Thursday, January 01, 2004

Some really great books

Prompts and exercises

The Pocket Muse
The Pocket Muse
The Pocket Muse 2: Endless Inspiration for Writers
by Monica Wood

Full of photos, prompts and quotes. They can be used for prose, poetry, nonfiction without ties to any particular genre. I posted a longer review a bit ago. She posts tips (and some prompts) she's inspired to write down over the course of each year. DWP posts
Tarot for Writers
Tarot for Writers
by Corrine Kenner

Many many ideas for using tarot for writing; spreads for characters, plot, setting, what should happen next, writer's block and many others.
Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring!
 ◊  Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring!
by Dawn DiPrince, Cheryl Miller Thurston

Just as advertised :-) My "go to" book when I'm time crunched for a prompt. I can always find something interesting in it. DWP posts

Not specifically prompts, but inspiring.

The Book of Qualities The Book of Qualities
by J. Ruth Gendler

Not prompts, but inspiring personifications of qualities. DWP posts
Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain
Caffeine for the Creative Mind: 250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain
by Stefan Mumaw, Wendy Lee Oldfield

Packed full of 15-minute (some longer) creativity exercises. Some are writing, but some also design, photography, problem solving and play. Stretch your creativity muscles, especially when writer's block hits :-)
sticksbarbie.gif  ◊  Dragon Writing Sticks

Not a book but I don't have a category for toys. (Though if you click on the keyword Playthings, that will turn up games I've mentioned in posts.) We've had a lot of fun with these, mostly generating random outrageous headlines. Great for groups too.

The craft of writing
Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From ActorsGetting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors
by Brandilyn Collins

Actors' techniques for writers to aid in creating vivid, believable characters. DWP posts
Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course

 ◊  Immediate Fiction
by Jerry Cleaver

Jerry Cleaver gets into how to fix story problems. While he doesn't say anything new, it's the way he says it that is very clear, practical and inspires you to delve into your book and fix it. As I mentioned in my review what has stuck with me is that in real life our goal is to avoid and smooth over conflict. We want to get along. But characters need to do the opposite. To get what they want they need to be willing to mess things up.
A Writer's Guide to Fiction (Writer's Compass)
A Writer's Guide to Fiction
by Elizabeth Lyon

(I remember liking this but can't remember anything specific. I'll keep it linked so I can remember to look at it again. The reviews are very good at Amazon. It covers the the whole process from writing to revising to selling.)

 ◊  Personal favorites I've used many times.

Some nifty sites

Prompts and exercises

Bledsoes' Random Writing Prompt generators
I'd forgotten about these! There are only three generators but they're fun especially because they're oriented for kids and generate unexpected possibilities like: "A gumdrop, a video game, and a slug." I suspect it has to do with them being children's book authors. Their goal is fun and inspiration, not writing practice. :-)

Archetypewriting Plot Scenario generator
If you don't know where to begin, begin here. Ex: "The story starts when your protagonist tears down a wall. Another character is a computer hacker who uses dark magic."

Charloft: Like Zoloft for Characters
Daily prompts to bring out your character's character.

First Line
Four prompts per year, but they're good ones! "Roy owned the only drive-thru funeral business in Maine." They publish a quarterly journal with the best submissions for that quarter's first line. The current and next first lines are on the site's main page, previous first lines are listed on their subscription page.

 ◊  Gorlets Instigations
Twisted prompts to inspire strange stories.

 ◊  Language is a Virus
Games, exercises, visual prompts. An eclectic collection for prose and poetry. (Getting a bit ad heavy but the content still holds surprises.)

 ◊  NaNoWriMo forums
Every October the forums are archived and left blank for November where they quickly fill up with new prompts, and plot ninjas, and adopt-a-plots (under each genre), plus loads of other stuff too.

Plots and Plot Twists
My own collection of plot sites. Basic stories with added flavor to get your started, attention grabbers to begin your writing or re-energize the story when it's slowing down.

ThatGrrl Writing Exercises
Some out of the ordinary prompts that are speculative fiction friendly. 1001 uses for last year's calendar, bring a person to life in 10 words or less ...

Three Word Wednesday
Write everyday. You know the advice! This is simple and quick. Every Wednesday, 3 words. Beneath each set are links to pieces inspired by the words.

 ◊  Writer's Digest Daily Prompts
A wealthy of daily prompts, each connected to the forum to share what the prompt inspires.

 ◊  Writing Fix
Click on Writing Prompts on the left. Left and right brained prompts randomly generated. (A teacherly overtone has crept into what used to be purely fun but it's ignorable.)


Facade's Tarot Readings
And I-Ching, Runes, Stichomancy (random lines from religious books). You choose the deck, the layout, type in a question, it picks the cards and tells you what they represent and possible meanings. You can also see daily readings for celebrities, good for developing a character from scratch if you already have some basic characteristics to choose from.

In a Wicked Age
A random oracle designed for In a Wicked Age by Lumpley Games. The items are richly detailed and even one could spark ideas. You can have up to 8 cards in each of the 4 categories."QH: The return of a reclusive enchantress to her home; 3S: A precocious child disputing with philosophers and declaimers; JH: The burglary of the storehouse of a powerful robber-merchant; 8C: A tempter devil, fond of luxury and sin, respecter of no law and every appetite, imprisoned until this very hour and minute within a stone crypt behind an old monk's garden."

One Sentence
True stories told in one sentence. "I gave up on trying to compete with my brother the day he actually became a rocket scientist."

Postsecrets Archives (back to 2005)
Secrets from anonymous senders, illustrated on postcards and posted here.

The Seven Sentence Story
An exercise to focus on plot by including a character, want, actions that worsen the situation then a final resolving action ... all in seven sentences. (If the site disappears, it's explained at the blog post Just Seven.)

 ◊  Worth 1000
Thousands of challenges in photomanipulation, illustration, writing.

Generators and tools

Behind the Name
There are hundreds of name sites and generators. This site stands out for accuracy in definitions. You can translate a name into a different nationality (with lots of options to choose from) with
Name Translator. Random Name Generator generates names from the database for many nationalities, historical periods and structures (eg, first name with 0, 1, 2, or 3 middle names). Name Themes gives you a list of names based on meaning or other connection (musicians, sports stars, etc.)

Chaotic Shiny
Gaming oriented generators but if you need a quick city, tavern, name, art object, space ship name, tarot card, some Latin gibberish, apocalypse, zombie, adventure, motive .... or any of the dozens of other generators, this should be your first stop! Ex:

The Five of Suffering
The card depicts a talkative lass involved in a birth. It is associated with light, creativity, and a case of mistaken identity. Inverted, it represents forgiveness, a takeover, communication, and a secret. The card is creased along the length. The back is grey-green .

C.M. Mayo's Giant Golden Buddha and 364 more 5-minute writing exercises
A year's worth of exercises. With the feeling of prompts (eg, fun :-) they touch on topics like point of view, dialogue, beginnings. Not specifically for speculative fiction, but you won't feel constrained.

Answer a few questions, and this generates a background and personality for your character based on Enneagram Personality Type which is quite detailed (example) and gives you a lot to work with.

 ◊  Dr. Wicked's Write or Die
Best tool to keep you writing. If you pause for longer than a certain number of seconds, it will beep at you until you start typing again. (Desktop version also available.)

Expletives and Colorful Language
Not sure why this is such a popular page ;-) Links and books and the ever popular Wikipedia's List of Fictional Expletives that's archived here.

The Fantasist
Where there are Story Starters (title and a first line) and a fantasy world Timeline generator.

Fantasy Name Generators
Generators for several fantasy and scifi realms, names for weapons, armor, pets. Names for aliens, angels, demons, bandits, ghosts, griffins, mirrored twins, steampunk. Names for characters from Anglo-saxon, Croatian, Hindu, Viking. Names for ancient Egyptian towns, Beaches, Cafes, Caves, Magic schools.

Feath's Bookcase
First word prompts, MuseMuggers weekly prompt, Character description generator, fantasy and genreless generators, character and plot tarot layout, quick draw tarot, random quote generator, character development generator. Just a ton of names :-)

The Generator Blog
Hundreds and hundreds of generators. From the mundane to the bizarre. Cat names to Kung Fu movie scripts to turning a photo into Talking Character.

How to tell if you're ...
Mark Rosenfelder created a list of what most Americans are familiar with from their own culture. Many people responded with lists for their own country. A gold mine of alternatives to what Americans take for granted as standard practice and belief. (Not all Swedes have bathtubs, Brazilians can get milk in plastic bags, and the Turks often have both a western and a Turkish (squat) toilet in their homes. Some lists may be old but they'll still make you think!)

 ◊  Kate Monk's Onomastikon
That's Kate's list of proper names, of course. An awesome resource for real names used in historical times from all over the world, first and last, male and female, often divided up by era. She did some serious investigative work. (Some links are wonky and offer a guess at what page you want. The guess works. The pages are from dinosaur dial-up ages when modems would choke on loading a few kilobytes so that's why they're so split up.)

Patricia C. Wrede's Worldbuilder questions
An awesome set of questions, from long time fantasy author Patricia Wrede, to ask yourself as you're creating a world, some you'd never think to think about. The questions are in 36 categories from entertainment to eating customs to ethics. "Is there a special class of people (doctors, priests, funeral directors, untouchables) who deal with dead bodies?"

Random Generators from Rangen
Generate appearance, archetype, personality, plot. There's an example at An impractical traitor.

Random Words (and sentences and paragraphs) from Creativity Tools
Random word (by type and frequency under Word Plus), sentence, paragraph, names from US Census.

 ◊  Seventh Sanctum
An absolute wealth of generators from names (of all sorts), plots, creatures, towns, anime, settings, superheroes ...

 ◊  Serendipity
She's used the generator code from Seventh Sanctum and created even more generators. Names, character profiles, places, plots, twists, selected links to more.

  •  ◊ Returns entries from several dictionaries so very thorough. Translator at the site (using Google's translator). Pop up for your browser's menu bar. Try it out: vampire.
  •  ◊ Wide range of entries, related searches, links to the Visual Thesaurus and Concept Thesaurus, nearby words, filters. Pop up for your browser's menu bar. Try it out: vampire.
  • The Free Dictionary A wealth of information, several dictionary entires plus thesaurus, translations, literary references, nearby words. Try it out: vampire.
  • Wiktionary A wealth of connections anagrams, phrases, foreign words -- when they're there. Obviously being a wiki, some entries are more complete than others. Try it out: vampire.

  •  ◊  One Look dictionary Great for wildcard searches. Need a word or phrase with "blue" in it? Returns links to dozens of dictionaries (though often you must click an entry to get a meaning.) Try it out: *vampire*.

  • Rhymer More hits, more options. Returns perfect as well as near rhymes, end and beginning rhymes. If it returns too many, try "last syllable". 
  • Rhymezone Fewer hits because it's limited to perfect rhymes but sometimes that's a good thing! Provides a link to One Look dictionary so you can browse words with the same ending if you didn't find a rhyme.

 ◊  Personal favorites I've used many times.

Some excellent poetry stuff

Books of prompts, sparks, craft

Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School
by Georgia Heard

Exercises and approaches to poetry; concise and passionate.
Extraordinary Poetry Writing (F. W. Prep) Extraordinary Poetry Writing
by Margaret Ryan

Cribbing from my own review of it ;-): A gentle but not dumbed down introduction to poetry writing. It's nicely divided into small chunks with side bars and tips.
Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises 20  ◊  Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises
by Stephen Dunning, William Stafford

These guys love poetry and not only have been practicing it but can inspire others. Excellent exercises (despite the teacherly publisher which accounts for the high price. If you see it used cheap, snatch it up :-)
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach The Practice of Poetry
by Robin Behn

Well organized poetry exercises from established poets.
Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words Poemcrazy : Freeing Your Life with Words
by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge is a poet and wordlover. Reading Poemcrazy will inspire you to dabble with words and poetry even if you think you don't like poetry.
The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms The Teachers and Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms
edited by Ron Padgett

76 poetic forms with examples, tricks and when to use them.
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry  ◊  Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry
by Kenneth Koch

Where most of the poetry warm ups came from. A great resource, lots of poems from children inspired by his exercises.


Automatic Poetry Generator (for lines you can use in your own).

 ◊  66 Experiments by Charles Bernstein
Playful exercises for poetry creation. An astounding, wonderful, creative list of ideas. Also: 82 Writing Experiments by Bernadette Mayer and 16 Writing Experiments by Jonathan Mahew.

Language is a Virus
There's still some good stuff here that's worth recommending like Creative Writing Exercises, Writing Games, Visual Inspiration. (But ads are encroaching from the sides and several of the article pages seem automatically generated.)

 ◊  Personal favorites I've used many times.