Developing Writing Skills Using Writing Prompts

When I first started writing seriously, I found the thought of a full-length novel a bit daunting.  This was before I knew anything about story structure, character development, and the many other things you learn as you go along.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland and her website Helping Writers Become Authors, and other author advice that I found on the internet, on social media, and writing advice books, I learned, quickly, that the only way you learn how to write, is to Write!

I actually stumbled upon the best way to start writing; a daily writing prompt.  It didn’t matter how long or short my story was, as long as I wrote, and because of the prompt, I had a solid foundation that I could build on.  I found I was free to write anything I wanted to, develop my characters as I wrote, and learned what worked and what didn’t each and every time I created a story from a one or two line starter.

Below is a story that I developed from one writing prompt.  I plan to publish a set of short stories in the Summer of 2017, but for now, I hope you enjoy this one!

Random Scenario

Copyright © 2016 Valerie Ullmer

Zara couldn’t get her head around the fact that she was tasked to kill Jacob.  Jake, her friend, the only one she really had because of the dangerous career she had chosen.  Now, they had ordered her to kill him.  She wouldn’t do it.  She couldn’t do it.  She had to get to him…now.

            Running as fast as she could down the street from where she parked her car, Zara skidded to a halt right outside the back door to Jake’s place.  She easily picked the lock and without making a sound, moved throughout the quiet of the house.  She tensed, listening, knowing that danger would soon be approaching.

Her employers had to have known that Zara wouldn’t kill him, and she knew that because she let her emotions get the best of her.  And because of her stupid slipup, they would send someone after them both.

It didn’t matter.  She had plenty of money; she could get them somewhere safe and protect him.  She had to.  Jake was all she had in this world.

Taking the stairs two at a time without making a sound, she moved toward his bedroom door and found it open slightly.  She pushed it open, waiting for Jake to go on the defensive and protect himself in the way that she’d taught him.

He didn’t disappoint.

He had somehow gotten behind her and wrapped an arm around her waist to secure her arms, his other arm up around her neck.  When she didn’t offer any resistance, he loosened his hold and seemed to relax.

“We have to go Jake, now!”

Jake didn’t question it, went to a chair that held his pants and shirt.  Zara tried not to stare at his muscular body as he pulled on his clothes, but she had always been attracted to him, loved him, even.  Well, as much as she thought she could.

This man could make her pant.   He was over six three with muscular body who could outpace her when they had worked out together.  And that was a feat in itself.

He shoved some clothes into a duffel bag and grabbed his wallet, watch, and jacket.  Her breath stalled in her chest when he turned is gaze to her, letting her know that he was ready.  She nodded, then led them down the stairs.  Her gun a solid weight in her hand, giving her a sense of safety, although she expected the assassin to ambush them at any moment.  Breathing a sigh of relief when they found no resistance, they ran to the car and she peeled away without anyone following them.  She knew because both of them had an eye out.

After she drove a couple of miles, Jake finally broke his silence.

“So what’s going on, Z?”

“Long story,” she said.


“For five years now, I have been with an ‘organization’ that, well, let’s just say we erased people that weren’t beneficial to humanity.”  She stumbled over her words to get the truth out there.

“You’re a contract killer?”

“Yes, but I only killed really bad people and I was good at it.  I made a lot of money at it and it normally doesn’t get to me.  But when they asked me to test my loyalties, I refused, and now they know where I stand,” she said.

“They asked you to kill me to prove your loyalty!”

“Jake, I would never hurt you and I would protect you with my life.  I am so sorry I got you into this.”  She took a right exit to where the money was hidden.

He was quiet for a long time and she started to worry that she had alienated the only person in the world that she loved.  He didn’t know about her feelings, but it was her job now to see that he was safe, that he was whole.  She would see to that, even if he wanted no part of her.

They pulled to the storage center and she punched in the code to get into the locked gate.  She looked around them one last time to see if they had been followed, but she didn’t see a soul.  She drove the car deep into the storage center to where her small storage locker was located.  Room wasn’t needed when you only stored passports, money, and other legal documents.

She opened the locker and headed straight to the two duffel bags that had everything that they would need.  She had made the passports and ID’s the first couple of months with the agency.  They always taught her to have multiple contingency plans, and she always followed sound advice.  She had stashes in several different countries and they would always be prepared for any uncertainty, no matter where they went.

“Let’s go.”  It took them less than a minute to grab everything.

“Where are we going,” he asked.

“Out of the country.  I have a boat docked a couple hours away from here and we will sail until we reach a safe spot.”

“Wait.  You want me to give up my entire life to go with you?” he asked.

The pain that sliced through her chest was breathtaking.  She thought that he would…actually she didn’t know what she expected.  He had a life here, while she could have one anywhere as long as he was close.

“Just come with me for a few weeks, until I figure out why they want us dead and eliminate them.  Then you will be safe and can come back here.  Just trust me,” she said, almost pleading.

He seemed to think about it way too long.  She wanted to scream at him that they would kill him, but she couldn’t take his decision away from him.

“Okay, let’s go,” he said.

She let out the breath the she was holding as they ran to the car.  They drove in silence the entire ride to the boat as she worried about how much he hated her for upending his life.

When they arrived at the boat, she quickly scanned the area, making sure they hadn’t had any visitors.  Before long, they were on their way, sailing southeast.

“I’m going to get some sleep,” he said.

“Good.  Sorry about this Jake, I really am,” she said.

He just nodded.

Several hours later, Zara was awoken by a shake on her shoulder, cursing herself for the vulnerability of falling asleep.  She tensed a split second before she felt his warmth and smelled Jake’s scent.  She relaxed and opened her eyes to his handsome face.

Exhaustion was still pulling at her; she was no good to both of them in this state, she had to get some sleep.

“I’ll anchor the boat here, we can both get some sleep and then start again in the morning,” she said.


They went below and soon she slid into a bunk and fell into a hard sleep.


Several hours later, she tried to shake herself awake when she sensed warmth behind her.  She had never been held before, never trusting herself to be intimate with anyone because it required trust, and she trusted only one person.  So as she lay there, her body tensed.  But when Jake mumbled her name, she threw caution to the wind and snuggled into him as she drifted off again.

            He kissed her neck and she thought that she had to be dreaming.  Jake had never been affectionate with her, other than the occasional hug, so this had to be a dream.



            “Am I…dreaming?”

            “No, sweetheart, I came into your bed when I couldn’t sleep,” he said.

            “Oh, okay.”

            “Zara?” he asked.

            Her heartbeat sped up.  He always called her Z.  She didn’t know what this meant but a tingle spread throughout her body.

            “Yeah.”  Her voice came out raspy as desire wrapped around her.

            “Thank you.”

            “For what?”

            “Saving me.”

            “You know you mean … you know I would do anything for you, right?”

            “I mean what to you, Zara?” he asked.

            “Everything,” she whispered, “you mean everything to me, Jake.”

            Fuck!  She just added even more to shake up his life.

            He didn’t want to come with her and she had to be honest with herself, she forced him into this because she had chosen a dangerous career.  Now, she told him what she had kept to herself since she had known him.  She closed her eyes and prayed that she could keep him safe, even if he wasn’t with her the way she wanted him to be.

            She opened her eyes as Jake turned her onto her back and looked at her.  His gaze traveled to her lips a split second before he moved in to kiss her.  The kiss was tentative at first, but soon he was devouring her mouth and she had felt as though she was boneless, loving the taste of Jake.

            “Oh, God, Zara, I love you so much.”

He hugged her to him.  His breathing ragged and his grip tight.

            She became breathless at his admission.  He loved her.  It was more than she could have ever hoped for.  She bracketed his face with her hands to look into his eyes.  She gave him a quick kiss.

            “I love you too, Jake, so much.  I had to protect you, to keep you safe.  You are in danger because of me.  I am so sorry that you gave up your life for me but I love you more than my life and I will do anything to make up for it.”  She started planting small kisses around his face.

            “I knew what you did for a living, Z.  I was afraid for you all the time.  I just wanted to be with you, but you are so independent I didn’t think you wanted to be tied down to me,” he admitted.

            “I have loved you for all the time we have known each other, Jake.  I just didn’t think I was good enough for you.  I killed people for a living for fuck’s sake,” she said.

            He pulled her in for another breath stealing kiss.  She had never felt this electricity, this spark with anyone else.  She always known he was for her.

            “I don’t care what you did.  We can make our own way in the world now, together.  I just want to be with you, Zara.”

            “Yes, we can do whatever we want.  And if you want me, you can have me as long as you want me.”

            “Forever,” he said.

            “Forever,” she promised.




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