Friday, February 13, 2015

If only

Place the word "only" anywhere in this sentence:

She told him that she loved him.

More of a plaything than a writing prompt. But if you're so inspired, did one of them stir up characters, scenarios and idea for a story? Or you could write a micro fiction (100 word story, 1000 word story, 14 word story or whatever constraints you wish) for each. Can you come up with other sentences you can drop a word into anywhere?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy Next Year

It's New Year's Day. You wake up to find it's 2016. What happened to 2015? Try to piece together 2015 using pictures from your phone or Facebook. (From reddit.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Twelve Sentences of Christmas

Just for grins a fake hieroglyph version of a
snowball poem from an October prompt
Write a twelve-sentence story. Begin with a one word sentence. Increase each sentence length by one word. The twelfth sentence will have twelve words.

It can be a Christmas, winter or holiday themed tale. Or, since the story is already constrained, whatever inspires you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Days and Nights

What's on Days resume? What's on Nights? What are the requirements of their jobs? How do the jobs differ?

What if Days is sick and Nights needs to take over?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cold fusion

With the advent of holodecks, people can visit any place any time any season.

Everyone loves the soft freshness of spring, the vibrant color of fall and the bright warmth of summer. But the only ones who seem to like winter are the sports enthusiasts.

The Winter Council wants to broaden winter's appeal. They want people to appreciate winter for the crisp air, the soft snow, the crystal ice, for what makes winter winter.

Your task is to come up with an ad campaign. Come up with a slogan, or poster ideas, or advertisements. Even an ad that runs in a holodeck.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Dead silent

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

That's the headline. Presumably victims did speak at one time. Now they don't. What happened to stop it? Are the dead responsible? Is someone else? Why? How are the police handling murders now? Is it only homicide victims who won't talk or all dead?

Write a story from the view of a cop in the newly created homicide division.

Or from the view of a Dead Talker who is investigating what has happened.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thank goodness for Mars

Cake by Yeners Cakes
It's Thanksgiving on Mars. So what are the colonists giving thanks for? What event or dreadful times did they survive and now celebrate? Are there heroes and villains? Was it Human versus Nature? Who survived and who died?

You can write their first Thanksgiving. Or their tenth. Or their hundredth.

What is the meal like? What kind of food do they grow on Mars? What would count as a feast? Are there special foods that tie into the period they're giving thanks for?

Something I stumbled across while writing this post: Is Martian soil actually good for farming?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Everywhere women are raving about this amazing new shampoo!


What if this time it really was amazing? What if it did something besides clean hair? What would women actually rave about? What would happen if men used it? Kids? Dogs? What are the cautionary statements in the fine print on the bottle?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

KM Weiland's Character Arc series

KM Weiland has written a wonderful series of posts about growing a story from a character's flaws, what she calls The Lie the Character Believes. While she calls it a character arc, if the character is the main character, this is the core of your story. She helps you grow your character from the damage in his past through all the structural aspects from Act 1 to the climax.

At her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, you can check for additional posts and sign up for her newsletter.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 1: Can You Structure Characters? - What if there were a sure-fire secret to creating stunning character arcs? Would you be interested in discovering it? If you care about connecting with readers, grabbing hold of their emotions, and creating stories that will resonate with them on a level deeper than mere entertainment, then the answer has to be a resounding yes!

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 2: The Lie Your Character Believes - People hate change. We may sit around and wish our lives were different, but when the rubber really starts streaking the tarmac, we usually find ourselves wishing we could just hang out here in our safe and familiar haunts. Characters are no different. They resist change just as staunchly as any of us.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 3: The Thing Your Character Wants vs. The Thing Your Character Needs - The Lie Your Character Believes is the reason for all character arcs. After all, if everything’s hunky-dunky, why change? We might think of the Lie as the cavity in a tooth. Everything might look shiny and white on the outside, but inside there’s decay.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 4: Your Character’s Ghost - What is your character’s ghost, and how does it affect his character arc? Once you’ve figured out the Lie Your Character Believes, as well as Thing He Wants and the Thing He Needs, the next question you need to ask yourself is: Why does the character believe the Lie in the first place?

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 5: The Characteristic Moment - First impressions do count. And your protagonist’s Characteristic Moment is his first chance to impress your readers. Now that we’ve got the basic theory of character arc out of the way and figured out how to set up your protagonist’s inner conflict, via the Lie He Believes, the Thing He Wants and the Thing He Needs, and the Ghost, we’re ready to officially begin writing our character’s story.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 6: The Normal World - Who wants to read about a boring old Normal World? The Lost World? Sure! The Exciting, Unusual, Exotic, and Absolutely Thrilling World? You betcha. But the Normal World? Isn’t that a pretty lame way to begin a story? Nope. Not if you want your character’s change arc to make sense, it isn’t.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 7: The First Act - The First Act is one of my favorite parts of any story. Why? On the surface, the First Act seems to be the slowest part of the story—and it often is. It’s just setup, after all, right? True enough, except for that one little word just. It isn’t “just” setup; it’s SETUP!

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 8: The First Plot Point - If the First Act is setup, then the First Plot Point is the point of no return in character arcs. The setup ends, and the story begins “for realz.” At this point the character commits—usually because he has no choice—to a decision that will propel him out of the comfortable stagnation of the Normal World and the Lie He Believes.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 9: The First Half of the Second Act - In the structure of character arcs, the First Half of the Second Act is where your character ventures (or is thrust) into uncharted territory—and gets lost. He may not quite see it that way himself, but this is where he begins to discover that the old rules (the Lie He Believes) no longer apply.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 10: The Midpoint - In a positive change character arc, your protagonist will have spent the First Half of the Second Act blundering around in foreign territory, making mistakes based on false assumptions, and getting his hand slapped for his every wrong move. But he’s also going to have been slowly—maybe even subconsciously—learning his lesson and figuring things out.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 11: The Second Half of the Second Act - The Second Half of the Second Act is where you cue the hero music in character arcs. Thanks to that major personal revelation at the Midpoint, the protagonist now gets it. The puzzle pieces are falling into place. The light bulbs have flashed on. He sees what he has to do to win the conflict.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 12: The Third Plot Point - If you had pick the single most important moment in characters arcs, what would it be? The Third Plot Point, you say? Well, you’d be right. Now here’s the harder question: Why is it the most important moment? The Third Plot Point is the low moment in your story.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 13: The Third Act - Character arcs in the Third Act are all about intensity. On the story’s exterior, the conflict is heating up. The protagonist is a runaway train thundering toward what has now become an inevitable confrontation with the antagonistic force. But, on the inside, he’s reeling.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 14: The Climax - In character arcs, as in plot, the Climax is the dot on the end of the exclamation point. The Climax is the reason for the story. This is where the author reveals what the journey the character just endured was really all about—and, in a positive change arc, why that journey has turned out to be worth all the heartaches and trauma.

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 15: The Resolution - The Resolution caps character arcs like the cherry on top of a banana split. In some respects, it almost seems to be an extraneous piece of the story. After all, your character’s arc is already complete. He irrevocably proved his devotion to the truth in the Climax. He turned his back on the Lie so completely that he’ll never again be able to surrender to its thrall.

KM Weiland mentions 3 types of character arcs: Change, Negative and Flat. The Change Arc is gone into detail above. The following 2 sets dig into how the Negative and Flat Arcs differ.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act - Who in heaven’s name would want to write a negative character arc? Well, how about Shakespeare, Dostoevksy, Faulkner, and Flaubert? Just to name a few small-time wordsmiths you may have heard tell of. Everybody likes a happy ending, but, let’s face it, not all stories have happy endings.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act - The Second Act in a negative character arc bears a lot of similarity to that in a positive change arc. In both types of arc, the character will be thrust out of his Normal World into a new and strange dilemma, where he will be forced to confront his Lie.

How to Write a Negative Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act - In a word, the negative character arc is about failure, and this becomes nowhere more clear than in the Third Act. If the positive change arc is about redeeming self and the flat arc is about saving others, then the negative character arc is about destroying self and probably others as well.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act - Next to the positive change arc, the flat character arc is the most popular storyline. Also called the “testing arc,” the flat arc is about a character who does not change. He already has the Truth figured out in the beginning of the story, and he uses that Truth to help him overcome various external tests.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 2: The Second Act - The Second Act is the beating heart of your story—and that’s just as true in a flat character arc as it is in a change arc. The Second Act is all about loosing the character into an unsettled world.

How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 3: The Third Act - The Third Act is where we find arguably the greatest similarities between the flat character arc and the positive change arc, since in both types of story the protagonist will have a full grasp on the Truth by this point.

These aren't specifically part of the series, but are related. (There may be more at her website by the time you're reading this.)

The Impact Character: Why Every Character Arc Needs One - When we think of necessary characters, we tend to come up with obvious choices such as the protagonist, the antagonist, and maybe the mentor, love interest, and sidekick. “Impact character” probably isn’t at the top of your list. But it should be. Because you can’t create a character arc without one.

Can a Character’s Arc Be a Subplot? - You’ve written an amazing story. Your premise is high concept. Your plot structure is brilliant. The whole thing is killer. But the main character’s arc seems to be, well, lacking. It’s there all right. It just doesn’t get much screentime. It’s more of a, ahem, subplot. Is that even possible? Is it workable?

How to Figure Out WHAT Your Character’s Arc Should Be - Over the last six months and three series, you’ve gotten a pretty good idea of how to structure your character’s arc–whether it’s positive, flat, or negative. But what you may still be wondering is how to figure out which arc you should choose for your character.

Should All Your Minor Characters Have Arcs? - If your protagonist’s character arc has the ability to deepen your story, then just think how much more depth you can create if all your minor characters have arcs! Dizzying concept, isn’t it? And it raises the (somewhat trepidatious) question: Should all your minor characters have arcs? It’s a fair question.

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression - Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It is not in my nature to admit defeat. -- Alexandra David-Néel

Alexandra David-Néel
She has such a forthright gaze. She has secrets. She challenges your own secrets, hinting that she can see them whether you choose to see them or not.

Take ten minutes to craft a story of this woman. Who is she? What were the circumstances of her life? What prompted her to embark on the events that made her notable?

Don't edit. Just let the ideas flow and take you where they will. :-)

Her own story is possibly even more inspiring than her photo, and may spark a female character who won't be constrained by her times for you.

Alexandra David-Néel was born in 1868, hardly a time when adventurer and woman could be one and the same. Even from an early age her heart was drawn beyond the garden walls and fortunately had the spirit and determination to follow it.
"Ever since I was five years old, a tiny precocious child of Paris, I wished to move out of the narrow limits in which, like all children of my age, I was then kept. I craved to go beyond the garden gate, to follow the road that passed it by, and to set out for the Unknown."
She was a Belgian-French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is best known for her 1924 midwinter trek across the Himalayas to the holy city of Lhasa in forbidden Tibet. Accompanied by her adopted son Lama Yongden, she disguised herself as a beggar to elude soldiers and brigands. David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels.
Of Tibet when she had left the first time, "Truthfully, I am 'homesick' for a land that is not mine. I am haunted by the steppes, the solitude, the everlasting snow and the great blue sky 'up there'! The difficult hours, the hunger, the cold, the wind slashing my face, leaving me with enormous, bloody, swollen lips."
She began her adventurous life as an opera singer, traveling to far corners of the world. At 36 she met and married a French railroad engineer though she was shortly off for India. Her husband would be her friend and supporter for the rest of his life while she explored the world.
"It is a funny and inconceivable idea that people attach to a place like oysters to their bench, when there is so much to see in this vast world and many walks of life to enjoy."
At one point she befriended and perhaps took as her lover Sidkeong Tulku, a young, dashing progressive Maharaja of Sikkim. His life ended tragically by poison in 1914. Afterwards, she retreated into the Himalayas to live and study with the Gomchen of Lachen, the hermetic master of the Buddhist monastery near the Tibetan border from whom she deepened her knowledge of mystical Buddhist practices. After studying for two years she and her adopted son left to work their way into Tibet.

There is more to her story at her Wikipedia page. The following two webpages, though still brief, go into more detail.

A Mystic in Tibet - Alexandra David-Neel
The Amazing Tibetan Adventures of Alexandra David-Neel

Her books and a couple of biographies are also listed at her Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Quadrival Quandary

At Quadrival Quandary you're given four unusual words and challenged to use them not just in a sentence but in one illustrative sentence. As the guidelines at the site state, "Your sentence should do more than use the words in a grammatically acceptable way, it should show what they mean. If someone didn't know the meaning of a word, could they make a good guess from how it's used in the sentence?"

The definitions are given on the page for each new day's set of words. If you dig into the archives or the randomizer (which digs further back to when the site was contributed to regularly), the sentences others crafted are there to inspire you.

From February 13, 2012:
  • promethean
  • ventripotent
  • mutt
  • exoteric
"Dr Atkins decided to confront the elephant in the Obesity Task Force conference room by asking, 'If it’s already a promethean task to convince people that their ventripotent mutts need more exercise and less food, how will we ever mount an effective exoteric awareness campaign for their masters to change their ways as well?'" (by wordgirl)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


A Snowball is a poem in which each line is a single word, and each successive word is one letter longer. If you're metrophobic, try writing a sentence. Though poetry might be easier since it doesn't need to make as much sense ;-)


Two sites that list words by length are Your Dictionary and Best Word Lists.

If you would like to see a prolific snowballer in action, check out Snowball Poetry on Twitter. (The beginning of mine came from one there.)

Snowball was created by the Oulipo (Workshop of Potential Literature). They gather together to create constrained writing challenges. It's also called a chaterism which Wikipedia defines as "where the length of words in a phrase or sentence increases or decreases in a uniform, mathematical way." (I'm guessing since snowballs get bigger when rolled, the word originally referred to poems with words that increased. Chaterism is a broader concept.)

There is a Snowball Poetry Generator for Windows.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Tripartite soul

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said, "Every man possesses three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he really has, and that which he believes he has."

Describe your character's three characters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Frantic tangle

For each set of 5 words create a sentence about fall or your favorite fall holiday. (Feel free to tamper with word forms.)

hunger   early  frantic rattle   incredible
quality  tangle mist    sweet    fallow
absolute drench jolt    tremble  heartache
hamper   shard  might   yearn    bicker
obscene  meager freak   malign   incredible

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Well seasoned

Autumn, Spring, Summer and Winter walk into a Starbucks. They all sit down with their favorite seasonal beverage, each with a twist. (They're special. They can get their seasonal beverages any time of the year.) Describe what each is drinking in seasonal terms.

If you're familiar with Starbucks menu, use that to inspire you. If not, make stuff up.

Feel free to substitute you're favorite beverage joint.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Blue blood

"She had ice water in her veins."


What kind of creature is she? What kind of environment does she need? Does she need a cold environment? Is she able to keep her body cold?

Why is she meeting with your character? Who is she? What does she want?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I dare you to write ...

On the I Dare You To Write Tumblr you're dared to write "a recipe for a dream," "like you've just woken up as your 3-year-old self," "someone with red eyes," "include the phrase 'dragons make everything better.'"

Here's one of those "I wish I'd thought of that!" ideas :-)


Be creative with it. The god will die with this follower’s death, what will they say? Will the follower be pleased to meet their god? Or will they be angry they stayed hidden so long?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Behind blue eyes

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." -- Ian Maclaren

What are the secret battles your character fights? What does she struggle with behind her mask? Where is she vulnerable that she doesn't want anyone to know about? What must she keep hidden deep inside her? What frightening truth must she keep locked up inside?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A grumpy retired baseball player and a sassy hotshot Japanese lawyer ...

A writing block breaker idea from my daughter. :-)

Get a big stack of colored index cards.

Write down your story’s characters on one color of cards, one character per card. (This is good to get the feel of your characters by throwing them into random scenarios! But if you want a more generic game, write down different characters like “princess” “retired baseball player” “hotshot Japanese lawyer” etc.)

On another color of cards write down some basic emotions like “sad” “angry” “grumpy” “sassy”.

Scenarios! On a third set of cards write down any scenarios you can think of. From basic things like “fight” and “trapped in a thunderstorm” to “abducted by aliens."

Keep the piles separate, but shuffle each individual stack.

Draw as many characters as you want (even just one!) and then one emotion card for each one (everyone’s gotta feel something!), then one scenario card.

Say you get:

Auto Mechanic, Soccer Dad and Yankees Fan. For their emotions you get angsty, volatile and numb. And for a scenario you get Lost At Sea.

For the scene you’re going to write, an angsty auto mechanic, a volatile soccer dad and a numb Yankees fan are lost at sea together. (You can decide if these emotions are how they feel about the situation or maybe that’s just how they’re feeling when they get on the ship!) And go with it!

As she then mentions, it's a lot like the popsicle game we played when she was a kid so colored popsicles sticks will work too. That's described in the Dragon Writing sticks prompt.