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Burnt Offerings (Writing Prompts)

Writing Prompts

Loaded phrases. The ones offered in white on these writing prompts.They're a bit harder to come up with than you'd think. My favourite so far has been black water, maybe because it just sounds creepy-cool, or because I, like you, are mostly water and the phrase calls to some swimmy, old part of us down deep.

Anyway, what I was saying is the sayings…they're tough. Maybe you've no desire to fill this writing prompt but maybe you have something that sounds…creepy-cool? Two to four words for the white bit there? Inspire me won't you?

Burnt Offerings (Writing Prompts)

Be Careful Writer…and Write Us Something

Things were opulent last week, they had glory and were careful. Last week brought baleful warnings and banged heads, honeypot boys and syrupy drawls. But don't believe me…read on.

The fey honeyed boy drew the flies, but also the bee, a lad sumptuously large, striped black and golden, full of the solemn hum of life, heavy with a rich nectar. Where the fey boy cackled, the sumptuous boy smiled, his solemn hum lilting lighter. The fey boy burrowed into the dark loam of him, turned it upside down into the light. The gold inside one glinted in the burning sun of the other.


As I watched the emperor parade through our town on his dragon, her scales iridescent in the sunlight, her wings quivering as if she was about to leap up and carry him wherever he wanted to go, his hand resting firmly but gently on her shoulder, I saw the beauty of them together and I wanted that.
Be careful what you wish for, my brother used to say.


“Be careful,” the voice said. It was a voice that came from everywhere and nowhere all at once. It oozed into your mind and clanged around, ricocheting off of nothing. Slowed now to a syrupy drawl, again the warning came, “Be careful”.
Of what? Nothing here would require such an ominous and dire warning. This tranquil cottage is yours; you created it and you are in control of what goes on here. It’s safe here.


A narrow safe passage was marked by the bright red and yellow buoys bobbing on the grey waves. Cheerful stewards when heading out but on the approach, with the dismal fug of Bay’s Bray ahead, and the looming mountains behind, those buoys were jaundiced and bloody omens, baleful warnings urging all who passed to turn back. Bug was on full alert. Her ears caught the distant peal of the harbour bells, shouts and creaks from dark ships as they passed alongside…


“Have you ever seen something so gloriously beautiful it takes your breathe away? Like someone spun gold so fine it became the very DNA in the heart of a molecule, so it could walk out into the world and straight into your heart?”
The paramedic looked up from his injured patient to the man standing awkwardly huddled in an oversized parka. “Are you sure he didn’t bang his head when the car hit him?”

Okay, your turn and by your turn I mean kindly look up above. Clock those words, kinda evocative aren't they. Mmmm, khol…piercing…tattoo and burnt offering. I'm getting a visual already.

Are you?

Share it below, whatever you write it's all yours, you own it to the moon and back. Maybe it'll inspire a bigger story, a tall tale, a couple minutes quiet for your brain.

What's your visual?

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  • Chocolamousse on

    Look at me. Am I not the most beautiful man in the city? I am ready for you. I have kohl on my eyes to make them greener. I have piercings on my body so that light will play on me and make me gleam when, naked, I get close to you for the first time. I have golden powder on my pale skin, which will melt under your touch. I have scented oils in my hair, it will fill the night with its fragrance when you caress it. Your name is tattooed on my chest, just over my heart, because I am yours. I whisper it as I brush it with my fingertips. I am ready for you.

    I wend my way. In the streets, men and women stare at me with admiration and desire but they can’t have me, I am yours. I see you from a distance, waiting for me at the top of the stairs. Your light calls me, I can already feel your warmth. I am not scared, I drank the potion that takes pain away. Here I am. Take me. Embrace me. When everything is done, when the crowd has dispersed, when the songs have died away, the wind will scatter my burnt offerings over the city that you protect.

    Next year, they will give you another lover.

  • Narrelle Harris on

    When Meredith’s girlfriend dumped her right at the start of their fifth anniversary date, her share house didn’t provide a lot of comfort. Caitlyn’s lunch dishes were still on the coffee table and her sewing project covered the sofa, the armchair and a footstool.

    ‘Least you could do is tidy up when it’s your turn,’ growled Meredith. Her mood for several months now had been at odds with her childhood nickname of Merry.

    ‘Time got away from me,’ said Caitlyn, trying to soothe. ‘I’ll put it away now.’ She bustled around, tidying up.
    Meredith slumped on a kitchen chair, face in her hands. Her tear-wrecked kohl smudged over her palms. ‘Sorry, Caitie. Oh god. I’m such a mess.’

    ‘You’ll be all right,’ her friend reassured her.

    Meredith suspected Caitlyn was right, but that wasn’t helpful. She didn’t like to think that her Great Love had not been such a great thing after all. ‘Thank god I didn’t tattoo her name over my heart.’ This had been a plan, of sorts, in year one. If they made it five years, Merry ♥ Nadia would have been inked on her pale skin forever.

    Earlier in the week, Caitlyn had upset Meredith by suggesting she wait until after the anniversary dinner before getting inked. ‘It’s more a gift for you than Nadia,’ she’d suggested. ‘Get her some flowers and have her go with you for the tatt.’

    Wise Caitlyn. Bloody irritating Caitlyn. Now Meredith would have to call Black Heart Ink and Piercings to cancel Tuesday’s booking.

    ‘Did you know she was going to dump me?’ Meredith demanded.

    ‘No. But you haven’t been happy,’ Caitlyn replied.

    Now Meredith was waiting for Caitlyn to say I told you so. Caitlyn didn’t, and that only made Meredith sadder and angrier. She went on the attack. ‘You should have said something.’

    ‘I tried. You couldn’t hear it. You wanted her to love you.’

    ‘She did love me.’

    ‘She did. Once. She’s been making you miserable lately.’

    ‘Like you know me so well.’

    ‘I do, Merry. I’ve been your flatmate for three years. I know you well enough to know she made you miserable.’
    Meredith folded her arms on the table and sank her face into them. ‘She did.’ And she sobbed.

    ‘Let me make you dinner,’ Caitlyn said, a plea rather than an offer. Meredith’s tears obviously made her uncomfortable.

    ‘Don’t go to any effort,’ whispered Meredith.

    ‘It’s no effort at all, Merry. I want to.’

    Meredith first went to the bathroom to wash her panda eyes. Fresh towels were out. The tiles gleamed.

    She then retreated to the living room; she slumped on the sofa, head tilted back. She regarded the newly cleared spaces. Underneath the pieces of patchwork quilt and plate, the room had been impeccably tidy. The bathroom shone. The kitchen, too.

    Poor Caitlyn. A good flatmate, a good friend, even when unfairly bearing the brunt of Meredith’s wounded heart. Why on earth did she stand it?

    Meredith found the remote control, launched Spotify and proceeded to play tragic love songs at top volume. Maybe This Time. All By Myself. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? Nothing Compares 2U.

    Caitlyn brought her a glass of wine. A plate of cheese and crackers.

    ‘I know you didn’t get to eat. Nibble on those while the veggie pie is baking.’

    ‘You’re making me a pie?’

    ‘I had the ratatouille already. I’ve just put a puff pastry lid on it and a swirl of goat’s cheese through the mix.’
    Meredith gazed at her with mingled gratitude, apology and self-deprecation. ‘Thanks, Cait. You’re a good friend.’

    ‘So are you.’

    ‘I’m not, sometimes. I don’t know why you put up with me. You must love me a lot.’

    Meredith laughed softly and then did not laugh at all at the look on Caitlyn’s face. ‘Shit.’

    ‘I’d better get back to the kitchen.’

    Caitlyn fled. Meredith hesitated long enough to realise several things.

    Caitlyn is my best friend.

    Caitlyn loves me.

    Nadia is nothing like Caitlyn, but for months I’ve wished she was.

    Perhaps that’s why Nadia had dumped her tonight. Perhaps Meredith had been making Nadia miserable too.

    Meredith stood at the kitchen doorway. Caitlyn, stricken, wrung her hands and looked for escape.

    ‘It’s okay,’ said Caitlyn shakily. ‘You don’t have to love me back.’

    ‘But I do,’ said Meredith.

    ‘Don’t say that.’

    ‘It’s true, though.’

    ‘You’re my friend. You love me like a friend.’

    ‘I love you like a friend,’ Meredith agreed. ‘I love you like a best friend. I love you like a co-conspirator. I love you like a soulmate. I love you like the sun. You’re the one I run to tell my happiest news to. You’re the one I want to cry with when the news is bad. You’re the one I come home to because you’re the one. You’re the one.’

    Caitlyn cried. ‘You’re on the rebound.’

    ‘I’m an idiot, but I’m not that much of an idiot,’ said Meredith. ‘But it’s okay. I understand why you don’t believe me.’

    She walked slowly to Caitlyn and touched her twisting hands. ‘You’ve been so patient. I can wait. I’ll wait till you believe me, Caitie.’

    Caitlyn blinked tears away. She met Meredith’s earnest, smiling gaze. For the first time in a long, long time, Meredith looked… Merry. Caitlyn leaned towards her friend, magnetised, drawn by the pull of her long unspoken love, until their lips met.

    Their first kiss was soft, sweet. A bit wet from the crying.

    It smelled of heat, of baking, of fire, of smoke…

    And then the smoke alarm went off.

    A dinner meant to offer kindness and care was a burnt offering, but that was all right. Merry said, for years and decades after, that it was fitting that their love be heralded by a noble sacrifice.

  • Anarion on

    It has been a day of no significance so far, right up until the point when my village chose me as sacrifice.

    I guess they expected me to be afraid, to start crying or screaming, or even try to run away as the last sacrifice did. I am not afraid, and I do none of those things. I have been walking through life feeling numb and disconnected, what does it matter how this ends?

    ~ ~ ~

    The drums echo through the dark, calling, leading the way through the forest till we reach the clearing, ablaze with the light of a huge fire that has been burning for three days.

    I am the only woman in the procession, this is a male-dominated ritual after all. All the men have made themselves look as glorious and glamorous as possible. They have adorned their skin with tattoos and piercings, highlighted their eyes with khol, and they carry their most impressive weapons.

    Interestingly, me, the holy sacrifice, the gift to the Goddess, no one has adorned with anything. It’s not my looks that are needed to call her after all, it’s my pain.

    They will offer me to the flames and my screams will call the Goddess, who then appears and chooses one of the men to be her companion. It is the greatest honour and all of them wish to be the one who she looks at when she speaks the traditional words “I have made my choice.”

    We stop near the fire pit and I watch them throw in minor offerings of food and flowers. Time seems to slow down as the men start dancing around the fire, accompanied by the drums and the ancient chants.

    Suddenly, with a deafening noise, the flames soar sky-high and every movement on the clearing stops as the Goddess appears in the fire. She looks fierce and terrible, old and young, beautiful and horrifying. All the men take a fearful step back, leaving the only person standing right at the edge of the pit to be me.

    She steps out of the fire and she looks at me and for the first time in my life I feel something. And then she extends her hand and gently rests it on my cheek. Oh, so this is what it’s like to be alive?

    Her gaze is a wordless question and my answer is equally wordless, I am nothing but affirmation and rapture.

    She steps back into the fire and opens her arms to me and she smiles, all terrifyingly beautiful. I smile back and I step into her fiery embrace without hesitation.

    ~ ~ ~

    The men are left standing in all their glory, staring at the now empty space. The flames die down, the drums go silent.

    The Goddess will never be seen again.

  • The Honeyed Moon on

    As first anniversaries go, this one wasn’t bad. It also wasn’t really that good either. It was, however, memorable.

    The traditional first anniversary gift is paper. But not something like theater tickets (that would have been a bitter pick in hindsight), or a magazine subscription (boring!). It should be something unique, something simple but elegant.

    I decided to make origami cranes. One for each day we have known each other: 913. No, 914 – there was a leap year in there. I folded and folded and folded. I hid paper cranes in my office, the trunk of my car, the laundry room. I even stashed some in between books on the bookcase, their creased paper bodies waiting to spring into flight. I started with origami paper and then moved on to any scrap of paper I came across. There were pink, blue, red, white, gold, newsprint, gift-wrap, shopping receipt, and gum wrapper cranes everywhere. I stopped naming them after I got up to 189.

    On the Big Night, I strung them up on strings, like a Christmas garland, and hung them over our dining table, so that I had a flock of paper cranes of all sizes. I set the table with the good china and the silver, the linen tablecloth from my grandmother, and the silver candlesticks from her grandmother.

    I do my best in the kitchen, but I’m no Gordon Ramsey, except for the swearing. I made a simple dinner of a salad – who can fuck up a salad? Besides, it’s August and as hot as the Devil’s asshole. Turning on the oven seemed like an unnecessary insult.

    The table was set, the salad and wine were chilling in the fridge, all I had to do was shower and wait for Barbara to arrive. I lit the candles on the table because it’s bad luck to set out a candle that hasn’t been lit. At least that’s what my mom always said. Turns out that’s not true. At all.

    The shower was wonderfully cool. I stood there and let the water drum a tattoo onto my back until it felt like the cold spray was piercing my skin. I thought about what I would wear and how surprised Barbara would be. In fact, I could hear her. I shut off the water to be sure I wasn’t hearing things.

    Yeah, she was home and she was screaming.

    I jumped out of the shower and barley got my hands on my robe when I smelled smoke. That’s when I started to run.

    When I reached Barbara, my choice was to laugh or cry. Since neither would have been received well, I opted for “Is the fire out?”

    Barbara was standing at the dining table, her white suit covered in soot from the cranes that had caught fire. Water was running off the table and dripping onto the floor. Smudges of ash on her cheeks like kohl. My hard work had been turned into a burnt offering instead of a grand gesture.

    “Happy anniversary?” I ventured. “I made you 914 paper cranes.”

    Someday we’ll laugh about this. I hope.

  • Maria on

    The tattoo of tiny feet stomping overhead woke her up. She did not know how long she had slept, but in the darkness it did not seem to matter much. Everyone was tired all the time. She missed being outside, sleeping in the woods, or on haystacks, smelling the oncoming rain in the air, but she knew that it would be some time before she would be able to enjoy these simple pleasures.

    A piercing scream made her heart stop and then race, only to leave a bitter taste in her mouth when she realised it had just been the children teasing each other. Peals of bright laughter fluttered down into the dorm like snow in sunlight.

    Rubbing her face, she blinked a couple of times, trying to get used to the little light there was. The others had already left and she drew herself up the ladder to join them. She had lost track of any notion of dates or time. She had long since understood what people meant when they said time is relative. It’s now what Einstein meant, but it’s true all the same, and it’s terrifying. It did not matter what day it was and what season. She felt that she had lost a limb and there was a hollow space left where that part of her identity sat. Her age. None of that mattered up here.

    The children ran past her as the door closed behind her. Their boots clacked noisily against the steel floor. Managing to pat the slowest one on the head and getting a smile in return, she made her way into the kitchen. Whatever had been supposed to be breakfast looked like a burnt offering to a god of old. It might have been porridge, in another life, but its colour was kohl, like ash. She checked the packaging. Blueberry and vanilla. She knew it tasted more like the thought of it than the actual flavours.

    Turning around, she left her breakfast where it was and she crossed the kitchen to step out into the corridor leading to the bridge. Entering it, she saw the crew fully assembled, keeping the ship flying at half a G, waiting for her to take her seat. Instead, she took the moment to watch the entire front window fill up with Earth. The sunrise followed swiftly after. A shimmer of it in the Pacific before they had flown past again and the windows darkened automatically. It would be weeks before they would finally be able to return home, but being so close made her heart ache.

    As she sat down, the hand terminal blinked meaningless words and numbers at her.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2078

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