Photo Prompt

Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.

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Photo credit: Diogo Figueira

105 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Roseanne Boyle says:

    Hundred Word Revelation

    “Let’s face it, we’re both fucked up. No one could tolerate us but each other.” The slight curl of his lips made her bud of hope blossom. For the first time ever, he considered himself one of the factors standing in the way of their happiness. When his arms wrapped around her in an undemanding hug, behind closed eyes, the lanterns that hung above them in her parents yard, when vows were made, illuminated her mind. They were beginning anew. Their future pristine. No looking back. Vestiges of the existence they had been living forgotten. A new day had dawned.

    • Catherine Dietrich says:

      A beautiful, lantern inspired reawakening – an exciting element in a story for me is a character’s inspiration to change. Excellent imagery and poignant emotion ( Also, good to see your return to our 100 – missed you)

  2. Faye S says:

    My Child

    I came here to say goodbye to you.

    Far below the waves crash against the sand and shingle. ‘White horses’ my mum used to call them.

    I watch as the last families on the beach slowly pack up their belongings and start the long trek up the sand covered stairwell. Weary children smeared in sun cream and frozen treats cling like koalas to their parents.

    My soul aches.

    As the sun’s last embers sink into the horizon, I kiss the lantern and release you into the twilight. You circle slowly on the breeze then rise into the heavens.

    My child.

  3. Manish Sahu says:

    CELEBRATION

    With my group of friends, I watched in amusement as they set up hundreds of lanterns for the annual festival of lights.

    The brightly lit, decorated lanterns symbolised various things — a victory celebration of light over darkness, a triumph of knowledge over ignorance, a conquest of good over evil. They represented joy, good fortune, energy and longevity.

    “They’ll be back next year, again lighting these lanterns,” one of my mates said.

    “And we’ll all be here again — laughing at their efforts,” another said.

    “Funny, they think they can wipe us away,” I remarked. “One day for them, 364 for us.”

  4. Jon Remington says:

    Christmas nightmare of past

    When Ronald asked what her happy place was he never expected it to be hell. The theme park poked at his physique, always frail this time of the year. Chinese lanterns hanging down from the dark, tauntingly reminding him of the family Wongs that christmas so long ago. Further down the path; Santa’s hut. Outside sat a grinning elf. The second Ronald saw him, he wanted to kick him in the head. He reminded himself; the man was not responsible for the present nor the past. Ronald swallowed every bad memory, smiling, remembering: This was her happy place

    • Jon Remington says:

      Oh my…. I meant “psyche” not “physique” ……

      I will make a second draft, maybe.

      My terrible terrible english skills. Im so sorry.

  5. Zion R says:

    A Job

    Azalea sighed moments after the vehicle drove away, “Unemployed and alone again.” The voices of her mom, siblings, and friends were gone. She needed the silence, but couldn’t bear it.

    She reached for her box of special things, the memorabilia of her youth, for comfort and inspiration.

    Hugging the Chinese lantern postcard received months before her parents divorced, she remembered that night. They laughed while dancing beneath those lanterns. She never brought up the subject in school, but wished she could have said more. Years later, life was better. Now Azalea’s family needed her, and it was time for work.

  6. Ken Gosse says:

    A Meeting of the Twain ~

    Chouchin lanterns mark the centennial anniversary of the arrival of the first seven-hundred eighty-one Japanese immigrants in Brazil on June 18th, 1908, after a fifty-one-day steamship voyage. There, they would work the coffee plantations after slavery had been abolished. Six-hundred males, one-hundred eighty-one females, some families with children, including teachers, police, priests, office workers, skilled and unskilled workers, but few farmers.

    The annual five-day Japanese immigration festival in Londrina, Brazil, ran from June 18th through 22nd in 2008. A web search for “IMIN Londrina” displays many articles (mostly in Japanese and Portuguese) as well as videos of the celebrations.

  7. Ken Gosse says:

    Language of Lights ~

    There are many words I see
    but they’re meaningless to me,
    forming sounds which I can hear
    although foreign to my ear;
    this tradition’s not my own,
    so its meaning isn’t known.

    Like the stars we see at night,
    man-made orbs displaying light,
    made from earth and plants by man
    transforming power which began
    within the sun, our nearest star,
    which sustains us where we are.

    Reaching out to find a hand,
    seeking help to understand—
    since I only know one tongue,
    like most people I’m among—
    and the while I learn from you,
    may you know me better, too.

    • Catherine D says:

      Love the cultural blending, so timely – I was hoping for a poignant rhyme from you – very well conceived!

      • Ken Gosse says:

        Thank you, Catherine. As I’m sure you know, a lot of inspiration (and energy), comes from those who enjoy our writing and are kind enough to comment, whether in praise, critique, or both. I felt the rhyme was a bit choppy, somewhat contrived this time, but I liked the direction of the opening verse so I went with it. My second submission, in prose, is the result of what I discovered about the photo from numerous websites after I wrote the poem.

        • Catherine D says:

          Great one, two punch a la lanterns. Thank you for your comments and your submissions – always look forward to them!

    • Roseanne Boyle says:

      Lovely work. Speaks from the heart.

      • Ken Gosse says:

        Thank you, Roseanne. So many times when we post online we don’t know whether our work is read or is appreciated by someone other than ourselves.

  8. Manish Sahu says:

    ## The Riddle ##

    At the lantern festival the eight-year old girl grabbed a riddle tied from the lantern.

    “It follows you everywhere throughout the day, and leaves you only when the lights are out.”

    Excitedly she scampered to the prize booth. “I have solved it. The answer is — my father! Give me that doll.

    “Sorry dear, that isn’t the right answer.”

    “It is. The answer is ‘father’. I need the doll, she said, teary eyed.

    “Your shadow. That’s the correct answer.”

    The girl glanced back at the tall, dark figure following her.

    “Let’s go,” her father said. “I’ll buy you a better doll”.

    • Manish Sahu says:

      Sorry, I posted an earlier draft. A revised version is below.

    • Manish Sahu says:

      ## The Riddle ##

      At the annual lantern festival, the little girl grabbed a riddle hanging from a lantern.

      “It follows you everywhere throughout the day, and leaves you only when the lights are out.”

      Excitedly she scampered to the prize booth. “I have solved it. The answer is — my father! Give me that doll.”

      “Sorry dear, but that isn’t the right answer.”

      “It is ‘father’. I need the doll,” she said, tears rolling down.

      “Your shadow. That’s the correct answer.”

      The girl glanced at the tall, dark figure that kept following her.

      “Let’s go,” her shadow said. “I’ll buy you a better doll”.

    • Roseanne Boyle says:

      Love it. Made my heart smile.

  9. Catherine Dietrich says:

    Panic Bar

    I go native in Japan, overindulge in warm Saki wine, a sweet rice “tea” sipped from a ceramic cup.

    I manage to handle the squat toilet, figure out the sliding screens, return to my cup, to find it and my wife missing.

    I scan the scene, Samurai swords and bodies strewn about, feel the switch flip – confident tourist to panicked man, fuzzy headed with a dead phone.

    Dazed, I stumble outside. My wife sways admiring hundreds of silk lanterns killing the dark. “They’re hopeful, calm, like how we handle whatever life throws at us.”

    I grab and kiss her passionately.

  10. Lois Perch Villemaire says:

    The Path

    He was a flaming procrastinator and not a shining example of a decision maker. He tended to feel he had all the time in the world and secretly hoped that events would somehow resolve and the outcome would be decided for him. But this was crunch time. It was nearly a life and death situation. There could be no more avoidance, delays, or denial. After a light-year of deliberating and weighing the pros and cons, he discovered that the direction to take was glowing and bright. It was as though a string of brilliant lights delineated a radiant path.

  11. Rima El-Boustani says:

    A Lantern for Your Soul.

    I lived a long life, hating you every step of the way. Your soul has sullied my name to hell and away. I’m sending this lantern to wish you away. I’ll guide you wherever you go, so long as it isn’t here. Damn you to hell my love. Damn you to hell. If you can’t find the way, then follow the lamps I’ve lit. You won’t find this service from anyone else, living or dead. I tell you, when I’m done, I’ll be coming your way. I hope they’ll light me a lantern to show me the way.

  12. Magical Paper Orbs

    The lanterns lit the aisle just the way I had always dreamed, a subtle, yet festive glow leading to the altar. I took one last deep breath, straightened my gown, and through a veiled, floral scented cloud filled with music, I floated under the swaying paper orbs, growing closer and closer to destiny’s gift. Wrapped in black and white, topped with a crisp, red satin bow, his warm, outstretched arms magically drew me into his orbit. Vows and blessings joined us as one, before our ringed hands touched and the lanterns lifted into the night sky, winking as we kissed.

  13. Elisa J says:

    The moon, for once, is lost amongst these lights. The cold unnoticed. We see only ourselves, hear only our laughter. A glowing town that burns brightly in the night, celebrating everything. Eating and talking and burning and happy. Chicken skin smoking like fatty incense. Beer, foaming, slurped and spilled. Only I have not completely forgotten the night beyond. Only I seem to feel the bite in my fingertips, clasped (in prayer, supplication). Only I can see the moon. My chapped lips rip apart painfully, to whisper my warm secret into my hands. Will he love me? I ask. Won’t he?

  14. Ron DiMichele says:

    My title would be ‘Sudden Interlude,’ but didn’t know if included in word count.

  15. Ron DiMichele says:

    In the heyday of my youth, the height of the drug culture, I strived for experiences like this, pharmaceutically. Now, it was disconcerting. After many hours of work reports, and a long stint on my Kindle, I slipped out to the back patio for some cool, night air. I flicked on the Chinese lantern, and froze. Luminescent globes, hundreds of them, stretched out towards dark horizons. I stood mesmerized, but disoriented, transported to a parallel universe by the abrupt display. The eyestrain would clear up the next morning, but a subtle taste of the mystical orient lingered in its wake.

  16. Rhonda Trunnell says:

    I feigned illness that morning and after some fuss, Mama allowed me to stay home. While the others were at church, I went to work collecting the necessities for our escape. I carefully stowed my bundle of boiled eggs, sandwiches, and fried pies behind the live oak tree near the dock. Then, out of wickedness, I took the Chinese lanterns from Ethel’s room. Later that night, Jim and I strung them across the mast of our raft. We knew the river well and Jim poled expertly around the rocks and drifts. The Chinese lanterns, like stars, guided our grand journey.

  17. Jon Remington says:

    Endless bastard

    “Are you sure?”

    I asked the advisor once again.

    “Yes!”

    He said, with a sigh quickly replaced by the smile of a patient store clerk. Was I the troublesome customer?

    Had we had this exact conversation before?

    I casted a cowards glance at the endless orbs of light hanging on a string, then back at my feet. I swallowed.

    “Each of those was me??”

    “YES”

    “And each time I was a ..”

    “A foul, annoying, bastard. And everytime you get here, Jon …” He said, now clenching his fist. “You promise to behave better in your next”

    • Manish Sahu says:

      LOL, Rinse, Repeat.

      Love that inner coward in you, Jon.

      • Jon Remington says:

        Yes, Ill try to rinse and repeat this story, to make it a bit tighter.

        But Im glad it had a funny effect. That was the intention.

        Thank you, Manish.

        • Manish Sahu says:

          No, Jon,

          I wasn’t suggesting you to rinse and repeat the story.

          LOL probably meant that I was “Laughing Out in a Loop”.

          But this style is very different from what I have read from you before. Isn’t it?

          I do like it.

          • Jon Remington says:

            Ah, I see. Well, thanks!
            Glad you liked it.
            Yes, style wise its different. I think this is more like a joke/sketch. It doesnt aim for emotions

  18. Catherine Dietrich says:

    Leading Lights
    Glittering orbs dot an ebony inked sky; Asian festival lampions dangle, strung-out endlessly to celebrate the New Year, spiritual traditions and symbololic wishes for a bright future. An ethereal flash transforms my view. I see…lights and darks, opposing philosophies, disguised as coquettish lovers, not adversaries. I’m moved to invite disparate concepts to challenge my unoriginal thoughts. Why? To crash and burn habitual thinking, safeguarded in my mind’s attic and soul’s basement. How? With a collective orchestrated Voltaire-esque conversion for my tentative, gun-shy writer. Jon and Manish lead the charge, boldly light the way through the darkness.

    • Manish Sahu says:

      Manish who?

    • Jon Remington says:

      Thank you for the compliment – and for including me again in a story.

      but I am not bold, Catherine the great.

      That is one of many positive traits I can not claim ownership to.

      • Manish Sahu says:

        @Catherine,

        I think Jon has spoken for me as well.

        I am not bold. If I am, it’s in an Quixotic way.

        • Catherine D says:

          You are both so humble and unassuming – it’s a joy to read your comments and your stories. And when you began to freely share your thoughts and banter with each other our 100 word community became much more than just a listing of stories, you connect us with our passion and each other. I’m one writer who appreciates your level of participation (Just my opinion) ~ cd

  19. Manish Sahu says:

    Stationed outside a bar, on a sleazy, narrow, bustling street, I have a tough job.

    It’s my job to attract customers. I’m the one who ensures that the drunks don’t stumble in the dark, ending up in the gutter.

    Barfights, muggings, drug peddlers, dishonest policemen, honest hookers, stone-pelters who almost blinded me — I’ve seen everything.

    Rain, humidity, hot weather, wintry nights, insects — I tackle these, with no holidays.

    As dawn approaches, my stomach burns. Somebody will soon switch me off. Soon, as sunlight arrives, it’ll take over my duties. And this lantern sign can have a few hours of respite.

  20. Year of the golden pig was considered a lucky year. If he was born, her baby would have been a lucky baby, but she had a miscarriage. No golden baby for her. No baby at all that year. It was a year of sadness. A year of loss. A golden loss.

    She place a wish in the golden envelope and let it float among the golden lanterns. A wish for a baby. A boy or girl doesn’t matter. Just a baby. Golden or regular doesn’t matter. Just a baby, to hold, to love, to kiss and to make life golden.

  21. Jordan B says:

    Zumu once told me, eyes glassy with reverence:
    “Even the swiftest, widest river can only flow as fast as its narrowest point.”

    A river of lanterns flows molten down our street, sloshing against buildings like riverbanks. Paraders shuffle closer to the house fronts as the street constricts. Disembodied lights jostle.

    I strain upward in the doorway, yearning for a taller view. Awash in yellow, Zumu rests a hand on my shoulder.

    Every week she assures me:
    “You grow so fast, granddaughter, fast as bamboo!”

    The rustle of paper, held aloft, and scuffle of shoes on cobblestone ebb into the night.

  22. Manish Sahu says:

    ## The Village of Doctors ##

    Travelling through the Qing province, I reached the “Village of Doctors” – where every house had a doctor. Feeling unwell, I decided to see a doctor.

    I noticed every house was lit by paper lanterns. Some had upto 10 glowing lanterns, some had just one. But there was one house in darkness and I knocked there.

    “Are you a doctor?”

    “Yes,” said the old man, bowing respectfully.

    “What’s the story behind these lanterns?”

    “We light one for every deceased patient.”

    “But why is your house in darkness?”

    “If I’m lucky, I’ll be lighting one tonight,” he said with a sly smile.

  23. Catherine D says:

    Manish, you are nailing these lantern stories – really don’t care if other submissions are slow to post – feeling fulfilled reading yours!
    And your “don’t know anything writing suggestions” are informative AND endearing.

  24. Matthew Hefferin says:

    Launching a Bright Future

    Ying Yue’s baby kicked as Ying leaned over and tossed three coins into the Wishing Boat minutes before its launch, wishing for a healthy baby for the New Years, the year of the Pig. The shimmering moon illuminated her reflection in the pool, the reflection of Chinese paper lanterns dancing on the surface of the rippling waves. Earlier, the calligrapher had dipped his brush in the ink and had written the baby girl’s name on rice paper. The boat drifted slowly across the pool to the other side where a girl stands, smiling and waving at Ying, whispering “Hello Mom.”

  25. Manish Sahu says:

    **Upside Down**

    I am old, broken and broke.

    Technology has made me obsolete. I can’t compete with these kids. Neither can I learn newer skills at this age. My livelihood has turned on its head.

    There’s a family to feed. And I have nothing to inspire me. All I can see is pitch darkness in the future.

    Maybe, it’s time to quit forever.

    Then, I look at the sea of inverted lanterns. They hang by a thread, their lives upside down — not unlike mine. Except that they have fire in their belly. And they shine brightly.

    Heck, I’ll give life another chance.

    • Jon Remington says:

      Referring to our conversation about the genre and suitable forms: I may be wrong, but I think you can see, that the prose form works wonders for this genre. Man, I love both of your last entries. Theire wonderful. Your prose is good, man.

      • Manish Sahu says:

        Jon,

        There is a very good chance that I missed your last comment about what you are writing about. I simply don’t recall it. I believe that got lost when the admins refreshed the “photo-prompt” page. This is one of the things I hate about this site.

        They know how to kill conversations.

        There’s no previous history of photo-prompt entries.

        Maybe, I’ll do a story on that as well.

        But if you could refresh the dialogue we had, it would be wonderful.

        Cheers.

        • Jon Remington says:

          Oh. We just had a little chat about forms best suitable for the genre. I told you how I in the beginning when writing 100 word stories almost only showed the story the entire time, using no telling – voice, and no “spices” in the language. Almost like a camera, showing a movie. Purely visuals. While this is a technique that can work well with longer stories(short stories) I had doubts that it was suitable with this 100 word format. One of the reasons being, it showcases emotions badly. Besides, the 100 word format works really well with the “telling” parts of a story.

          And yes, I agree. It is a little annoying that the prompts are “lost” afterwards.

          • Manish Sahu says:

            Jon,

            I am an illiterate when it comes to technicalities. I know nothing.

            One thing I know — there are no new stories in the world. Everything is retold. Where things differ is the “telling” part.

            I have a an unsuccessful background in screenwriting, so I’ll disagree with you. Movies are not very different from the flash fiction formats. Here things should be implied.

            I don’t understand much, I can tell you this — the short story format is more about what you DON’T tell, rather than what you tell. It’s all about reading between the lines and beyond.

            Sadly, that’s the part I haven’t been able to learn or master yet.

          • Jon Remington says:

            Yes, I agree that what you dont tell is of great value, the shorter piece.

            Well – I think you master crafting entertaining and good stories.

      • Manish Sahu says:

        You know what I hate, Jon?

        There hasn’t been one submission apart from mine in 48 hours.

        Shouldn’t we blame the photo-editor for picking such a picture?

        And honestly, is she being paid for this?

        • Jon Remington says:

          I think the picture is nice. Theres some details that took my attention when looking closer at it.

          Dont worry. The submissions will come rolling 🙂

          I wish though, that the prompts could last a month in real – time. Often, they are finished a day or two into the new month, or start as late as some days into a month.

        • Ken Gosse says:

          Manish,

          I often respond to the monthly photo prompts the day they are posted, but I noticed an error in the photo credit link and emailed the editors for clarification. The credit link was corrected and I expect I’ll respond soon, but I feel a bit out of sink with my words today, so I’ll give it more time.

          By the way, I enjoyed both of your stories, although in view of the 100-word limit of this challenge, perhaps the thief should have been sent for a terse sentence rather than a long one.

          As for the picture itself, I think it’s a wonderful selection and believe many other stories will be forthcoming soon.

          • Manish Sahu says:

            Many thanks Ken,

            I think the “terse sentence” should be more appropriate.

            I think I do deserve a terse sentence.

    • Catherine D says:

      Wow – excellent – depth, pathos and renewal to go back in!

    • Zinnia L says:

      Hi,
      I think your conversations and suggestions are interesting to read. Good job creating 100-word short stories. I also agree that writing in this format is more challenging than you would expect and more about what’s not included. I guess, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge anyway if it didn’t cause the writer to really focus on their choice of words and what they would like the reader to understand. It’s all part of the fun. Good job.

  26. Manish Sahu says:

    The Dictator

    I, the Police Chief of Wordlimitia am glad to report that the closure of the chōchin theft. The 16th century oriental lantern — crafted from rare bamboo and exquisite silk, estimated cost, a million olsens, was stolen from the Mundellia museum.

    The thief has been arrested and sent for a long sentence.

    Our clever detective work managed to retrieve the rare lantern. But first things first. It was all because of our beloved leader’s inspirational guidance.

    But how was case cracked? That’s for some other day. The president, General Faulkner has allotted me a quota of just a 100 words today.

  27. Jim Byrnes says:

    Excellent rendering of an end of life experience. Hard to imagine that it could be any better. Very nicely done.

  28. Jon Remington says:

    great work.

  29. Manish Sahu says:

    After 94 years, my call finally came. The end was painless.

    There were no big flashes of light, no thunderclaps. It was just a seamless transformation. Every emotion of anger, frustration, resentment and prejudice simply seemed to fade away. It seemed serene.

    There was a feeling of increasing weightlessness. I felt floating in the air, gently rising — up, up and away.

    When I finally arrived, a sea of well-lit lanterns — hanging from nowhere, greeted me.

    I looked down to where I came from. And I realised — a thousand points of light isn’t simply enough for a million points of darkness.

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