Gross acts – a writing prompt

This is John Gardner, author of The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist, two of my all time favourite books about writing fiction.

Today’s prompt comes from the first of those titles. Here it is:

Without an instant’s lapse of taste, describe a person (a) going to the bathroom, (b) vomiting, (c) murdering a child.

Now here’s the thing. Kathy, Zoe and I are all mothers. Between us we have eight children ranged in age from seventeen to seven. Option (c) was never going to be an easy choice for us, but we don’t write together every week for it to be easy, so the timer was set and we got going.

One other thing about me. I don’t do toilets. Use them, yes. Think about them, write about them, find them funny in movies – no. So I was pretty much bound to go for option (c) and I approached it by writing in the third person which helped considerably.

Kathy started in the first person and struggled to begin with. But here’s a piece of her writing in response to this prompt which is not only a great insight into the creative process, but could almost be a writing prompt in its own right.

I can’t kill a child!

Maybe I can.

I could if a kid was trying to kill my own child.

I could kill a child in self-defense.

I could kill a nasty infected child who might harm other children, if I needed to.

But these options all presume I am in my right mind.

What if I am crazy?

I suppose I could kill my own child.

I could kill a child for sport.

I could kill in a rage situation.

Yes.  I see a story forming now….

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