Bryan Cohen's Build Creative Writing Ideas site. I'll start the scenario, and you have to keep it going by taking it to the next level. Here we go...
You walk into the crowded Autumn Dance and a polite stranger bumps into you on their way out the door. They apologize and you don't think twice about it. Before long, you notice people giving you strange stares, and one panicked person rushes out of the room. They return a short time later with a police officer and point to you. Worried now, you slip out of a door on the opposite side of the room on your way to the exit, but as you round the corner to leave, you see there are more police blocking the way. Are they waiting for you? They can't be.
The officer you're running from bursts onto the hall and yells, "Right there, that's him/her!"
The other cops react, and you give into your first instinct. You run!
Cops close in from either side, and your only option is up. You take the stairs to the second floor, take lefts and rights, follow a long corridor where moonlight shines through an open window at the end. What now? What now?!
The cops corner you, cold air breezes in, and you look out the window--you look down. Gulp.
You shout, "I didn't do anything!!"
The panicky person who called the cops points at your chest with a shaky finger, "Not according to that."
You look down and see it, a bright yellow Post-It note displaying words written in block letters. You snatch it off your shirt, read it as you feel the color drain from your face, "No. No, this isn't right."
A cop steps forward with shiny handcuffs dangling, "You can clear it up down at the station."
There's nothing good waiting for you at the station. Not based on that Post-It. The note is too grave, the implications too dire. You're being framed, and letting the cops take you in just gives the culprit more time to solidify their plans, to make sure you never leave the jail again.
The cop with the cuffs gets closer still, "You've got nowhere to go."
You say, "That's where you're wrong."
You dive out the window. It's a two stories drop onto a cushy bed of rancid garbage bags in the open dumpster. You climb out while the cop leans from the window, shouting and promising to put you away for good. He won't though, not if you have any say.
You have a mission now. You have to find the polite-but-conveniently-clumsy stranger that bumped into you at the beginning of the evening. You have to find out why they planted that note on you and what does it mean?
You better do it before sunrise, thought. According to the Post-It Note of Doom, that's all the time you have...
Now, keep the story going. Here are some questions to help you along:
1) What did the polite stranger look like? Did they seem out of place, or did they fit (too) perfectly?
2) What kind of background do you have to make you think jumping out of a window is a good idea? What skills or allies can help you find a person you only bumped into once?
3) What in the world did that Post-It note say?
Have fun finishing this story. And if you're interested in other story starters, check out the Build Creative Writing Ideas site for more inspiration.
If you try this exercise out, we'd love to hear about your results in the comments! Or if you have other exercises you like to do to heighten your powers of observation, please share tips!
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