Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 31 to 34.
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 35 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 talking about the stories I wrote for episodes 31 through 34.
Fair warning: If you want to avoid spoilers, please listen to those episodes before this one.
If you’re ready to listen, here we go… As you may know, these commentary shows come out every 5th episode. They give me a chance to share some thoughts about the previous stories, while still keeping the story episodes short and sweet.
Before I break down each episode, I’m trying to consider any commonalities among them. Two of the episodes, 32 and 33, both involve chatting with friends. Episode 31 is about a, sort of, imaginary friend, and episode 34 has four friends solving puzzles in an escape room. So, I suppose friendship is a bit of an unplanned theme with this batch of stories.
As a side note, if you’re enjoying these stories, it would be great if you could rate Freely Written on iTunes, Apple, Google, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or just tell your friends about these stories. It’s a fun side project for me, but I also hope it might help more people find out about my novels, which you can learn about on my website, SusanQuilty.com.
Okay. Let’s move on to some thoughts about episodes 31 through 34.
The prompt for episode 31, Mirror Image, came about through free association. I started with the idea of reflection (because I was reflecting on a writing prompt) and let my mind wander. When the phrase mirror image came up, I decided that would be my prompt.
What I didn’t consider, was how weird it would be to say the word mirror over and over while recording the story! It takes a bit of effort to say the word mirror properly, and I found my mouth lazily saying “meer” instead. To avoid that, I practiced repeating mirror several times, until the word lost all meaning…. Making it even harder to say it correctly for the rest of the story!
It’s so weird when that happens, and there actually is a term for when a repeated word loses meaning. It’s semantic satiation. Which you may already know from a very funny scene in Ted Lasso.
Anyway, back to the story. Mirror Image was fun to write. It’s one of those stories that flowed as soon as I started typing. Partly because I briefly had an imaginary friend when I was a kid. She came from my mirror and was named Nasus (which is Susan backwards). Although, I don’t think she exactly qualified as an imaginary friend. I made her up one day after hearing about imaginary friends and thinking kids were supposed to have one. But thinking her up was more fun than actually pretending she was real, so I wrote stories about her instead.
You may have noticed that the name of Ana’s imaginary friend—Nan—is also a play on her own name. It’s not backwards like Susan and Nasus, but I was thinking of that when I made the names a sort of inverse of each other.
As for the story, it seemed fun to have an adult with an imaginary friend, but a story can also use conflict, which is why her boyfriend was bothered by the idea. From there, the story naturally played out, and I’ll leave it up to you to decide the boyfriend’s actual fate after dropping to the floor.
Episode 32, Parking Lot Friends, came from my friend Gretchen Schutte. As I explained in that episode, I have made many friends over pre- and post-yoga class chats and many of those chats have taken place in parking lots. In my experience, it’s pretty common to leave a class and see people paired off or in small groups chatting away near their cars.
In the pre-pandemic days, Gretchen and I (who both teach yoga) would often take each other’s classes or go to other teacher’s classes together, which led to long parking lot chats several days a week. Since I haven’t gone back to regular, in-studio classes yet, I miss seeing a lot of my class friends for those parking lot chats.
When Gretchen texted me this prompt suggestion, I knew immediately knew what she meant. I thought about writing something very different anyway. Moving away from post-class parking lot friendships to take some other unexpected turn. But, then, I was feeling sentimental and decided to stick with a trio of friends.
Since I wanted it to be a nice story, I didn’t make Beth’s unexplained absence into anything dark and tragic (though I thought about it!). Maybe that makes the story less thrilling, but I’m happy with the idea of these casual friends finally finding a reason to get together outside of a parking lot.
There’s a similar theme of friends gathering in episode 33, Fireside Wine Chat. That prompt came from my oldest friend, Wendy McMullan, and she suggested it long before I wrote Parking Lot Friends. I liked the prompt as soon as she suggested it but already had a few prompts queued up and decided to keep it until the season was shifting into fall.
We had one nice week of cool, crisp weather here in Virginia and then went back to the heat of summer—which is typical for this area. Second summer happens every year, sometimes well into October. Hmm… mental note: second summer might be a good story prompt.
Now, I’ve said many times that I don’t spend much time on planning any of these stories. And that is true, because I like to see what comes out when I simply sit down and start typing. That being said, I do pay a little attention to what I’ve written recently and try to shake it up a bit from week to week.
Since the previous story had been a sweet, contemporary story about friends chatting, I wanted to start this story out with a twist. So, I started with an axe-carrying character named Igmara who lived in a cabin surrounded by mythical creatures.
When I started typing, I didn’t know that she was going to be raising miniature griffins and I had no idea that she’d be linked back to Arwyn from episode 21, Unicorns and Rainbows. I simply started describing her cabin and realized there was a wall that could have a door to somewhere….
I puzzled over what to put behind that door as Igmara was filling a bucket of feed and ran through a mental list of mythical creatures before settling on miniature griffins. Describing the griffins made me think of Arwyn’s unicorns and I instantly wanted her to be the friend for Igmara’s fireside wine chat. Of course, Arwyn lives in a different mystical setting, so the fire gave me a magical way to bring them together.
With all that settled, I still had to come up with something for them to talk about, and that’s when it seemed fun to pivot back from the fantasy realm into a conversation that was a pretty typical catch-up between girlfriends… with the substitution of things like unicorns and banshees for more basic topics.
I think it’s a fun read and I hope you do, too. I also really hope we shift into some solid fall weather soon!
The prompt for episode 34, Back in My Day, came up during a conversation with one of my sons, though probably not in the way you might think. I wasn’t the one who used that classic phrase on him. He’d been showing me a playbook he created for an upcoming RPG night when the topic turned to my need for a writing prompt. He helpfully started reading phrases from the sheet he’d just shown me, one of them was back in my day, and I had my prompt.
Unlike the previous few weeks, the story from this prompt did not flow easily. I sat down to write, then promptly (and conveniently) remembered about six other things I had to do before I started writing. By then, it was getting late, so I jotted down the title and went to bed.
By morning, I still had no idea what to write. Which was fine. A blank page isn’t all that intimidating to me and I trust that a story will wander out if I just start typing words. So I did. And the story took off.
I have never actually been to an escape room, so this was pure imagination, and it took me longer than usual to stumble my way through writing each of the clues. But once I linked Back in my day to a calendar that had additional clues, it quickly fell in place.
This story ran longer than usual, so I felt pressured to tie it together in a somewhat timely way. But I think it all came together in a way that makes sense. Hopefully, you don’t mind a story being just a little over or under my goal as it’s hard to closely hit that 10-minute mark while still improvising as I go.
I guess that’s all I have to say about episodes 31 through 34.
Thanks for joining me for this bonus commentary and for choosing Freely Written whenever you have time for a short story break. As always, let me know if you have suggestions for writing prompts!
You can contact me through social media or my website, SusanQuilty.com. Beyond enjoying these quick stories, you can check out my novels in both paperback and ebook editions. You can also support me—and get exclusive content—through my Patreon page, which is Patreon.com/SusanQuilty.
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]