Hello, Fuses and Defusers!
So what’s your favorite part of baseball? Yeah? I like it when they throw the ball. Uh huh. Wait a second, what’s my foot touching? OH MY GOSH—
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The Bomb Under the Table
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Let us begin with the most obvious and literal take on the prompt. There are plenty of interesting stories you can tell that include a literal bomb waiting in the most mundane of places, and what your characters do about it.
You could also play around with what your “bomb” is. Perhaps it’s a stink bomb, a smoke bomb. Maybe it’s a piece of gum stuck under the table. The bad grades the teenager holds under the table, the paper trembling. A mischievous child giggling while their family tries to have a normal dinner.
But this prompt isn’t just literal. It’s far more versatile than it might seem.
It is a reference to a type of dramatic irony explained by Alfred Hitchcock. You have two scenes: one in which a group sit around the table and talk about baseball, then, after five minutes, a bomb goes off, blowing them to smithereens; the other in which the same group of people sit around and talk about baseball, but the audience can see the bomb under the table the whole time, and know it’ll go off in five minutes. While the scene is technically the same, the emotion the audience feels has completely changed. In scenario one, the conversation is dull, the shock short-lived. In the second, tensions rise for multiple minutes as the audience begs the characters to find the bomb and do something about it.
Something else interesting Hitchcock says is that the bomb must never go off; you can’t work up the audience and provide no relief. Someone’s foot can touch the bomb, they help get everyone out, then let it go off. How can you apply this to your stories?
If we apply this definition, many more possibilities are opened up. Your “bomb under the table” doesn’t have to include a bomb or a table. You just have to write a scene that follows this guideline of mounting tension. Tell or show the audience something that the characters can’t see that changes how they view the scene. Perhaps it’s something only the narrator knows, or perhaps it’s something one of the characters know that the others don’t.
Perhaps the audience knows that there is a trap hidden in the floor, so as the character puts their foot inches from it, the audience holds their breath. Maybe we know that the tea the character is about to drink is poisoned, when they don’t. Perhaps, on a sweeter level, we know that one character intends to propose, so as things get in the way, we get more desperate and excited.
This prompt isn’t very Christmassy, however; my extra challenge for you this week is to make it so. I challenge you to take this potentially violent and un-holiday themed prompt, and make it something cute and festive.
—GUYS, THERE’S A BOMB UND—! What? It’s not a bomb? It’s just your kid’s toy? Whoops…hehe…false alarm.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Saturday at 3:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least five stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new; no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Divna threw her scarf over her shoulder and snapped her aviator goggles over her eyes. She checked over the craft again. Four thin legs bowing outwards at a forty degree angle? Check. Oaken make? Check. Four units of volatile alchemical reactant? Check. Divna couldn’t help smiling as she approached the contraption in her homemade pilot uniform.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” an anxious antlered Fae called from behind a wall three hundred feet away. His voice was full of fear.
The brownie scoffed. “Relakth, Thtig. I know ekthactly what I’m doing.”
Stig crouched until the brick covered half his face. “For your sake, I hope so.”
Divna let out a big laugh as she hopped onto the top of the table. Of course Stig would be worried. He hadn’t spent years and years testing the alchemical theorems and how they interact with other objects. He didn’t know the laborious checks and double checks she and her colleagues had gone through. All he knew is that she wanted to use the dinner table he made. Of course, many of Divna’s colleagues had questioned why she would use a dining table instead of an actual craft. The answer she gave them was just a bunch of alchemical and technical nonsense. In reality, she just thought the idea of a flying table was funny. And that ridiculous dream was about to come true.
Divna pulled out a match. “Futhe ignition!”
She struck it and fished the fuse from its resting problem behind her. Stig quivered behind the wall. Match touched fuse and fuse hit ground, the sparks hissing and spraying all over.
“Futhe lit! Thith ith a ten thecond futhe, tho it’th gonna go off in three! Two! One!”
The fuse stopped hissing. For a moment, the only thing they could hear was Divna’s excited panting. Then, a mighty roar manifested from underneath the table and four large jets of fire burst forth, forcing the table off the ground. Divna held on to the table edge as the table rose higher, higher, higher into the air.
“Thee? I told you!”
The Call of the Wild(Illusions of Heroes)
by Gerrit (Rattus)
The Hollow continued its approach, unperturbed by the rubble strewn before it. Flames licked out of the gaps between the bodiless armour, ashes burning in its footprints, a deep crackling echoing from behind the plates. The shadows dancing in the firelight gave the appearance of a sinister, shifting face.
Emrys stood hunched, breath ragged, sword held loose in one hand. He knew that Hollows preyed on weakness. He had been counting on it.
The creature raised a gauntleted hand, a single finger pointing towards Emrys, ignoring the soldiers still fighting tooth and nail all around them. As long as it stayed fixated on him, they were safe.
As it continued drawing closer, the furnace-like roar from deep within its chest became audible. Heat radiated off of it, an oppressive aura that threatened to smother anything that drew too close.
Emrys took a moment to focus. He felt the call, deep and primal, from somewhere within him. It felt less like a stranger now, at least. He and Serennia had been practising for a time such as this. They hadn’t perfected it—far from it—but his options were slim. He needed all the help he could get.
As the Hollow drew within a few paces of him, Emrys tightened his grip on his weapon. The edges of his vision blurred, and he fought to keep himself under control. The curse gnawed at him, yearning for him to give in.
The monster was almost on him now. The blood rushed hot in his veins, his heart beating hard enough that he could feel it against his ribs. His breath was still heavy, only now the raggedness had been replaced with determination. He raised the shield strapped to his other arm, preparing for the dance to come.
As the monster finally stepped into range, it raised one arm high above its head. A blade of pure flame materialised in its grasp. As Emrys watched the weapon come down, ready to parry the blow however he could, the force within him took over.
[DM me on Discord for details!]
Past, Present, Future
By RVMPLSTLTSKN (The Saga of The Deep One’s Wake)
Of all the things Mother Fate foresaw and added to her calculations, none confused her descendants more than the houses in their deck. The wooden cardlets were painted, named and lacquered, each holding or depicting a truth of the future.
The Priestess stared at The Ancestor, or so she thought. Her smile was a facsimile of care, but tasted sour to her.
He, through borrowed eyes, stared at her and reeled in the revelation that all he was meant to protect was gone. Though he hadn’t been the only one, she acted as though he were.
Her smile slipped as she invited him into the devotery. Her temple was little more than a workshop, with space for divination through the cards and students to learn to produce them. The deck was a mark of heritage as much as worship.
He stepped through the door and felt the stench of lacquer like a physical barrier. He coughed with borrowed lungs.
“Your incense is quite pungent,” he said, politely.
“Incense?” She asked; a mark of the ignorance of the younger peoples.
He searched the memories in his borrowed mind. There were none of incense. “Like candles,” he finally said, “but to make smoke.”
“I see,” she said, remembering The Ancestor’s card. It depicted a small creature, childlike or ancient, its head engulfed in smoke and, sometimes, its eyes alight with inner flame. It was the past, dark secrets, and a warning of experience. Frequently, it was Mother Fate, more Fate than Mother. She hadn’t finished her session, but The Ancestor was in the present position and the future was empty.
She breathed deep and made up her mind.
“You cannot stay here, not like this. The boy deserves his own life.”
“I will not be returned to the box.”
“Do you know how they bound you?”
He thought then of the family vaults, of the heroes and patriarchs, shamans and matriarchs stored in their own boxes. Releasing them would rebuild their society. His borrowed body trembled. The Priestess was correct, they deserved their own lives.
“No,” he lied. “I fear it lost.”
RIR (Robot in Room)
by Jesse Fisher
“Wake up machine.” A voice called out.
Menus and data began to move across the visor of the robot that was slumped in a simple wooden chair. Its body shuttered a bit as it tried to get its joints to originate the correct way. It began to find that it could not set its hands right but it could not know the issues until it’s optics were online.
“Good it was not fully broken from the shock.”
The bot’s blue LED eyes began to take in the room. It looked like some abandoned public place, too small to be a church hall, not tiled like a clean room might be, but the fact that the only window was opposite to them did not leave much to the imagination. Then again cameras could be angled to a blind spot.
“I have a simple game for you.” The voice started. “You see-”
“I don’t know who told you I’m into the whole bondage escape room but this is just creepy.” The robot did not want to deal with this. “I’m going to break these bonds and just ignore this happening.”
“Feisty one, aren’t you?” The voice was teetering on the edge of disappointment.
“Only to creeps that take thinking beings and wants to play games with them that involve reenacting torture movies.”
“I was going for more of I’m smarter than you type of thing here but you’ve killed the buzz. Well one less fun killer will not be missed.”
That caused the bot to stop for a moment as it looked around, aside from what it observed nothing seemed out of place and that was a red flag. Looking down it noticed that there was something under the chair.
“Oh good, it seems you noticed it.” The voice responded to the action. “Time had almost expired before the last one noticed it.”
“I swear if there is a puppet involved with this I’m just going to skip to the part of you being choked to death.”
When The Lights Go Out, Run Like Hell (A Song for: Kit)
by Lunabear (CW: Mild Violence) (Please don’t read on stream)
The night’s wind howled. Bitterly, beautifully cold snow danced outside of the warehouse.
Inside, Kit sat on a wide bench, ensconced snugly within a red winter outfit. She quite enjoyed the clothes despite not needing them.
25 total gifts sat beside her, 13 unwrapped. Her eyes were aglow with cheer as she grabbed another. She hated to tear through the silvery bow and reindeer print paper, but excitement got the better of her.
Kit gasped at the embossed, first edition fantasy novel in her hands. It was immaculate.
Before she could even crack its spine, the tapping of her Maker’s cane, alongside jovial, drunken caroling, reached her ears.
Her Maker’s shrill whistle preceding the door’s squeal dashed all hopes of her reading.
Reluctantly, she set the book aside and waited as they entered.
The off-key rendition of ‘O Christmas Tree’ grated on her nerves, especially because it bounced from the walls. Yet, she remained still and silent.
Ruddy-faced men huddled close together, pitching from side to side. Their overcoats combined with the motion gave them the appearance of a single being.
Her Maker stayed beside the door, his forest green suit festive yet out of place.
She counted 14 heartbeats. Her shoulders squared in preparation.
The singing died as the group looked around the empty space; some expressions were confused, others angry.
“You promised merchandise, you swine! Where is it?”
“Leave one untouched, and waste nothing, Nikita.” Her Maker’s command was a whispered snarl as he flicked the lights off.
She sank into her vampiric nature.
Gasps became panic as Kit glided through the dark, breaking bones. Bodies crashed to the unforgiving concrete.
14 hearts hammered; Kit returned to the bench.
Illuminated once again, one man sat trembling. His comrades lay around him, their snapped spines immobilizing them.
Kit’s Maker spread his arms wide, indicating the fallen men, his cane dangling and fangs glistening. “Merchandise. Harvest and package these units of blood without one wasted, and riches beyond imagination shall be yours.”
The man’s fear morphed into delight. “‘Tis the season of giving,” he crowed.
Beaming, Kit began to read.
Some Necessary Subterfuge (Students of the DiamondBridge Academy universe)
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
“Alright, everyone, today’s a work day on your war research projects,” Mrs. Tizip addressed her class. “You can listen to your own music if you’d like.”
Sam was halfway through getting her notes out when Tizip stopped in front of her. “Hadn’t handed this back yet,” she said, placing a paper on Sam’s desk.
It wasn’t a homework assignment. It was formatted like one, even with a grade on the top, but the words weren’t anything history related.
“I need something from Nicklescribe’s office,” the note read. “Would you be willing to assist me in getting it without him knowing?”
Sam read the note as Tizip loomed over her. She then looked up, confused. “What?”
Tizip glanced around the room. All the other students had earbuds in. Perfect. “You know just as well as I do that he’s up to something, but I have no evidence,” she whispered. “You’re in Infiltration/Sabotage 101, yes? Couldn’t you, oh, infiltrate and sabotage his office?”
“Mrs. Tizip, Nicklescribe teaches that class,” Sam answered in a quieter whisper. “He’ll catch me. And also, isn’t this illegal? Like, super duper illegal? If not suspension or expulsion worthy?”
“Well, yes, but—look.” Tizip removed a small notebook from her pocket. She flipped through page after page of small, scribbly notes before showing one to Sam.
“The… alphabet?” Sam asked.
“Not quite. Everything Nicklescribe has done this year has been justified by an ‘absentee’ letter from Principal Zandryth. This is a handwriting analysis of those letters. I need to prove if they’re actually Zandryth’s handwriting, so I need to get into the principal’s office and find some old documents. Could you do that?”
“I… you wouldn’t want me stealing from you, right? So why should I steal from any other teacher?”
Tizip scanned the room again, then leaned closer to Sam’s ear. “Because a colleague told me Nicklescribe asked him how to make a ShadeSoul Bomb. You’ve done your homework, so I’m sure you—”
Sam gasped reflexively, eyes flooding with fear.
“Good. So, I’ll ask again: could you please help me prove Nicklescribe’s up to something incredibly dangerous?”
Akane heard the giggling under the table as she entered the kitchen. Pretending she didn’t, she looked around. “Where did Nabiki go? I thought I saw her go in here.”
The giggling got louder.
Akane opened up a cupboard door. “Is she in here? Nope. I wonder where she is.”
The giggling seemed to muffle a little, as if Nabiki was trying to cover her mouth.
Akane looked around the room. “I thought I heard her around here.”
Nabiki jumped out from under the table. “BOOO! I scared you, Mama!”
“Oh dear! You certainly did, you silly girl.”
Nabiki laughed as she ran out of the kitchen, her short pigtails bouncing with every step. Akane shook her head as she watched her young daughter run off.
Ever since she found out about jump scares, Nabiki had been trying to scare her and Rikuto. Badly, though. She didn’t seem to realize the giggling gave herself away.
After she finished making a sandwich, Akane returned to the living room, and sat down on the sofa. Pop music was playing over the stereo. A quick snack, some tea, and back to practice, Akane had decided. Some background music would help Akane put her into the correct headspace. She closed her eyes as she quietly ate, letting the music fill her being.
One of Akane’s favorite songs came on, and she opened her eyes to find the remote. Having done so, she turned the volume up. This song was so good. She should see if she could find a recording of it to play along to. There was some complexity to it, and accompanying it on the violin should be challenging, yet satisfying.
There was a flash of movement from the corner of her eye.
“BOO! Got you again, Mama!”
Nabiki had jumped out from behind the arm of the sofa.
Akane was startled badly enough that the sandwich flew out of her hand and landed on the floor.
Nabiki raced off out of the living room, laughing again.
“Nabiki, you get back here! That’s not funny!”
I feel Nisha staring, but I refuse to look back.
Even when her eyes glow an ominous crimson.
Even when she slowly crawls toward me, her sharp teeth bared.
I keep my eyes forward, only perceiving her actions in my peripheral vision.
“Tell me what you know, mortal!” She snarls at me.
I finally look at her with a challenging smirk. “Or what?”
Nisha blinks wide-eyed, clearly not expecting that response. “Or… I will… pout! With vigorous intensity!”
“Or… you just watch the rest of the movie, and find out yourself.”
Nisha’s eyes glow again in defiance. “You make an infuriatingly suspicious face whenever I say something about the protagonist. I demand to know why!”
“Remember that not at all creepy speech you gave me before about wanting to know everything about me? About wanting to argue with me so we can make up? About wanting to know what terrifies me and what brings me joy? About wanting to hurt me and be hurt by me and all those… completely normal words of affection?”
Nisha nods. “Yes. Of course I do. I stand by every word.”
“Great. This is one of my favorite movies. Enjoy.” I try not to grin as Nisha flashes me a dirty look but slowly turns back to the TV.
“Also, Scar isn’t the protagonist.” I add as my smirk breaks through.
Nisha’s eyes shoot wide again, glaring at me anew. “I am no fool! Scar is the most sympathetic character! He twisted his unfortunate circumstances and took control of them. He murdered his more powerful foe through ingenious trickery and turns what should be his enemies into powerful allies! He also has the best song!”
“Okay. That last point is fair.” I say with a chuckle.
“All he needs to do is find that lazy whelp of a cub and destroy him! It will be easy! He doesn’t even eat meat anymore! He’ll be malnourished and ripe for the plunder! Scar will make a great king.”
I continue fighting my amusement and keep my eyes directly ahead, throwing a piece of popcorn into my mouth.
To Catch Him
by Spawn of Faust
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Clock was ticking as midnight slowly approached. Single snowflake dropped down from the cloudy sky. In a short while a curtain of snow covered everything that the eye could see.
I had no idea what kind of treatment would I get. Had I been nice or naughty? I had a faint idea that it did not matter.
Man in the red would certainly arrive, and it was my job to catch him in the act. Coffee long gone cold was keeping me awake at my watch.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Midnight bell rang. Sound of carols had grown silent. My nerves were high strung, every little sound made my hand twitch. Something shuffled in the chimney and the sooth fell into the fireplace.
Small bat flew from the cold fireplace and circled around the room. I lifted my hand from the lever. Low silent jingle made me grasp the lever once again. There was no mistake, it was time for him to arrive.
Doorbell announced someone’s presence. I wanted to ignore it, to focus on the chimney, but the guest was unrelenting and kept ringing the bell. I stood up from my resting place and opened the door.
“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree. How lovely thy branches…” Carollers sang at my doorstep. I dropped them a few coins and returned to my place.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Minutes trickled by. Reheated coffee had been drunk a long time ago. Twitches and ticks were now everything that my body produced.
He had to arrive. He had to. It was my job to catch him.
First ray of the sun entered through the window and illuminated a single box. Wrapped box that had not been there the night before.
Deadly Orders (The Will)
They were already dead, but they didn’t know it.
Zaila looked up from the grass under her boots to the three brothers—her stalwart companions—her family—with the forced laugh she had perfected. “He married half of the races in Youl’en!” Haval deeply giggled. “Three more wives and we’d have a complete set!” Haval had said the joke about their shared father, but different mother, and Zaila had only worked her way through a third of her eggs. She was behind pace.
“It would make the holidays more interesting,” snorted Yaskjer. “We have the avonis—” he motioned to himself “—a wulack—” then to Skore “—and a baru,” he completed, pointing his feathered digits towards his last, bear-like brother. “The human and rameet wives would be easy enough to con, but a dragoness?”
“He’d have better luck with a wyvern!” Haval finished. The three brothers laughed together heartily, though for Skore, that only came in the form of a light chuckle.
Zaila could not take her eyes off of the wulack warrior. For the brothers, it had only been a month since they met, but for the dragoness… even though she knew them for longer, she wouldn’t wish their fate upon anyone.
Skore met her eyes, crashing them back into the grass. “You alright, commander?” he asked quietly, but saturated with kindness.
She didn’t deserve to be called commander: she was only fifteen and it had gotten them killed. Or… will get them killed. Brutally.
“Worried about your first foray into the field as commander of Cerberus squad?” Haval boomed, easily reaching over and comforting the young girl’s shoulder. “We’ll make sure you look good for the boss man! What’s the worst that could happen?”
“I lead us right into an ambush getting two of you killed, losing my arm, and spurring Eymir to lose control of the demon inside him, ending the world entirely?”
The silence was deafening for only a moment before Haval and Yaskjer burst out laughing. She looked away, hiding her terror.
When she looked back, Skore wasn’t laughing with them. He looked as if he foresaw his death.