Tanara McCauley

Culturally Imagined Stories

What Happens Next?


My mind is always churning. I comfort myself with the notion that I’m a writer and, as such, my thoughts should walk a creative distance outside the box of normal thinking folks. Honestly, though, sometimes I suspect I’m a blurted comment away from being professionally observed.

As for those thoughts I think, they tend to come in scenes with the promise of a story somewhere. Absurd or dull ones get shot down as quickly as they come, lingering ones may turn into a short story (or at least get the nod of an honorable intention to make a short story), and great ones get scribbled down and chewed on with the promise of a full book someday.

Then there are the write-a-paragraph-and-never-touch-again scenes. There’s a story, typically something of redemptive or moral value, but I don’t know what it is. It could be anything, so why limit it to one thing? But if I don’t limit it to one thing, how will it ever become anything? And there I go again, off on my mental tangent…

Now here’s where you come in! Written below is a very short scene. The characters are there (at least the initial two), and the stage is set for something…

That “something” is up to you.

Throw me ideas for conflict, questions, promises, future hopes, past regrets, titles…whatever comes to your mind after you read the paragraph.* If your mind embraces the scene and takes off with it…feel free to write it out and add to the story instead of just offering your idea.*

Here goes…

The bed was hard and stiff, as if it had been soaked through then dried in a harsh summer sun. Jenise perched on the edge with one leg crossed over the other and fingered the cheap dove necklace sticking to her skin. The window facing her was lifted just high enough for a small bird to fit through, as high as it could go, and despite several holes in the screen, no air seemed to come in.

A cart rumbled up to the door and paused, then rumbled away again accompanied by the faint tunes of a radio with poor reception. Jenise took a long drag of her cigarette and blew the smoke over the sleeping form of her new husband. Only his fingers moved in response, the rough tips finding the back of her polyester slip and sticking like velcro.

“David,” Jenise called in a soft, shaky voice, half hoping he didn’t hear…

Now it’s your turn! Tell me what happens next. Where are they? Why are they there? What’s keeping her awake while he’s sleeping? What’s she thinking about? I can’t wait to see the ideas that come pouring in.

And that’s not all…the most creative, workable idea or add-on will receive a new copy of James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, a must-have for every writer or writer-to-be. Be creative and have fun!

*Please do not submit using profanity, gratuitous sexual content, or malicious violence.

10 responses to “What Happens Next?”

  1. …..David, do you remember when I fell in the pool at Disney and hit my head hard? David: yes, my love I thought you looked dazed but you recovered and we had a good time, so what is wrong? Jenise: well I think I was hurt, I have tingling in my toes and sometimes if I don’t hold on to something…..


    • Ooooh, Daniellajoe I like it! An injury that has her awake & worried–that deep intuition that something is not quite right–this is something that never crossed my mind. Exactly why I wanted to do this exercise! Thanks for contributing and branching the story out onto a whole new path :-).


  2. She inched herself to the other side of the bed, relieved that he didn’t move. Her bare feet touched the wooden floor and she held her breath as the weight of her body easing off caused the bed springs to groan a rusty sigh. Quietly, almost desperately, her wary blue eyes scanned the sparse room for the rest of her clothing. There, crumpled on the floor. She moved toward them.
    “Jenice? Please. Don’t go.”


  3. She didn’t know how to say it or even how to begin to process her own thoughts. Why had she let him talk her into leaving her son behind? Was this really going to be the better life he had promised? Would their journey never end? Perhaps even the marriage was a mistake like her Mama said.

    “I miss Tommy” she finally whispered.

    David’s explosion of anger let her know to stuff that feeling down along with all the others and never talk about them again.


    • Wow, good spin, Kendra! In my mind’s eye she was older and more experienced. In an instant you changed her completely: young, insecure, and impressionable. Her story’s starting out with a host of mistakes, which makes for a great journey towards growth and redemption. I like it! Great job and thanks for contributing!


  4. Thank you ladies for your participation in this exercise! I had a great time reading your additions to the story and exploring different possibilities for this prompt. After much deliberation, I have selected Kendra’s entry for the James S. Bell giveaway. I liked the wealth of possibilities provided through that particular story, and the addition of other characters and conflict in such a short paragraph. Great job and thank you to everyone again!


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