Last week, my family and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Aspen, Colorado. I had never been before, and it was stunning, tilting on the cusp between autumn and winter. We wandered along trails where trees were still aflame with yellow leaves but also found entire groves of bare branches and white trunks. On one of these hikes, we came upon this ski boot just sitting alone on a log in the middle of a forest. It looked weather-beaten and abandoned. How strange. What fun! What had happened?
So, my daughter and I took turns creating the backstory to this lonely boot. Had a wayward skier lost a boot last winter, forced to walk for miles, dragging her skies, her foot growing frozen through her wool sock? Had someone packed some boots in as they hiked by on snowshoes and lost one, realizing too late they couldn’t ski down when they got to the top of the climb? Or maybe an old man planted it there with a message sealed in plastic stuffed in its toe so that once the snow melted he could lead a lucky stranger to a secret treasure? We agreed we liked that last one the best and regretted not peeking inside when we’d had the chance.
No matter. It got me thinking about writing prompts and how you can find the spark of a story anywhere. I’ve always especially loved prompts that deal with found objects, and this one certainly lingered in my mind far after we’d flown home to Northern California. Why was that boot in the forest?
So here’s a prompt: Consider the boot. Write a short story, a poem, a short play, etc. where the boot plays an important role. Who starts to populate the world of this boot? What is the central problem or crisis? Where does this story take place? Build a world around the boot. If you’d like, let me know what you come up with, or, feel free to send along any other found objects that would make for a good starting place for a prompt. They are, after all, always around, surprising us with their potential.