[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Neil Gaiman

The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil GaimanFortunately The Milk by Neil Gaiman
Welcome To StoryADay May 2014!

To kick off our 5th Year of writing a StoryADay in May, I have a special treat for you: a guest prompt from the fabulous Neil Gaiman.

On the day I contacted him he was, sadly for him, stuck in an airport. The prompt he suggested for us was pretty heartfelt:

The Prompt from Neil Gaiman

Getting Home


  • This is a wide-open prompt. You could use it to write tragedy, comedy, satire, slapstick, sci-fi, fantasy, realistic fiction….anything you want.
  • Think of a character desperate to get home. What is stopping them? What is their most basic reaction? (Frustration is a wonderful way to strip away a character’s layers and show us what they are like at their core. In Mr Gaiman’s case I would suggest that he is basically a generous and decent human being. Instead of responding to my request, he could just as easily have cursed, deleted my email and put me on a list of spammers… What will your character do?)
  • For the first day of StoryADay May I always suggest writing a really short story. It’s a great way to warm up, and it’s all too easy to get lost in the beginning of a story and find yourself heading into a 3,000 word behemoth. You’ll never be able to sustain that pace for the whole month, so start small. Start with a victory.
  • Aim to write no more than 1200 words. That gives you 300 words to establish the scene and your character, 700 words to make things happen, complicate things, create a crisis/climax, and 200 words to wrap it all up.


When you finish your story today, leave a comment below, or join the Victory Dance group in the community and share you thoughts about the first day, there. (Haven’t joined the community yet? Join here

Thanks again, Mr Gaiman. I hope you got home all right…


40 thoughts on “[Writing Prompt] Guest Prompt from Neil Gaiman”

  1. Finished it a day late, but finished it nonetheless. Not remotely what I set out to write, but sometimes those are the best stories to tell.

  2. My story was inspired by my patients, again. Is going home after a long hospital stay really going home? Or does the hospital take the place of ‘home’?

  3. Just finished Poem-A-Day Challenge for April and friend started Story-A-Day May, so I figured, “What the heck, why not?.” I combined three (yes, three) prompts (Gaiman’s, Sarah Salecky’s and Lillie McFerrin’s) into a very short piece that I think I shall mature someday into a full-fledged story. And so, May, here we go.

  4. Did it! My writing heart is glad… a conversation earlier today about galaxy-slinging mechas in anime prior to reading the prompt made for a serendipitous mash-up. I can’t wait to see where our wandering words lead us this month!

      1. Thanks! You too! Yes! That’s it, but I haven’t seen it or read the manga yet. I have a college student who is my little brother in heart, and he feeds my anime addiction with suggestions for my next binging adventure. When I finish this month’s writing challenge, I will indulge in Gurren Lagann as reward.

    1. StoryADay is all about making mistakes! If you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not writing enough and you’re certainly not learning anything!

  5. That was a great prompt! I could end my first story. It is a good start, this is going to be very fun

  6. Finished! It’s really, really rough but I think it’s workable. And I even managed to work the prompt into it, in a “what exactly is home and how much are we willing to do to get it back” kind of way. I might revisit this prompt because it is a rich one. (Of course it is,it’s from Neil Gaiman.)

  7. I had a good idea for a short story, but after writing 1,300 words and having a somewhat complete rough draft, I can see that it’s not anywhere near what I had hoped it would be nor does it have enough flesh. But that’s not really the point, is it? I haven’t really sat down to write anything of substance and length in a long time, but writing today was fun, which is what I needed more than anything.

  8. Mwahaha! I finished one! I finished one! And the one year old played by himself mostly happily while I did this Amazing Feat, only trying to eat the power cord once to make sure I knew he was still here! \^.^/

    1. Oh, I feel like you need some kind of extra victory lap: a one year old in tow? I hope he continues to cooperate (he won’t) and that you continue to write (you can!). Well done!

  9. I’m taking the prompt and I am going to write linking stories so that the scenes might lead to the outline of a novel.Today’s scene in brief. My protagonist, Andrea, is in her Little Venice home overlooking the canal in February 2014. She’s fed up of the rain, bloody miserable when her partner, John, calls to tell her to get a move on…it’s nearly eleven for God’s sake…and tells her there’s a letter for her. Postmark Leeds. Her past comes flooding back. the last place she wants to return to is her home. But what does the letter say? Tomorrow folks.

  10. Got a rough draft out as well! 750 words. Fingers crossed for the rest of the month. 😀

  11. I just wrote my first short story! I really enjoyed the process, and feel like I got a decent rough draft. Looking forward to the rest of the month!

  12. I’ve been stuck at an airport or two. Have we all? Why didn’t I think to write a story about it? Great prompt!

  13. I finished my short story! Boy, am I glad, it had been a while since I wrote a full story. It was a very inspiring prompt.

  14. I wish the workbook was a doc not pdf so I could work it online and save a tree, it was a good tool to clear my thoughts and set some goals. So excited to be here, lots of positives if I succeed not so many negatives if I don’t. I have lots of inspirations from my life to put in my words and I stand to gain 30,000 + words of story. 🙂

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