Hold it steady Cannoneers, Cosmonauts, and Whalers!
Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to, I promise! Please stop screaming! Because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
I Wasn’t Aiming for You
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!
This prompt is a tried-and-true action trope; a cocky hotshot pulls out a gun and shoots at the villain…only for the shot to go wide and the villain to laugh maniacally. That’s when the bullet hits the intended target: a street sign that falls over and knocks the villain out cold. It’s cheesy, but it works. Now…how do we write stories out of that?
The first place my mind goes to is weapons. Whether swinging, stabbing or shooting, all weapons require you to aim. You could write about a sniper hitting the wrong target, a knight cutting down his own page, or even a soldier blindly tossing a grenade over a wall. Or maybe that was the intent; think of the thief who aims for the giant keg behind his opponent, soaking them in beer. Or else, maybe an unforeseen element comes into play like a drunk stumbling between the dartboard and the players.
You could go fantastical with it. Perhaps a time traveler tries to shoot someone through time only to find out they’re not there anymore. A superhero might be aiming their laser blast at a villain…and accidentally hit a civilian. Or vice versa. They could even accidentally save the villain’s alter ego, unaware it’s really them. Magic works well too, but you don’t have to stop at lightning blasts and fireballs. Maybe a witch intends to turn the prince into a frog…but accidentally hits his servant. Maybe a necromancer is trying to raise a corpse…but accidentally brings a streetlamp to life, not even knowing they could do that. This way you can have scenarios of all sorts—from hilarious to heroic to horrific!
An interesting adjacent take on this prompt is an authorized strike. This prompt isn’t about the shot; it’s about the aiming. The person who aimed could very well be the big wig sitting safely away from the battle. Maybe they authorize a bombing of a certain city…not realizing their family member is currently vacationing there. Maybe an evil queen creates a law she never thought would affect her loved ones.
Most sports have something you’re aiming for, whether it be the basketball at the hoop or trying to get your horse to jump over the right log fence. You could write about the wrong teammate catching the ball, or about one player accidentally hitting someone hard enough to hurt them. You could write about getting the wrong person out in dodgeball, despite a pact made. You could even do something like the episode of Ted Lasso where Dani Rojas accidentally hits their greyhound mascot with the ball instead of the goal.
What about a camera? It’s only too easy to get a picture of someone you weren’t “aiming” for. Perhaps you want to write about a paparazzi who discovers evidence of a crime on their camera roll. Or you could write about a skeevy person trying to get pictures of their crush…without their current significant other in them.
Even information can be sent to the wrong person. You could write about the spy trope where briefcases are switched, where a random passerby accidentally picks up the briefcase full of government secrets. Another common trope/joke you could play with is hitting “reply all” in an email, and sending sensitive information to way too many people. Letters are another way information might be sent to the wrong person. (The beginning of Dear Evan Hansen I think has two great examples of this). A letter could contain many different things you might not want sent to the wrong person. If a love letter suffers this fate, and the unintended recipient accepts the profession of love…things could get very messy very quickly.
Love could be aimed at the wrong person in many different ways. Not just a letter, but flowers sent to the wrong address, chocolates put in the wrong locker, even blown kisses could be mistaken in the hallway. It’s a common experience to think someone is waving at you…when actually they’re waving at someone behind you, after all. One of the most fun uses of this could be Cupid’s/Eros’ arrows. I could see lots of fun takes on Cupid accidentally hitting the wrong person. You could even play with a retelling of the Psyche story, where he accidentally shoots himself.
That itself could be another really fun use of the prompt: what happens when the person aiming accidentally hits themselves? Voldemort’s killing curse backfiring on himself could count as this. What happens when a witch accidentally drinks her own potion, or a mad scientist accidentally shrinks himself?
Accusations and threats, or praise and jokes, all work. You can easily accuse the wrong person—whether it be “You left this ice cream out to melt!” or “You murdered this man!”—as well as threaten the wrong person—be it aloud, or in writing. Recent real-life events have taught me that even something as official and important as a Cease and Desist can be sent to the wrong person. A boss might want to praise one employee, and accidentally send it to someone they are intending to fire.
But this prompt doesn’t have to be negative. It could be especially intriguing to see how you could take it in positive directions—how the recipient is actually very happy to receive…whatever it is, and the aimer must decide if they’re going to tell them the truth, or roll with it.
I could see this prompt having a vast variety of tones, from extremely dark, to extremely funny. The focus could change the story too; the whole story could focus on the aiming, only to end with a wail of pain coming from the wrong person; or perhaps the story doesn’t include the actual firing, only the aftermath where they’re desperately pleading with their victim.
My first challenge for you is a simple content challenge: this prompt lends itself very heavily towards weapons, my challenge to you is to think outside the box and write about something other than a weapon being aimed. You could add extra challenges to this as well—level one being “Don’t write about a weapon,” level two being “Write about something more symbolic being aimed,” level three being “Write about this being something positive (or received positively),” and level four being “Write about the person accidentally hitting themselves.” (You can mix and match, as always!)
My second challenge is to use the structure, syntax, grammar, etc. of the story to pair well with the content. What I mean by this is that if your character is very carefully aiming, be intentional about the technical aspects of your story to make it feel like the story itself is aiming. However, if your character is scatterbrained, structure the story in a scattered way. Don’t just tell us a character is careful, show us the carefulness in our reading. Don’t just tell us a character is messy, make us feel their messiness in the very structure of the story.
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!
Oh, you don’t mind? That was a scream for joy? Well umm…cool I guess. I’ll just be going, then!
—Pearce & 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.