Hermit Crab | StoryADay 2024 Day 15

Hope you’re not kabourphobic…

day 15 cover

The Prompt

Write a Hermit Crab story – that is a story which is told in another form. Write a story about a character who has just received some unexpectedly good news.

Things To Consider

For years, here at StoryADay I used this prompt without knowing that someone had given a name to it: the hermit crab.

The hermit crab is a crab that remains a crab while making its home in any outer container seems like the perfect name for the type of story I want you to write today. Not quite sure what I mean yet? Well, I’m talking about stories that emerge from things like a series of crossword clues or from a series of footnotes, or a series of interview responses , a recipe, the questions in a quiz, or an academic review paper (complete with footnotes).

Today I’m promoting you to write a story about a character receiving good news because often, when reaching for the dramatic, we immediately think of negative disruptions to a life.

But that often leads us to write a story that’s more of a downer than we really wanted to write.

Good news can be dramatic and disruptive too (I remember shaking after seeing my degree results and after seeing a positive pregnancy test. Both of those things were dramatic in the moment, and had a dramatic impact on the rest of my life, for sure!

Even smaller things like a successful audition for a local amateur dramatic production, or hearing ‘yes’ to any kind of request, can be a profound and interesting moment in a character’s life.

What good news will you give your character today? Remember to come back and post your ‘victory dance’ letting us know what you wrote about and how went.

Further reading:

a poem with the ‘story’ in the first words of each line

Browser History – a prompt from Gabrielle Johansen

Last Will – a prompt from Michele Reisinger

Recipe for Magic – a prompt from Carey Shannon

A Story In Memos

Multiple choice test

Review of Jennifer Wortmann’s story “Theories of the Point of View Shifts In AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’”

Leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Upgrade now to the Online Challenge Handbook

Get the Challenge Handbook, with helper videos, audio and text PLUS daily warm ups and brainstorming exercises designed to jumpstart your writing, daily.

Write with us during May or go at your own pace.

Access immediately. (Will stay online as long as I’m running StoryADay!)

Only $31 during the challenge. Price increases to $97 on June 1, 2024

storyaday graphic divider

Here’s your next Game Piece. save the image and share on social media with #storyaday

Prefer paper crafts? Here’s the cut & paste version

storyaday graphic divider

29 thoughts on “Hermit Crab | StoryADay 2024 Day 15”

  1. I got my thinking cap on for this one and got creative! My character is watching a sports game off of a friends phone while text notifications keep popping up on the screen. The character only glances at them, trying to focus on the game until one piece of text catches his attention, sending the phone flying as shock and excitement takes over. It’s really good news.

    1. I think of this as the week of fun prompts, but the truth is they can be quite challenging!

  2. Wow – this one really forced me to put on my thinking cap!

    The result? A story in 100 words, told through a series of communications that occurred after a report of “shots fired” in an upscale beach community.

  3. Here’s mine (it is fiction):

    Answering Machine Message found on my grandmother’s machine the day she died:
    Congratulations Mrs. Mulaney! We are pleased to announce that you are the lucky winner of our drawing for a free sky diving lesson. We know it’s the last minute, but we have an opening on today’s flight! Please meet us at the airfield at 3:00pm and we’ll take to the skies!

    1. Ha! I love the a, realization and b, fact that you don’t acually confirm my suspicions, but…

  4. Something clicked when you said “questions in a quiz. I did mine in a Jeopardy theme.

    I don’t want to post the whole thing but it started out as:

    “Something sitting on the kitchen counter

    What’s is an envelope addressed to me?

    New York Publishing co

    What is the return address?”

    A little odd but that’s what I came up with.

  5. I had fun with this one, though it was definitely a challenge. I’ve been following the New York Times’s play-by-play coverage of Donald Trump’s criminal trial, and decided to use that format of posts and sub-posts to tell the story of a Pope being tried for murder (in a New York City courthouse, no less); he is summarily acquitted when the prosecution’s sole eyewitness falls apart on the stand and denies having seen anything. I’m not sure just what I’m making fun of – the press, or me for reading the coverage, or something else – but it satisfied some of my more wicked impulses.

    One interesting consequence of the form: if you read from the top down, you’re reading the most recent posts first, so you get the outcome before you really know what it’s about. That has possibilities.

    1. Sounds interesting.

      I wrote four years of scene setters for a D&d game in that format. Which made it interesting when I started sharing it out. The debate I had was do I (how do I) reverse the order. Entry by entry was the format. I like the idea you suggest of maybe that is simply the format and the reader can choose how they deal with it.

      And the trump thing, I’m in Australia, and a trump tragic, I too am following it daily.

    2. You inspired me.
      I wrote a series of social media updates to be read in reverese-chronological order. I started with the idea of someone winning an Oscar (or at least her boss did), and posting throughout the night as she tries (and fails) to get into various after-parties. I outlined that much, then tried to write i from the last post to the first.

      It got a bit messy in the middle, so I turned the page and wrote the ‘good news’ at the bottom of the second page and then wrote my way back up to the middle.

      Someone here mentioned limiting themselves to two sides of a sheet of paper, so I took that idea too. Made the whole thing much more manageable.

      I don’t think what i have written is world-changing, and haven’t read it yet to see if it even remotely works, but It’s a draft I can play with. I like the idea of trying to make it as compelling as possible. Interesting puzzle.

      So thanks to everyone in the community for sharing ideas and tactics. I am a magpie. A happy magpie…

  6. I’m having trouble understanding this prompt. I’m still trying to come up with something though.

    1. Reading the examples may help.
      But it’s a challenging one, that’s for sure. Don’t let it stall you. If this doesn’t work, just write what you want!

  7. OK, day 15, and a look at my backlog of story ideas and prompts I’ve barely dented them. I started with 52, it currently rests at 50. A review tells me there are a few duplicates and some repeating themes. That said though, there’s also a mega prompt in there.

    The idea of a party backstory is similar to the Landon Frostcar origin story (day 13), although that was for a single character. So how about one for a party of four, and how would you do it? My idea is four stories at least: Story 1 – Introduce the world, Story 2 – add some depth to the first two characters introduced, and add depth to the world description, Story 3 – Introduce the third, possibly even the fourth character, then Story 5. Give the party a unifying purpose.

    So that’s the idea, here’s story 1 of the series. NOTE this is a bit of a retelling, for a pre-established setting, and gives a launch to story 2 that will have the ‘Conspiracy’ perspective to it all.

    Enjoy: https://afstoryaday.blogspot.com/2024/05/day-15-world-building.html

    1. My God! Why does it always happen to me?
      I wrote the title as “The Ups of Life Far Outweigh The Downs”. But it came as what it is the second time around!
      Some people are plain unlucky, I reckon!

  8. I was able to simmer this prompt while I slept(because my brain wouldn’t shut off last night, so I was still awake when the email came through), and already had an idea by the time I woke up this morning. Today’s story was a series of notes/emails/letters from Rhys’s past, not all of them good news, but it all leads to him getting to where he’ll meet Alfie for the first time. 473 words

    1. Hey, Fallon,
      What time did you wake up? you posted this at 6:38 am.
      Mind you, my post above says 8:07 am, but it’s not really, it was 10:08 pm for me.
      It appears the timezone has played to your advantage today, well done.
      I Post late at night, then go to bed and awake up after you’ve all been working for the day to see what’s been happening and if my attempts drew any attention.
      Have a good day, and glad the story flowed for you.

  9. The prompt posed a problem for me. Hermit crab? I have never heard of the term! Then the next part of the prompt asking us to write a story in a different form. Surely, we were not talking about the genres of the short story here.
    Was I supposed to write a story in the form of a letter, dialogue, poem? The options seemed limitless in that case.
    Then I came across the last bit regarding a character receiving some good news and I thought of writing this story. Let me know, PLEASE, if I got it correctly.
    The Ups of Life Far Outweigh The Downstairs :

    I was despairing. My friends were all employed. I felt frustrated when we met in the adda on the shaded steps of Bank of India in the evenings.
    Debu would pull a bidi packet from his pocket, roll one on the palm of his hand before handing the pack over to me
    “Feel like another?” He would ask me. In spite of myself, I would take one from the proffered packet and placing it in between my lips, move my face sideways to light it from the match held up to his mouth.
    “Today, I scribbled a poem in the office and would like to read it to you.”
    God! What kind of life am I being subjected to? I have to have a bidi when my poor lungs are filled with smoke! Why can’t I refuse it when I don’t want it? And the poem? Who cares? I won’t be surprised if it is the worst poem I have ever had the misfortune of listening to.
    I was aware that Debu thought highly of me, a jobless, failure student.
    “When I saw you walking up to me/ My heart started humming tenderly/ Cupid shot me for the first time, my Love….”
    “How do you like it, Ashik?” He cast an intent look in my direction .
    “Oh! It’s nice.” I yawned. Life, I felt, couldn’t have been more miserable
    “Let’s go till Park Circus.” He suggested, throwing the bidi-butt to a corner.
    God! I was caught up in the mesh of friendship and there seemed no way out, no escape from my daily quota of bidis, tons of tasteless tea with an utter life of boredom to boot.
    Please help me out, God. My heart was crying out as I got up from the steps dusting my back. All I wanted to do at such times was to kick his butt and tell him to go to hell.

    If my evenings were sheer torture, my mornings were no better either. After the failed first attempt, I was trying to clear B.A. Part-II for the final time and the possibility of majoring in English seemed as distant as the dwelling place of the Devil indeed.
    It was around this time that an advertisement published in a local daily caught my eye.
    Teachers Required For Bhutan
    Now, normally, I didn’t bother about such advertisements. They always needed highly qualified people with the right connection but something was drawing me towards it and kept on reading through it to the end.
    I had all the requirements. A graduate with English as a main subject at the graduation level. I have already spoken about my desire to get away from friends and family. A change of place was what I craved for desperately.
    I had my heart in my mouth when a couple of weeks later I received a letter asking me to be present at the prestigious St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata for a written test and interview a couple of days later.
    Great God! My application had been shortlisted from amongst hundreds of such applications for the post of a teacher. When I reached there at around 1 in the afternoon, I was worried to find hundreds of teacher-aspirants milling around the corridors.
    The written test was a waste of time and paper as I couldn’t finish writing the essay on the given topic. The gong went soon afterwards and I had to hand over my half-finished paper to the invigilator. Standing on the balcony overlooking the picturesque surroundings of the reputed college, I found myself faced with a dilemma whether I should go back or stay back. I opted for the later.

    When my name was called out in the afternoon, a thought cropped up in my head : I was a coward.
    When I stepped inside the spacious but dimly-lit room, before I could adjust my eyesight to the dim light of the room, I heard the man sitting behind the table, asking me to take a seat.
    It didn’t take me long to make out that there were three of them including a lady. The middle-aged man, suited-booted, sitting in the middle, was obviously an Indian;the pretty lady sitting on his left was Ms. Sangay Zam, a Lecturer, so Mr. Prasad had informed me. The short statured man on his right, with heaps of files on the table must have been an official from The Education Department.
    The next five to seven excruciatingly painful moments were spent going through my academic transcripts.
    “So, you studied in a government college, didn’t you?” Mr. Prasad asked me.
    I nodded. Ms. Sangay then took over. She couldn’t have asked me more than a few questions. While I was looking apprehensively at her after one tricky question, Mr. Prasad picked up the file from the table.
    “Did you write this essay, young man?” There was something about the way he addressed me as “young man” that gladdened my heart.
    “Yes,” I replied wondering what he was going to tell me about the half-finished piece. That I was a slow writer in not being able to finish it on time? Or, did I make lots of mistakes while writing and he was going to tear me apart for the offence?
    Not likely, I reflected as I was very particular about my English.
    He turned the page back to himself before commenting :
    Great God, have mercy on me! Would I ever be so lucky as to land up with a decent job? I couldn’t help asking myself, looking at the compassionate picture of Jesus Christ hanging on the wall behind Mr. Prasad.
    “You write beautifully, young man.”
    Oh, what a relief to be told that you are not outright bad! That you can go on to do your bit for making the world a little better and brighter.
    “Do you know the name of the present King of Bhutan?” It was Ms.Sangay lifting me out of my trance.
    All my dreams and hopes were shattered at the question as I realised that I ought to have been better prepared for the interview.
    I shook my head, sad beyond expression.
    “Are you keen to go to Bhutan, if selected?” Mr. Prasad burged in again.
    I nodded though I didn’t know anything about the neighbouring country. Not did any member of my family!
    That concluded the interview as I was plunged back into my life of monotony and misery.
    It was one bright December afternoon, especially after the women had retired to their respective roomd, while I was whiling away my time all by myself in the front courtyard, when the postman dropped in.
    “Registeted letter for Rathin Bha……”
    Before he could finish pronouncing my full name, I pounced on him and snatched the envelope from his hand.
    It was a milky white, rectangular envelope with the words Royal Government of Bhutan imprinted on top. On tearing it open, Appointment Letter written atop the first of some seven/eight folded papers inside, caught my attention.
    With a trembly hand and a blissful heart, I skimmed through the letter before breaking into a run up the stairs to my Maa’s room.
    Amidst scenes of jubilation, I hugged her with tears coursing down my cheeks.
    “Yes, Maa, yes. I’ve done it. I have had an offer of a teaching job from Bhutan…”
    Life wasn’t going to be the same for me anymore!
    The end

    1. Rathin,
      I’m not sure if you got the ‘hermit crab’ aspect of the prompt, but you nailed the ‘good news perspective.’ I enjoyed it, although, it left me guessing on the way through.

      And where did you get the turn of phrase ‘caught up in the mesh of friendship’, then another, the ‘go back, stay back’. Well done with these.

      And then finally an autobiographical allusion ‘Rathin Bha….’

      Well done.

      1. Dear Andrew,
        While writing, I don’t refer to the dictionary. I used to when I was a teacher. And I try to finish writing whatever I am, at a go. So, I am not sure if ‘mesh of friendship’ is correct or not. I am not sure if it ought to have been ‘mash’ or ‘snare’ or ‘net’ or whatever.
        I thought about it for a second and decided on ‘mesh’ finally. I am sorry if it didn’t make any sense.
        To be honest, as I was unsure about the hermit crab aspect of the story, I decided to write about a topic that comes naturally to me. You are right about the autobiographical element. In fact, my first book “The Autobiography of CU’s Worst Student” was published last October. But I can’t ask you to read it as there are some chapters missing, some deleted, some repeated in the book!
        Having my first book published, you see Andrew, was an experience of a life time.
        Stay happy and keep encouraging a novice writer like me. Best wishes.

        1. Ratting, it was a complement on mesh of friendship – I thought it was a good play on words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The StoryADay

I, WRITER Course


A 6-part journey through the short story.

Starts July 28, 2023