Sunday, October 07, 2018

Writing Prompt: The Story Starter: Bad News Before a Good Time

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is a story starter, so take the element provided and turn it into a story of any length you choose. If you’re stuck on size, I suggest aiming for 1000-2000 words.

The protagonist is getting ready for a happy occasion, when bad—and hard to believe—news arrives.

Write a tale from whatever this triggers, be it a summer wedding or a ritual to summon a Dark Lord (from the evil wizard’s perspective, of course) or anythng in between. Have fun with it and see what develops.


  1. Everything was perfect. The flowers were arranged as she had asked, and the food was blending flavors in steam trays in the kitchen. And she was nearly ready.

  2. "This is for you," I said, handing an envelope to my fiancee. The return address was unfamiliar. "Christmas card, maybe?"

    "Wrong envelope size," she said, accepting it. She opened the envelope with a letter opener and removed the sheet of paper inside.

    I was facing away from her, going through the rest of today's mail. But then I heard her sudden intake of breath and the sound of the letter opener landing on the tabletop.

    "Good news?" I asked. "You won the lottery?"

    When she didn't answer, I turned to face her.

    There were tears on her face. Her arm and the hand that held the sheet of paper hung at her side. She had what used to be called in wartime the thousand-yard stare. The sheet of paper slipped out of her fingers, drifting floor-ward.

    I picked it up after it landed on the floor. I read it silently to myself: "We apologize for having to notify you of this during this holiday time: The westward transatlantic flight carrying your parents and three hundred other passengers crashed into the North Atlantic, not far from the west coast of Ireland. There were no survivors. Please accept our deepest condolences. If you need any assistance, any assistance at all, feel free to contact us at any time."

    I laid the letter on the tabletop and put my arms around her. She put her arms around me and laid her head on my shoulder and sobbed quietly.

    "I'm so sorry," I said, wishing I had something less inadequate to say.

    "Just hold me and let me cry," her muffled voice said.

    And I did, thankful that there was at least something I could do for her.