Tag Archives: short stories

“A good writer possesses not only his own spirit but also the spirit of his friends.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes all you need is a little change.

Change is a funny thing. Though it can be both bad and good, we humans often fear it. Whether you are about to go to college or take a gigantic trip, you fear the unknown ahead. If you lose someone close to you, you fear the uncertainty that their absence brings.

This week (H)our Stories experienced a whole lot of change. For the first time we welcomed a stranger into our midst (okay, not so much a stranger as a good friend). Mathew Roscoe is an LA-based film Editor, Animator, and VFX-Artist who writes and directs whenever he can. This all around awesome dude was more than up to the challenge of writing an (H)our Story.

As there were suddenly three writers, we embraced the change in front of us — in this exercise, each writer provided one prompt to be shared by everyone. That’s right! We all used the same prompts. They were:



  1. Siblings (provided by Roscoe)
  2. U-haul (provided by Jacob)
  3. Edward Albee (provided by ZB)

A testament to the power of imagination, the outcomes were totally different. Even when basic circumstances of the stories were similar, such as the case with ZB and Roscoe, the stories would be a chore to confuse.

In Roscoe’s H Street Era, a grandfather ejects his grandson & granddaughter from his childhood home. The physical texture of the piece calls back to Roscoe’s filmmaker roots while the struggles of the two grandchildren allows it to stand as a story on its own.

In ZB’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a brother and sister try to confront the realities of their past as they clean out their parent’s home. The eponymous play works as an emotional swivel, allowing them to venture beyond their childhood nostalgia.

Jacob differed from the norm, allowing his characters to have previously packed up the Uhaul. In Ninety Miles Out, two brothers experience road trouble due to their own staggering stupidity. The subtlety of the piece allows the audience to groan along with the brothers, knowing that their mistakes are common amongst us all.

To see more of Roscoe’s work check out his film reels here. He’s a pretty impressive man.

As always, check out our archives for more (H)our Stories or reach out to us in the comments if you have a story inspired by our prompts! We would love to feature more from our friends.


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“At night we are all strangers, even to ourselves.” – Alexander McCall Smith


Hookah Etiquettes 01 by Laxman Kymar

Another late-night writing session left the authors with two more interesting and unusual pieces. It seems that a little bit of exhaustion goes a long way into getting the authors to write outside of their comfort zones.

In The Tale of Squid Vicious, Jacob layers a tinge of absurdity on top of a murder mystery. The board is set from the very first sentence and it’s fascinating to see how the pieces move. It’s fun to predict the next moment but everyone is wondering how it ends.

  1. Squid
  2. Romance (as a genre)
  3. Yoga Mat

ZB  struggled at first with the prompts, unable to see where they interconnected. After five minutes of staring at a blank screen, Passing the Torch fell directly into his brain and onto the page. Each beat is exactly as he meant it to be in this real-world story about the tragedy of how history is beginning to repeat itself.

  1. “Ace in the hole.”
  2. Computer Coding
  3. Elderly Tattooed Man

Squid Gold by Oliver Gal

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“Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people of your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.” —Leslie Gordon Barnard

Gun Painting by Roy Lichtenstein; Gun Art Print for sale

Gun by Roy Lichtenstein

Two weeks have passed since the writers together composed their stories. This week saw each writer facing troubles in getting their stories to flow. Unlike past weeks, these troubles were demonstrably unpleasant.

For Jacob, trouble brewed during conception. Murphy’s Law of Writing* concedes that if writer’s block can happen, it will happen — even with exercises as short as these. Luckily, like most writers, Jacob had many an unfinished project to fall back on. Digging through his outline pile he found one that fit the prompts provided. Valentine’s Roulette shows that preplanning pays off. He tells a story where six characters come to life with just the smallest description. Poetry and plot collide to leaves the reader teetering on edge, wondering what comes next.

Most of the prompts Jacob was given have been used before. Check the links for the related (H)our Stories.

  1. 3+ Main Characters 
  2. Personification of Death
  3. Social Media

ZB’s problem of the week developed not during conception, but execution. The prompts stroked ZB’s imagination & immediately the story fell into place. However, somewhere along the way the telling began to fracture. With each word harder to put on the page than the one before it, the results were Stinky Pete — a genuine surprise to both him & Jacob. With all the difficulty in writing, ZB expected something that did not equal the sum of its parts; instead a sincerely sad story was born. ZB avoided all the typical pratfalls the prompts suggested while setting up two characters with an intimate yet complicated relationship. Like Valentine’s Roulette, Stinky Pete leaves the reader wondering what happens next.

  1. Mirage
  2. Character with PTSD
  3. Punk Rock Music


Female Soldier by Da Zhong Zhang

*Murphy’s Law of Writing is a fictional rule not to be confused with Murphy’s Law, though if you’re going to use it in a scholarly essay, the least you could do is credit us appropriately. Jeez.

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“Once Upon a Midnight Dreary, While I Pondered, Weak and Weary…” – Edgar Allan Poe


The Hunter’s Shimmering Forest, by Gill Bustamante

The clock struck one a.m. when the writers exchanged prompts. After an exhausting hour of scribbling away they looked up from their computers. “How’d it go?”

“Pretty well considering…”

Both authors walked away pleasantly surprised with their work this week. Given their general disappointment with the stories they’ve previously written late at night, the expectation to disappoint again weighed on their minds. The lateness of the hour not withstanding, each of them felt as if their stories succeeded in being both entertaining and representative of their individual genres.

In Song of the Solstice, Jacob wrote a character-centric suspense story about a father and son hunting in the woods. The deceiving nature of the forest makes you wonder what, among its eerie tranquility, is real.

  1. Time Inconsistencies
  2. A Father
  3. The Solstice

The late hour provided ZB with a barrier of separation between author and story that allowed him to venture outside of his comfort zone to create engaging science fiction. He captures the fear of the unknown in the sprawling galactic drama, Elphas Immunodeficiency Virus.

  1. Infected Tattoo
  2. Doctor’s Without Borders
  3. Science Fiction

Cometa Aducatoare de Viata, by Corina Chirila

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“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.” – Larry Niven

“In a perfect world, this is exactly how the process of writing would go. I don’t need to be totally in love with the words I’m putting on the page, but if it comes with this level of casualness about it, dear god, I’d never stop doing it.”

This is how Jacob described the week’s writing and it applies pretty well for both writers.

A first draft is rarely the masterpiece we intend to author, these stories are no exception, but they were fun to write and the words came easy. The stories flowed from their fingertips with ease and even a little bit of grace.

In Buy Something or Leave, Jacob presented both the personal and political sides to the end of the world. At its heart this is a slice-of-life story set just before the end of the world. His prompts were:

  1. Supernova
  2. A wild dog
  3. An ultimatum

In What is the Plural of Penis? ZB paired his character with an uncomfortable setting to create an excellent natural conflict. It is a story where the protagonist constantly draws himself back into an unwanted, awkward situation. His prompts:

  1. Beekeeper
  2. A lie
  3. An art gallery

Supernova Over Avalon, by Frith Johnson

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“Style Means the Right Word. The Rest Matters Little.” -Jules Renard


Homeless Man, by Elize Bezuidenhout

The last two weeks have been full of challenges for both writers. This week was no different. While each of the six stories written over the last two weeks was unique in its attempt to utilize the prompts given, it wasn’t until this week that both writers felt like their story used each prompt to their full effect.

Jacob wrote Metropolis Razing, a heavy piece that captures the complexity and difficulty of life on the streets. His prompts:

  1. Non-White Main Character
  2. The Smell of Skin
  3. Times Square

For a totally different tone, ZB’s Casual Dating adds mystery to a bad date & shows how romance has evolved over the years.

  1. Modern Dating
  2. A Budding Politician
  3. Bari, Italy

Tinder Boy, by Ambrus Gero

For a look at the last two week’s stories, look here and here.

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“Art is Not a Democracy. You Don’t Get to Vote on How it Ends.” – George R.R. Martin


Wandering Albatross, by Chris Rose. In keeping with this weeks’s prompts.

This week’s process proved great for both writers. A sort of perfect storm of prompts lead both Z.B. & Jacob to new creatives places. It was a nice change after the difficulties of the previous week — to be able enjoy writing and have a couple of pieces that we are proud of.


Jacob wrote an eccentric piece with solid world building that drops you directly into the story. With three seemingly contrary prompts he committed to the absurdity and wrote the charming : Our King, the Giant Squid.

His prompts:

  1. Giant Squid
  2. Shakespearean Fool
  3. Cloning

ZB found inspiration in the epic poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Manhattan Project/Hiroshima Bombing to write the multilayered The Albatross.

His prompts:

  1. Location of a crime
  2. A tailor
  3. An albatross


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“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” – Frank Herbert

This quote has perhaps never been more true for the writers than it was today, though Herbert likely had other intentions behind his words.

Z.B. spent much of his hour researching the perfect setting, but ran out of time before his characters arrived there. Jacob, on the other hand, felt the constant tug and release of conflicting ideas, resulting in a conclusion more or necessity than purpose.

ZB’s story Storm in a Teacup used the following prompts:

  1. School for the                      (disability/speciality/etc.)
  2. Teapot
  3. “Going back in style.”

Jacob’s story No Horizons used:

  1. Epic romance
  2. Ghastly Murder
  3. Jack-in-the-box (children’s toy)


    Jack in the Box, by Charlie Spear. A fitting visual to this week’s struggles.

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“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.” – Howard Nemerov

Bus Stop (painting)

Arête de bus, by Kristian Kasi.

The two stories that came out of this week’s writing session proved as opposite as possible.

Jacob wrote a loving story between a mother and her son. Inspired by his own experience at his sixth grade science fair, he created the impressively cute An Imperfect Gift.

His prompts:

  1. Mother’s Day
  2. Surrounded by water
  3. An Inventor.


For a more nihilistic read, ZB’s Bus Stop captures the cynicism of an authoritarian society. He used his prompts to supplement an ideology not entirely his own.

His prompts included:

  1. Police State
  2. Bus Stop
  3. Grocer

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“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” – Philip Pullman

*Two Years Later*

Z.B & Jacob, the writers behind (H)our Stories, are pleased to turn that proverbial door sign around and announce that they are BACK IN BUSINESS!

Plenty has changed since the last time the writers convened to write.  Two years away experiencing what the world had to offer between nourishment, shelter, & companionship, the writers remembered that stories (and the writing thereof) is just as integral to their wellbeing today as it had been all those years ago.

To start off, Jacob wrote a simple story about a 1. grandfather 2. brushing teeth. It had to include two different time eras and he managed it beautifully in the slow paced but gripping Heaven Before Bed.

Z.B. wrote a very noir story unique by its contradiction of genre to character. He was supposed to include 1. a person in a cowboy hat, 2. somewhere near sand, and 3. a Sony Walkman. Stay vigilant and keep an eye out for that Walkman in The Package.


Toothbrush & Toothpaste Cap, by Elizabeth Fraser.

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