Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Bonus Commentary: Episodes 51 to 54

March 24, 2022 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 55
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Bonus Commentary: Episodes 51 to 54
Show Notes Transcript

Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 51 to 54.

Check back for new stories every other Tuesday. Every fifth episode (like this one) will offer bonus commentary on the previous 4 stories. To avoid spoilers, listen to those story episodes before this one!

Two references in today's episode:

The first novel in Jonny Lupsha's Fogworld series, Wandering City Blues
Behind the Name's Random Name Generator 

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

Freely Written merch: Bitter Lily Books Shop

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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 55 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:


Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction. 

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty. Every fifth episode of Freely Written is a bonus episode where I chat about the last four stories. Today that will be episodes 51 through 54. If you want to avoid spoilers, please listen to those episodes first. 

In looking at the calendar, I’ve realized that I’ve now been sharing this podcast for a solid year. Huzzah! That’s a full year of stories! Whether you’ve listened from the beginning, popped in from time to time, or are just discovering Freely Written now, thanks for listening!

Since it has been a year, let’s take a second to remember why I started this podcast. First, I wanted to learn how to record narrated audio so I could eventually turn my novels into audiobooks. Second, I’d been occasionally sharing short, free-written stories on my Patreon page and thought it could be fun to share them with a wider audience. 

Those two thoughts came together rather obviously into one Freely Written podcast. Recording the podcast has been a lot of fun… for me… and hopefully for you. It’s been nice to give myself permission to free-write quick stories without outlining a plot or spending time on revisions. 

How pleased I am with the resulting stories varies from episode to episode, though I’m often surprised to get compliments from listeners on some of the stories that I didn’t find so satisfying. Which goes to show that writing, like any art, is subjective… which is one of the things I love about it. 

On the audiobook front, I do feel comfortable enough with the technology to start recording my novels. I’m a little less sure about my narrating abilities, but I think it makes sense to at least try doing one myself and see how it’s received. The other issue is time, since it will take many, many hours of recording and editing to produce an audiobook, and writing the third book in my Psychic Traveler Society series is already taking up most of my time. 

I do plan to record my novels as audiobooks, though it may be a while before it happens. In the meantime, you can listen to my stories here or read the paperback or ebook editions of my novels. Find out more about them on my website: If you want to get a little extra content and give me some much-needed support, you can also subscribe to my Patreon page at  

And now… on to episodes 51 through 54. 


(Episode 51)

The writing prompt for episode 51, Nefarious, came from my good friend Stacy Foster. It’s a great word that could have launched so many different stories. Because I like quirky juxtaposition, my mind quickly went to setting up a stereotypical scene for nefarious, criminal activity and then switching it to something silly.  

That was my only thought going in. A shadowy street seemed like a typical place to begin and a girl who was out past curfew to meet a stranger left room for a story to develop. The fun of free-writing is introducing characters and testing out conversations while the ideas are gradually coming together. The first boy Kelsey meets clarifies that she’s a student who isn’t supposed to be outside. When the boy she’s supposed to meet shows up, we see she’s interviewing him for the school paper—and taking it very seriously. 

That’s when I decided to write in a senior prank, and I based it on some story I once read online somewhere. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where or the details… I think it was about pigs instead of roosters, but roosters sounded funny to me. Hopefully, you got a chuckle from it, too.  


(Episode 52)

The prompt for episode 52, Yikes on Bikes, also came from a friend. This time, from my fellow-writer friend, Jonny Lupsha. I met Jonny several years ago at a local Con, and we hit it off right away. Jonny’s day job is in journalism, but he also writes the incredible Fogworld series which has two books out so far, starting with Wandering City Blues. 

These novels are set in a future where a toxic fog has blanketed the earth and the surviving humans have built cities on the backs of enormous creatures that emerged from the ocean, keeping them above the fog. It’s a dark, gripping world that blends sci-fi with a gritty detective story. 

Which is very different than our Yikes on Bikes prompt, which was less of a prompt suggestion and more a case of Jonny using the expression and me saying, “hey, I should use that for a story!” 

I don’t know if I did the prompt justice though… it’s such a funny bit of slang that I thought would lead to something crazy, but when I sat down to write, I was drawing a blank. I had been recently playing with the name generator on, so I pulled that in to get me to a weird situation that might prompt someone to say yikes on bikes. 

Eh, not my best, but that happens sometimes.

(Episode 53) 

Sticking with the prompts-from-friends theme, the prompt for episode 53 came from my friend David Fisher. I threw out a request for writing prompts in a group chat and David suggested Tautology. 

Before I wrote this story, I had a vague idea that I’d write something full of tautologies. If you need a refresh, a tautology is a statement that says the same thing twice, using different words. The needless repetition is typically considered bad writing, yet some popular expressions or mantras are tautologies, like “it is what it is.”

There’s another definition of tautology that is used in math or logic, where the statement or formula states an absolute truth, meaning a truth that is always true. Like, “the shirt is red or the shirt is not red” or “x=y or x≠y.”

Knowing that, I was torn between writing a story jam-packed with tautological redundancies or one that focused on an argument around a statement of absolute truth… And then I realized I was way overthinking something that is meant to be free-written with no planning. 

So, I started writing about cats and decided I’d figure out how to fit in something about a tautology as I wrote. I’m not sure how elegantly I made that work, but I do like the story about the cats. I’d kind of thought I’d write something funnier but found the story going toward kindness and I’m glad I followed that path.


(Episode 54)

Episode 54, The Lost Hour, was inspired by the switch to Daylight Saving Time, which I absolutely hate…. The time change, not the story. Changing the clock throws off my sleep and general mood for several days and seems entirely unnecessary. I’m thrilled that the Senate passed a bill to stop changing the time, and I really hope it passes in the House. 

I have heard some strong opinions on whether we should be sticking with Standard or Daylight Saving Time, and it doesn’t matter much to me. I’m just sick of the time changing twice a year. Hence the time-change writing prompt. 

The toughest part about The Lost Hour was trying to keep it around ten minutes. That’s often a challenge with the fiction I write for this podcast. If you’re not a writer, you might think it’s easier to write very short stories… but it really isn’t. At least, not for me. 

Writing a story that can be read in about 10 minutes means setting scenes and describing characters in just a few succinct words. To manage that, I often end up writing moments that could be lifted from a larger story, like this one. 

By nature, that leaves some unanswered questions about the underlying mechanics. How do Time Managers manipulate memories and time? Are they human? What happens in the places that don’t have time changes? 

I have ideas that could flesh out this story, but, instead, I leave it open to the listener’s imagination. Take the story as a starting point and see what ideas it prompts for you.

That’s it for our last four stories. And for a first full year of Freely Written. I don’t have a grand plan for this podcast. I’ll keep it going as long as I have the time for it, and while I’m having fun with it. If you enjoy the stories, please share them with your friends and feel free to reach out to me through social media or my website,   

You can also show some love when you buy a Freely Written t-shirt in my merch shop, buy my novels, or subscribe to (Links are in the show notes.)

Thanks for taking some story breaks with me!

Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]