Sanity Break, Revisited by Becke (Martin) Davis


Sanity Break, Revisited by Becke (Martin) Davis

It was a dark and stormy night…This iconic opening is a writing prompt to end all writing prompts. It spawned one of the best known contests in literary circles. The contest celebrates dubious descriptions and all manner of bad writing – what the contest sponsors call “the best of the worse.” (FYI, it’s harder to writer a truly awful sentence than you’d think.) The phrase is like a trigger, inspiring writers to create their own story using those seven words as building blocks.

On Wednesday, I shared links to some of my favorite reference books for writers. I realized later I’d left out a couple books on writing prompts. Writing prompts are like boxes of bon-bons compared to serious tomes on writing craft. And yet…when I really hit the wall, the one thing that never fails to get me writing again is – say it with me – writing prompts.

Back in the day, some of my favorite blogs – Romance Bandits, Romance Dish – would periodically offer writing prompt challenges. One I remember in particular featured brief “vignettes” written by authors. Commenters were given the opportunity to expand the vignettes with their own story ideas.

And then there were the “sanity breaks” we played behind the scenes at Romance University. Jennifer Tanner wrote about this on her personal blog back in September 2010. Click for a detailed explanation of how this writing prompt game is played.

For a change of pace, I thought you might enjoy taking a sanity break with us. I’ll kick this off with a sentence or two to set the scene. Use the comment field to keep the story going. Post as many times as you want, but please keep it to one sentence at a time. You might want to wait a few minutes before adding new comments, so you can see what twists others might add.

We don’t have any prizes to offer, and we don’t have a hard-and-fast set of rules. We would appreciate it if you’d keep your additions to the story G-rated. Remember, nothing is set in stone, not even the genre. Your sentences can change the tone of the story from scary to silly to sexy and romantic.

Here’s your set-up – take it from here!

The heavy iron gate at the cemetery entrance creaked in the wind, held in place by a sturdy chain and padlock. Shivering as she hurried past, Melody wondered if the gate was intended to keep visitors out – or to keep the inhabitants within.


Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at until the forums were discontinued. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty-plus years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books. She also wrote one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke also used to blog at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance Buy the Book blog. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter.

In the distant past, Becke sold advertising for the Chicago Sun-Times, the London Sunday Times and the Daily Herald. She has two adult children, two awesome granddaughters, one fabulous daughter-in-law and three cats. She has been married almost 47 years and recently moved from Chicago’s Hyde Park to Eugene, Oregon.



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