Yarr Boatswains, Quartermasters, and Cabin Boys!
On yer feet, ya lazy mongrels! All hands on deck! Haul up the anchor and…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
Hoist the Sail
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!
It’s not often we get a prompt as atmospheric as this one. It’s not often we get a nautical prompt in general! Bring out all your best tales of pirates, mermaids, and high seas adventure this week!
The first place my mind goes to with this prompt is pirates, and I’d venture to guess the same goes for many of you. Perhaps your character is the Captain of a ship, drunk on rum and the thrill of the opportunity for a new bit of thievery. Maybe your character is a young stowaway who doesn’t realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. Or perhaps you could write from the perspective of someone trying their best to take down a group of pirates instead.
But pirates aren’t the only ones who might hear the phrase “hoist the sail!” around them. Perfectly legitimate businessmen, merchants, fishermen, Navy sailors, and more all might find themselves on a ship with sails that need hoisting. You could write about someone sailing along the silk road, excited and nervous for new business. Or about a fisherman catching more than he’s bargained for. Or else about a new recruit’s first time on a ship, getting seasick.
There are plenty of legends out at sea. Tell us tales of the horrors a crew sees in the Bermuda triangle. Of krakens devouring ships whole. Of ships with ghosts manning their masts. Of the sight of the Flying Dutchman out above the water.
Tall ships aren’t the only ships with sails, though. This prompt doesn’t have to be confined to the days of pirates. You could write about a family in modern day going out on a sailboat for the afternoon. Or a mechanical ship at an amusement park that broke down—its mechanical sail un-hoisted. Or perhaps you’d like to write about how a child, instead of making a fort, makes a boat out of their blankets.
Perhaps someone mishears the phrase “hoist the sail” as “hoist the sale!” There are all sorts of hilarious stories you could write with this idea. What happens when pirates host a yard sale? Are passersby too scared to buy anything? What about someone deciding to turn away from piracy and sell all the things from their days of thievery? You could write about a pirate-themed sale in modern day store—a mattress store with sheet-sails, an antique store with model ships, or a video game store selling Sea of Thieves. Perhaps you could find a way to combine the modern form of piracy with this prompt?
If you want to go the sci-fi direction, you could write about something Treasure Planet-esque, with tall ships in space. Or you could write about a ship with a solar sail on it. A “ship” doesn’t have to be a water vehicle; it can also refer to steampunk skyships, modern dirigibles and zeppelins, and even tanks and other large land vehicles like in the Mortal Engines series. Maybe the ship doesn’t sail through space, but through time itself, sailing along the timestream.
I have two challenges for you this week.
This prompt is occurring the day before Mother’s Day in America, so my first challenge for you is to somehow connect this prompt to Mother’s Day! You could write about a sailor’s mother, or pregnant wife back home. Or perhaps you could write about a woman who snuck onto a ship, despite it apparently being bad luck. Maybe she snuck on to get a glimpse of her son, who she hasn’t seen in years? Or maybe her son was kidnapped and put on a slaver’s ship, and she saves him over the course of the story? (Also, if you are in a country in which Mother’s Day occurs at a later date, feel free to save this challenge for yourself for then!)
My second challenge is sort of an addendum to the first. My second challenge is to write this prompt from a unique or unexpected perspective. My initial thought for this challenge was to write it from the perspective of someone who is not actually on the ship (which could easily include a wife or mother watching from shore). You could write from the perspective of the siren singing the sailors to their doom, or the selkie falling in love. Perhaps the crew mutinied against the previous captain and you write from the perspective of the captain sitting on the shore, watching his beloved ship leave. Or you could go the non-human route with this challenge: you could write from the perspective of the parrot on one of the sailor’s shoulders, the shark circling below the plank, or even the ship herself!
Remember, these challenges aren’t mandatory! They are meant to be a fun bonus if you’d like to have a little extra challenge. But, if you don’t want to use them, please don’t feel obligated to!
Drink up me hearties, yo ho!
—Kaylie & Pearce
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.
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.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
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.