March’s Writing Prompt: A Week at the Conference Table

For December’s writing prompt, go here.

It’s been a chilly, prompt-less winter so far, but now that the snow’s falling again in Toronto, it’s a great time to get this column running!

Imagine your seven characters are at this conference table.

On Monday, they sit at the table to discuss whatever it is they discuss. On Tuesday, each person’s mind wakes up in the body to the right. Red’s mind is in orange’s body, orange’s mind is in yellow’s body, and so on. Wednesday, they rotate again in the same direction, so red’s mind is in yellow’s body, orange’s mind is in green’s body, and you get the picture. By the next Monday, they’re back where they began.

Does each mind identify with a certain body? Or do the minds, as a collective, view the seven bodies as a corporeal commons?

If the people had lived a certain length of time normally, but then woke up one day in this cruel experiment, they might identify with the bodies they had before. If they were born in this scenario, though, or if they’d had their memories wiped, it’d be a lot fishier.

Does it matter which day of the week which mind is in which body? After all, some sources say people eat less healthy on the weekends. Would the red mind stuff the blue and purple bodies full of junk food only to castigate the orange and yellow minds for doing the exact same thing to the red body?

If the bodies are a commons, there could be any number of rules governing them. They might split up physically demanding or boring tasks. If some bodies are bigger than others, manual labour may even take on a Marxist-style “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs” approach. Alternatively, each mind may feel a lack of ownership over any given body, seeing as it only has to inhabit it 1/7 of the time. That could result in all sorts of neglect and abuse.

The least technical question, but probably the most important one, is: why are these people here? That might decide the setting, characters and plot in one go. Did they know each other before the experiment started? Are they in a normal setting, like at work or school, or are they in an artificial environment created specifically for the conference? Are they working toward a common goal, like all escaping a haunted house? Or are they pitted against each other to see who gets to keep a body at all?

Answering that bold italic question could result in as many stories as there are writers.

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