Saturday, October 29, 2005

A dark eerie fog

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

Use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt or go for a longer piece.

#2: "Three students are on their way home when they realize that the whole campus is surrounded by a dark, eerie fog. Every time they try to leave campus they end up back where they started. What exactly is going on here? and who is that girl in the red tattered dress that seems to be following them every where?" -- shizu_bara

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Clustering characters

If you don't know what clustering is, see below.

Word Prompt

What does a particular character make you think of?

Begin with a character type. It can be a stock character like a wizard or mecha pilot or mini-mart clerk.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes.

In the middle of a piece of paper write your character type and circle it.

Write around it ideas your character type makes you think of.

Around those ideas write ideas those make you think of.

NOTE: It might be helpful to do this on a big piece of paper. (Though my tendency when using a big piece of paper is to write big which defeats the purpose!

2nd NOTE: I had a tendency when branching out from my related word to think back to the original word. That is I started with ghost and one word it reminded me of was transparent. Then I got stuck trying to think in terms of "transparent ghost." Try to not do that! :-) Treat each word as a totally new and fresh idea. When I started to think fresh then transparent led to window and transparencies ...

Writing Prompt

When the timer's done, look over what you wrote and pick out some ideas that you like. Maybe what you ended up with were a lot of cliches. Try choosing the opposite and see what kind of character that sparks for you.

When you have something you like, set the timer for 10-15 minutes and write about her or him or it.

About Cluster Diagrams

Clustering is a great way to get ideas to flow out. What you do is write a word or an idea in the middle of a piece of paper. Radiating out from it you'll write whatever words/ideas your central word/idea makes you think of. And then around those words/ideas you'll write words/ideas those make you think of. Basically it's free association.

There's one up in the right corner clustering around "ghost" and one at: Cluster sample. (Notice in the "Cluster sample" one that Dad radiated out from Bar but the words radiating out from Dad had nothing to do with bar. This is A Good Thing! It means the imagination is flowing.)

This is inspired by Lisa Lippert's page on writing exercises

(Clustering can work for just about anything you need to generate ideas for.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Movie titles, part 2

Here's another list of real movie titles. Write a story or Amazon review or blurb for the back of the DVD cover.

For those who are new, you probably won't have a complete story when you're done, just the beginning. If you're really liking it, of course keep going when the timer goes off!
  • Aelita: Queen of Mars
  • Africa Screams
  • After the Fox
  • Against the Drunken Cat Paws
  • Fear Eats the Soul
  • Almost Angels
  • Queen of the Desert
  • Anna to the Infinite Power
  • Ark of the Sun God
  • Autopsy of a Ghost

Themed alphabet book

Pick a favorite topic like video games, baseball, Star Trek, unschooling, fantasy characters and so on and write an alphabet book for it. Use strong images that you could illustrate list colorful words and phrases for each of the letters. Use alliteration if you want, eg, Ailing Aliens arming ancient alligators, Belligerent Batboys bellowing at butterflies ....

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A use for spam

In my wanderings around the internet, someone mentioned that spammers pick good names. They're unusual without being too far out there.

It's handy to keep a text file on your desktop or some easy to get to place so you can save any good ones spammers spam you with.

I've been collecting them and here's my list so far:

Margo ShieldsAldo Hardin
Lauretta HirschVirgil Fredericksen
Diedre R. BullockReynaldo Clay
Rian LickteigWilbur Newell
Rhian MarooneEsteban Farrell
Lynnette RobinsonBasil Sawyer
Loren KeenStephen Moore
Jaime RoyCary Donned
Charlotte CollierTheron Medrano
Suzette WillardTod Berg
Karol BasnettIrving Logan
Wendy ValeMarc Weston
Elvia McNallyCoy Hanks
Mariana CraneDeryck Seawood
Nancy ReddyFaustus Spafford
Tommi RoseDerrick Camp
Agnes GoreLes Johnson
Stephenie WilsonRyan Fullock
Beryl HollowayDamon Hardin
Adriana DonneDamon Walden
Vanessa HerndonFredrick Templeton
Tanya VernonBarry Lawrence
Gina MitchellFranklin Kelly
Nannie AlstonLance Noel
Johanna PattersonAlonzo Shultz
Jennifer ClarkNolan Prescott
Shawna GalloMorton Callahan
Ashley GuerreroReuben Hale
Sheila DillardCornelius Yates
Kim CarnesBenny Austin
Alikee ChamberlainDorian Major
Elisaveta DraughnKirby Dougherty
Kerri WelchKory David
Leta WintersCarmelo Fournier
Gail KenneyHupprecht Studdard
Fannie MeyersLaurence Dorsey
Priscilla GrossJimmie Summer
Tasha HaydenSimonides Kreger
Edith RatliffCarmen Pollock
Rose MarcumCarl Ouellette
Deanna FinnMaynard Culver
Bettie BallardZane Koch
Rosita CrowChance Hopper
Anita BrownThurman Thomas
Angelita SappLemuel Harper
Hollie BegayErik Reece
Melody FinkTruman Sanchez
Alanah AbernathyCecil Justince
Brooke ShipleyCornell Reed
Amy GoinsHarrison Krueger

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rhapsodical rhyming

Write the following words in a column. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes write as many rhymes as you can for each. Make some up!
(Hint, if you get stuck on a word, lop off letters or syllables starting from the beginning and pronounce what's left out loud. That is, geranium might get you stuck, but -um might get you going.)

When your 10-15 minutes are up, go back and circle your favorite words. You may want to write them on a clean piece of paper if you think you'll get distracted by the other words. Set the timer for 10-15 minutes and use those as a writing prompt.

If you didn't do the rhyming prompt, just take the above words and use as a writing prompt.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tabloid reporting

I was going to suggest you embarrass yourselves by buying one at the supermarket, but The Weekly World News is online now.


The print version is still more fun but you can now get stories about 3 eyed aliens living among us displayed right on your computer.

You can read some of the articles in the print version or at the website to get a feel for the style.

Make up a headline or choose one of the following.
  • My Ex-Wife's Face Keeps Appearing On My Toast! ...and she's making my life crumby!
  • Vampires Picket Blood Bank!
  • Bush To Use Bigfoot G.I.s In Iraq!
  • NASA Idiots Turn Mars Rovers Into Battlebots!
  • Psychic Cat Makes Predictions In Kitty Litter!
  • Noah's Ark found on Mars!Moon will hit Earth in five years!
  • CIA using cats as secret agents!
  • Scientists mix dog and cat to create the Dat!
  • Real reason for war in Iraq: Bush wanted to protect the Garden of Eden from Saddam!
  • Dolphins are growing arms and legs"("If they learn to walk and make weapons, they would become a formidable foe for all mankind" we are warned)!
  • Librarian wants rating system for nursery rhymes!
  • Visiting space alien endorses candidate for president!
  • Bat Child Found in Cave!
  • Merman Caught in South Pacific!
  • Millions of 3-eyed Mutants Living Among Us!
  • Twelve Members of Congress Are Space Aliens!
  • Ten Ways to Tell If Your Mail Carrier is an E.T.
  • Middle Earth being found in the swamps of New Jersey!
Set the timer for 10-15 minutes and write your own Weekly World News report.

BTW, you can submit headlines for photos at the Weekly World News's "Guess the Headlines" feature. There are previous winners there too. (Note, some do have sexual references.)

Fantastical food alphabet

Write the alphabet down the side of the page. Write a fantastic food for each letter of the alphabet, like Alicia's Alluring Apples and Bernie Bott's Every-flavor Beans ...

Make up words that sound like foods if you can't think of something right away since I'm betting X at least will be tough!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cursed mage trapped in a painting

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

#13: "Your female MC [main character] is an art lover. She collects all sorts of random art and paintings from dusty little backstreet shops and her house is filled with her collections. One day she buys a painting which includes a robed figure. This robed figure is actually a mage who has been cursed by an enemy to be stuck in the painting until such time as something lets him out. The MC unwittingly manages to release him, and now a countdown is started. The mage has to find a way to break the curse and/or kill his enemy within a certain time limit or he will be stuck back inside the painting for all time. Our mage friend has two brothers, one younger, one older. They sense or otherwise find out that their brother has been released and show up on the MC's doorstep (because of course, being kind-hearted, she lets the weird stranger from the painting stay with her until she figures out whether to call the insane asylum or the police, or both) to help find a way to stop him from becoming art for eternity. The younger brother is obsessed with potions, but hasn't quite gotten a hold on his magic yet, so anything he makes is more likely than not to go wrong or just blow up. He's very hyper and tries a lot of wacky antics to get the original mage and the MC together. The older brother works with runes and tarot cards. He's dark, sullen, and will do anything in his power to keep his younger brother and your MC apart, because he doesn't find her suitable for some reason. The first mage, the one in the painting, manipulates matter and energy, which basically means he's good at illusion and transmutation. The only catch is, they can't use their powers in front of ordinary people who don't know about them. So until the MC finds out that they are mages (and probably hundreds of years old), they can't do magic in front of her.

"Will they find where the first mage's enemy is hiding? Can they break the curse in time? Will the younger brother blow them all to hell before they can get anywhere? These questions are for you to answer." -- Khetienn

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Don't name it!

The first part can stand alone or it can help you with the second part. Or you can skip the first part and try to tackle the second cold.

Word Prompt
Set the timer for 10 minutes.

Take an idea and write images that come to mind. Try to engage the senses: touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell. That is, if your concept could be touched, what would it be: rough sandpaper, raw silk, a baby's downy hair? If it could be tasted, what food (or nonfood!) would it be? What color is it? Is it a ting or a gong?

Harder: Pick an abstract concept like love, hate, hope, fear, good, evil, kindness, jealousy, joy, guilt, loyalty, remorse, greed, wisdom, beauty, gentleness, fairness, courage, patience.

Medium: Pick a physical state like hunger, tiredness, sadness, contentment, exhaustion

Easier: Or pick a noun like worm, coin, dragon, running shoe, T. Rex, maple leaf, dragonfly, dew, shark, Monarch butterfly, chocolate (in which case you can use the list you came up with last week). The less common the object, the more you'll stretch yourself to capture an image of it. (Don't hesitate to Google pictures of it!)

Writing Prompt
Set the timer for 10-15 minutes.

Without using the word or synonyms for the word (words with the same meaning) or antonyms for the word (words with the opposite meaning), write about your word. It can be a story or a paragraph or anything you want it to be.

Yes, this is tricky!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Write the alphabet down the side of the page. For each letter write a word that represents a sound like vroooom, glooosh, ding, splat.

They don't have to be "official" word sounds. Have fun and make them up. (It's harder than you think! Though probably easier for kids.)

Anyone who's read any manga knows the Japanese have a huge repertoire of sound words!

Addendum: As I found out, strictly speaking some are not onomatopoeia but sound effects -- eg, growl is onomatopoeia but grrrr is a sound effect -- or even more strictly speaking for these Japanese words, situation effects, eg, shiiiin is the "sound" of silence.)

But onomatopoeia is a lot more fun to say!

Here's a sample from Japanese Sound effects and what they mean:

bari bari = crunch, as in eating. K-san: "Pori pori is the quietest crunching. Pori pori is for cookies; bari bari is for chips. Kori kori is for broccoli and asparagus." (see also kori, pari, pori)

bashan = medium splash (see also zabun for a very big splash)

batan = door slamming (see also patan)

bo = flame, fire (see also gooo, guooo, po). W-san: "'Bo' is like the 'whoosh' of a gas range turned on."

bota = dripping, possibly something thick dripping, like blood. Compare to pi, picha, po, pota. (see also dara dara for thick liquid dripping)

chapon, chapu = plunk (water sound) (see also shapu)

chichichi = how you call a cat

da da da, daaaaaaaa = running away (see also do do do, ta, ta ta ta)

dan = bang, boom, sudden impact

Dobi = missed kick

don = BIG impact

don = sometimes added to a scene for dramatic effect, to show that something astonishing or important has happened (see also ban)

doron, dororonpa = the sound of magical transformation (see also bon, pon, pom)

shiiin = the sound of staring, of silence, or of remaining frozen/ motionless. Often used in djs to indicate that a character is moved beyond words, stunned beyond words, or just generally beyond words. (see also jiiiin)

shiku shiku = sobbing, whimpering

shire = shrug (we think) Definitely a strange 'don't look at me' look.

zuru, zuru zuru = something heavy dragging or being pulled

zururu = slurp (see jururu)

zusasa = zu (vigorous) plus sasa (quick motion). We've seen it used for a quick scuttling recoil.

zuzu = sip (see also zuru)

Villain's point of view

Using a villain from a fairy tale (or any favorite villain) write the story from her or his point of view. Keep in mind that believable villains aren't evil because they want to do bad things. From their point of view they're doing right.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Seven princes

This is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won''t be using.

#23: "Takes place in a dark, corrupted world. Seven princes who rule realms that specialize in different sorts of magics (your choice) come together to form a High Council by which to manage the increasing crime rates and abuse of magic. They decide to write a spell that will merge a person with magic itself, thereby creating an avatar for magic. When the spell is cast, the chosen avatar is the youngest (possibly weakest) prince, and the other princes are outraged. A war breaks out and, in the midst of the fighting, sometime (maybe years) later, the avatar falls silent. As the last act of the avatar, though, the prince creates the "insert name here" (weight of the world) a stone that melds all the powers of the realms. With it, he can seek out people who've gravely abused magic and... er, remove it, sort of suck it out of them." -- laurence ashton

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A basket, a plane and a TV

Write a news item, caption or dialog for a picture.

Choose your own or use the ones below. (Click on an image to go to a larger view in a new window.)


Use each of the following words as verbs in sentences:
For a real challenge write them all in a single paragraph.

(Hint: to "verb" the words try adding -ed to them.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Unwise owls and others

Write about an animal which works against type, examples: an unwise owl, a disloyal dog, a needy cat, a slow rabbit, a fast turtle. You don't need to stick to the examples. Pick any animal you wish!

After I posted this on the list, I tried to do it and couldn't think of any animals other than the ones listed above! If you need some more examples there's a shorter list at animal spirit guides. The following are from a list of animal totems:
Alligator - aggression, survival, adaptability
Ant - team player, worker
Armadillo - active, nocturnal, protection
Bat - guardian of the night, cleaner
Bear - power, adaptability
Bear Paw - strength, mobility
Beaver - builder, gather
Bobcat - fierce, loner intensity
Brontosaurus - harmless giant
Buffalo - sacredness, life builder
Buffalo Skull - sacredness, reverence for life
Bull - strength, warning
Butterfly - metamorphosis, carefree, transformer
Camel - weary, enduring
Cat - independence, grace, healing
Cougar - leadership, courage
Cow - patience, stoicism
Coyote - prankster, insight, playful
Crane - solitude, independence
Deer - love, gentleness, kindness
Dog - loyalty, protection
Dolphin - kindness, play, bridge man to ocean
Dove - love, peace, gentleness
Dragon - wisdom, nobility
Dragonfly - flighty, carefree
Eagle - divine spirit, connection to creator
Elephant - long life, self - preservation
Elk - strength, agility, freedom
Fox - cunning, provider, intelligence
Frog - connection with water element
Giraffe - watchfulness, mobility
Goat - stubborn, omnivorous
Goose - faithful, communicative, traveler
Gorilla - brute strength, adaptability
Grizzly Bear - hunter, nature's pharmacist
Hawk - messenger, stopper of time
Hippo - linking water and earth, survival
Hopi Hand - life, creative, healing
Horse - stamina, mobility, strength
Hummingbird - messenger, stopper of time
Kangaroo - feisty, fun loving
Lion - power, strength, respect
Lizard - conservation, agility
Loon - solitude, song, romance
Manatee - peaceable, unassuming
Mastodon - lumbering giant
Monkey - playfulness, agility
Moose - headstrong, unstoppable, longevity
Mouse - timid, secretive, sneaky
Orca - focus, power
Ostrich - fickle, fast moving
Otter - laughter, curiosity, truth, patience
Owl - wisdom, perseverance
Panda - playful, kindness
Parasaurolophus - parallel crested lizard
Pegasus - carrier of lightning
Pelican - ever watchful, grace
Penguin - playful, loving
Pheasant - confidence, attraction, perseverance
Pig - intelligence, hunger
Polar Bear - fearlessness, power
Pterodactyl - wing finger
Quail - sacred spiral, ceremonial, Holy
Rabbit - alertness, resourceful
Raccoon - bandit, shy, determination
Ram - new beginning, teacher, hoarder
Raptor - speedy thief
Raven - trickster, mischievous
Rhino - durability, strength
Road Runner - speed, agility, cleverness
Salmon - instinct, persistence, determination
Scorpion - defense, self - protection
Seahorse - confidence, grace
Shark - hunter, survival
Skunk - wary, conspicuous, intense
Snake - shrewdness, transformation
Spider - creative, pattern of life
Squirrel - trusting, innocence
Steer Skull - silent testimony
Stegosaurus - the covered lizard
Swan - grace, balance, festive
T Rex - lizard king
Thunderbird - caller of rain
Triceratops - horrible 3 horned face
Turkey - smart, elusive
Turtle - self-contained creative source
Unicorn - redemption, salvation
Water Buffalo - enormous strength, hard working
Whale - wisdom, power, cleanser
Wolf - loyalty, success, perseverance
Wolf Paw - freedom, success, guidance
Zebra - family - oriented, alert
Zuni Bear - good health

Chocolate free association

Do a free association write on the word chocolate. Just write words, phrases, thoughts, whatever that chocolate makes you think of. They don't have to be just descriptive of chocolate. They can be feelings and times and places you associate with chocolate. They can wander off on tangents. If you get stuck on one of your wanderings, come back to chocolate.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Top 10 tabloid headlines for October 2005

From The City Newsstand's (a newsstand/bookstore in Chicago) monthly MAGBAG -- Top 10 Tabloid Headlines. (Mostly from Weekly World News (WWN) and the SUN.)

Choose one as a writing prompt.

  8. HOBOO! High cost of real estate forces ghost onto the streets! — WWN