Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Bonus Commentary: Episodes 1 to 4

April 08, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 5
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Bonus Commentary: Episodes 1 to 4
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Bonus Commentary: Episodes 1 to 4
Apr 08, 2021 Season 1 Episode 5
Susan Quilty

Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 1 to 4.

Check back for new stories every 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!

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  The short stories Susan writes 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.

You can learn more about Susan and her books at  SusanQuilty 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/susanquilty)

Show Notes Transcript

Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 1 to 4.

Check back for new stories every 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!

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  The short stories Susan writes 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.

You can learn more about Susan and her books at  SusanQuilty 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/susanquilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 5 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 and today I’ll be sharing some thoughts on my first four episodes of Freely Written. If you haven’t listened to episodes one through four yet, you’ll want to do that first, both to avoid spoilers and to have some idea what I’m talking about! 

This commentary is something I’m planning to do as a bonus every fifth episode, in addition to having new stories each week. So, let’s begin. 

First off, thank you for listening. If you’re getting to know me through this podcast, here’s a little more background. I’m an indie author who has currently published five books, including two standalone novels and the first two books in my Psychic Traveler Society young adult series. My fifth book is not a novel. It’s a choose-your-ending style story, and it’s something that I wrote during the pandemic. Mainly, just because I wanted something lighthearted and fun to work on. 

You can find all of my books at Amazon and learn more about them on my website: SusanQuilty.com. 

Getting back to this podcast… Three of the first four stories I’ve shared on Freely Written were originally written for my Patreon page. All of the stories were written from a prompt without any upfront planning and with only a little light editing when I was finished. 

So, what does that mean? Basically, I sit down with a given prompt and start writing whatever comes to mind. I might pause to think about where the story is going. I might even backtrack a few sentences if I don’t like the direction. But for the most part, I try to get into a flow where I can let my imagination lead wherever it wants the story to go. 

I don’t set a timer while I write. Instead, I keep an eye on my page length, and I typically shoot for writing around 4 pages, give or take. Once the story is finished, I read through it and correct typos, and just sort of clarify anything that I didn’t quite capture on my first pass. 

This method of just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind is a pretty different approach to the way I plot my novels. When it comes to writing a novel, I’m a pretty avid outliner and researcher, so my novels are fairly well structured before I ever sit down to begin the writing process. But even then, once I get into the flow of writing, I often end up writing my way to conversations or side stories, or even bigger plot changes, that I hadn’t considered during my planning. So, I really value the process of freewriting, even in a more structured, planned project. 

What I love about the free-written stories I’m sharing here on this podcast is that I have absolutely no plan for them. I just forget everything else and can enjoy the freedom of spontaneous storytelling, which is a lot of fun.

So, let’s get on to my thoughts about my first four episodes of Freely Written.

 (Episode 1)

The prompt in my first episode is Grocery Store Sushi. I have wanted to use that phrase in some kind of writing project for a pretty long time. I’ve even joked that Grocery Story Sushi would be a great name for a punk band… or maybe for a short story collection. 

But beyond that, I really had no idea how I would use it in a story, which also made it a great challenge for a writing prompt. 

I think the story I came up with from that prompt is actually, pretty straightforward. I decided to start by working the phrase into an awkward conversation, which immediately made me think of setting it in a blind date. As Craig droned on about sushi, Catherine would clearly be bored and scanning her surroundings… Which, of course, would be a good time for her to spot an alien spaceship. And the rest of the story just kind of tumbled out from there. 

Though I do like this story, I’m probably not finished with the phrase Grocery Story Sushi. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something I like about that combination of words. So, don’t be surprised if you spot that phrase somewhere… sometime… in one of my future books. 

(Episode 2)

The story in my second episode used the word Membership as a prompt. This was a story I wrote for my Patreon page several months ago. I don’t think I have the notepad anymore, but it was a notepad that gave me the idea for this prompt. 

More specifically, it was a promotional notepad from the Kennedy Center that had the word Membership written across the bottom in large letters. I’d been glancing around my office for writing prompt ideas… I saw the notepad, and that was it.

That’s probably why my mind went to the idea of a telemarketing call for this story. All I knew, when I sat down to start writing, was that I had decided to have a call that was being made to an older woman who was unaware of a membership that her husband had set up. As I wrote, and the conversation unfolded, the idea of the membership grew into something that would affect nearly every aspect of her life… even though she’d never known anything about it. 

Now, in the real world, I have no idea how the Part of Your World Foundation could possibly work. I mean, obviously, it couldn’t.  But, for me, that’s the fun of these free-written stories. It’s that setting aside of reality to play with concepts that can be pretty abstract. 

And given that I wasn’t sure where the story was going, I’m really happy with the way Membership turned out. I’m kind of tempted to turn it into a larger project. But, at the same time, I think it’s probably better to just leave it as it is.  

You know, sometimes when you try to develop a story and make it bigger, it loses some of that charm… in the vagueness of it and in the unknowing. So, I think we’ll just kind of keep the Part of This World Foundation right here in this story. 

(Episode 3)

Episode three uses the prompt “A Drop in the Ocean” and this is the only story of the first four episodes that didn’t first appear on my Patreon page. I can’t quite remember where I heard the phrase before sitting down to write this story. I think it was on a TV show that I’d been watching at lunch. But wherever I’d heard it, I kind of just found myself thinking about the expression later in the afternoon and, since I had some free time, I decided to just sit down and write this story.

Now, the conversation in the finished story went in a different direction than I initially expected. When I started, I’d had a vague idea of linking the phrase “a drop in the ocean” to the expression “a drop in the bucket.” Though I can’t quite entirely remember now how that would have worked... It was something that was just half-formed in the back of my mind.  

Instead, the conversation between Carol and her grandmother naturally led to the water cycle and how each drop could have its chance to go on an adventure, and I’m much happier with that analogy. I also really like how Nana listens and lets Carol speak when she’s ready. When I’m freewriting like this, I kind of feel like Nana. It’s that waiting to see what will come up before I try to consciously shape the conversation. 

 (Episode 4)

Moving on to episode four… A Goose in the House. 

Okay, this story just delights me. It’s silly and fun, and maybe a little self-indulgent, but I love how it led to more existential or religious questions about free will and what we may or may not believe in those areas. 

And, yes, that turn in the story came about because I didn’t know what to write next. I had started with that silly idea of there just suddenly being a goose in a house, and as the couple tried to figure out how it got there… I had nothing. 

I tried to come up with an answer, and I can remember flippantly thinking, “it’s there because I wrote it there!” Which immediately seemed to me like the best answer to actually use in the story. And everything from there just flowed out in a really fun way.

This one reads a bit more like a play to me. In fact, I would love to flesh this story into a one-act play someday, if only so I could see a theater group figure out how to manage having a goose on stage. Yeah, that’s probably now something I’ll do any time soon, if ever, but it’s fun to think about!

 

Anyway, that’s it for my thoughts on my first four episodes of Freely Written. I hope you enjoyed these stories and I appreciate your listening and all of your support. 

In particular, I want to thank my podcasting friends over at Meanwhile at the Podcast. Kristen, George, Rodney, and—more recently—Rich put out a weekly show where they talk about comics, gaming, movies, TV, and things happening in their own lives. They have some great discussions, so I highly recommend you check out Meanwhile at the Podcast.   

Beyond listening to Freely Written each week, if you want to support me further, please check out my books or subscribe to my Patreon page. You can follow me on Patreon for a little as $1 a month, while $5 a month gives you access to all of the extra content I post there. 

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]