Teen writers from all over recently joined us for a TABC 2021 preconference event that gave birth to some fantastic on-the-spot writing! We decided to post some of the prompts here and some of the best teen writers' responses!
“My name is Ben.”
“Don’t start it like that!” Josh snapped over my shoulder. “Everybody starts a bottle message like that!”
“Well sorry,” I replied sarcastically. “I’m trying to write a plea for help to save your hide. I’m not really focusing on making it sound nice right now.”
“Excuses, excuses,” Josh mumbled, clomping away across the deck.
The sea smelled strongly of salt and fish.
Ben was SO. SICK. OF. IT.
If you thought adventures on the high seas sounded fun, it wasn’t.
It REALLY wasn’t.
He scribbled out what few clues he could give to whoever found this letter - though it was probably hopeless - and slipped it inside a bottle.
I stared at the bottle that had just washed to shore, not wanting to open it. Maxwell gave me a little nudge.
“Go ahead.” He whispered.
I gulped and walked towards it. I picked up the bottle hesitantly and pulled out the piece of paper. Inside was a note written in my mother’s handwriting. My eyes filled with tears. I grabbed Maxwell’s hand. “It’s time to go.” I whispered and we set off.
The bottle, washed smooth by the sea waves, drifted onto the shore, unnoticed by the swimmers and sunbathers on the beach. Unnoticed by all but one.
The girl picked up the bottle and carefully uncorked it, tilting it to slide the rolled-up piece of paper out of it. She read the message written on the paper.
"You are unique. You are precious. You are loved. Pass it on."
Tears slowly welled in the girl's eyes as a smile appeared on her lips. She slipped the paper back in the bottle and gently threw it back out to sea for someone else to find.
It was weird, waking up with nothing to think. You know, the feeling of absolute blankness, of a quiet in your brain. Or maybe you don’t. I don’t actually know you. Maybe your brain is always busy and loud. But not me. I woke up that way, with blank, fuzzy whitish nothingness.
And then light, sand, and the noise of the ocean. And something hard resting in my palm. I looked down and saw a bottle. Something, a small piece of paper I think, was inside. Curiously, I uncorked it to find two small words scrawled in black ink: “Your penetralium.”
The stars sparkled in the night sky, the breeze chilled my bones. This is it. Tonight. I can’t put it off any longer. Taking my trembling hands, I finish the letter and roll up the paper. Tonight. I need to do this tonight. The sand pricked my feet as I walked out onto the beach. Tonight. I barely feel the breeze as I throw the bottle out. Never… never again. I will never see this letter again. My pain… It’s now forever buried in the waves.
A single piece of paper was all that was left. The only remaining evidence that the Old world had existed. 120 words. 1,400 letters. The entire scroll was memorized by thousands of minds. It was all that was left from the place they called North America. And what a fascinating place it sounded like, with its creatures of wonder and its people of many nations.
And wars, apparently. Many.
That was all it would take.
If it could get there, I would see him again.
If it didn’t, I would never know. But perhaps that didn’t matter. I’d done all I could, so he would know. Then I could pass on in peace.
That was all it would take. I remembered the day we’d climbed the cliffs together.
My hair, windswept and tangled--but he said I’d never looked more beautiful.
Just to reach the top--that was all we needed. Then we could see what we’d been waiting for. It was there; it had to be. My past, his present. Our future.
He’d reached the top first--but I knew he hadn’t done it to beat me. He reached down to take my hand, pulling me up, and it was as though he lifted me into a new life.
Cannons blasted, rocking the ships back and forth. The jaw-shatteirng sounds of wood wrenching apart split the air. Alarmed shouts could be heard from every angle amid the roar of the angry sea. The captain ran to her quarters, snatching the bottle she kept for this purpose. A plank of wood rocketed through the air, impaling itself in her stomach and breaking her stride. Still, ignoring the pain, she made it to the railing and hurled the bottle overboard, muttering a silent prayer as it disappeared in the chaos. Months later, a young boy found a bottle washed up on shore.
I dug my fingers into the swamp's mushy ground and pulled myself up. I took a few shaky breaths, trying to get my bearings. The sky was dark, except for the small slither of moon overhead. Shaking my head, I reached into my satchel and grasped the small, rough object. This was my hope. This was my kingdom's hope. And now I had to get it back to them.
Her heart lifted with every sweaty, sticky, agonizing step upward. She was so close to him; her heart, her very soul! Finally, she felt the top, and lifted her face towards where she knew the sun would eventually be.
They were everywhere! With their grime-smeared bodies twisted into grotesque shapes, they clawed and dragged and pulled, like a mass of living death growing closer and closer to where they stood.
The god of death was never supposed to reach this far. Anything, of course, for Serene. A mortal. He clawed at the dry grass with aching hands, searching for the softer, warmer hands that helped him up. Serene always helped him to the surface for that single kiss. Just enough to let him remember how it felt to live again.
Jon climbed up a steep cliff, each rock he grabbed was firm and unmoving. As he neared the top he called out to Claire, “I need your help getting over the top.” No answer. He struggled up and finally peaked over the edge, there was Claire, holding a large rock over his head.
I sighed and leaned on the tool next to me. Content with the job I had done, I stared at the calm water lapping at the land. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two hands reaching out from the hole and crawling closer and closer out of it.
I sat at the top of the grassy hill watching her push herself up from behind it. I giggled at her as she lay flat on her back with a heavy sigh. "It's beautiful up here." She scoffed. "Yeah, I know." She smiled with her hand blocking the sun from her ocean eyes. I couldn't help but gaze in awe at her effortless beauty.
Sobs shook my body. It couldn’t be true. She couldn’t be gone. The black water only rolled against the shore, not providing any hope. Maybe the best thing to do would be to jump in myself. Then grimy hands burst through the surface and relief flooded through me as I scrambled toward them.
The gentle swish of the water was the only sound on the desolate shore. Then, a soft padding sound shot through the air.
The waters closed around her and she clawed for breath, fighting the darkness. She couldn’t tell which way was up. Then, her desperately grasping hands found purchase on damp grass.
Sarah clung to the grass, scrabbling for purchase as she tumbles off the cliffside. “Sarah! Hold on! I’m going to find a rope.” Julian runs off, hoping desperately to find something to save his lost love.
“Julian. Julian, no! I’m going… I’m going to die. I hope… you find more than you are worth.” She lets go.
Her lips glide over mine, barely a kiss, but I pull her closer. “Lia,” I whisper against her mouth. “Lia, I think I- oof.”
Lia’s fist slams into my gut, and in seconds I’m on my knees. “My name’s not Lia. And you do not love me.” She draws a knife. “I’m no longer working for Aliono.”
He held me close, his breath hot against my cheek. I looked up into his eyes, eyes of liquid moonlight. “Isle,” he whispered my name tenderly. I looked down, burying my face in his shoulder, anything to avoid his gaze. I didn’t want to see the look of pain on his face when I buried my dagger in his back.
I was running. I can’t be taken, not again. I refuse. His ragged breath came out behind me, rasping out my name. I screamed when I felt a hand wrap around my arm. “Let go!” He held on tighter and pulled me close. “You were trying to escape again… Why? Don’t you love me?”
The moon looked over the young couple, he was not impressed. He had seen arranged marriages with more connection. They needed help and he was the satellite to do it.
He swayed, humming an old love song. Here she was in his arms right where she was meant to be. It didn't bother him that her skin was rotting or that her body was limp. All that mattered was she was finally his.
The moon lit up her features as she bit her lip in concentration. Squinting to make sure she didn't mess up her sketch of the man standing in front of her. He raised an eyebrow at her concentration and smiled at her. He grabbed her sketchbook out of her lap and gently layed it on the ground, holding out his hand for her to grab. "Dance with me Polly."
Dialog Prompt: You just caught your boyfriend/girlfriend on a date with another girl/boy.
"Hey," I say, crossing my arms and pasting on a nonchalant expression to hide the twist in my heart. "What are you doing here?"
"I--Maggie--I didn't know you'd be here," he says.
"Obviously," I respond. "Who's this?"
"This is just a--friend," he says. "It's not--this isn't what you think--"
"Maybe not," I say. "Or maybe it's exactly what it looks like."
“Screw you. You broke my heart and now you want me back? Ha. No. I’m sorry, I’m not playing your little game anymore.”
“I- I swear I didn’t know what I was thinking! You’re the light of my life, please don’t leave me! I… I didn’t mean for things to go that far!”
“Hey! Soo...how’s it going?”
“Pretty good. We just decided to get dinner last minute. Have you tried this place? It’s awesome!”
“They make the BEST steak here, and Tanya says that their mango-pork salad is amazing.”
“No--not the food! Why did you get dinner?”
“We were hungry.”
“For what? Another girlfriend?”
“What? No--why would you think that?”
Me: “Who is this?”
Them: “Oh, this is my friend, we just met yesterday in the mall.”
Me: “Friends? I rarely kiss my friends, even best friends.”
Them: “What?... We didn’t kiss.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure I saw you making out just before I came over.”
“Hey! How’s it going?” I slid into the seat next to them.
“Umm, pretty good. You?”
“Hey! I didn’t know you two knew each other.”
“Yeah, he ran me over with his bike yesterday.”
“Hey Everett. Who’s this?” I slowly sidle up to my cheating boyfriend.
“Ummm. Hi Ravyn… This is… uhhh. Evangeline, meet Ravyn, my… *ahem* girlfriend.”
“What are you two doing?”
“I see” I say doubtfully. “And does laser tagging involve… kissing? Or… any romantic gestures whatsoever?”
“Funny. Is that why I saw you and Evangeline sharing a milkshake?”
I let the rhythm move through me, the beat matching my pulse and my beating heart. As it quickened, so did my heart. I stepped forward, gulping nervously. The hands on my chains clanked, almost matching the rhythm of the drums as I took one small step forward, the coldness of the tile seeping through my socks and up my legs.
“This is a delicate operation!” Anne snapped back, (or as much as you can snap in a harsh whisper) at Finn, who was holding the flashlight shakily behind her. “I need steady light if this is going to work!” He gulped. “Well EXCUSE ME for being nervous, when we’re breaking and entering! It’s not like we’re experienced at this sort of thing.” She turned and raised an eyebrow at him. “Fine! I’m not experienced at this sort of thing. Happy?”
Ellie sat at the table, looking at the items. A chapstick, a knife, and a bottle of water. She could only choose one for her quest. She kept eyecontact with the man in front of her as she slowly picked up the item she was going to use. She slowly grabbed the chapstick and uncapped it, then applied it to her cracked lips. She slipped the container into her pocket, “I’m ready”.
I hated dreaming. It was where the maze showed up again. Grey open skies stretched above my head, and dark hedges towered taller than a giant. I had nothing left to do but to travel the maze, passing soft blue lamps that seemed to follow me as I walked. Mist settled by my feet, grasping at my ankles as I swished past. The silence didn’t fool me. I only wondered when the creature would appear. His name was Verocymniar. At least that’s what he had told me last time.
Jon waited in the elevator for the next floor, it kept going up and up. His brow creased and he punched the 2nd floor button again. The elevator kept moving up. Five minutes passed, then ten. Surely, he had reached the top by now. Sweat beaded on his forehead, he punched all the buttons on the control pad. Nothing. He took off his outer coat, it was getting unbearably hot. Jon pulled the fire alarm, but no sound came out. Heart pounding, he pulled out his phone. Suddenly the elevator doors opened to blackness.
Ilia barely dared to breath from her hidden perch behind a rock. In the center of the moonlit glade, Aurel stood with his back turned to her, golden power swirling around him. Silver and gold light merged and left twisting dappled shadows over the blue toned leaves of the elegant trees. His feet left the ground, and Ilia nearly fell out of her hiding place when she saw the expression he wore: closed eyes, peaceful, with tears streaming down his cheeks, leaving trails through the golden paint he wore to cover his scars.
“What is this place?”
“Spaceship.” He replied shortly, messing with strange tech and wires on the control table.
“And it’s been above my house all this time?”
“Well, if what you mean by ‘all this time’ is three months, then yes. Also the ol' girl had her invisibility cloak on.”
His eyes met mine, a silent plea in them. I dropped my gaze from his, unable to look into the deepness of them. Would he remember? No, it was so long ago and I had grown up since then. I was a young woman now, not a little girl. “Kill him,” my father said impassively. “Then throw his corpse to the crows.” My pulsed raced as I looked up again, meeting his silent plea again. I couldn’t just let him die…could I?
You would never guess that a shard of dirty glass could ever be useful. She hadn’t even realized what it was when she picked it up. She had just thought it was another thing to add to her collection. Something cool to remember the ancient temple she would only get to visit once. And now, literally the entire world was after her. For a stupid peice of glass! She fingered it in her pocket, and was tempted to just throw it away. She could be done with it! But now that she had it, she could feel its pull and its power. She couldn’t give it up. As idiotic and foolish as it probably was, she knew she would give her life to protect it from the world. And to protect the world from it.
I glanced into my pocket, then quickly closed it again. I looked around to make sure no one was looking. My heart froze when I met eyes with him. Crap, I thought as I went back to my seat. I can’t get out yet. They’ll know I have it. Biting my lip, I peered down at my hands, thankful that the creature was asleep. That’ll make this easier… I hope.
I always kept my hands in my pockets, ignored people asking why. It was to keep my secret, the one that could either destroy or save the world. I wasnt ready to see which yet, the world wasn't ready for the possible destruction it would cause. So I kept my little catipillar in my pocket, hoping that if I held it, it wouldn't chew it's way out. The small creature can never die so starving it seems even more cruel, but I can't let it grow up and fly away. A single beat of it's wings could cause an apocalypse or the perfect world but nothing in between.
“What have I got in my pocket?” I asked, fingering it lightly.
“It better not be a magic ring of evil incarnate,” my friend laughed.
“No, it’s not. It’s a button to something but I’m not sure what.”
“Huh.” She shrugged when I showed it to her. Then pressed the red button in the center of it.
Within moments, a blaring voice shattered the air.
“Attention citizens of Earth. We are here to help you.”
I have something in my pocket that will change the world.
You can’t hold it.
You can’t feel it.
It has no substance, no smell, no sound.
But if I let it go, you will never be the same.
Neither will I, nor anyone who has ever been or ever will be.
You want to know what it is?
So do I.
You tell me.
I think you know.
When you think you have an idea, tell me.
Because that is exactly what I have in my pocket.
They were here. The filthy humans had made it, and despite all odds and our efforts to stop them, they had made it to the Rock. Their name for our beautiful, vibrant Heartstone! The source of our power and our magic; what gave us wings and flight! They couldn’t even really see it, but they craved it. And though they were breaking the ancient laws, stealing it from beneath our noses, and there was nothing I or any of my tribe could do to stop it. All I could do was watch in helpless rage as they took our Heartstone away, feeling the awful tearing pull of the magic as it was dragged father and farther away, taking a part of us with it.
“Leave it! Stop! Please!” The men ignored me as I ran closer to the site, “No! You can’t have it!”
One pushed me back, “Shut up, boy. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“N-No! I do! I do I swear!” The dragons circled above us, ready to fight all those who tried to take the large egg. “You’re waging war on the dragon queen! Please! Think about what this will do!” I pulled on one of the men, trying to get him to see reason. He shoved me off. The men pushed once more, making the dragon prince fall down the cavern, shattering in a million pieces. I fell to my knees, a cry on my throat. When my voice ran dry, I let out one last horrible sob, “N-no...”
“Just my luck.”
Jon paused halfway through his sandwich, glancing at Greg.
Greg sighed, “Just my luck to be on clean up duty when a freaking boulder lands in the dragon nest.”
Jon ignored Greg’s mantra and continued the busy work of eating his sandwich.
Standing up and pacing Greg walked around the boulder, spewing curses. “How the dragon cursed egg am I supposed to get rid of this thing? Those demons of dragons won’t help, and we can’t move it.”
Jon rolled his eyes, “You haven’t even asked them yet, they aren’t doing anything worthwhile.”
“That’s beside the point, you know what they did.”
Jon clammed up. Greg should not have brought that up.
The elementalists led us to the Stonecliff, the heart of their god looming over us as darkness fell through the canyons with the setting sun. I could hear a faint heartbeat pulsing from the rock, but whether it was from magmous blood pumping through hand-chiseled arteries or a mirage of the wind and my mind, I couldn’t tell.
Beside me, Magnus rode on horseback, his gleaming obsidian sabre bouncing against his leg, the point of the blade swinging nearer and nearer my ear with each step.
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” he said, looking down at me, water dripping from his pointed nose.
I laughed. “Do I ever?”
“Don’t joke about these things,” he said, frown deepening. “This isn’t one of your jokes, Sevitri, it’s a matter of life and death.”
“Right, for you. I don’t follow your god. If it dies, I don’t care.”
“And if you die, I do care,” he said.
He opened his mouth to say something else, but the elementalists called out to us then, and he scowled before slashing the wicked blade through my stone cuffs.
“Do only as you’re told,” he cautioned.
“I’d never dream of doing anything else,” I grinned, but he and I both knew how big a lie that was.
“What are you doing?” I shout. “It’s unstable, Your Soverinity.” I leap off my horse, chasing my young Priestess down the narrow walkway. “You’ll be killed!”
Priestess just laughed. “What, don’t you like a little fun, Sir Callahin?” She pressed faster toward the seemingly harmless lump of rock.
“What I wouldn’t do for a night of rest.” I mutter.
Priestess rests her hand against the boulder. “Yana Crebesti” I trust you.
The boulder shifts, rolling over and over, to the edge of the cliff, and the last thing I hear is Priestess’s scream as she tumbles with the Murder Stone.
Miners. Climbing, and circling, and breaking it like ants at a picnic. Atina gagged, looking away. How could they do this? How could they be so heartless? Or perhaps they just didn’t know. Perhaps they thought it was merely a boulder as it looked. But it was so much more than that. Just ask the baby dragon inside it.
***Keep those creative juices flowing!!!