Day 12- Listening for ideas by Monique Cuillerier

Sound can be stimulating…in today’s writing prompt from Monique Cuillerier

StoryADay prompt cover

When I’m having a hard time falling asleep, when my mind won’t stop throwing up new worries or old memories or random fears, I listen to white noise tracks, preferably nature sounds. (Here’s a short playlist of some of my favourites)

In doing this, I unintentionally discovered that listening to these soundscapes provides me with lots of ideas for stories (or further developments for works in progress).

(It is not, however, particularly helpful in getting to sleep!)

The Prompt

Choose one of the tracks on the playlist (or find one on YouTube, Spotify, or a website like Ambient Mixer ).

Listen for a while. Maybe 5 minutes, maybe more. (I will warn you that some of the tracks are many hours long…)

Let your mind wander as you immerse yourself in the sounds. What do you think of? What images come to your mind? How do you feel?

Then write a story based on your reaction and the ideas that have come to you.

It might be something quite literal (like rain falling on a roof inspiring a story of being inside a cabin during a storm) or less so (for example, the feelings of isolation or coziness that arise).

Monique Cuillerier

Monique (she/her) is a lesbian science fiction writer living in Ottawa (Canada), with her cat Janeway and many (many) plants. Her latest story, “Touching Mars,” can be found in Bicycles & Broomsticks: Fantastical Feminist Stories about Witches on Bikes (January 2023). She can be found at notwhereilive.ca

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26 thoughts on “Day 12- Listening for ideas by Monique Cuillerier”

  1. I read through the prompt quickly and somehow saw sound bath in soundscape. I listened to the first on the list of results and ended up submerged for almost an hour. I ran with the idea that it prompted. Quite enjoyed this prompt. Thank you.

  2. I finished this one at 3am this morning. I wrote about my characters trying to get away from city life and enjoying isolation only to be disrupted by a loud bang. I got the idea because when I was listening to the white noise I was disrupted by a loud bang of thunder. So I just wrote that in my story.

  3. Day 12: I missed this day. I listened to a nature meditation track and wrote this snippet describing an indoor camping activity from a toddler’s perspective.

    Mommy set up the tent. “Wow,” I said, “thanks, mama.” I heard birds chirping and owls hooting. The campfire was crackling right outside the tent to keep us warm. I lay on my back, taking Mommy’s hand, and in the sky were big, beautiful twinkling lights. “Wow!” I said again. This was my first time camping, and it made me sooooo happy. Mommy and me ate camping pizza and Mommy took the flashlight and told me a story. She told me that I was in the forest and I had three friends; a fox, a bear and a tiger. There was a big dinosaur coming to get me but I asked my animal friends for help and they saved me from the dinosaur. I clapped because I was so excited that I had these friends and I got to see the dinosaur but I was safe. This was my new favorite story and Mommy didn’t even use a book or any pictures, but I could see it in my forehead. The swishy tent was comfy and smelled like wet dirt. My doggy stole my last piece of pizza but I didn’t cry. I took the fire inside the tent and cuddled with Mommy. “I love you, buddy,” she said. “I love you mama,” I told her before I fell asleep.

  4. I started with the white noise, but was only getting bland ideas. Decided to try more cultural sounds so I found a playlist of Scottish and Gaelic folk songs. Much livelier, and helped me imagine a scene with more movement and some mischievous characters. Some of the songs had lyrics, but since I couldn’t understand them the soundtrack didn’t distract me. I might go back to this piece and work in a better food fight scene than the one I wrote yesterday. Today’s characters will appreciate it more. I’m 12 for 12!

  5. I came up with my story idea in possibly an unusual way. One of the audios in the playlist had a distracting amount of fuzz, so I used that annoying static as a detail in a story about a malfunctioning robot. 😄

  6. Day 12 in the books! I wrote about an insomniac who keeps switching ambient playlists to help them sleep. Not that I know anything about that, of course.

  7. Roe had just done some shoplifting and was anxious to get home to write a song about it.
    Once home he made himself coffee and set it on the small plexiglass table next to the blue chair in his luxurious 13th floor condominium in San Diego. He grabbed a guitar off the wall, one of several, and sat in the chair strumming chords until he began to come up with the sound and rhythm he wanted.
    Shoplifting always gave him a rush and he wanted to write the lyrics down while he was still excited. He took a sip of his coffee, set it back down, then used the notation pad and pencil on the table to begin writing lyrics.
    The song was going well. Although it was about him stealing a woman’s heart, he used the energy he got from stealing something a few minutes ago (he’d stolen a pair of red panties for his current girlfriend), in order to get excited about writing the song.
    He’d gotten away with this for five years already and nobody was the wiser. He had no doubt he could continue concealing the real meaning of the lyrics; he was more concerned with getting caught in the act of shoplifting one of these days.
    Roe was becoming more and more popular every day. He had a gig coming up in Japan next month and could hardly wait. There should be some interesting items to steal in Japan. It wasn’t like he stole very much; nothing valuable.
    He’d never told anyone how he came up with his songs. That would be crazy.
    There was a knock at the door. “Who is it?” He called out. No answer. He checked his phone for the doorbell video and saw a man wearing a hoodie who quickly disappeared. Opening the door, Roe saw the note taped to it which said, “Better call me. I know your secret.” Then a phone number.
    What secret had he figured out? Roe asked himself. The person who left the note was either talking about the shoplifting, or maybe just the fact that Roe used objects for song ideas.
    After worrying over this for about an hour, Roe gave him a call.

  8. I’ve never tried white noise tracks but will definitely use them again. I chose one called Summer Night on the Porch. I wrote 440 words to use as background information for a novel.

  9. Today I wrote a longer story. I chose the sound “Rainy night with your love” (https://supernatural-series.ambient-mixer.com/sleeping-next-to-dean) and wrote about a girl lying awake at night next to her sleeping boyfriend, coming to terms with the fact that she has to end their relationship.
    It was an immersive experience to have the sound of the rain outside the window combined with the calm snoring while writing. When I took a break and then came back to the sound, I found back into the scene much faster. I think I might use such soundscapes for my writing in the future, as it helps to get into the scene and find ideas for it (e.g. descriptions of what the character hears, feels or smells and what might happen to distract or remind them). Thank you for this helpful excercise!

  10. Done!
    I have my own white noise playlist on Spotify that I used for this exercise, complete with the sounds of a peaceful river shore and children at a playground.
    Should I be concerned that my peaceful day on the river turns into a body dump and ends with a child’s ball floating downstream?

    1. Hahaha. No, this is why we write. I’d be concerned if you WEREN’T writing these stories 😉

  11. This prompt made me think of isolation. We often think of isolation as bad or scary but in my story it’s truly beautiful. My character is sitting on the beach of an abandoned wasteland. A city once booming with busy people now lays abandoned and destroyed as nature beautifully reclaims it. Each day my character explores a new building, appreciating how every item in every room are pieces to the story of the lives once lived there.

  12. Day 12

    [I acted as per the prompt and listened to a white noise track called “Calm Forest Birds Chirp, Chatter and Sing” and then I was transported to a different world.)

    Memories (of the Happiness Spot) For Keeps :

    His Mejdi was in college and brother-in-law somewhere else, when Dip, may be 13 or 14 at that time, got bored staying all by himself at his sister’s quarters. So, he told Kamal, the Nepali trusted servant of his sister that he would sneak a peek at the pine forest behind her quarters. The time was around 1 in the afternoon and the deep pine forest was beckoning him. The dense forest cast a spell on him. He had never seen anything like that in his life before. The tall pine trees along with thousand other nameless trees scared him at the first sight. It was autumn and the trees had started shedding their leaves. The yellowish brown leaves lying scattered on the trail under the trees brought immense joy to his heart.
    He sat down on a heap under a tree and jumped up the very next moment. It was risky to sit on the dried yet damp leaves. Kamal had warned him to be careful of the wood-ants. One bite and you feel the pinch for the rest of your life.
    He got up and started trotting along the trail through the dense pines. If you think that he was a brave one, you are mistaken. He was the timid type and if he had gone out, it had all to do with his utter boredom of staying at home. At mid-noon, the forest was quite calm and desolate. And the different shapes and sizes of the trees all around and over him, scared him no end.
    It was only then that he realised that he had lost the way back to his Mejdi’s quarters. Panicky – he started running back. No, that was not where he came from. He turned around and started running back along the trail.
    And then he stopped. The rays of the descending sun had found their ways through the trees, leaving a hue all over. The leafy trail went up and got lost in a turning. The green and yellow of the leaves along with the grey of the stems on either side looked more like a handiwork of the divine. On his left, not very far away from him, was the most amazing tree he had seen in his life. It was a well spread-out tree with red, gold, pink and green leaves. That was the first time he came across a tree like that! But that was not all. What really made him alive again were the sounds that emitted from all around. The stillness of the earlier times had given way to a mixture of myriad sounds. A bird, sitting on a tree-top, went on making a chuk-chuk sound non stop. Another went on making a tik-tik-tik-tik sound rhythmically as if expecting a mate to respond to her calls. There was a whole world of happy-go-lucky birds chirping along with a gentle breeze rustling through the trees, and Dip don’t know whether it was his imagination or there really was the sound of a running spring from somewhere nearby.
    The shadows of the stems fell across the sun-kissed trail like you would’t believe! Even a coward like him stood transfixed there for eternity. He wanted to capture the moments through his mind’s camera and didn’t even remember how long he stood there and had an eyeful.

    That day Kamalda brought an abrupt end to his limitless happiness. It seemed that when on her return home, Mejdi didn’t find Dip home, she got worried and sent Kamalda after him. Kamalda had a tough time finding him out but find him out he did, finally. Dip screamed, scratched, yelled at him, asked Kamalda to let him be. But he wouldn’t move an inch without Dip. It was Mejdi’s order. And that trusted man was ready to give his right arm to carry out any orders of Mejdi.

    In the few days Dip stayed there, he tried to get back to his Happiness Spot. But he seemed to have lost it for good much though he tried, that heavenly spot seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth!

    Some twenty years later, Dip had to revisit Darjeeling. Though it was a family trip, he had one thing at the back of his mind the day he had chalked out a plan for the trip. From NJP, they took nearly four hours by taxi to get to the hotel, Tiger Hills. It was a beauty and they were given rooms on the top floor with an enclosed roof from where they could see the hilly town below. Though they were tired, when they stepped out on the roof and looked down at the town coming alive – the view was spectacular.

    Next day, while they were busy site-seeing some important places in and around Darjeeling, Dip heard the driver pointing out Darjeeling Govt College on the left to my wife. His heart skipped a bit. He wanted to get out and make a run for the college. All those memories came back to haunt him – Mejdi, Kamalda and those two dogs at the Police Training College. But the most cherished memory was the memory of that Happiness Spot.
    While his wife and son were still in bed, he hit the road early. Before leaving he had awakened his wife to tell her that he was heading to the mall. The College was closed for some festival. He tried to look for someone who could direct him to the staff quarters of the employees of the College. He did get to the quarters. Instead of getting inside, he started looking for a way to get behind the staff quarters and managed to get there too. By then, he was acting like someone possessed. Once in the dense woods, he acted like a lost child deliberately. He ran this way and that to see if he could somehow get back to the place, the memory of which saw him through some of the most harrowing times of his life.
    You got it right. He didn’t find it. But he made a promise to himself – he would come back to Darjeeling again till he found the spot, no matter what.
    For some memories are for keeps.

  13. More of a list than a story today but it was fun. I have a train in the snow that is my go-to white noise that triggers my brain to write.

  14. Back to my selkies today, started with waves crashing on the shore and reunited the two of them after some time apart. It was a short one, just 264 words. This will probably be more backstory for the actual story.

  15. I wrote down some different ideas and memories spurred on by the white noise / ambient noise tracks I chose. The nature sounds definitely evoke a lot of childhood memories, as I used to live on a farm in the Blue Ridge mountains of Western North Carolina. The prompt really makes me want to incorporate more soundscapes into my writing.

  16. This prompt made me think of isolation. Isolation is often seen is bad or scary but in this case it felt beautiful. My character was alone in an abandoned world. The city that was once booming with busy people was now a wasteland taken over beautifully by nature. Each day my character explores a new empty building, appreciating how each item in each room were pieces to the stories of the lives that once lived there.

  17. What a lot of ways we use sound! When I have to concentrate, I sometimes put on Aluk Todolo, a band that calls itself “Occult,” but is definitely Metal-inflected. I don’t know why, it just helps me concentrate. I wrote my story today listening to the NASA Webb Telescope sonification. The story was about a man who agrees, at the request of his downstairs neighbor, to stop listening to the same Aluk Todolo tracks over and over again, and in the process of trying out alternatives terrifies his dog with “Thunder Sounds with Rain.” Maybe not what Monique intended with her prompt, but I for sure wouldn’t have gone there without it.

  18. Today was the first day I was able to sit outside for a morning coffee. I set my timer and for 30 minutes wrote all the sounds that I heard as the world woke up around me.

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