Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 16 to 19.
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. 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.
Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 20 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. In this bonus episode, I’ll be sharing thoughts on episodes 16 through 19 of Freely Written.
If you haven’t listened to the stories in those episodes yet, you may want to do that first.
Now that I’ve reached episode 20, I may as well admit that I have no plan as far as how long to keep making this podcast. As I’ve said before, Freely Written was born from my love of quick writing sketches and a desire to learn narration skills for my eventual audiobooks.
I’m enjoying writing these quick little bits of fiction, so I guess I’ll keep going for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, you’re enjoying the stories, too!
If you’re new to this podcast and don’t already know me, I’m the author of five books, including two standalone novels, a choose-your-own-ending style story, and my Psychic Traveler Society young adult series.
You can learn more about my books on my website: SusanQuilty.com.
The books I write are different that the stories in this podcast, mainly because the stories here are quickly improvised while my novels are carefully planned out. My standalone novels are contemporary fiction with a touch of mystery or psychological thriller, and they’re written for adults.
Both my Psychic Traveler Society series and my choose-your-ending style book (called Audrey and Esther Geekify Greenville) are written for both adult and young adult readers.
I also keep the stories on this podcast at a level I’d consider fine for young adult readers, which is a decent segue into talking about episodes 16 to 19…
Episode 16, The Passage of Time, is a story I originally posted on my Patreon page. Of course, it was written using the same process of choosing a prompt and improvising a story without a plan. It was just written before I had a podcast.
When I chose the prompt The Passage of Time it was December 2020 and we were about to turn the calendar into a new year. While the change of year is more of a symbolic fresh start, I think the whole world was more than ready to see the end of 2020.
Time seemed to both stretch and shrink in 2020. There were times when each day felt more like a week, and times when months felt like the blink of an eye. I suppose that’s always true, but life in a pandemic heightens that effect.
As always, I had no plan for The Passage of Time. I wrote down the phrase and pictured a glowing corridor of swirling light. I had to put that corridor somewhere, preferably in an unexpected place, so poor Aoife ended up with a mystical corridor taking over her pantry.
I like the oddness of this story. It’s one that’s better without answers because answers aren’t always the point. Sometimes the point of fiction is simply to capture a feeling and spark imaginative thoughts in the readers’, or in this case, listeners’ minds. Hopefully, this story delivered on those points.
In Episode 17, Nature vs. Nurture, I wanted to pull focus back to the natural world. Partly because I knew the last episode had been mystical and partly because I wrote Episode 17 after spending most of the weekend outside.
Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’ve been gradually easing back into social events. For me, that meant starting with events held outdoors. I’ve now taken outdoor yoga classes and guided nature walks on the grounds of wineries or coffee shops. I’ve met with friends for drinks on patios, and I’ve taken my camera out for nature photography in a lush, walled garden.
It was that last one, the photography trip in a walled garden, that shaped the setting for Nature vs. Nurture. I had several opportunities to capture pictures of fat bees buzzing around flowering bushes. That is the only time I like bees, so it seemed like a good place to start the story!
I had vaguely thought of bringing in another person to talk to Naomi about some subject, like the conversation between Carol and her grandmother in Episode 3, A Drop in the Ocean. But once I started to write about Naomi’s thoughts, I liked the idea of simply staying with them.
In my experience, teenagers have a lot of deep thoughts. Teenagers may be immature, in the sense of still developing and not having had adult experiences yet, but they are at an intense transition point and tend to be more aware of that than they often let on.
I appreciated feeling my way through Naomi’s thoughts about her family and her future. She feels like such a sweet young woman to me, wanting to please others but also wanting to follow her own dreams. I think many of us still have a child like that inside, and I like to think Naomi’s family is the kind that will give her both roots and wings.
As I mentioned in the intro to Episode 18, Break a Leg, the prompt for this story loosely came from a conversation about theater. I love live theater and it’s one of the things I’ve really missed since the pandemic began… especially because I’d finally gotten Hamilton tickets, but then everything shut down.
I’m looking forward to getting back to a live show. I’m not sure when I’ll feel comfortable enough to go again, but I am glad to see theaters beginning to reopen. Of course, the future still feels kind of uncertain, so I tend to knock on wood when talking about my hopes for the world reopening. And that’s what led me to thinking about theater superstitions, like telling actors to break a leg.
Over the years, I’ve heard several possible origins for saying, “break a leg.” There’s one about theatergoers stomping on the floor in appreciation of a good performance, so breaking a leg would mean stomping with enough enthusiasm to break bones. Similarly, I’ve heard that an olden day audience would stomp their chairs if they liked a show, so the broken leg would refer to a chair leg.
There are many others I can’t remember. And, of course, there are the legends of impish theater spirits who should be tricked into not causing trouble by loudly wishing something bad for the actors. You know, that old superstitious form of reverse psychology that always trips up imps and devils.
I considered bringing one of those old stories into this tale. And I thought about going with the dark humor of an actor actually breaking his or her leg. But, ultimately, I ended up with a more cringy story of actors awkwardly being caught mocking their own show.
I hate when cringy moments happen in real life, but they’re fun to write. Maybe that’s my own attempt at superstitious reverse psychology for whatever imps and devils create social awkwardness.
For Episode 19, Writer’s Block, I’ll admit that I was a little less random in my choice of writing prompt. I was thinking about how much I loved writing Episode 4, A Goose in the House, and I decided to revisit Sheryl, Ted, and the writer in a new story.
It was still an unplanned story because I had no idea what the plot would be. I also hadn’t come up with a prompt yet and thought it might work well if it included the word writer. The first phrase that came to mind was Writer’s Block, and a prompt was born.
Now, as you may have guessed, I love exploring the concept of a writer being a god to her characters. It’s a similar setup to Stranger Than Fiction, which is one of my favorite movies. And that meta-structure shows up in other work as well, including Sophie’s World, which is a fascinating novel if you’re into philosophy.
For the sketches I’ve written with these characters, it’s fun to play with how much Sheryl and Ted are aware of the writer’s influence on their lives. On one hand, they believe she creates and controls everything (including their actions), but on the other, they worry about saying or doing things that might upset her.
I hope you like these characters, too, because I may end up revisiting them again at some point!
Well… I guess that’s about all I have to say about episodes 16 to 19 of Freely Written.
Thank you for listening. Freely Written is a tiny little show in a sea of podcasts, but hopefully it gives you a chance to take some short story breaks and maybe even inspires you to write some stories of your own.
If you have suggestions for writing prompts, please let me know! I’d be happy to use them for future stories.
Outside of Freely Written, you can keep up with what I’m doing through social media, learn about my books on my website (SusanQuilty.com), or support me through my Patreon page.
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]