While I was in France, I started up a “word prompt exchange” between myself and a couple of my writing buddies. We would give each other a word and then use that word as a jumping-point to story. Then whenever we posted we would give each other a new prompt and begin again. Sample words they gave me included “turtle”, “gold”, and “mill”.
Last month I went back and reread all of these prompts, selecting two short stories that I thought were worth keeping or expanding into something more. One of them I recently finished editing, and this one, I’m now currently working on as a short story, for now entitled The Miller’s Daughter.
Here is the original prompt, in all of its rough, cut-short glory.
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March 29, 2007 – word prompt xchange – “mill”
Valérie stepped out into the grey light of morning. The sun had been up for hours but the waiting rainstorm had driven everyone inside. Only the farmers and monks had reason to be out and about. A little cloud cover had never stopped the weeds from growing nor could it dampen the Brethren’s spirits. There was always music to be had at the Abbey.
Valérie smiled to herself and her father, looking back at her, noticed. He called her up to where he led the beasts at the front of the wagon. She squished her way through the mud up to him, enjoying the sucking, smacking noises and the squishing between her toes. “Eh, papa?”
“C’m’ere. What’re ya smilin’ about?” He grinned at her. “Thinkin’ about yer beau?”
Valérie covered her face as heat rushed to it.
“Get, then! I don’t need yer help at the mill t’day. One of the Brethren will help me, no doubt. He’s around her somewhere, I ‘spec. But be back before noon or yer ma will give us both a readin’!”
Valérie raised her skirts to her knees and ran back along the wagon’s trail, grinning as she stumbled and slipped with every step through the mud. At the bend, she cut back through the forest. She made quite a racket, squeaking as she did every time her bare feet landed on something particularly pointy, but nothing could burst her bright mood. She ran her hands along the tree trunks as she passed, feeling the rough bark slide over her hands. She twirled through the fog and vines creeping over the forest ground and giggled at the gloomy sky. She knew right where Danophin would be, and it wasn’t far now!
But the further she went the thicker the fog beneath her feet became and it was soon difficult to pick her way over the rocks and sharp twigs of the forest floor. It became necessary to tread carefully, and, much to her displeasure, to slow down. Walking barefoot through the forest was suddenly not looking like the smartest idea, but the road had been relatively clear and her shoes had always been close at hand in the cart. Why hadn’t she grabbed them.
Then suddenly she became aware of the forest growing darker though the trees were no more dense than before. Valérie glanced up and three raindrops fell on her cheeks and forehead. She stopped immediately, opened her shawl and pulled it over her head, across her shoulders and tight against her arms as the temperature dropped with the rain now falling.
When she glanced up again, she was not alone.
A dark man sat on a black horse before her. Neither he nor his horse were like anything she had ever seen. Both were tall, elegant, refined. When he spoke, his voice, his accent were exotic. She never forgot the words he spoke.