Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

Bonus Commentary: Episodes 41 to 44

December 09, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 45
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Bonus Commentary: Episodes 41 to 44
Show Notes Transcript

Bonus episode today! Instead of sharing a new story, Susan is sharing her thoughts on the stories she told in episodes 41 to 44.

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!

You can now buy Freely Written shirts and merch at the Bitter Lily Books Online Shop!

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.

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Website:  SusanQuilty.com
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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 45 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 41 through 44. You can avoid spoilers by listening to those episodes first. 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been posting new stories every other week instead of weekly. I still plan to record bonus commentary every fifth episode, and these episodes will show up on off-weeks, so they don’t affect the story schedule.

I do enjoy having a chance to share some extra thoughts about my recent stories. This process of free writing, and sharing whatever comes up, can be a little strange. I don’t expect unplanned and largely unedited, ten-minute stories to always be complete—with a beginning, middle, and end—the way we were taught to write in middle school. More often, they are snippets of conversations or other slivers of time. 

When I’m free writing like this, I do try to move the story toward some kind of satisfying ending. Though, I know a “satisfying ending” is subjective. Personally, I don’t like when stories are tied up too neatly. I like a little room for ambiguity and a hint that the characters’ lives will continue beyond the end of the book I’m reading or the movie I’m watching. 

Not everyone feels that way. I’ve often heard friends complain about stories that feel unfinished when I thought they were wrapped up perfectly well. So… c’est la vie. 

Enough of that… let’s get on to episodes 41 through 44. 

 

(Episode 41)

Episode 41, The Clown, is unusual for this podcast because it starts with a bit of flash fiction I wrote many years ago. I did free write the original piece from a writing prompt, but it was for a project that had a 400-word limit. In comparison, the 10-minute-ish stories I usually share here average around 1200 words. 

But I’ve always liked this piece and wanted to share it. So, I included it as “part 1” of a story and added two additional parts. It was fun to revisit this creepy, Vaudevillian clown, though I wasn’t sure about the best way to extend the story. 

As always, I didn’t plan anything in advance. I started writing about another sighting of the clown and was nearly at the end of part 2 before I decided to bring the separate encounters together in part 3. 

Personally, I think part 1 is still the strongest of the three and works well on its own. But that could be because I had known it as its own story for so many years. As I was saying earlier, it’s all subjective. 

 

(Episode 42)

For the story in episode 42, Queen of Everything, I had a vague idea about making that joke title into an actual position and having someone apply for the job. That’s why it begins with a confident woman entering a personnel office. I figured that anyone applying to be the Queen of Everything would be charming, attractive, and confident. 

Yet once I got Ruby past the receptionist, I was a little lost on how to forward the story. Mentioning a string of Ruby’s previous positions—all with silly titles—seemed a good lead up to introducing the opening for a Queen of Everything. And that’s when I started to wonder if being the Queen of Everything would really be that great of a job. 

Being responsible for Everything is a lot. Plus, the higher up you get in management, the further you move from the actual work being done in any single department. When I started the story, I didn’t know that Ruby would rather work up to a certain point in each department and then start something entirely new, but by the end it seemed like the obvious answer for her. 

To paraphrase some advice I’ve often heard: digging shallow holes in many places leads nowhere, but digging deep in one spot builds a well. I can understand the value in that message, but what if you aren’t trying to build a well? What if you simply like to dig and think it’s interesting to dig in different areas to see what you turn up? 

This is one of those times when I expected to write a silly story and instead wrote myself into considering a different life perspective, and that’s pretty cool. 

 

(Episode 43)

There’s an outside influence that prompted me to write episode 43, Thank You for Being a Friend. One of my favorite podcasts is a Golden Girls themed show called Enough Wicker. The hosts, Sarah and Lauren, offer a scholarly take on each episode of the Golden Girls and also have Very Special episodes with expert guests. If you love watching the Golden Girls, you have to check out Enough Wicker. 

Anyway, Golden Girls has been very much on my mind because I’ve started another rewatch and because Sarah and Lauren announced an Enough Wicker contest where fans could send in their own short take on the show in the hopes of being included in a Very Special fan-based episode of their podcast. I didn’t know it when I wrote episode 43, but I now know that my contest entry was chosen to be on the Enough Wicker fan episode, which will drop on New Year’s Day. Yay!

Back to this story, Thank You for Being a Friend, is such an iconic phrase that it’s hard to hear it and not think of the Golden Girls. But it’s also a common enough phrase to stumble into saying it without meaning to reference the show. And that’s the crux of this story.

It’s both funny and awkward when you inadvertently make a reference like that, so I wanted to play up the awkwardness with the kind of playful teasing that can spring up between close friends… especially when they’re trying to express how much they actually mean to each other. 

A bit of advice: Go text your bff a thank you for being your friend. It’s always nice to be appreciated, with or without the Golden Girls reference!  

 

(Episode 44)

Episode 44, Storage War, is a prompt that was inspired by a real-life event. As I mentioned in the intro for that story, I came up with the prompt after a fruitless trip to my own storage unit. To save time, I didn’t get into more about that story, but I have time to do that here. 

Having recently bought a record player, I’d gone to my storage unit on a quest for a box of childhood records. These records haven’t been played in well over 25 years and were accidentally left in my garage for a few years after my latest move, so I didn’t have high hopes of them being playable… but I really wanted to try them out and I had no idea where they were. 

I vaguely remembered discovering them in the garage a few years ago and was fairly certain I’d moved them to our climate-controlled storage unit, despite the fear that the damage was already done. Yet when we went to the storage unit, they weren’t there. It’s not a big unit, but we kept looking at the various boxes as if one of them would magically turn into my old vinyl. No luck.

We’d also brought the empty box from the record player with us because I wanted to keep it for a while, in case we have any trouble and need to send the player back. So, we left the empty box and drove home. 

Luckily, we found my old records in the top of a closet. And, even better, they actually still work! As we were laughing over the experience, I thought about what happens to a storage unit after you’re gone and how some relatives might fight over what’s inside. I think they’d be pretty disappointed with the stuff in my unit, especially with that empty stereo box!

That’s all I have to say about the last four episodes of Freely Written. As always, thanks for listening! If you enjoy the stories, please share them with your friends! You can also lend some support by buying a Freely Written t-shirt in my new merch shop. The shop also has designs based on reading and writing, and on some of my books. I’ll add a link to the shop in the show notes. 

To learn more about me and my books, you can visit SusanQuilty.com. And also get exclusive content at 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]