A Creative Writing Challenge for You

Winslow wakes up, lying on a cement floor. He blinks, not sure where he is. The room he’s in is round, about twelve feet in diameter. The cement walls are white, and the light seems to be coming from a circular disc slightly lower than the nine foot ceiling.. He finds that he’s wearing black sweat pants and sweat shirt, white socks, and running shoes. A plastic bottle of water rests next to him, unopened, no label. His last memory is of going to bed in his own room, in his Denver apartment, after a full day working as a coder for a website company.

The only feature in the room, other than a hole the size of a pop can in the middle of the mildly slanting floor, is a five inch long, two inch tall slot about knee high on the curving wall. He sticks his finger in the slot, but cannot feel anything. It’s black inside.

What will Winslow do next?

22 responses to “A Creative Writing Challenge for You

  1. Winslow squints, forcing his eyes closed against what he hopes is just a dream. He swallows against the dryness in his mouth and winces at the taste of something acrid -like old shoe leather, as though he had brushed his teeth hours ago and forgotten to rinse out the paste. He tries to spit as if by doing so he could purge the foreign images before him along with the sour taste, but nothing comes. Struggling to find his next breath an anxiousness takes hold of him. This is real, he utters to no one through shallow breaths. Pacing furiously he circles along the curved edges of the room over and over again in frantic search for clues -a madman repeating senseless steps. Feeling dizzy he falls to the floor. His muscles go limp.

  2. He figured the walls of his enclosure must be at least ten inches thick because that was as far as he could reach into the slot.

    The sweats he wore were plain, no logo, and the tag at the back of both the shirt and the pants had been clipped out. The underwear were his own trusty tighty whiteys and he felt better thinking that at least he wasn’t completely naked in front of whoever had put him here.

    Winslow put one hand flat on the concret wall. It was smooth and clean like it was freshly painted. He slowly walked clockwise wiping the wall searching for a flaw that would reveal how he got into this place, and more importantly, how he could get out.

    Nothing.

    He leaned down to look into the hole in the floor. Only darkness. He put his ear to the hole and held his breath. Only silence. He sniffed and there was a faint odour of urine mixed with bleach. One mystery solved.

    Now the light. Winslow figured if he used the slot as a foothold he might be able to reach that upper opening. His running shoe didn’t fit into the slot so he slid his socked toe into the opening and stepped up. Without a handhold to keep his body close to the wall he kept falling back so he persisted until he was balanced solidly on his left foot. He reached his right hand up to the opening and could feel louvers that we’re allowing cool air to blow past his fingers and letting in a white unnatural light.

    Winslow sat down cross legged on the floor and sighed. The hair on the back of his neck began to prickle and he heard a soft rustle. A piece of paper was peeking out of the wall slot. He grabbed at it and read, « Giving up so soon? »

  3. Definitely a story here! Winslow seems quite resourceful. I’d certainly keep reading.
    Good to hear from you!

  4. Gary W. Treible

    “Yup, same as always,” muttered Winslow. “I just wish this would stop happening at bedtime.”

    Winslow had been here many times before. The place had no name, but he called it the “Caldron of Creativity.” The drain in the floor was to collect the tears of the unimaginative. The hole in the wall lead to nowhere. If you were small, or made yourself small, you could leave the caldron and go to nowhere. The problem, and he had seen many a colleague take this path, was that nowhere was literally that. To make matters worse, spending too much time in nowhere prevented you from ever returning to the Caldron of Creativity.

    When Winslow was young, he too feared the caldron and would be tempted to make himself small. But today, apart from the unsettling fact that he never knew when he would awaken there, he was up to the challenge. The workout clothes, he thought, were a nice touch, and he smiled and took a drink from the water bottle.

    Now, the drain and the portal to nowhere were standard features of the caldron. They were always the same. The circular light was not. That was the goal. The task at hand. The reason it was illuminated. Winslow quickly imagined a step ladder. It was an easy climb to the circular feature, but at nine feet, standing at the top was a bit precarious. The circular feature he imagined to be an iron handwheel, like those that secured the doors between compartments on a navy ship. The problem was that rotating the wheel standing on a step ladder was just too risky. Winslow climbed down.

    The step ladder was cheap and simple, but it was a poor choice. Instead, he imagined a spiral staircase with a railed landing at the top. This was both classy and compact. Climbing to the top, Winslow found he could easily turn the wheel. Unfortunately, when he did, a heavy door swung down, nearly knocking him from the landing. That was unnecessarily clumsy and just as poor a decision as the step ladder.

    Winslow thought for a minute and imagined a rotating collar with a simple handle mounted at the periphery of the circular feature. When he turned the collar, the center opened like a camera aperture. No heavy door, and very easy to control. All he needed now was a way to travel the last few feet.

    Instead of rushing that, as he would often do a younger man, Winslow decided to refine some of his existing work. He added lighting to each step of the staircase and carpet to each tread. He also checked the force needed to turn the collar, and the feel of the attached handle. These were all good refinements. He finished the last of his water and climbed back up to the circular feature.

    “This would be a perfect application for an electric lift,” he thought. “Just touch a button and the task would be done.” An electric lift had the advantage of being new and exciting, and this application would represent a minimal risk. Winslow liked it. He climbed back down to the cement floor and shook the last few drops of water into the tear drain and reviewed his work. It was good. As a final check, he climbed the stairs, turned the collar, and pressed the lift button. Just like that, he was out of the caldron.

    Winslow rolled over and fluffed his pillow. Tomorrow was going to be a great day. He knew exactly how to move the sales records from the branch offices to the corporate computer system. It was elegant, compact, used some new technology, and was nearly risk free.

    • Well done, Gary!

    • Very impressive!!! I may have to jump up and down.
      The big question is: Are you working on stories or a novel? I’m curious…and eager. I like surprises, and this was a big one.

      • Thank you! I recently returned “home” after living (temporarily) in Wisconsin for 2 years, so I need to catch up on several deferred maintenance issues around the house. I recently participated in editing a book on Erector set history (a side interest of mine) and that’s motivated me to write a similar book on yet another side interest. As for creative writing, I have an idea for a ghost story in the style of Washington Irving that I’d like to do. It would be a short story, but with several distinct parts. The good thing about that is each part can be small and, HEY was that a squirrel?? focused. I’m glad to see you’re back. I missed you and the collection of intrepid writers trying these exercises.

  5. Winslow shut his eyes tightly, and sat with his back against the hard, cold wall. Why could he could not remember his name? He rubbed his eyes and squeezed his temples with one hand. His heart was pounding.
    “What is this place?” It looked like a silo, he thought, or a slaughter pit. And with that image of the slaughterhouse, he rose to his feet and began to call for help.
    He pulled off a running shoe and started slapping it against the hole in the wall, and in the floor. This made loud, hollow echoing sounds.
    Three short. Three long. Three short. And then he yelled for help some more.
    This continued until he started to ask himself more questions. “Why was he there? Was he kidnapped? Did he fall in…?” He wanted help, but he didn’t want to meet some slaughterhouse kidnapper.
    “Lesser of two evils,” he thought, and resumed slapping the holes with his shoe, and yelling so loudly that the echo hurt his head.
    “Help! Help me! I’m in the silo! Help! Get me out of here… please…?”
    And then he stopped to listen for noises from outside.

  6. edit, “Why could he not remember his name?”

  7. Winslow thought he could hear some high pitched grunting and squeaking sounds, like those made by raccoons, when they’re out prowling at night. The animal noises got louder, and suddenly the circular disk above him became in his mind, a source of synthetic light….

    • Writing goals:

      A good story has the power to transform a reader. As writers we are also readers who pluck from books those singular qualities that make a story effective and aspire to assimilate those lessons into our own work -consciously or not. A comprehensive writing program can help illuminate the difference between average writing and that transformative voice that distinguishes good writing. How is a story shaped and what components go into forming it? Why do some parts work better than others? Why do some books leave a reader feeling it in her bones while others fail to hold her interest? My hope is that, through a workshop/class, exploration of these lessons and more will turn into an understanding that will help me become a better writer.

      With little-to-no formal writing education, the vast part of my learning experience has come from reading and writing on my own. With a nascent writing skill that craves nurturing and requires constant practice (it does not come easy), my ultimate goal is to hone a clear, unique and honest voice that will captivate and awaken some change in my reader. I am eager to learn from a close community of excellent writers and to apply this intensive experience into shaping my work.

      Workshop/writing history:

      My desire to write began early. Around the time I reached double digit age I began keeping a journal. Naturally drawn to reading extended to a yearning to write my own story. I continued writing into adulthood with long stretches of dormant periods in which my voice and the act of writing receded for reasons I explore in my writing. Receded, but never forgotten; once again taking up the pen, my personal journaling organically evolved into memoir.

      Three years ago -at the age of fifty five, eager to learn about the underpinning structure of writing good stories, I waded into a formal writing environment by subscribing to a creative writing class at my local community college. This introduction to the discipline of writing led me to seek out a workshop setting where I participated in weekly prompted stream-of-consciousness pen to paper writing among a community of other women writers. I also have had the recent privilege of participating in a week-long summer writing program at Yale where I was surrounded and inspired by many amazing fellow writers and teachers.

      My search for avenues that will help me improve my writing continues. I hope to learn as much as I can about the craft of writing with the guidance of experts and mentors. My focus is on becoming a better writer so that I may someday have the honor of leaving readers to come away from my stories feeling it in their bones. With much respect and appreciation I welcome any advice.

      Gratefully Yours,

      Doriana Carella

      On Sun, Aug 14, 2022 at 2:52 PM Ann Linquist Writes < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

      Lawrence Kosowan commented: “Winslow thought he could hear some high > pitched grunting and squeaking sounds, like those made by raccoons, when > they’re out prowling at night. The animal noises got louder, and suddenly > the circular disk above him became in his mind, a source of syntheti” >

  8. Winslow continues to stare into the empty darkness of the rectangular slot. Waiting to see if his blurry vision would adjust to the darkness. Then the silence was shattered from Winslow yelling, “Is there anyone there?” He awaited as the echo of his voice reverberated off the solid cement walls. He then cried out again, “Can anyone here me?!”. The only response was the sound of his voice echoing.
    Winslow sat down with his back against the wall, knees bent, and his head propped against his arms. The longer he was still, he could feel the grogginess retreating and the panic start to wash over him like a body chill. His thoughts were rushing through his mind like a raging river. He was thinking about laying down in his bed and that was the last thought. Talking out loud his asked, “Who could have brought him here?”, “When could they have brought me here, wherever here is?”.
    Winslow raised his head to try and look around the dimly lit room to see if there were any doors or other fixtures. He had to squint to let his eyes adjust to peer thru the light. He didn’t notice the dryness that had encroached in his throat until the plastic bottle of water had come into his view. Crawling over and picking up the bottle, it felt very heavy but that only caused a slight hesitation as he twisted off the cap and began to quench his parched mouth and throat. After ¾ of the bottle had been tapped he pulled the bottle away to catch his breath and he noticed the small hole in the floor in the middle of the room. He made his way over and only to discover grate cover and no bottom.
    Looking up trying to see past the light he thought he could make out a small hatch in the dark outline of the ceiling. He walked over to stand directly beneath the hatch and wondered how he was going to reach that. He looked around thinking that he could use something to climb up with and then thought about making a rope from his clothes and as he looked down, he did not recognize the sweatshirt and pants, nor the shoes or socks. Now another question had distracted Winslow. Who had put him in these clothes? Getting back to the hatch in the ceiling his first thought is that he must be locked in a basement of some kind. So, trying to get through the walls would have been futile. He also had nothing to climb with so that made getting the hatch open just as futile.
    Exhausted from hours of panic, adrenaline, and thinking. He laid down only to cover up with the loneliness of the room. Thinking about people that made him feel safe and secure like family and friends. As he lie there starting to drift off he last passing thought was maybe this was all just a bad dream and when he awoke again his will find himself in the comforts of his bed…

  9. Hi Jeff! I see you’re diving in. Good. It’s a tricky scenario with no good answer, but it does make you think. I enjoyed your piece!

    • I think (Jeff) has a very strong, imaginative story line. As a first draft, you are off to a good start with the introduction of many key points of ‘mystery.’ I suggest eliminating the “then(s),” instead, asserting a new sentence. (i.e. “then the silence was shattered…” to… “The silence was shattered”) These are small habits we all make in our writing that can make a big difference. Nice job Jeff!
      p.s. At Ann’s suggestion, I have been finding the podcast “7am Novelist” extremely helpful. It’s as good as being in a classroom with expert teachers -maybe even better!

      • Jeff Seabrease

        Dori,
        Thank you for the feedback and it is very much appreciated. I am grateful for any advice that can improve my life in any aspect.

    • Thank you Ann, I really appreciate you inviting me. I enjoyed the course you were instructing. This type of activity is not in my wheel house. As I read some of the other entries and they were way better. Like on of the ideas of this place not existing in the real world but a place that is created in Winslow’s mind or maybe even a dream. After reading some of the other entries so many ideas were blooming. I can see that am way out of my league here. But I did have fun writing that.

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