My brain has been foggy lately. Maybe it’s Spring Break at home with a houseful of children. Maybe it’s the lingering effects of winter’s cold, which is only now letting go of us. Maybe it’s all that Easter candy.
Let’s face it, it’s probably that last one.
In any case, it’s time to bypass the brain and pull stories from somewhere else.
(If I were a certain kind of person I’d say it was time to take them from the heart. I am not that kind of person.)
Instead we’re going to take them from the nether. We’re going to take whatever is buzzing around our atmosphere and cram it into words. The best stories mostly come from nowhere anyway, right? So. We’re going to kickstart some new stories with a simple one-line prompt and just write without pausing to think even once.
Once upon a time there was an unusual sea…
Once upon a time there was an unusual sea. It was made of peanut butter and jelly. The fish that swam through the sea had to be very strong to make their way through the sticky mess, but since they had so much deliciousness to sustain them, they grew big and fat and had all the strength they could need. The animals loved the sea. They came from far and wide to lick at the salty wonderful peanut butter and slurp up the delicious sweet jelly. All the creatures that lived by the sea were as happy as happy could be. Then people discovered the sea. They marveled at it. How could such a thing exist? Scientists came and studied the wonder. Where was the peanut butter coming from? Why was it grape jelly and not strawberry or orange marmalade? How could fish breath with only peanut butter and jelly and no water to provide oxygen? Studies were conducted. Tests were run. The results were inconclusive, so more studies and tests were planned. Businessmen also arrived at the PBandJ sea. They saw so much marketing potential. They immediately began plans for a resort on the shores of the sea. Children would love it. Women could be convinced that bathing in peanut butter and jelly would do wonders for their skin. Genius salesmen convinced the world that this sea was the only source of truly natural peanut butter. They put it in jars and sold it all over the world. It fetched very high prices. In a matter of time, the sea was all but empty. A few concerned activists came and began to rescue the giant fish. They put them into the real, salt-water sea, but they did not thrive there. The sea emptied and emptied until it was all gone. Everyone blamed everyone else. Many fingers were pointed. In the end, everyone shrugged and went back to normal life. No one ever figured out how the PBandJ sea had come to be. It was just there. And then it was gone. The animals found somewhere else to eat and play. They weren’t as happy as before, but they survived. And one very big, very fat, and very strong fish swam in a tasteless ocean and plotted his revenge.
Once upon a time there was an unusual sea. Everyone who swam in it dreamed dreams of special magnificence. One minute you were swimming along and the next you imagined yourself as a princess or an astronaut or a super hero or a horse. You were convinced that what you saw was real, and as long as you stayed in the water, everything turned out exactly as you hoped. The dreams were lovely. You never wanted your swim to end. Naturally people came from far and wide to swim in it. They stayed in the water until their fingers and toes were all pruned up and their mothers forced them to come out and eat something or sleep for just a few hours. Cassie came to the sea of dreams for the first time when she was ten. She dreamed the most wonderful dream in which she found a secret garden full of fairies. They welcomed her and showed her the magic nectar that could turn her into a fairy. She played with them and learned their dances and helped to save them from an evil cat named Gruel. They made her their fairy queen. Then her mother came and dragged her out of the waves and they all went home. Not long after, the family moved far away, and Cassie was never able to visit the sea of dreams again. But she couldn’t stop thinking about the secret garden and her fairy friends. No matter who she met or what she did, she always felt that her fairy friends were more real than anyone else around her. Everywhere she went, she searched for the secret garden. She knew it couldn’t be real, but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling that she just hadn’t looked in the right place yet. Cassie grew up, and the dream grew with her. At eighteen it felt even more real than it had at ten. At twenty-five, she had finally saved up enough money to visit the sea of dreams again. This time when she went into the sea, she looked around carefully as she went into the garden. She took note of where it was and what the door looked like. The dream was wonderful, even better that she remembered. The fairies recognized their queen and threw a huge party for her return. A visiting fairy prince asked her to marry him. She said yes. Then a lifeguard, seeing that she had no mother to make her go home at night, came and pulled her out of the sea. People could drown if they stayed in their dreams too long. Cassie went home determined to come back and swim the next morning. She knew the dream would be waiting for her. But she couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned and though how she wished the dream was real and not just in her head. She thought about the way that door looked and suddenly she thought she knew just where it was. Cassie got up and packed her bags and bought a plane ticket with the last of her money. She flew to a special place she knew of, right on the edge of an old forest. She walked the trails for hours, searching for the door she knew couldn’t really be there. Then she saw it. It was the door from the dream. There could be no doubt. Cassie went over, sure the door would be locked. The handle turned. She went inside.
Time’s up. Two stories. Not terribly original, but I’m pretty sure my kids will get a kick out of them.
What did you come up with? What kind of unusual sea popped into your head?
Want a few more prompts for this week? I’ll list a couple below.
Remember, the rules are simple. Don’t think. Just start talking (or writing). Once you’ve started down a path, make the best of it. Let your kids toss in some ideas if you get stuck. (They are especially good at endings. Kids know what they want to happen.)
Once upon a time, a man lived in a tall, tall tree…
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom where no one could speak…
Once upon a time, a cowboy came upon a sheep with its wool tangled up in some bushes…
Once upon a time, a squirrel was crowned king of the forest…