3-Word Challenge

Writer to Writer: The 3-Word Challenge

Note: This is an older piece concerning an experiment I once conducted here at Bonnywood. The project eventually lost its funding due to partisan budget cuts, but it was a good time while it lasted.


Helpful narrator: Please read the following as if you are lying in bed late at night, watching an infomercial that you have been trapped into tolerating because the TV remote has fallen on the floor and you’re too uninspired to go after it. And here we go…

Announcer: “Do you love a challenge?”

You: “Not if I actually have to do anything or pay a fee.”

Announcer: “Are you a writer?”

You, interest slightly piqued: “Oh.  Well, now that you mention it…“

Announcer: “Do you have a blog?”

You, more interested, adjusting your pillow so you can hear better: “Why, yes I do. It’s about my thoughts on-”

Announcer: “Do you sometimes suffer from content dysfunction?”

You: “I’m not sure what that is, so…maybe?”

Announcer: “Are there days when your well is dry?”

You: “Aw, hell, this is an ad for personal lubricant.”

Announcer: “Days when you can’t think of what to write about for your next blog post?”

You: “Whoops, I fumbled on that call. Yes, Announcer Guy, I know of those days.”

Announcer: “Wouldn’t it be swell if you had an alternate source of inspiration for those days when your flow is not regular?”

You: “And we’re somehow back to feminine hygiene. What channel is this? I’ve got to find that remote.” [Sounds of grunting and violated mattress springs and flailing about on the floor.] “Got it. Let’s see if we can find a Golden Girls episode that we’ve only seen five times.”

Announcer: “Don’t push that button just yet.”

You, glancing around for hidden cameras: “Wow. Can he see me? Oh God, could he see me earlier when I was-”

Announcer: “No, I can’t really see you, but this is the part of the script where we usually lose people. Writers don’t like to admit that they have blockage.”

You: “Who likes to admit to any kind of blockage? It’s not something you put on a to-do list.”

Announcer: “Lucky for you, we have just the answer. We are happy to present you with The 3-Word Challenge!”

You: “I really wasn’t looking for answers, and what the hell is that?”

Announcer: “You may recall that Brian Lageose, who is on our advisory board and always remembers to bring donuts to the staff meetings, posted a blog on this very subject.”

You: “Who?”

Announcer: “The post was entitled Sushi in the Sky, With Rhinestones.”

You: “Ohhh. I think I remember seeing that in my feed. But I didn’t really-”

Announcer: “You probably saw it in your feed, and you might have clicked Like, but you didn’t really read it. That’s the dark underside of the blogging network. We all strive to get as many followers as we can, but then we don’t always pay it forward. If you really want to support your fellow bloggers, you should support your fellow bloggers. Not just expect them to support you without any effort on your part.”

You: “Um, I might have been a little bit guilty of the not supporting. Is this an intervention?”

Announcer: “See, you’re making it about you again. But really, Brian is aware that he also has not always followed through with the support angle. So he’s trying to do the right thing, and the start of that is the 3-Word Challenge.”

You: “And this entails?”

Announcer: “Well, if you had read the blog post, which you can find here, you would know that Brian was once challenged to concoct a short story around three randomly-chosen words. Now he is challenging other writers to do the same.”

You: “And this works how?”

Announcer: “You simply send an email to BonnywoodManor@gmail.com with a subject of  ‘3-Word Challenge’and a brief snippet about accepting the quest. (Examples: “I can twerk that!” for you youngsters, or “I’ll take the Nestea plunge!” for those of us a bit longer in the tooth.) Brian will respond with three carefully chosen words, a selection process that may or may not involve margaritas. Then you send your completed masterpiece back to Bonnywood. Brian will review your artwork, and if he feels the earth move, he will post it on the Bonnywood Manor blog, with links back to you.”

You, first instinct: “Do I get any money for this?”

Announcer: “Of course not. This is a writing challenge, not a 401k with company match.”

You, becoming all Ayn Rand: “Then what’s in it for me?”

Announcer: “A chance to develop your writing skills and possibly get some exposure. Isn’t that what all writers want? Well, that, and some decent reviews on Amazon that weren’t written by obvious psychotics.”

You, still leery: “What if Brian doesn’t like my story?”

Announcer: “Then he won’t post it.”

You, smirking: “See! There’s always a catch with these damn infomercials.”

Announcer: “There’s also a catch with not putting any real effort into what you do. If you are serious about it, you’ll succeed.”

[Sounds of commotion in the studio background, and then a strange man walks onto the set.]

Announcer: “Oh my. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Brian Lageose has joined us for the show!”

You: “Who?”

Brian: “Hi, folks. I just wanted to clear up a few things.”

Announcer: “He just wants to clear up a few things!”

Brian, turning to Announcer Guy: “Thank you so much for your performance. But you’re done now. Bye!”

Announcer: “But I was hired for the full hour. I have a contract.”

Brian: “You don’t even exist. I made you up. And I’m done with you. Let me just start hitting this backspace key and…”

Announcer: “I’m melting! I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little blog too-“

[Puff of smoke.]

Brian: “Okay, I’m glad that’s over. I just wanted to share my thoughts with the audience about this little project. It’s fairly basic, really. If you’d like to contribute a story, I am more than happy to give it a gander. There may be some folks who don’t get their submissions posted, it’s a possibility. But it’s a small one. What I hope to do here is get people to flex their imagination muscle. I don’t care what the genre is, or the length, or the subject, or the format. Take the three words and create something. As long as the end result feels real, and honest, I’ll post it.”

You, still doubting: “But what’s in it for YOU.”

Brian: “Everything and nothing. I just know that I constantly stumble across fascinating blogs, with satisfying posts and great writing, but those folks have very few likes and a tiny contingent of followers. I understand that we live in an oversaturated world now, and there’s a lot of crap out there not worth your time, so some good writers are going to get lost in all the mess. I just want to provide an opportunity for folks to possibly get a little more exposure.”

You, still looking for a catch: “Does this mean you own my piece?”

Brian: “No, not at all. You created it. It’s yours. I’d just like to post it first. Then you can do whatever you want with it. Now, the writer-supportive thing to do, if you choose to post it on your own blog, is to add a little snippet about the project and a link back to this post. But that’s up to you, your call, your blog.

You: “Hmm. I’ll have to think about it.”

Brian: “That’s all I ask. Now, before you go, because I know it’s about that time of night when you pull the pint of Ben and Jerry’s out of the fridge and teach it who’s boss, let me suggest one final thing.”

You: “Is this where you ask me to donate to your PayPal account?”

Brian: “Even if you choose not to participate, how about you come back around to Bonnywood and read the work of those who do, maybe give them some support and check out their blogs? Think about that as well. Now go get that pint.”

You: “This Ben and Jerry’s is the one with peanut butter cups in it.”

Brian: “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”


Originally posted in “Bonnywood Manor” on 08/28/15. Slight changes made. If any of you are interested in a revival of this project, please show appropriate enthusiasm in the comments. I realize that I have been whining lately about cutting back the time I spend on this blog, and I am in the process of doing so. But I know this road and it’s a double win: It eliminates the need for me to come up with something fresh for a new post (just pick one of the entries and paste it, done) and, more importantly, it gives some folks a possible chance at a wider audience. That’s the real magnet for me. Give it some thought, let me know. 

And the photo I used with this one? It’s one of my business cards. Yes, I have them, boxes actually, dusted with the remnants of the entrepreneurial dreams I had of being a publishing tycoon. Now I’m just happy if there’s enough creamer left in the fridge for my morning coffee…


96 replies »

  1. Ok, I’m not a writer – but I do like a challenge (well, sometimes) – so sign me up. (I did mean to mention that in the comment on yesterdays post that I was interested in the challenge, but in my haste to write something pseudo meaningful I forgot.)
    Oh, yeah, and whilst we are on the yesterday post – what is it with WordPress that slots other peoples comments in before mine – just cause they live in an earlier time-zone – HOW RUDE!!!! I was first, I tell, really , truly ruly first!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I know that WordPress can get a bit hinky with the comments. There have been many times when I know full well that I was the first to comment, and yet my words get shoved WAY down on the list, with the lucky people who get slotted before me saying the same clever thing that I thought of first. It’s just not fair.

      Your three words: colorful, startling, explosion

      Now, I don’t want to force your hand in how you want to proceed with this, but keep in mind that you can do anything you want with these three words: a story, a photo, an art piece. Take your time and go where the spirit moves you…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Let me think …. yes, I’m interested. I would write AND I would read. Enough of my dubious attempts at answering in three word snatches. I think it would be an excellent resurrection (no nails please and certainly no crosses) and I would be up for writing a piece and would commit to reading all the others and leaving hopefully meaningful and possibly even amusing but definitely thoughtful commentaries on them. Go to it. Please 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now, you know that I know that you can work wonders with randomness when it comes to your writing, so you shouldn’t be surprised that your assignment is a bit tricky.

      Your three words: rambunctious, downtrodden, mandolin

      My immediate sense is that you might try to take this in a social-consciousness direction, which would be admirable, as you are a sorceress of such, but I’m hoping that “surreal” will be a fundamental element of your endeavors. Dazzle me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. With foreign language posts, I often click “Like,” then go to Google Translate and read the post because it saves time to do it that way (for reasons I won’t take time to explain). One of these days, I’ll probably find out that I “Liked” a plot to overthrow some government or to interfere in the next election, so please don’t lock the door to Bonnywood Manor in case I need to seek refuge.

    P.S. I really did read and like this post (at least enough to think there are worse places than Bonnywood Manor to find shelter).

    Liked by 1 person

    • With foreign language posts, I usually force myself to read it through before I hit the “translate” option. Most of the time this proves to be a pointless exercise, although it does give me minimal pleasure when I run across a single word where I make some kind of connection. It’s the small things, really. Like the doors at Bonnywood. They’re always open, but you may not want to use them…


    • Danny is the little boy in “The Shining”, both the movie and the book. And the quote is from one of the ghosts in the Overlook Hotel, enticing young Danny to join in their madness. I thought it was an appropriate calling card for folks who might be interested in Bonnywood Manor.

      Your three words: ogled, questionable, paprika

      I threw in “paprika” just to challenge you a bit, and not because I don’t think your contribution will need any seasoning… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Guffawed over this beauty: “You probably saw it in your feed, and you might have clicked Like, but you didn’t really read it.”

    Yes, I’m up for a challenge! Sounds fun and reading the results will be a hoot. Thanks for dreaming this one up, Brian-from-the-past!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Intrigued. A huge proportion of my blog’s content and raison d’etre is coming to a close, so will be venturing into what I hope will be an eclectic mix of errr……. eclecticness (?). This sounds like it could throw up something interesting 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay! I’m quite pleased that you decided to join.

      Your three words: flying, vindictive, crumpets

      By they way, there are no deadlines or word limits and therefore no pressure. Fiddle around with some ideas and see where you can take it…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve literally just eaten a crumpet, true story, so already feeling inspired for this. This is unchartered territory for me, but I accept the challenge and will endeavour to produce a completed work that truly reflects the randomness of your word choices 😉 Thankyou!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I definitely love the concept and would love to participate! My lunch break is up so I’m going to do some research and check you out further. But again, LOVE the idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, that’s very sweet of you to say. Of course, you hold the distinction of being one of the founding members of the 3-Word Challenge, and I have the Bonnywood Manor staff working on a cute little memorial park to be constructed in one of the more idyllic sections of our landscaped gardens. Good to hear from you, and I hope things are going well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. OOOOOOO! I love this…and kudos to you for getting it going again. I struggle with generating original content for my own blog, and I’ve been posting weekly (ish) prompts along with my own responses…and I love your prompt format! Seeing as I’m behind on posting my own stinkin’ response to my own stinkin’ prompt this week, I probably won’t get to yours until…next…bzzerwzershlgmperm…but please send one my way! And thanks for this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Deana. I greatly apologize for my pathetically slow response to this comment. I had stopped checking for fresh comments months ago because the activity had died down, but I’ve been working on a “recap” post and just now found this. If you are still interested, please let me know. The challenge is open-ended and there are no deadlines…


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