Day 4 – Joe R. Lansdale is Murderous


It was easy to repair the clock in the tower after the headless corpse was removed from the gears. Before that, it was thought to be a problem due to the age of the machinery, but except for the decapitated body, its mechanics were functioning perfectly.


Joe R. Lansdale is the author of over forty novels and numerous short stories. He has received the Edgar Award, eight Bram Stoker Awards, the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Grinzani Cavour Prize for Literature, the Herodotus Historical Fiction Award, the Inkpot Award for Contributions to Science Fiction and Fantasy, and many others. His most recent novel is The Elephant of Surprise.

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Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

31 thoughts on “Day 4 – Joe R. Lansdale is Murderous”

  1. SEPTEMBER 2020
    I wrote a first draft of a story in May ( you can see my comment in this stream), which has definitely formed part of my novel. A seed was sown for a twist in my story. I used this same prompt to develop this further. I loved this prompt because it took my novel in a richer direction, opening up another aspect of this family saga. Thank you so much.

  2. I wrote all days until now, but nothing good yet. I hope in the weekend I would write better, without my regular work to take all my day I guess I can do better stories.

    1. Don’t worry about writing GOOD stories. Just write stories.

      We have to learn to allow ourselves to write imperfectly if we are going to keep at this (I mean, it’s not the AIM, but you have to learn to push through the parts when it’s not going well!)

      Plus, as they say, you can’t edit a blank page!

    1. Fabulous! Keep up the good work (and enjoy your weekend off – or as I like to think of it: gathering material)

  3. This prompt really stuck in my head and I stopped writing until today, May 20 in the wee hours of the morning. The idea was brewing all this time. I finally figured out where to take it. I wrote about a woman who accidentally kills herself in an attempt to escape her physical pain. Her death does not provide her relief and she remains a spectre in the church from mid March until June when the minister is finally allowed to return to her church after the pandemic. It’s a pretty rough draft, but I got it all down.

  4. I got to this only today (three days of no writing)…

    Thinking of a murder mystery with the victim murdered a century ago…

    Just wrote 750 words on this…an intro, but it gives me a premise!

    I’ll probably write bits and pieces of this every day (I hope!)

  5. While I didn’t quite write a sufficient ending to my story for this day, I did write about 1500 words and got super weird and out of my zone of what I usually write, so that’s it’s own kind of victory. The clock in the prompt made me really think about time, so I tried to incorporate those musings in my story, which centered around a private detective who was called in to help the local police figure out this case of the headless corpse. The detective gets obsessed with finding the head and with the concept of time itself.

  6. My story is set in a very remote, disused church in the mountains of Portugal. The church, clock tower and residences were built by the Moors in the fourteenth century during their occupation of the region. After they were driven out, the mountain region gradually became depopulated until only those in this religious group remained. As their numbers diminished, the place fell into disuse and disrepair. Eventually the whole place was abandoned. Centuries later it was discovered by a group of walkers who were so enthralled with it that they set about crowdfunding to save it. They planned to open it up as a retreat and hospitality stop on the walking trail in the mountains. When work begins they will reveal an unsettling story.

    A rough outline but I can’t wait to explore where it will take me. I can even see it as part of my novel where the main character traces his family history.
    This prompt was a difficult one because of the mystery element which I wouldn’t normally choose. It challenged me to try something different.
    Thank you!

  7. It took a while to get going with this prompt. (Argh.) The clock and clock-tower are old. The town was built atop an older village. This is corroborated by artifacts which turn up every now and then at low tide. Arben, a mud-lark, discovers an amphora in the mud. That’s when the clock stopped. Four days later, the headless corpse is discovered pressed between its gears. The body belongs to a monk. A monk of the old faith. The oldest of old faiths. Once the body was removed, the clock started ticking again. This unnerves the townsfolk. Roger is the local Constable. It’s time to talk with Arben and examine the amphora. Arben is a known tippler, and Roger is concerned Arben sold the artifact for local hooch.

    I started this too late in the day but am intrigued and will work on it some more another time.

  8. I am finding benefit in reading the prompts, thinking about them in the context of my short story – up to about 1,800 words in 4 days – and Mr. Lansdale’s prompt today while macabre and outside my theme helped me look at where my story could go to encounter twists hidden behind what seems invisible. Everyone has walked by old buildings and clock towers that have always been there and almost invisible. Sometimes somebody looks inside and finds a new plot twist. I did.

  9. What the heck was my first response to the prompt but i carried on and now I have the start of a very interesting mystery. Left it till the end of the day and was seriously thinking of just not doing it, but i’d made a commitment to myself to do this 30 day challenge and so here I am with an 800 word rough draft. Best of all I’m happy with myself for following through.

  10. This seemed like to scary a prompt for me. Moreover, I started out believing that it was a bell tower and when I realized it was a clock tower, revision was needed. It turned out to be more fun to write than at first imagined. I have just over 400 words and some characters that appeal to me, and lots of questions coming up as the police chief of the small town interviews the postmaster in the building with the clock tower. The framework is a “loose” guide for me and helps to get my imagination going. Thanks, Julie!

  11. Another inspiring prompt! Thank you. I took the time and wrote a flash fiction piece, just over 1,000 words. The gears and clock made me think of steampunk and somehow two characters from a previous steampunk story found their way in. 🙂

  12. The clock in the tower did not inspire me but the headless corpse did. So I put the headless body in a dark alley and started an investigation. An old wealthy head was destined to be attached to this young headless corpse. What went wrong? I enjoy writing about the evil corporation the “New Body Corporation”. I am not finished yet but the story is going well.

    1. I like your willingness to change the prompt. That’s something I’ve always been fussy about with creative writing. If it inspires you, who cares if it doesn’t follow the prompt to a T?

  13. I wrote the story in the second person. The decapitated body comes to life, and you spend the next few days searching for its head. You do find a head, happeningly stuck in another clock on the other side of town, but the body indicates that this is not his head! Then whose head is it?? And where is HIS head?

  14. My immediate reaction to this prompt was “I don’t want to write about a dead body” and what then popped into my head was a story about a dramatic teen chopping the heads off vegetables and imagining writing a murder mystery in her head using this prompt 🙂

  15. Loved the prompts from Day 1 and 2 and got 1000 words each from them. Great flow and exercise. Day 3’s prompt, I just wasn’t feeling, and I took no inspiration from it to write the first word. Skipped. Now on Day 4, I’m a little confused by today’s prompt. I don’t know where to start as I’m having trouble understanding if the clock was or wasn’t working before. Did it work because there was a decapitated body there, or did it start working again after the body was removed? I know, I could take it and run with it either way, but just that simple conundrum hasn’t me stumped and I’m having trouble getting out of the gate. Looking forward to Day 5.

    1. If the clock confuses you, remove it from the prompt. I simply wrote about the headless corpse. It was enough for me. A headless corpse has a thousand stories to tell.

  16. I finished 1,110 words, which I used to augment three scenes in my novel. This challenge is working out well for me.

    Valerie, I set aside the story framework as I write the scenes. However, I am working on a novel, rather than a completed story each day. Still, for me one scene equals one chapter, so there still needs to be a complete conflict and resolution of sorts for each. Also, I will complete several edits on my manuscript before I consider it ready for publication.

  17. I have been in school today, so not had the full time to devote to the story, as I have the previous three days.
    Instead, I have managed to write a plan for a story based around the prompt.
    Hopefully, I can expand upon it later in the challenge, or even tonight if I get time.

  18. What I am struggling with a bit is getting from the daily prompts to the story framework you gave us, Julie. The prompts set up a situation and/or get the plot rolling, but it is up to us to translate that then to a character with a desire (or a strong verb). Wondering if you or any of the other participants have any helpful hints…or do some writers just set the framework aside and let the prompt drive the story each day?

    1. To be honest, with the prompts we’ve had so far, I haven’t really found it easy to use the frameworks. But I have managed to get some good ideas from them.

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