Thursday, November 29, 2007

Last things first

strangeworld.jpgUse one of the following as a last line in a writing piece (or your NaNo).
“It’s a strange world, isn’t it?”
"...and like that, he was gone"
You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry, you will someday.
“Oh, my God!”
“Victory is ours!”
“And you call yourself a detective.”
“I feel as though I'd lived through all of this before in another life.”
“You can't hurt me. I always wear a bullet-proof vest around the studio.”
“Good. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble.”
“Well, nobody’s perfect.”
"Guilty or innocent?”
“Like hell I would.”
Mostly culled from movies (since those were easier lists to find.) I'd list the site but ads kept popping up and freezing the browser.

(If you're curious about which movies they came from, click on Comments.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spadochron awoke

Wedding-dress-from-SW-parac.jpgStart a story with the first word in the first sentence, second word in the second sentence and so on. Don't worry about
bad boy
brown recluse
These were generated at Wiktionary by clicking the Random page link on a word's definition page. The cool thing is it gives you not only English words but words from some other languages too (defined in English). (Italian kept coming up for some reason even though other languages have more words there.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Worldbreaker game

well.jpgWorldbreaker is a collaborative game for creating worlds. There is one rule: Players take turns making simple statements about what the setting IS or ISN'T, or DOES or DOESN'T have. And that's it. He suggests 2 - 6 or 7 players. (There are also several stipulations at his website to help the players play nice together. )

Probably the best way to explain it is an example. This is from the "Four-Fold War" world:
  • stee: 01) The world IS NOT spherical.
  • mari: 02) The world HAS magic.
  • curi: 03) The world HAS fluctuating gravity.
  • stee: 04) The world HAS a wide and diverse biosphere.
  • mari: 05) The societies of the world HAVE moved beyond conventional firearms.
  • curi: 06) There ARE several random wells of raw magic.
  • stee: 07) One society DOES "mine" these wells.
  • mari: 08) The forms that magic takes ARE widely varied.
  • curi: 09) The planet's plants and animals ARE capable of using the magic.
  • stee: 10) There ARE at least three sentient species of animal.
and it goes on to expand on specific details that develop:
  • mari: 89) There IS a group of humanoids who have combined magic with martial arts.
  • curi: 90) The Avians DO HAVE a group of warriors who hide feather-shaped razors on their bodies.
  • stee: 91) One group of humanlike creatures IS trying to provoke a war.
  • mari: 92) The wandering god HAS gotten bored.
  • curi: 93) The Plantlikes ARE using their shifting abilities to spy on the Avians and Humanlikes.
  • stee: 94) The plantlikes ARE willing to unleash a virus upon the Avians to ensure their survival.
  • mari: 95) The AI HAS a body.
  • curi: 96) The Ursines HAVE made a pact with their pantheon representative to fight only in self-defense.
  • stee: 97) The AI's body IS a suit of humanlike power armour named Cortana.
  • mari: 98) The gods WILL destroy everything if total war erupts.
  • curi: 99) The Aquatic race IS preparing to perish if they can't stop the war.
  • all: 100) The setting IS called 'The Four-Fold War'.
You can see the full "Four-Fold War" world and more examples are at his website where, besides the worlds themselves, you might find an idea or two that might spark your own world.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Be thankful

thanksgivingtree.jpgYou know those trees with the handprint leaves you write something to be thankful for on? Your favorite Evil Dude (E.D.) has been inspired to create one. Of course he'll use severed hands instead of construction paper and carve his message with a fresh craft knife rather than use crayon.

So, what's he thankful for? Make a list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Watch for falling rocks


(Click picture for a large image)

Write a news report for this. Newspaper. TV. Internet news. Tabloid. Just because it's a real photo, don't feel compelled to tie yourself to reality! :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More plot ninjas

clownfuneral.jpgSeventh Sanctum has a wealth of information for writers and oodles of generators of all sorts. Need a less cliche vampire character? A sword of power? A god or goddess? Legend? Name for a gadet or dark ritual or disease or corporation? They've got them and lots lots more.

One is the Writing Challenge Generator. These ideas can be used to drive a story or you can pull out pieces as plot ninjas for a story or your NaNoWriMo project. You can generate 1-10 challenges at a time, with a complexity of 1-5 elements in each (or a random amount). Here are 10 randomly generated writing challenges:
  • The story must have a jackal at the beginning. The story must involve an idol in it. A character is optomistic throughout most of the story. During the story, a character is attacked.

  • The story must have a drum appear in the middle. A character becomes joyous during the story.

  • The story is set during a funeral. The story takes place ten years in the past. The story must involve some musical pipes at the end. A character is lustful throughout most of the story.

  • The story ends during a war. During the story, there is a need to ask directions. A character will read someone's diary.

  • The story starts during a riot.

  • The story must have a chipmunk at the end. The story must involve a bracelet in it.

  • A character will eat a meal, but the action goes terribly wrong. A character becomes enraged during the story. The story must have a barracuda at the end. The story must involve a magical grimoire in it. The story takes place in the late evening.

  • A character attacks someone. A character is negative throughout most of the story. During the story, a character becomes pregnant.

  • The story ends in a sunken ship. During the story, there is an explosion. A character opens a door, and they aren't happy with it. During the story, a character finds a pleasant surprise.

  • The story ends during a holiday ceremony. The story takes place in the winter. The story must have an elephant at the end. The story must involve a formal outfit in it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Plot ninjas

mold.jpgA plot ninja is a person, place, thing, idea that you drop into your plot when you get stuck. Started on the NaNoWriMo forums from the suggestion that every NaNo book should include a ninja jumping out of a wardrobe, they've expanded to be anything that pops into someone's head.

These come from the Take a Prompt, Leave a Prompt folder at the forums. (Probably now buried in the archives at the NaNo site.)

Cut them up and put them in a bowl to draw out a random idea when you get stuck. If you're not doing NaNoWriMo, pull out an idea as a prompt and start writing. When you get stuck, pull out another.
  • start your writing with a description of wet feet
  • Dreams
  • crumpled clothing
  • a llama
  • pink post-it notes
  • three uneaten oranges..
  • overhearing a conversation of a tourist and a local
  • a pet curled up in a chair
  • tumbleweed
  • some moldy cheese
  • a disgruntled landlord
  • an antique quilt
  • a picture of a gorgeous man
  • an unusual locket
  • an unusually detailed, oft-repeated doodle
  • a Rubik's cube
  • Your MC gets a headache
  • frosted strawberry pop tarts
  • old ugly wallpaper on a grandparent's bedroom wall
  • a Halloween bucket full of candy wrappers, with one piece of candy still left at the bottom
  • A water proof safe, Full of water, left in the middle of the desert
  • a pair of gangly teenagers with braces, making out
  • a mannequin
  • a battered dart board
  • a homemade birdhouse hanging from a street sign
  • a one-eyed chicken
  • a slimy slug trail
  • Finding a stranger in your bathtub
  • Getting caught in the rain
  • A child with a pink ice cream
  • The couple in the apartment next to you having an argument about a mysterious person called 'Phil'
  • the sound of a prom dress being thrown away
  • A notorious thief finds a baby in a boat on the Thames
  • An unopened love letter from twenty years ago
  • A broken doll
  • A handful of sugared violets
  • An angel on a park bench
  • And a duke box
  • a soggy cardboard box that has sat out in the rain all night
  • a perfectly round rock with an X drawn across it in crayon
  • Three people from the same office thrown together under canvas for one night. It's raining. There's no booze. There's only two sleeping bags
  • one woman who sits next to you on the bus with her ipod turned so loud you can hear Christmas Carols, and it's still November
  • A motorcyclist zooming by, wearing a helmet cam and a microphone
  • two people walking down the street wearing a horse costume
  • a piece of broken, dusty yellow-orange glass
  • a camera with everything intact except the film, which is melted
  • a row of empty seats with one in the middle occupied. Then another person comes along and takes a seat right next to that person, instead of an empty one further down
  • a book in a foreign language with the covers ripped off, found in a public place
  • a necklace with the cord snapped, beads bouncing every which way on a tile floor
  • A lone operator working by herself all night in a deserted building
  • A homemade lasagna falling as the cook is knocked over by a large Rhodesian Ridgeback (breed of dog)
  • One very expensive hairless cat (cannot remember the breed) being held for ransom
  • 2 people dressed up for Halloween -- one as Santa Claus, the other as the Easter Bunny
  • A pet dog with a phobia of anything smaller than him!
  • a chewed up pen in the parking lot (you decide whether it still works or not)
  • a book in a foreign language with the covers ripped off, found in a public place
  • a cell phone that fell into a toilet
  • weapons, elements of battle
  • The sound of sobbing coming from the attic
  • someone finding out there is no water coming out of the tap on a given day (while they wanted to take a shower, for example)
  • Several strands of hair stuck together with sticky tape
  • Highlighters that have run out, but smell nice
  • A cracked, glass statue
  • a candy bar wrapper
  • a broken timepiece
  • a teddy bear with (detachable) bunny ears
  • a puddle of water on the floor
  • a penguin where it doesn't belong (say, in a house)
  • A painting of a snowboarder, with a dinosaur hidden within the background
  • a goldfish swimming in the toilet
  • A palm tree oasis in the middle of the desert
  • an old Underwood typewriter with the ribbon stuck somewhere between black and red
  • a three legged cat, (you decide how he lost his leg, or if we even know)
  • a bloody razor blade found in a public restroom
  • A smell which reminds your MC of their mother's home cooking
  • A dusty trilby lying abandoned on the pavement, and no one else around
  • A frog that squeezes under a gap in the door when it's raining
  • A wallet filled with money in an empty car park
  • a purse - shaped necklace that can open and close
  • a lighted train rushing by at twilight
  • a pizza delivery guy delivering a pre-paid pizza to the wrong address
  • a pair of mismatched flip flops
  • a set of four spoons, all bent out of shape
  • a maroon moose that sings Christmas carols. (can be a stuffed moose, if you like)
  • the landscape of Cocoa Puffs...go nuts
  • the moon as a consolation prize
  • a broken doll
  • Mindscape
  • A doll missing one of its limbs
  • The dog barks at midnight
  • A shoe impression was left in the tomato
  • A platinum ring found in the bottom of a bargain bin in a music store
  • three rusty lug-nuts
  • an old gas lamppost
  • a throbbing headache
  • a thrift store shopping spree
  • a dollar bill with writing on it
  • pumpkin pie
  • An ornate clock on a wall
  • the futility of sweeping potato chips off the side of a mountain
  • A paperclip lost in the septic tank
  • a half-finished crossword left on the train, that must be returned
  • a cold, clear mountain stream
  • a Chinese pagoda
  • a shovel stuck into a mound of dirt
  • a mislabeled lollipop--it's a flavor you don't like or weren't expecting
  • a plastic green dinosaur whose head is a staple remover
  • A pangolin
  • A moderately rainy day
  • A flamethrower
  • Miniature Robots
  • three old batteries and a change purse
  • an unexpected strip of duct tape
  • a strangely addictive song
  • a purple permanent marker
  • a barrel of monkeys
  • a field full of talking flowers
  • Three glow-in-the-dark Troll dolls
  • Whenever I think of Paris, I think of..
  • Fur-dyed poodles! (either pink or blue or green... I'll leave that up to you)
  • a forgotten sock
  • watching TV from a safe position behind the sofa
  • a Mysterious Stranger (abbreviated sometimes to AMS)
  • a strange cloud formation
  • the sound of a baby crying, or laughing
  • a facial expression completely at odds with what a character is saying
  • an extreme temperature change, you decide how or why
  • a dead body, killed with that shovel (the traveling shovel of death)
  • a case of identify theft
  • the feeling you get when you are in the house on your own, and you could almost swear that there is someone behind you, and it gives you a weird burst of speed, and you run into the next room, slamming the door
    1,000 baby turtles gone missing
  • An egg that cracks open and nothing is inside
  • A horse named Albert with OCD
  • A girl named Doug
  • A one hundred on a test that you paid the teacher to get
  • The smell of the keyboard
  • Ten chickens that have no idea that they are chickens
  • ginger beer
  • a fight/action scene at a zoo
  • the last leaf on a tree
  • Dwarf tossing
  • a rescued turtle
  • a British phone booth found anywhere except the UK
  • three gold star stickers
  • a mallard duck
  • A cape
  • a pitcher of eggnog
  • a pair of mismatched curtains
  • an experience that fills the MC with both joy and fear
  • a dozen cigarette ends floating in a wine glass
  • a man wearing fingerless gloves
  • a dead shark
  • a house with peppermint-themed interior decor
  • a villain who loves pie
  • a broken computer on a doorstep
  • a trophy tarnished with age
  • a ceiling full of mold
  • a cry for forgiveness
  • twenty ancient unopened jars of apricot jam
  • a blue stuffed elephant named Trunky
  • your MC suddenly finds him/herself in possession of a prized racehorse
  • A very wet dog on the couch
  • A cozy fire on the hearth
  • a Dixieland jazz band
  • A funeral where everybody's laughing and cheering about how the deceased will not be missed
  • A black kitten named Matt
  • a broken wine glass
  • a repair bill
  • a half empty Coca-Cola
  • an old grandfather clock set to the wrong time
  • the making of a salad
  • a very old bloodhound
  • hot peppermint tea with little mini biscotti from a boxful bought at Shoprite
  • two blue ballet shoes and a claddagh ring (which have a relation to one another, a tied significance)
  • a pair of fairy wings
  • a stove timer that always adds five minutes onto the time inputted
  • an unjust accusation
  • the scent of freshly baked bread
  • the taste of a lie
  • a red haired girl with one blue and one green eye
  • an ingrown toenail
  • squirrels in the attic
  • A flower pot getting thrown off a roof
  • a dog kennel that washes up on shore
  • a TV show involving robots
  • a river without any fish
  • a baby with colic
  • the number 7
  • a roaring fire
  • a burning bush
  • a dead rose in a vase
  • a frozen pond with the ice broken in the center
  • An impromptu dancing lesson
  • A parakeet that can only say, "Schpedoinkle!"
  • A single glove found lying on the sidewalk
  • A car catching on fire
  • a white tank top
  • ceramic dwarves
  • blue highlighted hair
  • a nightgown in a washing machine
  • a cat sitting on feet
  • the ending of a video game
  • multi-hue eyed girl!
  • an illicit affair
  • A horse named Albert
  • A purple spotted toad
  • A grandmother who thinks that she is a fish
  • needing badly to go to the bathroom in the middle of a meeting
  • a plastic carnation painted green with nail polish
  • A red wedding dress
  • Afternoon nap when it's raining outside
  • A purse filled with brown leaves
  • Tangles headphone cables
  • The salt cap falling off while salting a dish, and all the salt falling in
  • A train ride
  • Getting pizza for the mixed herb packets
  • Playing cards all night
  • another character's perspective
  • voices in the attic
  • "I can't sit still."
  • an over-enthusiastic nude photographer
  • a pair of papier mâché clawed hands
  • a midnight snowfall
  • a selection of brightly coloured boxes in an empty room/house
  • a light-up, plug-in, green gnome
  • a well-preserved dinosaur skeleton
  • a missing iguana
  • gypsy dancing bears
  • your character's reaction to running over something on the road
  • someone wearing mismatched socks
  • a niggling memory that you can ALMOST remember, but not quite
  • "Of course I'm fine. I'm more than fine. Who wouldn't be with someone like you landing on me??"
  • a messed up judicial system causing an arrest and detainment in jail
  • fine, realistic costume jewelry
  • a rickety, creaking white gate that gives someone away
  • a spy who catches a bad cold at just the wrong time
  • A hair ribbon flying with the wind
  • a nearly-empty jar of peanut butter
  • No two snowflakes are alike
  • the lifetime of a $5 bill
  • A toad under a rock
  • a fake potted plant
  • a vast array of staples
  • an umbrella left in the park on a sunny day
  • a strange light in the sky
  • a sudden burst of laughter
  • a knife with a dull, nicked blade
  • Mug shot, toe tag and broken bridge
  • blowing up an air mattress with a hair dryer
  • a car stuck in mud
  • A cat lying in the sunlight
  • Odd eyes
  • An unpainted dollhouse
  • The last book in a series
  • A dusty globe of Saturn
  • The sound of thinking
  • a consistent beeping noise
  • a nightmare about a horse
  • an earthquake
  • celebration of a feast
  • performing a ritual
  • MC must taste chocolate, cacao, or similar substance
  • a music box that won't open
  • glass figurines
  • a plastic lizard
  • purple nail polish

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kitten Dream

KittenDream.jpgHere's something Kat stumbled across and has anxiously been waiting for the owners to do something with the website. (She just loves anything to do with cute kitties!) It's the Chinese website for Kitten Dream, a cast of characters who appear in comics (manhua) and animation and lots of merchandise.

There are several 7 page and 20 page comics written in Chinese. The challenge today is to write English words that would fit the story. (Not translating. Just coming up with your own words.) What's interesting is how much you can get of the story just from the pictures. Note: the panels read right to left, but the pages for "7 page" stories are arranged left to right -- just to confuse you more! :-)

Here's the cast of characters (in English) if you want to use their names or get some hints about their personalities.

The "7 page" comics (though apparently they're only 4 pages long??) load quickly and the whole (very simple) story appears all on one screen.

The 20 page comics take a while to load (even with high speed internet) with one page per screen but the stories are a bit more complex. (Though we're not talking Shakespeare here ;-) You'll be able to pick up what's going on by looking at the pictures!)

(Some of the site has been translated into English but not the comics yet. The English link is in the upper right corner.)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot

evilsiblings.jpgNeed some plotting help for your NaNo or other project?

Teresa Nielsen Hayden, editor at Tor Books, gave a lecture on "Stupid Plotting Tricks" at the Viable Paradise Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop. Part of the lecture was way to use the cliches from the evil overlord lists: The Evil Overlord Devises a Plot From her lecture:
Start with some principles:
  • A plot doesn't have to be new. It just has to be new to the reader.
  • In fact, it doesn't even have to be new to the reader. It just has to get past him. (It helps if the story's moving fast and there's lots of other interesting stuff going on.)
  • A plot device that's been used a thousand times may be a cliche, but it's also a trick that works. That's why it keeps getting used.
  • Several half-baked ideas can often be combined into one fully-cooked one.
  • If you have one plot presented three ways, you have three plots. If you have three plots presented one way, you have one plot. (I stole this principle from Jim Macdonald's lecture on how to really generate plots, which is much better than my lecture on stupid plot tricks.)
  • Steal from the best.
  • Looked at from this angle, the Internet's various lovingly-compiled cliche lists are a treasury of useful plot devices. The instructions that follow are one way to use them.
And she goes on to describe generating numbers to pick ideas from the list but in the paragraph below that is a little tiny "here" that will generate some for you. Here's some generated ones:

Advice for the Evil Overlord:
If my Legions of Terror are defeated in a battle, I will quietly withdraw and regroup instead of launching a haphazard mission to assassinate the hero.
Advice for the Hero:
I will never allow fashion sense to prevent me from carrying whatever is useful or needful for the Heroic Struggle.
Advice for the Bad Auxiliary Character (Evil Overlord's Wicked but Beautiful Daughter):
If you have siblings, do not trust them. They'll only use you shamelessly. Of course if they're stupid enough to trust you, use them shamelessly.
Advice for the Good Auxiliary Character (Innocent Bystander):
Do not split up to search for the monster.
Further Evil (Advice on Ultimate Weapons/Spells):
I will also refrain from using the Ultimate Weapon for simply offing the Hero. If it's really the UW, the Hero's efforts will come to naught anyway.
Murphy's Laws of Combat:
  • The most delicate component will be dropped.
  • Success occurs when no one is looking; failure occurs when the General is watching.
  • Everything goes wrong at once.

Also funny, but not included in her generator are "Things We Learned at the Movies". Here's the full list that's she's drawing from Evil Overlord Lists (including Murphy's Laws of Combat and Things We Learned at the Movies).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Fuschia volcano

fusciavolcano.jpgCut up the following words and put them in a bowl. For NaNo writers, when you get stuck, pull out one of the words and use that in the next sentence you write. If they don't make sense, edit them out later. :-) The point is to get your thoughts moving. (Though it's really cool when a random word sparks a neat idea.)

If you're not doing NaNo, include one random word in each sentence you write for the next 10 to 15 minutes.
bear hug
arresting tale
tumble weed
brown sugar
black satin
flying dagger
out cast
heirloom rose
dead of night
magenta jewel
spring frost
evil spirit
skeleton crew
black ink
train station
silver wing

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What about that embarrassing tattoo?

interview.jpgInterview a character or characters from your NaNo novel or from a stalled piece with characters you liked.

It can be a group interview with questions each character answers. It can be an interview with a single character. I've done interviews with characters who are plucked from the current situation they're in. I've done interviews with characters after they've died who reflect back on the period the story takes place in. I've done interviews with characters immediately following the action of the story.

Ask them about their motivations. Ask them the questions you need the answers to. Your characters will tell you things that you didn't even know about them! You will hear where motivations are weak that need punched up.

Here are some ideas:
  • How do you feel about [another character]?
  • What are your thoughts on the events that led up to the crisis?
  • Why did you feel you needed to [whatever event triggered a turning point in the book]?
  • If there is one thing you could have changed, what would it be?
  • Why do you hate your sister?
  • Tell me about the time you ended up in jail. How did that come about?
  • You recently received a death threat. How seriously are you taking this?
  • Looking back on the situation, what would you have done differently?
  • Are you pleased with the way the situation is being/was handled?
  • If you could kill someone with impunity, who would it be?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Some things we've learned ...

flesheating.jpgSome things we've learned from past NaNos:

From me: It's okay to leave scenes unfinished. The linear one-thing-at-a-time part of me is rankled but it needs to shut up so I can write. If a scene isn't working, it's okay to move onto another. Sometimes later scenes can help finish out a previous scene. But it's okay if you don't go back right now. NaNoWriMo doesn't mean it's a complete first draft. Some people don't even finish their books. The goal is just 50,000 words.

It's okay to call characters and places xxx. ;-) I never had to resort to that before but I have several characters who get mentioned and might play bigger roles but I don't know enough about them yet to give them good names. So for now they're xxx.

I like discovering things about my characters. I've found myself saying "I didn't know you had a sister who worshipped you. I didn't know you had a talent for cooking. I didn't know you burned out your own magical powers to destroy them."

From Kat: "Drop frogs and zombies with pink ray guns on people." (Which more generally can be translated into let wild things happen and see what happens :-)

Making up quirks can create more problems for the characters --- which takes more words to take care of. For instance I had two characters walking through the woods so I gave one a really bad sense of direction.

Eating and food are great padding.

Anyone else have NaNo tips from previous attempts?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Callous depravity

lattice.jpgNaNoWriMo starts today!

Since your novel can go anywhere and doesn't necessarily need to make sense at this point, use the following phrases to drive your next scene (or scenes).

Or use them in a 10-15 minute writing piece. If a phrase sparks a great idea but you can't get the phrase in, go with the idea :-) Their purpose is to spark ideas not chain you down.
accident of fate
broken rules
callous depravity
delicately invisible
endangered heaven
fake maps
gold daze
hair ball
intended fear
just a sip
kitty corner
lacy lattice
mammoth bones
naked killer
ocean of storms
paint brush
quick cash
rain bows
saffron wonders
tangle wood
unlikely trendy places
vesper dawn
warm fuzzies
excel saga
yesterday's news
zircon vortex