The Prompt Pot #7 – An Old Church

Welcome back my little promptettes!

Another week, another prompt, and this time the pot has revealed its latest inspiration; ‘An Old Church‘.

What does this make you think of? A strong memory of when you last visited church? Or perhaps you want to unleash your inner ghost or horror writer?


The challenge, as always, is to write your own 100-word-or-less micro using the above prompt.

Remember also to pingback to this page and include the tag ‘The Prompt Pot’ so we can find your efforts in the WordPress reader. I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Here is my own attempt.


The Tower


Donna-Louise Bishop

I only came here to visit their graves. After researching my family history for the best part of a year, I had recently discovered that my great great grandparents were buried at St Mary’s. I don’t know why I was pulled towards the stairs leading to the top of the tower.

When I finally reached the top I was surprised to find the door unlocked. As I stepped outside I was greeted with the most amazing view. When I turned to leave though, I was unable to open the door again. I thought I heard laughter on the other side.
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The Prompt Pot #6 – Bemused

Have you missed me?

I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I last posted a Prompt Pot but I promise I have a good excuse…

Last week I gave birth to my third beautiful baby boy and he’s been keeping me busy with his adorable face.

Thank you to everyone who posted their well wishes either via Facebook or Twitter.

Anyway – back to business! Our last prompt saw you penning your micros following an inspiring sentence. This week the pot unleashed the word ‘bemused’ for you to play around with.


The challenge is to write your own 100-word-or-less micro using the above prompt. Feel free, if you wish, to use my own idea/characters in the below micro I was inspired to write.

Remember also to pingback to this page and include the tag ‘The Prompt Pot’ so we can find your efforts in the WordPress reader. I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Here is my own attempt – clouded a bit by some serious baby-brain – but I hope you enjoy it none-the-less.


The Other Man


Donna-Louise Bishop


The expression on Jason’s face said it all. It was as if he couldn’t really believe what he was hearing, yet the realisation of what was happening seeped in at the same time.

“You’re shitting me right?” he said.

“I’m sorry Jason.”

“You’re leaving me… You’re leaving me, for him?”

Even now, Sally couldn’t believe how her life had transformed into something which read from a woman’s magazine. She tried to contain the bemused expression which was lurking under the skin on her face.

“Yes Jason. I’m leaving you. For your father.”

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This week’s Prompt Pot

Thanks to everyone who has taken part this last week. I look forward to feeding back and reading though everyone’s stories in the week.

Unfortantly there won’t be an official prompt this week – boo – due to baby being born any day now – yay!

If you do feel the itch to roll with a prompt though, feel free to use the prompt “while I was waiting for you” until our return next week.

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The Prompt Pot #5 – Cobbles

A warm welcome to all who enter into this week’s Prompt Pot writing challenge here at Newshound to Novelist.

This week I have delved into the pot and produced a fantastic, thought-provoking sentence to get your creativity thriving:

-Outside, the grey cobbles of the church belfry were lit by a faint morning sun.- (2)

Last week saw some of you attempt your own six-word stories, following my own example based on the prompt ‘magic‘. This week feel free to take the above sentence and pen it straight into your own 100-word-or-less micro, or perhaps you would like to roll with an idea and see what happens?

Remember to pingback to this page and include the tag ‘The Prompt Pot’ so we can find your efforts in the WordPress reader.

I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Without further ado, here is my own attempt.


This Way


Donna-Louise Bishop

She’d been awake long enough to see the sun fall and rise again. For the duration of the night her eyes had remained glued on the distant building outside of the window; the moon had stayed bright enough so that its outline couldn’t be hidden. The dawn chorus reminded her it was time to face the day.

She ran her hand over the silk dress thrown over the back of the chair she was sitting on. Even then she knew she would go through the motions of the day but hoped she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘yes’.


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‘The devil is in the detail’ – Writer Jane Isaac shares her tips with Author Advice

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Jane Isaac writes detective novels with a psychological edge. She lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK, where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo.

Her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, was nominated as best mystery in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013. Her latest book, The Lies Within, was published earlier this year.



My Top Three Tips For Writers 

1. Read
Read as much as you can. Indulge. Read in and around the genre you wish you write. It will help you to develop your own style and see what does and doesn’t work for you. It’ll also help you to see what is out there on bookshelves at the moment and what stories sell. This sort of homework will show in your own work, demonstrate to a potential agent/publisher that you are serious about your writing and help you to come up with a story that is not only unique but also commercially viable.

2. Write
Write as much as you can. Everyday. Even if it’s just notes in a notebook, or an entry into a diary. If you are stuck in your work in progress, use a daily scene – a trip to the supermarket, a dog walk, a visit to the book club – flesh it out, describe it using all the senses so that it comes alive on a page. The more writing we do, the more we find the flow of the words and how they all fit together to convey the message to the reader.

3. Research
The devil is in the detail. No matter what genre you write, every book carries some element of research. Aside from the obvious police procedure, settings, areas and events in my genre of crime fiction, there are also the characters we create. We observe the world around us and pick up little traits: the man in the cafe with the six o’clock shadow, the perfectly manicured mum at the school gates, the child with the tuft of hair that sticks up around his crown – all quirks that help us to build the characters in our fiction. Investment into creating and layering our characters gives them the depth to become ‘real’.


You can find out more about Jane Isaac via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Her books can be purchased here.


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The Prompt Pot – Magic

Wow – and welcome to this week’s Prompt Pot writing challenge here at Newshound to Novelist. Can you believe it’s our four-week anniversary already? A massive thanks to everyone who has taken part so far.

There were some beautiful and inspired pieces written following last week’s prompt of birds. Most of you tapped straight into your hearts.

My piece-of-the-week was Danielle’s micro, Two Birds in a Bath posted on her blog. It was a really well written snapshot about her children in the summer. Head over now and have a read if you’re able to (and why not check out who else posted – just scroll down to the comments section).

On now, onward and upwards! I’m really excited to see what you all come up with for this week – especially as your word is ‘magic’.


Will you tell us about the time you visited a birthday party and the entertainment was a magician? Or will you share with us a magic moment from your own life? Perhaps you will be inspired to write about a character who discovers they have magical abilities?

The rules, as always, are to pen your own micro story of 100 words or less, using this week’s prompt.

This week I’m going to have a go at the six-word-story. Feel free to join me too. The thing I find hardest about this style is making such few words into a story rather than just a punchline or an observation.

Remember to pingback to this page and include the tag ‘The Prompt Pot’ so we can find your efforts in the WordPress reader.

The best of luck to you all and I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Here is my magic-inspired tale:




Donna-Louise Bishop


Secretly, she stole magic. Freedom awaited.

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Into the Deep – 13 Week Streak (Week 1)


Three couples hire a small boat and a captain for a whale watching tour, but when the boat returns to the dock several hours later, only six people remain on board.


Into the Deep


Donna-Louise Bishop



I looked at Annie and Stephen, the well-to-do couple from north Norfolk, and watched as they lowered their gazes to the floor.

Then I turned to stare at Daniel and David, two hipster-types from Surrey. They comforted each other by holding hands while one of them stroked the other’s arm in support.

Eventually I caught the gaze of the captain dressed in my husband’s clothes. No one really knew the captain. He kept himself to himself. The only reason I knew this was because mine and Bill’s holiday home was the only house for miles. It overlooked his boat house on the small and secluded dock.

No one would miss the captain, but there would be too many questions to answer if the police knew Bill was dead.

*          *          *


The first I knew of any problems was when I heard that old geezer splash into the water. At first Daniel thought he was going for a dip and started taking his clothes off to join in. When we watched his body sink further into the ocean though, we knew something was up.

Margaret, his wife, said there would be money in it for all of us if we kept schtum about it; ten thousand each to be exact. Who can afford to turn that money down?

So we all sat and listened to what we needed to say to the police, except for Daniel. He just started into the distance to watch the whales swimming around us.

*          *          *


That poor, poor woman. Of course I didn’t dare speak out but I knew how she felt to be pushed that far. Stephen was just the same. He’d try and make it up to me, promises of flowers and pretty things to say how sorry he was. He wasn’t the one who had to cover up the black eyes, bruises, and broken ribs though.

Margaret didn’t need to offer me any money – that bastard Bill deserved everything he got as far as I am concerned – but Stephen took it anyway.

The police would just think it was a horrific accident. We would tell them that the captain, a loner, had jumped off the side of the boat weighted down so he couldn’t return. He had no family so they wouldn’t bother to search for him. By that time Margaret and the real captain would be long gone.

*          *          *


It was easier for them all to think I was a victim of domestic violence. Too many questions would be asked if I didn’t have their sympathy. Not one of them questioned why I needed to bribe them either – all so desperate for the money.

It was just easier all round to tell the police the captain had killed himself, and easier for me to slip off with the real captain with Bill’s money.



Eilidh from Thain in Vain and Charlotte of Drafty Devil are the co-hosts for this 13 Week Streak – Summer Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge is to write one flash fiction story under 500 words a week for 13 weeks.

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The Prompt Pot – Birds

Welcome to this week’s Prompt Pot writing challenge here at Newshound to Novelist.

Loads of you felt inspired by last week’s prompt hills, and you came up with some beautiful pieces that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

A favourite had to be Hema’s micro, Moles and Eagles, over at her blog Mixed Bag. It explored an interesting and relatable dynamic between siblings. I’d recommend taking a a read of it if you haven’t already.

So, without further ado, here is week three of The Prompt Pot and with it comes the word ‘birds’.


I love the different ways in which we all view birds. Some people will marvel at their skill, while others are absolutely petrified of the creatures. Whatever your feeling, do feel free to interpret the prompt in anyway you like.

The rules, as always, are to pen your own micro story of 100 words or less, using this week’s prompt.

Remember to pingback to this page and include the tag ‘The Prompt Pot’ so we can find your efforts in the WordPress reader.

The best of luck to you all and I look forward to reading what you come up with.

Here is my micro for this week:




Donna-Louise Bishop

It didn’t matter how great you felt waking this morning. As the clock neared midday all of your plans halted.

You had planned to start in the kitchen, working your way around the house and finishing upstairs in the bedroom. But the small amount of cleaning you managed quickly zapped your energy. Instead you sat in front of the television with two packets of crisps.

During an ad break you looked out the window and watched a pair of Saint-Martins slicing and snipping the sky.

Like a parent feeding a child, you flew the remaining crisps into your mouth.


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Letting Go

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“And what is it that makes you feel guilty?”

I sucked in a breath and held it. That same question had plagued me all week. As the air escaped my mouth, my body sank deeper into the small two-seater sofa in his office.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Have you always felt guilty?”


“Even as a child?”

“Even as a child.”

“Did anything happen to you?” He seemed almost as desperate for this answer as I was. It was as if just being a certain way wasn’t enough, instead there had to be a reason behind it.

“No. Not that I can think of, and I have been thinking about it. A lot.”

I thought about my earliest memory of guilt. I tried to recall that unbearable sensation when I would feel as if there was no way of coming back from the thing which had made me feel so awful. It was always after an argument with my parents.

I think I would feel upset first and then scared; Scared that they would always be mad at me for the bad thing I had done to warrant a telling-off. I’d always thought my dad had a tempter and I would be petrified of him shouting at me.

Looking back now, he wasn’t scary at all. He was a normal dad. He never hurt me, was always generous with his time and money, and generally a fantastic parent who I have had the honour of being brought up by.

My mum was always the quietest of the pair and actually very rarely shouted. I was never scared of her, just her threats of ‘you wait till your dad gets home’.

Following an argument, somewhere between the tears and hiding in my room, my sadness would turn into guilt. I would feel so despondent after fighting with them and would torment myself over the things I had said to upset them. I would carry the mean words on my shoulders like a broken doll that was beyond playing with. Even after I said sorry.

“Did your parents ever try to put blame on you?”


“Did you ever feel as if you were to blame for anything?”

“Yes, for everything bad that happened. I always felt like it was my fault. I feel the same now.”

He picked up his pen for the first time that day and made brief notes on the piece of paper trapped on his clipboard.

In the car, on the way home, my husband turns the radio up and sings along to a song I don’t know. Its name flashes up on the screen and I can see it’s called I Hate People. I press the skip button.

“Do you think people can just be something because that’s who they are? Or do we always have to have a reason for why we act the way we do?” I needed to share my thoughts.


“Yes to which one?”

“The first one. Yes sometimes our behaviour can be the way it is because that is the sort of person we are.”

“Do you think I feel guilty all the time because of what happened to me?”

“You’re bound to have bad days where you feel as if it was your fault, but you need to keep reminding yourself he is to blame for that, not you.”

I try to hold on to the thought that I am a survivor of rape and not a victim. I don’t want to be having that discussion with myself today. Beside, I think the guilt started long before he interrupted my life.

It’s not that I can’t do things I want to, I just often feel as if my parental responsibilities and my duty as a wife makes me bottom of the food chain. The mental tug of war which goes on in my mind, even over the smallest of things, is tiring.

And I am exhausted.

I want desperately to let go of this guilt but first I need to find the source of it. What if I don’t find a reason? That terrifies me. With nothing to blame I will have to own it.

And then what?

I will share this with the counsellor next week and he will look at me and say: “And then Donna, we can begin to help you let go of the guilt.”

I hope he’s right.

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Author Advice Special – Duncan Stockwell talks about adding some spark to your third act


I plan my books before I write them – before you gasp and recoil, let me reassure you: I’m not going to try and force the importance of planning! What I’d like to do is share a tool that I think may help to strengthen stories if you plan or not: the narrative spark.

You’ve probably heard the saying ‘plan backwards, write forwards’, with the idea being that defining the culmination of a story allows you to properly design the path towards it. I personally agree with this line of thinking but even when writing to a pre-determined plan, the third act of some stories can still come off as a little untextured.

Here’s what I think the problem is: a lot of the time, designing the plot of a story can be outlining the broad strokes of what will happen. Depending on how deep your planning goes, this often means that Act 3 is just a series of resolutions. Now that’s absolutely fine – it’s the purpose of the third act after all – I think it’s missing a trick though.

The third act of a story shouldn’t just be the culmination of main plot-threads, but of every aspect of the story up to this point. You’ve probably heard of ‘Chekhov’s Gun‘ (or some variation of it). Distilled to it’s most basic form, the idea is that whatever is established in a story must be resolved. You could actually see it the opposite way round though. Whatever is resolved must first be established. Therefore, If you want your third act to be finely embroidered, you’ll have to establish every thread earlier on in the story.

I’ve found that there’s a really easy way of visualising this. Imagine a wire: at one end is a battery, and at the other end the wire is sparking. Every spark that you want in your third act should have it’s wire and battery placed much earlier on in the story. 

I can hear you already: “Well, obviously, that’s how stories work“. And you’re right! But – how granular do you go with that thinking?

For example, if your protagonist delivers a stinging one-liner at the very end of the third-act’s action sequence, the ‘spark‘ is much brighter if it’s been established earlier on in the story. The line’s importance comes not only from its timely delivery, but how it’s an emphasis or inversion or irony of something that has previously been established. It could be used to offer a heartbreaking gut-punch or an exhilarating air-punch.

That’s a pretty easy example to make, so let’s think a little deeper.

What if, in the third act, the protagonist has to be delayed in their pursuit of their goal for some reason? They bump into someone, for example. Bumping into some random nameless passerby is a commonly-used narrative device to increase tension in a sequence, but what if you could make it a ‘spark’ as well? Perhaps the protagonist might have issues with physical contact and pushing past someone would show how she is now focused enough on her goal that she has overcome it? Perhaps the character she has bumped into was a mean-spirited person she met before but who is now issuing some encouragement? Perhaps the person is a very minor character whom the protagonist suddenly realises has actually been against her reaching her goal this whole time?

None of those examples would change the plot’s direction in any way but might have a real ‘spark’ of narrative weight that wasn’t there before and would really add texture and emotional impact to the story. Of course, for that to be the case the ‘battery’ would need to be placed much earlier in the story and perhaps referred to several times before the spark.

Think even deeper though. Imagine if every line of dialogue and every action the protagonist(s) undertook in a story’s denouement was a ‘spark’ that resolved even tiny details that had been pre-established – that would be an amazing ending to the story! To use the visual metaphor again, the end of the story would then be like a knitted-bundle of wires all sparking at carefully determined times.

Let’s reapply this to ‘plan backwards, write forwards’ (I’ll cover planning first, but if you’re a non-planner, I do have some really useful tips for you too so stick around!). 

Personally I like to map out the broad shapes of the story first. Planning the actions in the crisis and climax and applying the relevant foreshadowing. Then I think about how I can add texture with sparks to thscenes in the story’s late stages. Working backwards to fit the wires and batteries for all those sparks then adds the texture into the earlier stages of the stories. Having a defined spark gives much more narrative weight the things that characters discuss and work with/against during their journey to the story’s finale. 

This can also help if I’m stuck when planning the broad structure. I’ll experiment with adding in a random narrative device to get the action moving. As long as I then treat that narrative device as a spark and fit the battery and wire earlier on it then won’t be random in the story as it has been properly established and explored. 

As a further little tip here, it’s usually a good idea to fit those ‘batteries’ into a place in the story that has a little more breathing room; expository sections, or points of low drama. Either that, or allow them space in action sequences to stand as a point of reference, i.e. if a line is to be a ‘spark’ in Act 3, when it’s first spoken in an Act 1 action sequence allow some space to establish it as your ‘battery’ point – have the other characters react to how strange a line it is, for example.

So how might you use this as a non-planner? It’s actually very easy.

As you’re writing forward, make a note of everything that could be used as a battery for a spark later on. If you treat every incidental action or phrase or small character trait as a battery, you can make sure you wire it into the story every time it’s relevant and then make sure it has a ‘spark’ to close out that wire in Act 3. A key concern here though is to make sure you’re not starting too many batteries that you can’t spark later on.

One final tip that’s suitable for non-planners and planners alike is that you can even add in ‘sparks’ in the opening stages of the story to hint at things that have happened before anything even began – it can really help to contextualise the story. Let me use an example to explain what I mean. In The Big Lebowski a large amount of the conversations that The Dude and Walter have in the opening stages of the story actually include phrases taken from President George Bush’s speeches regarding the First Gulf War. If you didn’t know that it doesn’t matter. You still understand what’s going on in the story. If you did know that though, then those few phrasereally help to embed the story in the early 90s.

You can use this technique even if you’re writing in a completely fictional world. All characters are charged with tiny parts of their environment. If each of their lines, traits or actions are taken from or informed by music they like, things they’ve overheard or people they’ve known in the past then they’ll be alive with so many tiny little sparks.

So I hope that has given you a useful tool that you can use in the future. Hopefully it’ll help all your stories crackle with sparks!*

*Disclaimer: make sure you have any actual wiring work completed by a qualified electrician! 

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After writing since he could hold a pen, Duncan Stockwell graduated from a BA in Creative Writing and MA in Teaching Creative Writing.

He designs and publishes the TideBreakers series of stories and card games at, but is currently taking a break to work on a series of fantasy novellas. You can also find him on Twitter.

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