Writerly Inspirations: May Seventeenth

This week our executive and fiction editors took a fun writing prompt and wrote up an exquisite corpse to share on the blog. If you’ve never heard of an exquisite corpse before, you’re probably scrunching up your nose and thinking about how morbid it sounds right about now, but we promise you — it’s not.

An exquisite corpse is an old writing activity/parlour game that was supposedly started by the surrealists in the early twentieth century, but was probably used even before then. It’s a method of creating a story where one person starts off with a sentence (or word, or whatever fits into the parameters the participants set) and then the next person in line builds off of that initial tidbit to slowly create a story.

All of us editors were first introduced to the exquisite corpse in college where we divided into groups, and sometimes even utilized the whole class, to create what often turned out to be absurd (or sometimes pretty fantastic) stories and poems. Now we all like to do it for fun, and it certainly does get the creative juices flowing!

It’s nice to carry forward a traditional exercise that has inspired writers for over a century — and it’s fun to imagine fanciful lords and ladies sitting in parlours creating what could have been the inspirations for countless classic stories and literary tropes. Give this exercise a try if you are looking for some writerly inspiration!

The Desert Runs Red Tonight

By Amber Porter and Kenna Jackson

Ice cubes clinked in amber colored liquid, condensation pooled around the small glass.

It went down smooth considering I just buried a guy in a shallow grave in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Other than the two dried spots of blood on my hiking boots, there was little evidence left on my sin.

Will the devil drink with me tonight or could his wife of an angel forgive me for what I had done.

Not that I cared for forgiveness, that asshole had it coming.

But I didn’t give it to him. I only washed away the crime, buried the evidence along with him, letting nature take back what she gave, and breathed a sigh of relief.

I heard someone sit beside me at the bar, the scent of lavender wafting over me. The smell of my sister’s shampoo was unmistakable—least it was better than the stink of blood she had been covered with.

It was her husband we laid in the ground. I poured her a drink, and selectively plucked a chunk of ice from the bucket. It clicked in the glass and she busted out laughing.

I looked at the old scars and new bruises across her exposed skin, but her laugh proved too infectious and soon I joined in. After all, it’s not every day you get away with murder.