May’s Writing Prompt: Locked In

This post is a day late, thanks to Memorial Day. Hope everyone had a good long weekend.

Now, on to the prompt:


You are alone in a house. It can be a nice house, an old Victorian perhaps, or even a spacious Southern mansion. It can also be a small house, maybe a bungalow, or – to be drastic for a moment – a broken-down hovel only moments away from being collapsed by a strong wind. It can be a castle… but would it be a functioning place of government or drafty ruins?

The commonality in these scenarios is that, for some reason, you have no desire to ever leave.


This may seem innocuous at first. It borrows from the “how do you get out?” hypotheticals of ’00s movies like Saw and Cube, it’s just the exact opposite. Rather than holding the reader in suspense with an obvious but ever-compelling plot – the desire to escape – this prompt puts the reader in a place that’s too good. It’s a tarnished utopia.

As in basically every written work, questions about the setting, character(s) and plot arise. Here are some examples. I’m sure there are many more…

Setting:

Where is the house? Is it in the city, the country, or somewhere else entirely, like a remote island?

How does food arrive? Are there people like milkmen who deliver it every day, or does it appear magically, or has the main character outgrown the need to eat? Worse yet, is there a The Road-style process of luring others into the house only to cannibalize them?

Does the house’s condition change throughout the story?

Character(s):

Does the character have the option to leave the house but refuse to take it? If so, is this concerning to his/her family, friends, local city council, and so on, or is this sort of reclusive behaviour normal in this world? If not, has the character convinced him/herself to not want to leave in order to justify the feelings of being trapped?

Do other people come and go? A group of people in a study behave far differently from someone trapped in a cell alone. Related: are there any pets? If so, which species, and what relationship does the main character have with them?

Does the character actively enjoy living in the house, or just hate the house less than s/he hates the rest of the world?

Plot:

Is the house ever transported? If so, is this normal? A mobile home could be piloted by the main character, whereas a historical house being moved to an alternative site could be a traumatic experience for anyone inside it at the time.

Is there ever temptation to leave the house? If so, does the main character ever give into it, or is it soundly defeated?

Do new forms of entertainment appear in the house from time to time, or is the main character forced, Life of Pi-style, to find new entertainment in pre-existing sources?

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