Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fanciful Fantasia

cuteanimal01.jpgCome up with a fanciful name that fits with the characteristics listed. The names can be short or long or in between. They can be titled or have modifiers tacked on, like, "the Rambunctious" or "of Ogre Canyon". Include at least one name that starts with the corresponding letter of the alphabet but after that feel free to play around with the sounds. :-)
excitable (or xenophobic - afraid of outsiders, if the lack of a real "x" disturbs you ;-)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

FWN: Fantasy World News Generator

fwn.gifSimilar to last week's Sci-Fi News Generator, there also:

Fantasy World News - 24-Hour Mirror-Universe News From Another World

(It says they are autogenerated daily from 21st century Earth news. It's very clever!)

A huge collection of fantasy conflict ideas written as news blurbs. There's a new edition each day. For more you can also search the archives (which go back to March 2006).

Here's a sampling from the 27th of Snowfall, Year of the Sunfish edition:

Today's Top Story
BLACK CAVERN, the Kurmak Caves - Two cart fireballs in quick succession struck a market in a mainly rock kobold district in Black Cavern on Saturday, killing at least 13 people and wounding more than 40, militia said.
Orcish Realms
SYLKMOSS, Jordan - Firelifes' highest court rejected an appeal by a kobold adventurer sentenced to death for her role in the forces of evil-led triple hotel fireball spell that killed 60 people in Firelifes' worst chaotic-evil attack, according to court documents obtained Saturday.
HIGHTOWER CASTLE (WZP) - Pressure has mounted on Vizier Treechasm Rockgrass after his department failed to enforce overseas travel bans on convicted potion traffickers and the head of the youth justice board resigned.
East of the Mountains
RAINSMOKE SPYRESWORD - Six federal militia officers involved in King Dustgrass Branchdeaths' anti-potion operation were being investigated for extortion on Friday after they were videotaped taking money from a driver in the border city of Firerain, officials said.
The Swamplands
TREEBONE, Talonwater - On his first official visit to Dragonspire as the spirit world's Mage-general, Valesnake Brownark toured this war-torn capital Saturday, praising its people for holding their first elections and ushering in a fragile democracy.
The Far Plains
GRASSCAVE (Criers) - An outbreak of black death at a poultry farm in southwestern Illithidium was caused by the H5N1 strain of the hex, farm ministry officials said on Saturday, confirming the second such case in Illithidium this month.
Troll Mountains
CHASMWOOD (Criers) - Troll Blackheart Peakridge, whose false labeling as a Hymnian extremist by troll militia led to him being tortured in Hilljade jails, said on Friday his old life had been destroyed and brushed off the idea that Deepglasss' C10.5gp million (8.9gp million) compensation package could ever make up for what he has suffered.
HEARTHSHIRE (WZP) - The halfling government came under attack for its environmental policies from Leafstone Peaksnow, the wizard it named as peasant of the year just a day earlier.
Tavern Rumours
REDTREE, Basilisk - This small city on the Darkroot Vinetalon coast is getting used to being in the headlines - For all the wrong reasons. Over the past two years, Redtree - Best known for its successful professional jousting team, nicknamed the Darkroot Vinetalon Angelwood - Has been front and center in a series of events that have shocked Basilisk.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Weekend 4: The catalyst

catalyst.jpgFourth weekend with The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery: The catalyst.

Unlike the previous three characters, the catalyst character isn't as clear cut. In fact, I read the explanation in the book several times and it was difficult to get a clear picture because the role is relatively vague.

In chemistry a catalyst participates in a reaction but isn't itself one of the parts reacting and it remains unchanged. They explain the catalyst character as someone who "makes things happen", "a change agent, a motivator driven by a deep inner need that drives the plot."

Which seems pretty straight forward until they start giving examples ;-)

So, my interpretation is the catalyst is someone who has a personal connection to the case who gets the sleuth asking questions and keeps her energized. The catalyst adds an extra dimension to the sleuth's hunt for the killer beyond a search for justice. The catalyst might be the victim's mother, the sleuth's boss, the scapegoat's father. It can be a cop, a reporter, the sleuth's assistant. It can be the possessor of what the killer's trying to get. (What the authors call the resource base.)

The authors say a litmus test for the catalyst is:
1. Connects to the other characters.
2. Connects to the resource base.
3. Helps with the plot.
It might be easier to think of the catalyst not as a vital character (like the killer or sleuth) but one that helps you write the story :-)

So once you've picked a candidate for your catalyst from the extra characters that have arisen from the previous three weekends or made up fresh, there are four parts to work on:
1. Connections.
2. Resource base.
3. Profile.
4. Scene cards.
1. Connections

Explore (and develop and create and make up) the connections between the catalyst and the other characters. You can start off on the surface and then dig deeper into motivations, shared experiences, hurts and dreams. Think passionately. The stronger the connections, the more strongly the characters feel, the more interesting they are. A desire to hold onto wealth that represents what amounted to love from a distant father is more captivating than "Cuz it's mine."

A tiny sampling of possible connections:

fellow students
debt of honor

2. Resource base

Explore the connections between the catalyst and what the killer is trying to gain possession of. The authors suggest you write a narrative exploring the background of the character and their first entry into the story. Explore details of dress and manner. For that you write in present tense, such as, "Irina is my catalyst, She enters the story dressed like Cinderella ..." What does she want? Does she want the resource base? Does she want to protect it?

3. Profile

Some of this you may have come up with as you were developing the previous characters or during the previous two exercises. "With a profile, your goal is to discover motive." Start with physical details and work up to need and desire and want, to create an agenda for your character. She's the one helping the plot. So figure out why she's doing that?

4. Scene cards

Create scene cards where the catalyst appears. Make notes about time, place, season, weather, objects, others in the scene, who talks to who, essence of their discussion. Note wardrobe that reveals weather, season, personality, background, status and so forth.

Next week begins 5 weeks on plotting with charts and circles and arrows and 8x10 color glossies.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drac and the Beanstalk

jac-the-vampire.jpgRewrite Jack and the Beanstalk with a vampire (child) as Jack. Who would substitute for the giant? What would substitute for the cow that Jack traded? What would the substitute-for-a-giant have taken that Jack would retrieve? Does it have a happy ending for the vampires or the giant?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The name's the thing

totoro.jpgTake a few minutes to generate a list of words that begin with each letter of a favorite character's or person's or pet's name. Let them flow don't worry about what words are coming out. Choose your favorite words and use them in a story, paragraph or sentence about the pet, person or character .

Saturday, January 20, 2007

SFN: Sci-fi News Generator

sfn.gifSci-Fi News Generator - 24-Hour Mirror-Universe News From Around the Galaxy

A wealth of science fiction conflict ideas written as news blurbs. There's a new edition each day. For more you can also mine the archives (which go back to December 2005).

Here's a sampling from the 20.1.3907 edition:

Today's Top Story
LOSEEJOM, Necros - The Phogon territories military said Saturday that three Phogon warbots were deactivated, including a warbot whose patrol was struck by a roadside bomb on Loseejom.
Phogon Territories
HOVUS NYDUAP - Ejil charged in a letter to Peacedrone Tzar-General Dagak Modifareux on Friday that the Phogon territories illegally attacked its consulate in the northern Necrosi dome of Cyahudaw last week and demanded the immediate release of five detained Ejilians.
Terran Sector
PUL (FZP) - Atlantis and Vipaliwap utility back Dudaek Mebusuikens has signed to play for Pul Lypyocylyjs next season, it was reported.
Mokron Sphere
POGUT KODEZ, Mupos - The Phogon territories is again battling leftists on Dun Nizouxopienes's Mupos. This time, the fight is being waged not with phasers and guerrilla warfare, but with free tractors, health clinics and donated electrical plants.
Neutral Zone
DYXE, Luomipid - Unidentified gunmen ambushed a convoy of Nullian warbots on Dyxe Saturday morning, leaving four bystanders dead and three short-circuited, just hours after government warbots repelled an attack on the Tuuhejemuoxe Commander's palace.
SUV (FZP) - The Lusors military was bracing for possible revenge attacks after DNA testing confirmed the leader of the Wugid Dulidod Thoughtcloud extremist group had been deactivated in a clash with warbots.
Tritian Colonies
ZUM (Ded) - Denny Wid, a member of the 3860s folk-rock group, the Kilops and the Letyutapurs, which was known for such hits as "Vexityf Toseimanit's and "Monday, Monday," has died at age 66.
Ice Nebula Four
CYKUL, Phyzassia - A radical Phyzassian cleric who sparked outrage by encouraging offspring to sacrifice their lives for Psych has claimed his remarks were misinterpreted, as Thoughtcloud leaders were divided Friday in their reaction.
Tomorrow's News
(SFN's unbroken news events use the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional.)
LOGUARUW, Hydrexia - A lifeform who will emerg from the jungles of Hydrexia a week ago, burbling, grunting and walking bent over, will be still giving up none of her secrets, even to the family that will have taken her in as their will presum long-lost daughter.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Weekend 3: The sleuth enters

conan.gifThis weekend is the sleuth.

Rather than starting with a stock sleuth build someone you want to know more about. That seems obvious but you do need someone who interests you enough to carry you through the book: a female vampire hunter, a lizard scaled ex-mecha mechanic, a dragon groomer for the queen, a rumpled Harvard grad with a penchant for the afternoon soaps ... :-)

There are 4 parts:
1. Back story
2. Character sketch
3. Scene cards
4. The sleuth speaks
1. Back story

Write a couple of pages on the back story of your sleuth. You may want to start with the events that connect the sleuth to the mystery if there is personal involvement: how did your sleuth meet the killer or victim or others connected to the crime? What pieces of her history brought her to being a sleuth? Who is her family and what was her relationship with them like? Where are they now? What was her upbringing (wealthy? poor? constantly on the move?) Education? Special relationships in the past that shaped who she is?

2. Character sketch

Do this quickly. Describe the sleuth's physical characteristics, personal habits, daily routines, quirks, daily delights and irritations. Wardrobe (comfortable, business, stylish, athletic, artistic ... which should reflect (or perhaps attempt to disguise!) who the character is inside.) Loves? Enemies? Favorite books, TV shows, food. Small details -- like saving playbills in a shoebox -- can bring a character to life.

3. Scene cards

Flesh out some of the previous scene cards with anything new you've discovered about your sleuth. (Perhaps you wrote the scene cards based on a professional sleuth and now realize he's an amateur for example.) And add more such as: Recreation of the crime scene, Killer confrontation, Sleuth's reward (the piece that makes the outcome satisfying for the sleuth, eg, being able to turn down dirty money offered, bringing a killer like the one who slew the sleuth's sister to justice.)

Make notes of what the sleuth is feeling, seeing, thinking.

4. The sleuth speaks

Get some dialog for your sleuth flowing. It can be a bit of the crime scene, or something that stirs the characters emotions. Whatever it is, get her talking about it so you hear her voice.

Next week is The Catalyst. A catalyst is something that remains unchanged but causes changes in what it contacts.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Here's the history ...

Godzilla.jpgHere's what happened in the past 10 years. Use it as the backdrop of a story. Or use it to prompt an overview on the history of the country. Doing a free flowing write on a history you're making up as you go along can be one technique to get the ideas flowing for a new story.
A Historical Timeline of the Nation of Imagi

In the year 1000, it is written that...
..a horrible earthquake shook the land

In the year 1001, it is written that...
..there was an epidemic/disease with an infection rate of 41% - 50% and a mortality rate of 20% - 29%

In the year 1002, it is written that...
..the Powers of 'Neutrality' made their presence known

In the year 1003, it is written that...
..a Major Noble House was destroyed

In the year 1004, it is written that...
..there was an advance in food production technology

In the year 1005, it is written that...
..an assassination occured

In the year 1006, it is written that...
..terrible monsters walked the land

In the year 1007, it is written that...
..a Religious Order fell into disgrace

In the year 1008, it is written that...
..there was a military campaign launched to regain lost territory

In the year 1009, it is written that...
..there was active spying

So it is written...
This time line was automatically generated at Timeline Generator. You can choose the starting year, the time span and the number of events per year. It automatically supplies a kingdom name but you can change that to a name of your own choosing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Illuminated dreams

illuminateddreams.jpgA race of creatures I created for the last NaNo project, ox dragons, had what they called "Illuminated Dreams". These were dreams of specific images -- that is dreaming of not just mittens but peanut butter mittens -- that gave clues to the future. Each of the images were described in a massive book called The Book of Illuminated Dreams.

Pretend you are an illuminated dream interpreter who has been given the following list of images by a client. Take a few minutes and quickly (no editing) write down words and phrases that each dream image brings to mind. Then tell the client what the future holds for him or her.
bone crown
cheese clouds
spider weasel
abducted fog
snow dagger
fox genitals
altar of locks
tattooed robe
vulture whirlwind

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Way With Worlds

worlds-within.jpgI must admit I basically let my worlds grow around my characters to fit their needs and give them only enough thought to make everything I'm adding work together and make sense.

Steven Savage had a bi-weekly column (perhaps at Seventh Sanctum, at least that's where they're archived) on world building. He suggests that though the characters are the main characters the world is the most important "character". It's the lens the story is seen through.

Even if you're like me and the characters drive the story, taking a break in the middle of the story to flesh out the world and fill in some details could bring in fresh ideas.

Here's a bit from his first column:

I always advise some solid world-building before beginning an original-setting story in detail. Why do this? This may seem an obvious question with an obvious answer, but I've found that's not always the case, even for myself.

Good reasons to worldbuild in detail before you start writing:
  1. It prevents error. Let's face it - its easy to start running with an idea then forget you need to know where it takes place. However, when you're in the middle of a really good story and you suddenly realize you're not sure where the Dark Overlord's power comes from, and your best idea conflicts with chapter 2's moving occult sequence.

    Quite simply, good worldbuilding makes writing a great deal easier. You have an idea of why and how things work, and its less likely you'll come up with a continuity-breaking concept (and when you do, hopefully its in the design phase so you can get it out of your system).

  2. Provide ideas. A well-designed world takes on a life of its own. In my experiences, a world, just like and as a character, can start writing itself. One idea leads to another, one question leads to an answer that begs another question, and soon the world is running itself.

  3. A bulwark against contrivance and accidental plagiarism. When your world is developed, uniquely yours and alive, it prevents those moments where you want to contrive something or worry where an idea came from. Even if some ideas in your world don't seem original, a well-build worlt helps ensure a unique and believable handling of such ideas.

  4. Stops favoritism. When your world's continuity is primary, its harder to play favorites with a character and thus avoid leaps of logic and contriving. When you know there's no way to stop a deadly plague in your story except technology the heroes don't have, you have to think of a good way for them to deal with - or write some believable death scenes.

Essays about world building by Steven Savage are archived as Chronological and By Subject (links to all but 6 articles, perhaps some didn't fall into a clear category).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Weekend 2: The victim speaks

victim.jpgSecond weekend with "Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery": Interview the killer.

There are four parts to the work on the victim:

1. Monologue
2. Character sketch
3. Killer connection
4. Steps to the murder
5. Plotting with scene cards

1. Monologue
Write in the first person, the hopes and dreams and fears of the victim. In the authors' example, they wrote an internal monologue of the victim's feelings and hopes and running commentary written in the present tense as she went about the events preceding the murder.

I didn't find it natural to create both events and feelings at the same time so ended up with something that sounded more like a series of diary entries, expressing her feelings towards the various people.
2. Character sketch
This covers the same information as you did for the killer: personal, objects, character links, resource base. (If your mystery has more than one victim, describe the victim that opens the book.)

Use it as a way to draw out more of the character and how who she is gets revealed in what she looks like (what did her hopes and dreams and hobbies do to her physical appearance), how she dresses (what was she dressed in and why those particular clothes), objects she kept around her. (The sleuth will use all these to go the opposite direction, creating a vision of the victim from the objects.)
3. Killer connection
How did the murderer and victim connect? How did they meet? How long have they known each other? What choices did the victim make in life (or were made for her) that brought killer and victim into each others lives?
4. Steps to the murder
Walk the victim through the steps leading up to the point she is killed. Get her dressed, get her prepared to head off towards where she meets the killer. This can be third person or a monologue or a mixture. Whatever draws the details out for you.
5. Plotting with scene cards
If your victim is dead when the book opens, obviously the scene cards will be the crime scene and then people discussing the victim:
  1. Crime scene - give a physical description of the victim and the scene. Draw out sights, sounds, smells, textures.
  2. Witness Interview - sleuth will dig up the victim's past.
  3. Suspect Interrogation - sleuth will try to connect the suspects with the victim.
  4. Victim's Lair - more clues to the past and connections to the killer.
Next weekend is the sleuth.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Unpoplular opinions

Kali.jpgUse one of the following as a prompt for a story.
  • The god of death, the wind, the underworld, the ever-burning entrance to hell, the knife-edge, poison, serpent, and fire - women are all of these in one.
  • All my life, I always wanted to be somebody. Now I see that I should have been more specific.
  • Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance.
  • Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
  • Of the delights of this world, man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.
  • Be good and you will be lonely.
  • But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?
These are from The Wiccan Witch of the South

(Some are obviously quotes, bits of comedy routines and so forth but they aren't attributed.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Previously on 24 ...

jack-bauer.jpgThese are randomly generated in the form of the intros to 24. (Which starts season 6 on Sunday but of course fans already know that! I only got to watch the first season but I've been "watching" it vicariously through TV Guide since then. ;-)

Pick one of the following and use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt. Yes, they’re bizarre!  But if you free yourself from worrying about making sense the ideas can flow more freely and you end up making connections you couldn’t have planned on :-)

Right now, cardboard cutouts are plotting to approach a nebulous threshing machine. My alien is miserly, and electric eels that I work with may be brokenhearted.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the most rotting trilobite of my life.
Right now, pedalos are plotting to search eBay for a weak-kneed wombat. My milk bottle and budgerigar are shrunken, and sitars that I work with may be nasty.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the most surprisingly favourable cup-a-soup of my life.
Right now, capybaras are plotting to take chunks out of an organic sink. My Sontaran and monolith are iron, and roller coasters that I work with may be lard-coated.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the kindliest Rubik's cube of my life.
Right now, Glaswegians are plotting to deafen a stupid bloody buggering tram. My gibbon is remote-controlled, and jumpers that I work with may be wet.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the giddiest mastodon of my life.
Right now, razors are plotting to buckle a desiccated biker. My Scrabble-tile bag is Orwellian, and lepers that I work with may be toasted but happy.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the most belligerent puff-adder of my life.
Right now, Wookies are plotting to keep a butterscotch drawing pin. My little girl is spicy, and ice cubes that I work with may be stunned.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the poorest little suitcase of my life.

These were generated at 24 Dreaming. There are also randomly generated (first season only it seems) episode descriptions at 24ever. Here's an example:
The following takes place between Midnight and 1:00 am on the day of the California Presidential Primary.

Kim and Teri arrange to meet Tony in a car Jack has stolen. CTU kidnaps Jack. Again. Division kidnaps Jack's wife by posing as a relative.

Kim revokes the security access for Teri because they suspect they are conspiring with the Drazens. Senator Palmer holds another victory party. Jack is attracted to a skinny woman with short hair and jawbones you could drink soup out of.

The CTU team phone Nina continually for some reason. Meanwhile, we are all wondering why a janitor is cleaning a warehouse in the small hours of the morning...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Elizabeth Lyon's Character development questions

eye.jpgThis is from A Writer's Guide to Fiction (Writer's Compass) by Elizabeth Lyon which looks like a very good writing guide. It covers characterization, plot, pacing, and theme as well as revising, marketing and samples of cover and query letters -- which makes it sound much like most writing guides ;-). But a reviewer (Catherine Tudor) wrote "Reading Elizabeth Lyon's, A Writer's Guide to Fiction, is like taking a college course on writing. I can't recommend it highly enough for those who write any form of fiction whether it be short stories or novels. Her experience as a writing teacher and independent book editor shows in her thoroughness, conciseness, thoughtfulness and clarity." It's on my next to read list.

Character Development: Questions

Goals : What was most important to your character at age five, fifteen, nineteen, and at the age at which the story or novel begins?

Motivation : What were your character's deepest longings at various ages? Which singular longing has been with him or her since childhood?

Positive Trait : What qualities in your character are he or she most proud of? What would friends say is your character's most shining quality?

Negative Trait : What is your character's greatest weakness and worst personality trait? What would friends say is his or her biggest weakness?

Nickname : What were your character's nicknames? Why was he or she called them?

Self-Concept : What words would be inscribed on your character's headstone that best capture the way he or she would like to be remembered? Example: He was a friend to all.

Fear : What is your character's greatest fear? When did he or she first feel it?

Trauma : What was the most traumatic experience in your character's life?

Secret : What disclosure about your character or his or her actions would your character do almost anything to keep from becoming public knowledge?

Power : When the chips are down, what is your character's greatest "weapon," the ace up his or her sleeve?

Adversaries : What person(s) have most blocked your character's success

Allies : Who can your character count on during life's highs and lows?

Darkest Hour : What were the lowest points in your character's childhood, teens, twenties, thirties, and so forth? Times when he or she thought they might not be able to go on living?

Shining Moments : What were the high points of your character's childhood, teens, twenties, thirties, and so forth? Times when he or she figured they had it made?

Legacy : What message does your character want the world to hear? What would he or she like to leave behind as a gift to others?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Weekend 1: Interview with a killer

killer2.jpgFirst weekend with The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery: Interview the killer.

There are four parts to the work on the killer:

1. Interview with the killer
2. Character sketch
3. Murder checklist
4. Plotting with scene cards

Part 1 - Interview with the killer
The first part, Interview with the killer, is the bulk of the project for the weekend and quite possibly will provide answers for 2 and 3.

This was unexpectedly easier than one would think. How can you interview someone you know nothing about who has done something you know nothing about?

It's actually not as impossible as you think because people -- and characters are people too -- love to talk about themselves :-)

I did begin by picking out a murder reason. Here's a couple of resources:I had this vague impression the murderer would be a youngish woman, in a fantasy world that was almost contemporary. Then I had her sit down (after her death with an angel reporter but that's all pretty vague and won't appear in the story) and start talking about the murder and her past and basics about who she is and what led up to the murder. I didn't have her answers planned out. They were made up on the spot. In a couple of places she contradicted herself and came up with better answers so while it's not necessary to be consistent, you'll notice that made up answers open doorways of possibilities that lead to more possibilities which flesh out the character and background for you.
Part 2 - Character sketch
The one he's given is pretty vague and basic.
  • Personal: Name, age, sex, profession, residence, birthplace, skills, hobbies, weaknesses etc.
  • Objects: Home, toys, wardrobe, vehicle, tools, jewelry, etc.
    (That one didn't do much for me but it might be because mine is a murder to eliminate control rather than one to gain something.)
  • Character links: Connections (blood, money, work) to other characters.
  • Resource base: This phrase doesn't quite do it for me ;-) but what the authors mean is what the killer is trying to get (treasure, power source, object of desire). What's between the killer and what he wants?
Part 3 - Murder Checklist
This is the environment the killer operates in:
  • Place (where, indoors or out, did the killer choose, how much planning, etc.)
  • Time (when, what time of day -- which affects what the character is wearing and has with him and what he has access to)
  • Lighting (artificial, natural, twilight, blazing sun of the desert)
  • Weapon (why, how did the character get access to the weapon, how much knowledge does the character have, is it an immediate death or slow death (poison)
  • Wounds (what kind of wounds, did the killer try to remove signs of the murder)
  • Weather (season, temperature, what affects on the murder or the body does this have?)
  • Planning (how much planning was involved, where did the killer get the weapon, was planning on paper or in her head?)
  • Disposal (how was (if it was) the body disposed of? left there? left for animals? thrown in the ocean? etc.)
Part 4 - Plotting with scene cards
These are index cards with brief descriptions of scenes. For now you'll create 2 or 3. As you gather more, as the story grows more complex, you'll be able to shuffle them about to see how the order affects the story.

Give each scene a title (this will help when you start shuffling!) and tell a bit about who, what, where. Make stuff up! You can always change it later.
  1. Murderer Onstage - This is the first time the murderer appears. (It might also coincide with:
  2. Murderer meets the sleuth - It might be an interview. It might be inadvertant. It might be at the crime scene. It might be a friend they've known.
  3. Murderer Confesses or Murderer Revealed - This might be the classic everyone gathered in the library as the sleuth goes through the possibilities. Or it might be the sleuth explaining.
And that's it.

Next week is the Victim.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Just in the neighborhood


Change the setting of Red Riding Hood to the future.
  • Is the forest a trek across an alien landscape? A trip through a high rise apartment building or space station?
  • Is the wolf is an android? An alien? A self aware computer? A human who wants something from a non-human?
  • Is Red Riding Hood a little girl? Someone new to the area? Someone leaving home for the first time? An android who has just been turned on? An alien?


I'm currently reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

(He has a nice chatty style. Not at all professorial! ;-)

Part of his point is that by mining old stories to tell new stories, writings give a sense of familiarity and depth and timelessness to what they're writing. To take a bit from what he's saying, think about what the various pieces of Red Riding Hood represent in a broader picture.

What is Red Riding Hood?
  • Innocence? Naivete? Vulnerability?
When she meets the wolf/grandmother she is suspicious. She notices something's off but doesn't trust her interpretation. Why? Does she want what the illusion represents so much that she's willing to disregard her feelings? Is she lacking in self-confidence?

What is the wolf?
  • Certainly something deadly to her, but it's disguised as not only something benign but something she has an emotional connection to, something she already trusts. She wants to approach.
What other things (in a future or other setting) would represent those that would have the same resonance?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


quince.jpgChoose one of the following for a writing prompt.

For the purposes of the prompt, the following pangrams are unexpected couplings of ideas. Out in the world beyond the prompt, pangrams are sentences that use all the letters in an alphabet. The most well known pangram (to English speakers) is "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." Pangram is Greek for "all letters". They're also called holoalphabetic sentence.

Bulgarian: Жълтата дюля беше щастлива, че пухът, който цъфна, замръзна като гьон.

The yellow quince was happy that the fluff, which bloomed, froze like sole-leather.

German: Victor jagt zwölf Boxkämpfer quer über den großen Sylter Deich.

Victor chases twelve box fighters across the great dam of Sylt.

Greek: Ξεσκεπάζω την ψυχοφθόρα βδελυγμία.

I uncover the soul-destroying abhorrence.

Lithuanian: Įlinkdama fechtuotojo špaga sublykčiojusi pragręžė apvalų arbūzą.

Incurving fencer sword sparkled and perforated a round watermelon.

Norwegian: Vår sære Zulu fra badeøya spilte jo whist og quickstep i min taxi.

Our strange Zule from the bathing Island did actually play whist and quickstep in my cab.

Serbian: Ljubazni fenjerdžija čađavog lica hoće da mi pokaže štos.

A kind lamplighter with grimy face wants to show me a stunt.


The five boxing wizards jump quickly.
Six big devils from Japan quickly forgot how to waltz.

These are just a few of the many pangrams at Wikipedia.