Writing Exercise – Message in a Bottle

As promised, here’s my weekly writing exercise. Today, I turned to a book that has been on our shelf for a while: 642 Things to Write About (Young Writer’s Edition) by 826 Valencia.


As implied by the title, it’s a book of prompts that’s meant for kids. The cool thing about kids? They’re usually way more interesting than adults. And so are the word prompts intended for them.

The first prompt in the book is: You’re enjoying making sand castles at the beach when the ocean waves wash up a message in a bottle. You pull out the message. What does it say?

For those who would like to play along, remember the purpose of this exercise is free flowing creativity. Don’t self-edit. Write as the ideas come to you for fifteen minutes. Set a timer. Stop writing when it goes off. Share it here in the comment section before you talk yourself out of it. Keep in mind, my answer is first draft quality. I don’t allow myself to re-read it before I hit publish because that’s the whole point of the exercise.

Good luck and happy writing!

My response is below the cut. woman-on-beach5

“In through the nose; out through the mouth,” the instructor spoke in a monotonous drone that just about made me pass out in the middle of making an epic castle. Thank fuck I wasn’t a part of his class. I would have curled up on the middle of one of those stupid little bamboo mats and told ’em to wake me when it was over.

Instead, I’m making excellent progress on a towering sand castle, complete with turrets, spires, two draw bridges, and a moat with a dragon in it. Periodically, I look over to check on Shawnie. She opted for sunrise yoga instead of digging in the sand with me. It’s like she didn’t get the memo that we’re on vacation. Yoga is work. Really unpleasant, painful work. She should be playing with me.

I know, it’s not particularly dignified for me to be digging in the sand, but I worry about being dignified and looking presentable enough when I’m working. Those suits are uncomfortable as hell, but they get people to take me seriously, so I wear ’em.

Those suits are what attracted Shawnie to me in the first place, so I suppose their not all bad. In particular, she really like the sleek cream-colored number I picked up in Milan last year. Today, however, wasn’t about suits. It was meant to be about chilling on the beach and celebrating our two-year anniversary. Except I was the only one chilling, dammit.

A glint of light, sharper than the normal reflection of sun off the waves, caught my eye. I followed the movement as it bobbed along, dipping and cresting the surface of the water over and over. Whatever it was, it was coming toward shore. I stood, dusted the sand off my legs, and went to meet it.

The reflection of light turned out to be a glass bottle with a cork stopper in the opening, and a rolled up paper inside. I worked the cork out and tucked it in my pocket. Odds were the most interesting thing about this bottle was that it washed up on short. The message was likely part of a classroom experiment conducted by some students at the next town up the shoreline.

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids. And experiments are important. But I’d just found an honest-to-god message in a bottle. A genie would have been better, maybe, but this was pretty damn cool.

After some swearing and contorting  my finger at an unnatural angle, I finally was able to pull the paper free of the bottle.


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