Friday Writing Prompts

A WRITING PROMPT FROM CAITLIN HORROCKS, author of this is not your city

Each Friday we post one new writing prompt created by a Sarabande author. Prompts like this one are included in our online Reader's Guides along with discussion questions and suggested reading to accompany each title. So if you can't wait a week for the next prompt, visit our Reader's Guide page to find them all in one place!

This week's prompt comes from Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City.


I wrote the story “In the Gulf of Aden, Past the Cape of Guardafui” after reading a short news item about an attempted pirate hijacking. This was several years ago, before piracy was widespread, and at the time it seemed wonderfully bizarre, an irresistible setting for a story. To try essentially the same exercise, go to Reuters’ Oddly Enough News ( or News of the Weird ( Choose a headline, the stranger the better, and write a story in which you deliberately move your focus onto events either before or after the bizarre happening. Think about who your characters are on any day of their lives except the one when the crazy event happened. The writer Haruki Murakami’s short story “The Second Bakery Attack” is about a man and woman robbing a McDonald’s and asking for nothing but hamburgers. The secret of Murakami’s story is in the title: this is the second bakery attack, and most of the story is a re-telling of the long-ago first attack. The past is what makes the present something more than the sum of its wacky parts.

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