Day 29 – A Secret Message

Today I dug into the StoryADay archives for a favorite prompt and came up with this one. Those of you who’ve been around for a while may remember it, but I’m betting whatever you come up with for it this year will be COMPLETELY different from how you used it last time.

Today’s prompt was, er, prompted by a brief literary feud.

A TV critic took issue with the latest episodes of the BBC’s Sherlock, complaining that our hero was more James Bond than Conan Doyle’s Holmes. The episode’s writer wrote a response in verse, then the critic wrote back with his own poem. BUT, in the last couple of lines of the poem, he pointed out that he had embedded a hidden message in his words (the second letter of the first word of every line spelled it out).

I was so tickled that I’m stealing the idea (which he stole from Conan Doyle, so I don’t feel bad).

THE PROMPT

Write a story with a hidden message

TIPS

  • You could make the first letter of every sentence spell out a message.
  • You could make the first/second/third/last word of every sentence add up to a secret message.
  • You should probably start by writing out your secret message and then figuring out the rest of the words in your story, so it fits!
  • This will force you to break all the normal rules of your process of storytelling. Don’t be afraid. Be bold. At the very least you’ll learn something about your process!

Today would be a great day to practice engaging with other writers by sharing the story you wrote, here in the comments, even if you’re not thrilled wiht it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how people respond.

Will you share your story today?

Read A Book, Support An Indie

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This year’s StoryADay May official bookseller is Reads & Company, a privately-owned indie bookseller in Pennsylvania. Any purchase from the site this month supports Reads & Co.

Leave a comment and let us know how you used the prompt, and how you’re celebrating!

9 thoughts on “Day 29 – A Secret Message”

  1. The clock struck midnight. Hooting owls shrieked from the woods on the nearby hill. Everywhere was quiet and still. Ghostly shadows flickered in doorways. Oliver cautiously set out, clutching his wallet to his chest, to complete his task. Lantern swinging, he made his way to the Church. Dark clouds hid the moon and he breathed a sigh of relief and thanks for the cover it gave him. Inside the Church gate was a low wall slightly hidden by shrubs. Bending low he managed to locate the loose brick. Every sound made Oliver’s heart beat faster. No-one must know of his mission. Ever since he was forced to carry it out, he lived in fear of his life. After taking the note from his wallet he placed it in the hole. The brick was replaced without any sign it had been moved. He listened intently, not a sound could be heard. The coast was clear. He crept from behind the bushes and walked around to the back of the Church. Every nerve in his body was on edge. Oliver intended to leave by the rear gate of the Church into the field behind. Anxious not to be seen, he crossed the field and took the path to the harbour below. Keenly aware he must not be seen he crossed the harbour bridge and made his way home through the village by way of the back streets.

    The note said
    ‘The Gold is beneath the Oak ‘
    Can you discover how it is concealed in the story?

  2. Rebecca loves to waltz. Every morning she plays Strauss waltzes and feels electricity in her soul. Lagunen Waltz, by Johann Strauss II, gives her the most freedom. A sense of guilt squashes her joy of 3/4 time as she notices her dog’s stare. “Xavier, okay, let’s go.”, and she fetches his leash.

    A short, thin man donning a top hat in the park quickly approaches. “Nasty girl and dog! Don’t think you can fool me!”

    Bewildered, she quickly turns to him and shouts, “REALLY? ESCAPE YOUR INSANITY. A SIMPLE WALTZ!” There is a long silence. He tips his tall hat in her direction and retreats. Easing up on Xavier’s leash, Rebecca waltzes home.

  3. The sign swung on the hinges above the large oak door. As it swayed it creaked ominously. An eerie moon shone whilst dark clouds scudded across the night sky. I walked slowly towards the imposing building. Every bone in my body screamed ‘beware’! The barking of dogs broke the silence. Occasionally an owl hooted in the distance. A cat fight wrangled nearby. I thought I heard footsteps behind me so I turned around quickly. I saw nothing to be afraid of.
    Suddenly I heard the sound of a car. It was approaching at an alarming speed and it shrieked to a halt a short distance away. The acrid smell of brakes filled the air. Car doors slammed shut. Standing on the pavement were two men. Another man appeared from a side lane and gave them a bag. They signalled to him to get in the car. He refused but they pushed him in. They jumped in and were gone in a flash. I stood looking around in the stillness and saw a woman in a bedroom window getting dressed. She buttoned her blouse. She turned and put out the light. The stillness returned. The woman’s house was in darkness. I could no longer look in.
    I walked back to where they had stood. What was it all about? Why did they take the man as well as his bag. Then I saw something glinting on the floor in the moonlight. I bent down and I picked up a beautiful emerald. Panic made me move swiftly. I raced towards the hotel clutching the precious stone firmly in my hand. I fumbled for the key given to me at the reception desk. I needed to get back to my room without delay. I realised I needed to hide this lovely gem so I tucked it in my inside pocket as I crossed the village green.

    My secret message is in the last word of every fifth sentence.
    This really makes you focus on sentence construction and I discovered I needed to use varying lengths of sentences to help create an atmosphere. A very interesting exercise.
    Thank you.

  4. HOLD ON

    It’s smack-dab middle of another long and dragging day. A car starts, revs, and loudly leaves; dragonfly inspects the grapevine and declines; clouds slide inexorable above overstory and unmoving weathervane. Hidden in the California lilac is half a generation of on-task bees.
    Message me, someone—send mail or make the landline ring. Even a tweet would serve. If you were me, how would you feel?! It’s two, it’s three, it’s time for what? Not work, no open gym or swimming pool; is getting together never to happen again? A chickadee, two wrens—that’s all the peeps we’ve got.
    Good company, don’t get me wrong, but where does the conversation go from dee-dee-dee-dee-dee? One hour more gone by, and silence reigns. Or two—don’t trust that clock; it lies. Perhaps it’s just as confused as I—what’s today/when was yesterday/where do we go with what they call tomorrow?
    It is late, I think, the breeze slowly cooling, soon the clanging of pots and pans (one drum, a whistle) for our essential workers. Is it too late, or are we onto something, learning something, building something new?
    Connect me—email or cold call, junk mail, flowers at the door. At midnight, a nice wrong number. Every other hour, Morse code through the dining room wall. Opportunity knocks, these days, any way it can.
    Only the slivered moon now, in this clouding sky. Connect yourself, she says, not unkindly; to earth and sky, to human and divine—hold on.
    *******
    This Challenge has restored me, after almost a year of querying, to my writing. Infinite thanks!

  5. Very short, not quite a story, but a hidden message include:

    The reason people keep secrets is to build social currency with the people you are willing to tell.
    Truth is a compelling love potion, that creates an instant bond with others.
    Is the idea of vulnerability scary, or is it sacred and intimate?
    Out beyond the usual banter is a landscape of potential connection and love.
    There are some things we can only share with the people we want to keep close — secret things that transform our bond into something lasting.

  6. Here’s my short, sweet take…
    Can you figure out the message?

    Not for the first time, did I register the looks of disbelief that registered on the faces of my colleagues. Oh great, that old thing called stereotype, again. Even my boss Daniel, who thought he was a worldly-wise character couldn’t get his head around it.
    “All I’m saying is, that when I visited your Motherland, there wasn’t much else to consume, so it goes without saying, that you have to eat what’s there, right? But, Rekha,” he waved his piece of naan bread in my face. “I’ve never seen you eat the stuff they’re famous for, here.” He dipped his naan in his Chicken Vindaloo. “Though, I get that you probably get enough at a home, and need a plate of humble chips. A bit of bland, eh?”
    Indians in their millions, across the continent, would probably nod their head in agreement. I know my mother in law would, definitely. To them, a meal without spice, rice and chapattis, would be a meal that wasn’t even worth contemplating. And even if we visited an Indian, there were always complaints that it would have been cooked better by Mum, at home. “Waste of your good money!”
    “Eat your food, Dan, before it gets cold. Spicy, cold food is never good.” I picked up my own fork. “I’m happy with my fish fingers and chips.” Thank God these places always had the fussy kids menu. I was safe.
    Curry houses around the world added the humble chip to their menu, begrudgingly, but they knew, there was always going to be someone who hated Indian food, or couldn’t stand the heat.

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