A Guided Fantasy

gothic 6

Ever fancied writing a spooky story?

A GUIDED FANTASY is the bones of a fantasy, sci-fi or horror story set on its way by ten prompts, to then be fleshed out at the writer’s leisure. The eventual result could range anywhere from a poem or flash-fiction piece to a novella or novel.

In my radio show ‘Springboard’ I worked with three writers who had never tried these genres before. The result were quite surprising. A couple of things I asked my guests to consider in advance were: 1) their greatest fears, to add depth and authenticity to the text, and 2) sensory detail, in setting scenes and bringing them to life.

A link to what the writers came up with, plus readings from my own books is available at the foot of this text.

To try this, only read one prompt at a time (perhaps cover the others), and write as spontaneously and imaginatively as possible in response. Aim for a good paragraph before moving onto the next prompt:

So let’s begin:

1 – You wake in a room familiar to you, but perhaps not your own – describe it.

2 – Somewhere in the room there is a door that wasn’t there before; dimensionally it is somehow at odds with the real world – describe it.

3 – Go to the door; touch it, feel it – describe its texture and something apparent around the edges of it (suggestions: light, temperature or smell).

4 – Open the door – what immediately strikes you about what lies beyond? Describe the way up, down or ahead.


5 – Something moves or makes a sound in the distance, something that compels you to go inside – how do you proceed? All around you, in the air or on the walls there are things that disturb you – describe them.

6 – You meet an obstacle / a danger – describe getting around / over / past it.

7 – You come to an open space – describe it. Proceed forward; something about its surface is unstable – describe.

8 – Ahead there is a presence; you fear it but it has something you want – go to it. It takes something from you, gives you something in return – what? (This presents an opportunity for dialogue)

9 – You catch sight of yourself in something reflective – describe what is wrong with your reflection.

10 – You wake in your own room. Something about it is not quite right – describe. There’s something under your pillow, or in the bed with you – what is it?

Sweet dreams.

Listen to the ‘Springboard’ broadcast at:


NP award

An excerpt from my upcoming novel: Perfecting Lola Ponker

[My place was in] Those [cellars that were] near impossible to find. Denied light and sustenance for my heinous sin. Even Eli, this time, would not dispute my crimes. I knew they would deny even my existence from here on in. I curled into a damp black corner, resigned to it.

And that was when I heard a voice in my head call, Sister.

            At first it was just a buzzing, like static, swelling and fading. Then words came through it, later visions, but not before I had seen their transmitter.

As the days and nights, indistinguishable from one another, wore on, shapes formed in the darkness. I gauged that I was in a stone cellar about the size of the banqueting hall a world above. High above me a thick wooden trapdoor opened out into one of the lesser, subsidiary cellars only accessible via hidden passageways. Affixed to the upper side of that trapdoor sits a large oak casket of the same base-dimensions, masking its existence; a casket that cannot be raised by human hand alone; leastways, not any normal human hand. Since my incarceration any ladders down to here had been hauled away.

In every direction, arched caverns led away to countless watery dead ends; I sensed this without venturing into them.

Central to my underground vault rose up what looked like a huge well, a circular band of stone with a knee-high step running around it. Occasionally, from within this well, there would come the swishing of water, the plink of things dripping, and something else, like the hissing of boiled kettles. The words coming at me seemed to be from within that source. So I went to the well.

Even before I climbed onto the step I could see slivers of what looked like shiny metal gleaming in the dark; silver hooks that craned out over the well’s cast iron grate, that shifted and clicked about as I looked on. I mounted the step… ‘Sissster.’ and leaned over the edge. A chorus of hissing swelled up out of the shaft. There came a violent flapping of heavy oily flesh and countless flashes of silver faintly illuminated the gut of the well – fangs and claws, sharp as darts.

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