Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In Spirit writing prompts, pt. 2

Here's some more from my NaNoWriMo until I can get back to other things besides writing! Only two days left!

Pick one as a writing prompt:
  • Miori didn't stir from her knees as the sword passed through her again and again. She twitched her feathery tail which swept aside a swath of her hair on the floor, and turned her head to look at Chen trembling, sprawled on the floor still clutching the book. His glasses were askew and he gasped for breath.
  • Dandor floated above the cushion that had been his favorite in life. He once sat on his cushion daily to meditate as he gazed out over his garden from the entrance to his study. Now his cushion was in a storage room. It rested atop his grandfather's armor, that was atop a chest of outmoded clothing from decades ago, that rested atop a box of keepsakes from scores of years ago: old letters, curious rocks, a faded ribbon, a tiny box of baby teeth.
  • Drae paced. An old habit from his living days that had returned in recent months. "How much longer?"
  • Koshiria groaned. She was back in the black void again. When she had first become aware, she had been frightened but now it was just plain irritating. When she found out who was doing this to her she was going to haunt him or her for the rest of his or her life.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Name books

For years I thought I was eccentric in liking to collect baby name books but I've since found out it's a fairly common hobby for writers.

The best one I've found for fantasy writers is Baby Name Countdown by Janet Schwegel. (There are some used ones at Amazon for a $1.)

Unlike most baby name books, it doesn't give definitions. It's purely a list of names, divided into boys and girls, culled from birth records so there are names that are truly unique as well as foreign names and common names. I've been able to drop my finger onto a random page and find fantasy-sounding names nearby (that's how common the uncommon names are.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Who are they?

I used to choose beautiful fantasy names for my characters. But I've learned a lot from seeing the names JK Rowling has used in Harry Potter like Ludo Bagman, Rita Skeeter, Horace Slughorn. I haven't quite gotten up to that level yet but the names I've been using more recently tend to "fit" the character or sometimes even create the character.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes and write a sentence (or more, of course, if you get inspired!) about the character these names evoke for you:
Atur Feerish
Baktu the Buster
Dove Windseeker
Grelvain Jagar-Lorn
Hara Blem
Lady Trees
Oniss Larae
Queen Horeen of the Vurthar

In Spirit writing prompts

I have no idea if the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo is going anywhere or not but I decided to throw out some random bits as story prompts.
  • Grelvain placed the manifestation rod in the center of the circle of incense sticks. He lit the incense in the prescribed order. This was an old spirit so he had used eleven sticks.
  • In a chamber, deep in the abandoned Harijang Temple, the spirit medium and scholar waited. Ritual candles flickered beside Miori, their light frosting into prominence grotesque eyes, noses and mouths of the sculpted gods watching them from the far corners of the large chamber.
  • Lady Trees stopped before a door at the end of a long hall where a servant waited. His Grandaunt took jangling keys from a pocket of her embroidered robe and inserted one into the lock. She held the door open for him and he entered. "This is what family means," she said behind him and closed the door. The lock clicked.
  • "Looks like at least one of the Seven Hells has officially frozen over," Teah said with a laugh, as she turned and found her little brother standing in the doorway of her father's storefront business.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Retell Romeo and Juliet

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

#3: "Retell the story of Romeo and Juliet, only make them a vampire and a werewolf (you can pick which is which)." -- Tupwen

(It was later pointed out that this was a piece of the plot of the movie Underworld but it could go in so many different directions.)

#192: "Alternatively: Vampires and witches exist, but witches are actually vampire-hunters so the two groups, by default, hate each other. After one vampire colony was exerminated by the witches, one small boy survived and was secretly taken in by a witch who felt sorry. At age 18, the vampire escapes. He has all his vampire instincts but was raised by someone 'good', so none of his kind would accept him. Living on the fringes of society he meets a young witch and they fall in love against their better judgement. Chaos ensues." -- BlackEyedGirl

Or how about an angel and a devil, a fire demon and a water sprite, an anthrocat and and anthrowolf (their cultures and social structures they'd grown up in would be totally different), Ranma and Akane (from Ranma 1/2) ...

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Spoonerisms are made (usually by mistake!) by switching the beginning sound of two words to make a stunny fatement, er, funny statement. So instead of saying "you missed my history lecture" it comes out "You hissed my mystery lecture." To get your spooner oiled, here's some from the website I linked below so these all can turn into things people thought funny. (Try doing them out loud so you aren't confounded by odd spelling (like "mistery")

If you want to keep going, try a list of fairy tales, favorite movies, favorite books, friends' names, names from Parry Hotter, and so on.
lighting a fire
battle ships and cruisers
cosy little nook
a crushing blow
sons of toil
we'll have the flags hung out
you've wasted two terms
our loving shepherd
a half-formed wish
is the Dean busy?
blow your nose
go and take a shower
ease my tears
picking your nose
you have very bad manners
pack of lies
it's pouring with rain
healing the sick
so help me God
nit picking
foul beast
I'm a stamp dealer
save the whales
flipping the channel on TV
bad money
I'm out of the shower
speed of light
this is the fun part
I hit my funny bone
wedding bells
I must send the mail
it falls through the cracks
my lips are zipped
flat battery
would you like a hazel nut?
jelly beans
bye all
right in your face
steady as a rock
toe nails
listen here
bowl of salad
If you want to add on a writing prompt to this, set the timer for 10-15 minutes and pick your favorite (or a handful of your favorites) and use them.

BTW, the Spoonerisms page (which is where the above list came from) has a bit about the guy who became famous (or infamous) for them, some Spoonerism terry fails, er, fairy tales.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


A drabble is a 100 word story. Exactly 100 words. Hyphenated words are debated so it's up to you. You can have up to 15 words for a title.

This is a challenge in brevity! And in choosing words that will do multiple duties.

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes, become friends with the word counter on your word processor, and have at it.

BTW, There's a good history of drabbles at The Drabble Project

PS: If you need a plot:

Here are a few plots from The Big List of RPG Plots by S. John Ross that might lend themselves to beginning, middle and end rather than the prompts written here that just get you started. There are many more plots there with lots of twists and themes. That site is overkill for this exercise but might be useful for ideas for stories.

Any Old Port in a Storm
The characters are seeking shelter from the elements or some other threat, and come across a place to hole up. They find that they have stumbled across something dangerous, secret, or supernatural, and must then deal with it in order to enjoy a little rest.

Better Late Than Never
Some bad guys have arrived and done some bad guy things. The characters were none the wiser. The bad guys have now made good their escape, and the characters have caught wind of it in time to chase them down before they make it back to their lair, their home nation, behind enemy lines, etc.

An antagonist has something to hold over the heads of the characters and make them jump. This could be any kind of threat from physical to social, but it depends on the villain having something - even if it's information - that others don't have. Now, he is pulling the strings of the characters, telling them to do things they don't want to. The characters must end the cycle of blackmail, deprive the villain of his edge, and keep him temporarily satisfied while doing it.

Breaking and Entering
Mission objective: enter the dangerous place, and retrieve the vital dingus or valuable person. Overcome the area's defenses to do so.

Capture the Flag
The characters must secure a military target for the good guys. There are bad guys there that prefer not to be secured. The fundamental tactical scenario.

Clearing The Hex
There is a place where bad things live. The characters must make it safe for nice people, systematically clearing it of danger.

Delver's Delight
The characters are treasure-hunters, who have caught wind of a treasure-laden ruin. They go to explore it, and must deal with its supernatural denizens to win the treasure and get out alive.

Don't Eat The Purple Ones
The characters are stranded in a strange place, and must survive by finding food and shelter, and then worry about getting back home.

Escort Service
The characters have a valuable object or person, which needs to be taken to a safe place or to its rightful owner, etc. They must undertake a dangerous journey in which one or more factions (and chance and misfortune) try to deprive them of the thing in their care.

Help is on the Way
A person (church group, nation, galaxy) is in a hazardous situation they can't survive without rescue. The characters are on the job. In some scenarios, the hook is as simple as a distant yell or crackly distress signal.

Hidden Base
The characters, while traveling or exploring, come across a hornet's nest of bad guys, preparing for Big Badness. They must either find some way to get word to the good guys, or sneak in and disable the place themselves, or a combination of both.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tarot readings

Several writing sites suggest using tarot cards (or some other divination object like I-Ching, runes and so forth) to create characters and plots.

At Facade they have free tarot readings (and runes and numerology and I Ching). It sounds tacky but it's very cool. You can choose different layouts and different decks and then the reading tells you what the cards mean in those positions.

At Using Tarot Spreads to Create Characters is an article with spreads specifically for creating characters and plots. You'll have to do the cards and meanings yourself, but, for instance the second spread has cards that represent for a character: Fears and Dreams, Hobbies and Interests, Blind Spots and Breaking Points, History, Home, Relationships, Agendas, Motivation, Plot Hooks.

The whole Burning Void site has articles on developing characters and plots for role playing games -- the game masters have to come up with a lot of them in a short amount of time! But the ideas are easily adaptable to writing.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Inspired names

Use the following words to inspire names. Use the word as is, change the spelling, use it as part of a name, eg, if the word was zebra: Zebrillia Stripes, Zebo Black, Whitey Zebran. Try combining two words to come up with a name.
Pick your favorite(s). Set the timer for 10-15 minutes. Write about him, her or it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fractured fairy tales

Mix two fairy tales together. One of the 3 little pigs gets turned into a frog? The Hansel and Gretel witch mistakes Rumplestiltskin for Hansel?

The next post has a list of (mostly European) fairy tales in case your brain freezes up when asked to come up with a list like mine does! Feel free to add your own and don't feel compelled to stick to fairy tales!

Fairy tales

Here's a list of familiar, mostly European, fairy tales for those prompts that suggest using one.
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Beauty and the Beast
Br'er Rabbit
Elves and the Shoemaker
Emperor’s New Clothes
Frog Prince
Gingerbread Man
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Goose that Laid the Golden Egg
Hansel and Gretel
Jack and the Beanstalk
John Henry
Johnny Appleseed
Little Red Riding Hood
Paul Bunyan
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Princess and the Pea
Puss 'n Boots
Sleeping Beauty
Snow White
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Three Little Pigs
Tortoise and the Hare
Ugly Duckling
Wikipedia has an even better, huger, international list of fairy tales. Most of the titles link to a brief synopsis of the tale.

Sur La Lune has a collection of 49 annotated tales, including histories, similar tales from other cultures and modern retellings.

And children's author, Rick Walton, has gathered the texts of over 2000 Folk and Fairy Tales (with multiple versions of several) as well as the texts of public domain Classic Tales and Fables including Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Bullfinch's Mythology.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The ghost, the devil and the angel

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

#20: "The story follows a ghost, who for some reason or another decides to become alive again, and needs to work with a devil and an angel to do so." -- Tikvah Ariel

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

Said substitutes

This was several writers' contributions to a prompt. It was amazing how few repeats there were!
  • added, admitted, ameliorated, announced, apologized, argued
  • barked, beckoned, bellowed, blubbered, blustered, bounced, breathed
  • cackled, cajoled, called, cautioned, chirped, cooed, coughed, cried, croaked, crooned, crowed
  • declared, deferred, demanded, digressed, drawled, drooled
  • echoed, effused, enunciated, escalated, estimated, examined, exclaimed
  • faltered, fawned, fielded, fished, fluttered, fretted, frothed, frowned, fumbled
  • gabbed, gagged, giggled, groaned, grumbled, guessed, guffawed, gulped, gurgled, gushed
  • haggled, hinted, hissed, hooted, howled, huffed, hushed
  • initiated, inquired, insisted, intimated, issued
  • jabbed, jested, joked, jowled
  • kibitzed, kidded, kilovolted, kvetched
  • lamented, laughed, lied, lingered
  • meandered, mentioned, mewed, moaned, murmured, muttered
  • nagged, nattered, noted, noticed, nudged
  • objected, offered, oozed, ordered, overemphasized, overstated
  • pacified, panted, pantomimed, pondered, poo-pooed, pooped, pouted, pried, protested
  • quacked, quaked, queried, questioned, quibbled, quipped
  • ragged, reaffirmed, reasoned, regressed, reminisced, renounced, repeated, responded, roared
  • sang, screamed, seethed, shouted, shrieked, shushed, sighed, slurred, sobbed, spewed, squeaked, stammered, stated, stuttered
  • tattled, taunted, teased, thought, thought-out-loud, tittered, told, trumpeted
  • ululated, undulated, urged, uttered
  • venerated, vented, versed, voiced, volunteered, vouched
  • waffled, wallowed, wandered, warbled, warned, whimpered, whispered, whooped, wondered
  • xiphoided
  • yammered, yammered, yelled, yelped, yodeled
  • zinged, zoned

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Said substitutes

When writing dialog it's okay to use "said" when you want to help the reader keep track of who's speaking. In fact it calls too much attention to your writing. rather than keeping the attention on the story, if you try to use a lot of different words instead of said.

But sometimes characters are "blustering" and "cooing" and "lisping" and occasional use of them can add some sparkle to the story and the character.

Write the alphabet down the side of the page. For each letter come up with as many different ways to say "said" as you can.

Modern Story Starter

There's a nifty thing on line called the Modern Story Starter. Just click on "Start the Modern Story Starter" button. Wish they were more fantasy based! But the idea is neat.

If you don't like the ones generated there, here's a more speculative fiction one inspired by those at the website:
My protagonist is a female. My protagonist is a ghost hunter. The antagonist in my story is a archaeologist. A key object or symbol in my story is a spider's web. My story will be set in an old temple. My story is about pride.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sausage words

Link one word to the next until you have a sentence. Pick a word to begin a sentence. The next word in the sentence should start with the ending letter of the previous word. For example if the first word is Good you might come up with:
  • Good dogs shouldn't tell lies.
And if the first word is Twenty you might come up with something like:
  • Twenty yellow waterlillies skunked Donald Duck's snake.

Here's some initial words if you need them. Use whatever random words pop into your head for more.

Something's rotten

Something’s rotten in your refrigerator. Write a scene in which the condiments residing in the door shelves plot to take over the prime real estate on the top shelf, front and center. Will milk be spilled? (And who’ll be crying?)

This is from WritersDigest.com -- Free Writing Prompts.

Top 10 tabloid headlines for November 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.

  1. Toads explode in ‘Pond of Death’ — SUN
  8. Astronomer spots Elvis-shaped constellation! — WWN
  9. DROMEDARY OF THE DEEP Undersea camels discovered! — WWN