Writing Prompts

Word Prompt: Deep | Story Prompt: from the book “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doerr

Write It Out: Instruction Video

‘A fourteen-year-old girl sits cross-legged on the floor of a circular vault. A mass of curls haloes her head; her socks are full of holes. This is Konstance.

Behind her, inside a translucent cylinder that rises sixteen feet from floor to ceiling, hangs a machine composed of trillions of golden threads, none thicker than a human hair. Each filament twines around thousands of others in entanglements of astonishing intricacy. Occasionally a bundle somewhere along the surface of the machine pulses with light: now here, now there. This is Sybil.

Elsewhere in the room there’s an inflatable cot, a recycling toilet, a food printer, eleven sacks of Nourish powder, and a multi-directional treadmill the size and shape of an automobile tire called a Perambulator. Light comes from a ring of diodes in the ceiling; there is no visible exit.

Arranged in a grid on the floor lie almost one hundred rectangular scraps Konstance has torn from empty Nourish powder sacks and written on with homemade ink. Some are dense with her handwriting; others accommodate a single word.’


A young girl alone in a room, writing. A machine, described with awe and given a human name, is in the room with her. Its’ description doesn’t sound heavy or foreboding, we wonder if the girl will consider the machine a friend – though what kind of friend we’ll have to read more to find out. What is the purpose of the machine? What does it have to do with the girl, if anything? Is there any kind of relationship there?

Konstance has a “food printer” and Nourish powder which she presumably uses to make her meals. Who brings the powder? What is the girl writing? Why is she in the room, alone? The room is referred to as a “circular vault”. Is she in prison? Is this the future? Is this Earth? What world is this?

Have you ever written a story like this? A kind of story where you’ve made up – created – different aspects of a character or setting or object than our usual, known experience. The questions that come up can take us to places we would never have otherwise imagined. We go deep. We explore. We use some of our own experience, some experience we’ve heard about, and some that could only come from somewhere within us. Almost like magic. I love it.

Thoughts? Feel free to share them here.

Leave a Reply