Hello arts and crafts enthusiasts, festival goers, and lost souls!
Do you see those lights in the distance? No, they’re not stars, my dear. I do hope you have your scissors and candles ready! Because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
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!
The paper lantern originated in China and quickly became a recognized decoration throughout several Asian cultures. There are many Asian festivals that celebrate with them. In China the Shangyuan Festival is speculated to celebrate the supreme Chinese deity of the heavens, or the Taoist god of good fortune. Others believe the red lanterns were a trick to make the Jade Emperor, or a fiery fairy, believe a town they were going to set on fire was already on fire. In Sri Lanka, during Vesak people hang colorful “vesak kuudu” that symbolize the guiding light of the Buddha.
But Asia isn’t the only place that celebrates with lanterns anymore: in New Mexico, the Christmas tradition of luminaria (or farolitos) has lanterns that act as a guiding light for the Christ child. In Germany, for Sankt Martin’s day, kindergarten-age children parade through town singing songs, carrying paper and carton lanterns suspended from the end of wooden sticks, which they often craft themselves.
Another type of lantern you might see are sky lanterns, allegedly invented by a man called Kongming. In China, they’ve been used for festivals, but also for sending signals and messages during war. In Taiwan, one district holds a lantern festival in which people release sky lanterns to send wishes and messages to God. In Thailand, the Lanna people use sky lanterns year-round; their release symbolizes problems and worries floating away.
Speaking of floating away, there are also water lanterns, paper lanterns that float on the water’s surface. In India, they are released on many festivals and holidays for many reasons: as an act of worship, to send disasters away, to welcome happiness, even to pray for a good marriage. In many parts of Asia where Buddhism is practiced, people release water lanterns to guide wayward spirits and hungry ghosts to the afterlife.
But you don’t have to write about a known festival from our world. You could create a fictional fantasy festival that uses paper lanterns in its celebration. Much like in Tangled how paper lanterns are a celebration of Rapunzel’s birthday, as well as a mourning for her loss, and a call for her to return. Or like in Terraria, how lanterns go across your screen the night after you defeat a boss. To my knowledge, paper lanterns at large aren’t associated with a sole emotion/celebration, so you could use them for all sorts of events. Maybe a funeral uses water lanterns. Perhaps a married couple lights off lanterns after a wedding. Maybe a fictional city celebrates the defeating of a dragon with lighting lanterns.
Your paper lanterns don’t have to be the ones used for festivals either. The prompt relays the idea of a lantern made of paper, and this could mean many things. There are lanterns with a spinning mechanism, which show pictures on the walls, and I’m sure these could be made of paper. It could be an origami lantern a child makes in class. Or simply a drawing of a lantern on paper. Maybe this drawing will come to life? You could write about a world made of paper, so of course any lantern there would be made of paper—everything is!
Maybe other objects could be described as a paper lanterns. Hot air balloons work much like paper lanterns do, just on another scale. Perhaps you could describe the silk as a sort of paper? Maybe a letter burning in the fireplace could be described metaphorically as a lantern. As long as you find a strong enough connection to the paper aspect, you could draw comparisons of many burning objects to lanterns. Could even a dragon, who breathes fire, be described as a lantern of sorts? Maybe its skin has the texture of paper?
Lanterns can easily be associated with spirits. Maybe they ward against evil spirits, or trap them like bug nets. Or perhaps it’s not fire that lights the lanterns, but rather little spirits fly within them. Are the spirits delighted by their new transport? Is a festival hosted to honor their release? Or maybe the spirits ARE the lanterns. It might look like there’s a paper lantern floating in the distance, when really it’s a will o’ wisp trying to lead you astray.
A paper lantern could be a symbol. Some lanterns are made of metal and glass, but the interesting thing about paper lanterns is that the fire could easily burn the paper around it. It’s a delicate balance where the fire is just far enough from the paper to make it rise instead of destroying it. Water lanterns add another element to this symbol; the fire is so close to burning up the paper, and the water is so close to snuffing out the fire. The water might save the paper from the fire…but it would destroy the paper too, in a different way. Perhaps you could use these ideas as metaphors in your story.
Another symbol it could stand for is a book. The words upon the pages spark the human imagination like a match, or pass on ideas like a torch. A paper lantern could even be a symbol for a person—or any living being, really—a soul housed within a fragile vessel. Perhaps you could write about how the fires of our own ambitions and passions—or even love—can sometimes burn us up with them.
My challenge for you this week is to use this as an opportunity to explore other cultures through your writing. Pick one of the uses mentioned above, or something you can find in your own research, and write a story about it!
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!
There! Our lantern is ready! Now, let it go, and make a wish as you watch it float away.
—Derek, Pearce, Paul & Kaylie
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.