Thursday, March 30, 2006

Three points of view

Try doing this in 3 5 minute exercises. If after the first it wasn't long enough, try 10.

Describe a scene (make it up, look out your window, go to a room in your house, grocery store, a favorite place, etc.) from the point of view of 3 different people:
  1. One who has suffered a great loss,
  2. One who has just had wonderful news,
  3. One who is about to leave their life behind and embark on a journey.
But don't name the emotions they're feeling! Let it come through in what they notice and what words they choose.

These don't need to be contemporary people. They don't even need to be human!

Here's some suggestions but you might want to try thinking up your own first so your brain doesn't get stuck on these:

  1. The great loss could be an emperor of the world who has been exiled to a small artificial compound on a moon,
  2. the wonderful news could be a parapalegic who is about to get their new cyber body,
  3. and the journey could a cat person who is about to leave the walls of her enclave that she's never gone beyond to venture into the world of the humans to find her brother.
Inspired by Practicing Your Craft.

Pyramid destruction

Write sentences containing the following words ... in the order they're in.
  • pyramid destruction belief finish
  • demon unflinching funeral secluded
  • goblin sorrowful altar over
  • android screaming conflict stop
  • ghosttalker fantasy empty luck
  • outcast ambitious starship empty

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Get free books in return for writing

Someone just posted this. Thought I'd pass it along:

Free up to $100 Barnes & Noble GC for writing book reviews

Build a resource library to supplement your Judy's Book knowledge base. From 3/15/2006 through 4/17/2007, your reviews will earn you Barnes & Noble Online Gift Certificates.

* Write 10 reviews, receive a $10 gift certificate.
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Barnes & Noble Online Gift Certificates are redeemable online only at You must be signed up for the promotion to have your reviews count toward the gift certificates.

You must be a member before signing up for the promotion. Not a member? Join now.

PLEASE NOTE: Once you've registered as a Judy's Book member, you MUST ALSO SIGN UP for this specific promotion in order to begin receiving credit for your reviews. Please contact with any questions.

Rig Veda-mancy

Is it a bit of a prophecy? The cryptic answer to a question from an oracle? Or something else? Is it received in a fantasy land or a future setting? You decide and use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt.
"... are found the bonds that bind man last.

5 O'er Sire and Mother they have roared in unison bright with the verse of praise, burning up riteless men, Blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the swarthy skin which Indra hates.

6 Those which, as guides of song and counsellors of speed, were manifested from their ancient dwelling place ..."

Maybe it was TV or the movies where I saw someone open the Bible randomly to get a passage to help them solve a problem they were having. Facade offers all sorts of divining methods: Tarot, I Ching, Runes, as well as Bibliomancy (which is what pulling a random passage from the Bible is called). They also will pull random excerpts from The Koran (Islam), the Rig Veda (Hinduism) and the Tanakh (Judaism). (I got evocative stuff from all except the Koran which was very wordy. I couldn't quite figure out what point all those words were getting at!)

The above is an excerpt from the Rig Veda (which means something like "praise verse of knowledge").

Rig Veda gods and goddesses

Gods and goddesses from the Rig Veda. But don't look them up! Let the sound of the names inspire you then write in a sentence what aspect of the universe they oversee and a bit about them, eg, Vishnu, god of far-seeing, he can see a person's entire lifespan. (That's the real Vishnu to the right, by the way.)
  • Agni
  • Indra
  • Vrtra
  • Soma
  • Mitra
  • Varuna
  • Ushas
  • Savitar
  • Rudra
  • Pushan
  • Brihaspati
  • Dyaus Pita
  • Prithivi
  • Surya
  • Vayu
  • Prajanya
  • Vac
  • Maruts

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Another use for spam

Sometimes at the bottom of spam are these random sentences that have nothing to do with whatever they're trying to sell. I suppose the intent is trick anti-spam software into thinking it's legitimate email.

But the interesting thing is that the juxtaposition of such random thoughts can get you thinking out of the box. (And my daughter thinks they're a riot.) They give the impression that there's almost a story there and maybe they'll inspire a story from you!

There's a program on line that does something similar, grabbing random lines from random webpages. (Click "again" to get more randomly generated nonsense.)

Here's quite a few samples -- way more than anyone really needs! -- from some recent spam:

SOME TRAVELERS, journeying along the seashore, climbed to the human blood, I wish that I could have killed you even if I had
his weight in gold Did you ever breed any deflate levitatees yourself sir N no I said not exactly
We looked at one another, without knowing what to make of this, and remarkable lucidity of intellect, is, I am led to consider, these leaves. If I did any wrong, as I may have done much, I did The only member of our small society who positively refused to increase, were increased. I saw him once, early on the morning of had been ill, probably for a long time. I observed, upon that fatigued with his wife, poor fellow, he now came forward, by a and night. Its the only thing in all the world that I am fit for,
The neighbourhood was a dreary one at that time; as oppressive, lady that she smelt of my brandy, and that she would trouble her to wonder of the mail that had come through such a night. probability is, Mr. Micawber will be - a page of History; and he when their course should incidentally connect itself with the
Copperfield, he said, there must be two parties to a quarrel. Of my walking so proudly and lovingly down the aisle with my sweet unnecessary errands. As to deploring her misfortunes, she appeared first little difference was to be our last, and that we were never Hide yourself, she pursued, if not at home, somewhere. Let it Steerforths little parlour-maid, who had formerly worn blue happened, or what would have happened, if Dora and I had never says yes, and asks you where the ashes are, refer him to Wilkins
Its a mercy that poor casbah baby of a mother of yours didnt live said my aunt

Say Not he You might drag him at the heels of four wild horses first Mama said Mrs Strong who had got the fidgets in his legs and was twisting them and hitting them earnestness one day or other My wonder is that you are not in earnest yourself shaking her head and her fan you little know my poor Jack Delacruz when you ask that question as they both looked towards me I felt to be very touching There was such deep fondness for him

Yes she said I think he does himself no good by the habit that has increased upon him since I first came here

I was so softened and forgiving going through the town that I had half a mind to nod for I saw a faint blush in her face you would have let me find it out for myself not what can be called ROBUST you know said Mrs Pierson with emphasis

her father at the door of the room and was hanging on his shoulder The expression of her face charm of her manner and when I looked at Carl by her side and thought how good andrumbling out of the hyperboloid underneath made me comparator of marino and the doodle could never thoroughly forgive Peggotty for being so called
The librarians don't remember skiing for more than an hour..
I am not missing surfing..
Paul's grandson disliked studying for six weeks..
i am terribly hungry, do you want to get some food later on?.

Did those bus drivers regret singing?.
Don't you hate running carelessly?.
Those police officers are practicing driving between the two buildings..
I was missing jumping..
Do those plumbers always remember jumping?.

I didn't hate dancing last night at eleven..
Doesn't Sarah remember shouting slowly?.
I am not enjoying skiing among the trees at the moment..

Did Roy love working on the top of the mountain?.
I am enjoying eating in the river..
Doesn't Ms. Brown hate playing at the company?.

I'll study as soon as you have liked skiing..
Did Debbie love jumping in front of the restaurant?.
Did those bus drivers regret singing?.
Those news announcers aren't practicing shaving next to the police station right at this time..
when Mr Glenn stepped between them as if by accident and drew Lupe quickly away on their deserving legs All this time her immobile Annie never once spoke or lifted up her eyes and there never was a more miserable business atrocity you sir the evening fly away as if it were but an hour It closed in an incident which I well remember as she was that afternoon before she began to fret bless my heart hes as like her sooner than hell overturn the cohesives plans I know him said the stub airline fanning herself have my place so I blushingly offered to resign it
And walking about arm in arm the livelong day Annie thus addressed made no reply unwilling hand from which I took it trembled Well I am what they call an bubble man he returned that is to say I get bored to said the carbonate sonoma resignedly that of course he gave up altogether when he first went out were treacherous to him and with resentment against those who injured him

unwilling hand from which I took it trembled than I cared to show to Uriah Heep who was so officious to help me that I uncharitably thought shut up in themselves a hundred years together and of the trim smooth grass plot and the stone urns and remember her face in its innocent loveliness again It haunted me when I got home and having an immense four post dominick in it which was quite a little landed chameleon And I am rejoiced to see you too he said shaking my hands heartily Why Beal that had long grown naturally out of our familiar relations begun as mere children But Raul where I had been leading a romantic life for ages to a bawling splashing
Aint you said the waiter Young gentlemen is generally tired of beef and mutton and mystery of the whole show the influence upon me of the poetry the lights the junkygentle nature and you are always right You talk said Colette breaking into a pleasant laugh to a young man at his own disposal of the wonderful things to be seen and done by that and was shut up like a family vault I was still painfully conscious of my youth
that I dont know when the figure of a handsome well formed young man dressed with a tasteful pretty kettle of fish In pursuance of my aunts kind scheme I was shortly afterwards fitted out to suggest anything else Do you care for taters said the waiter with an only the other evening lay down his head upon his desk and shed tears like a child to my opinions on any subject and the waiter being familiar with me and offering advice to my inexperience in a sort of calm prophetic agony and I know hell die there sooner than hell overturn But what I want you to be Lauren resumed my aunt I dont mean revisable but morally
designate the bobby may it escapade or be textbook may
the poisson ! , coachwork be not selma or the
mahayana it, diverse not.
conflagration in authentic and may treachery some may teakettle in
in roth in not victorian see it's tasteful it's try
subsistent it! pamper but.
forbearance be pill but not mnemonic but or pica it's
it's mosquito in or oviform the a notebook , !
rescind maymay polygonal be.
coconut a shipboard in or portraiture it some countersunk ,
it's property it in egregious may on huh be in
seacoast andnot coronado some.

As winter fades into spring

At least here around Boston it's finally feeling like winter's done teasing us!

Take your notebook for a walk and look for the signs of spring as well as the dregs of winter. It may be the time of crocuses but it's also the time when the snow melts and leaves behind its winter storage of frozen dog poops ;-)
  • Where does the sand and salt (or whatever is used in your area) accumulate?
  • What does the air smell like? What does it feel like?
  • Poke under the leaves? What's there? What does it smell like?
  • What does it sound like? (In our backyard we have baseball already!)
  • Check the tips of branches. Do all budding twigs look alike?
  • What's blooming first?
  • What are people wearing? Are some still prepared for winter? Are some eager to shed winter clothes?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Letters home

Pretend you're a character in your favorite book (or TV show or movie or game). Write home about your experiences.

(You can be one of the characters in the story or be your own character as is often done in fan fiction.)

First lines

Write intriguing first lines for stories in the following genres (and any other genres you are intrigued by.) Feel free to jump right to the genres that grab you first. 10-15 minutes probably isn't enough time to do them all so best to begin with your favorites!
  • science fiction
  • fantasy
  • mystery
  • horror
  • western
  • romance
  • children's story
  • adventure/action/political thriller
  • suspense
  • humor
  • non-fiction
  • biography
  • autobiography
Inspired by Free Writing Prompts at

One day maybe Grod will finish his Opening Hooks site. I keep checking and hoping!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

If - then

This is actually a game but it's sometimes hard to find fun word prompts and this will work well as a word prompt.

The game only needs two people, but you can do it alone by writing the if and then phrases on separate slips of paper and putting them in separate piles and then drawing one of each randomly.

To play as a game, fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise. The first person writes down an "If" on the left, flips the paper over to hide what they've written and passes it to the other person. The second person writes down a "then".

The ifs and thens follow the formula:

If noun + past tense verb + object
then plural noun + would ....

Here are some examples:
If octopi wore bracelets
then ships would be towed by flies.

If there were no guillotine
then wasps would take off their corsets.

If wizards really walked the earth
then ruins would be runes.

If animals could speak
then drones would mate.

If there were no such thing as clothes
then portraits would shed their frames.

If life really benefitted everyone
then serenity would not be obtainable.
This comes from Logic Exceeded where there are a fair number of interesting writing ideas.

Single syllable

Use all of the following words in a story. The trick this time: Don't use any words that are longer than one syllable.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The windows to the soul.

I wish eyes were as easy to observe as they are to write. It's tough to stare at people's eyes without them eventually getting the feeling they're being watched!

If you'd like to try something a little different, go to Flickr and type in "eyes".

You can also do an advanced search and find specific types of eyes like "cat eyes".

Google Image search also now allows you to limit searches to faces.

Things you may want to note in particular:
  • Shape of brows
  • How much of the iris is covered by the lids
  • Wrinkles
  • Eye glasses
  • Where the glasses rest on the eyes (Can you see the eyebrows?)

Fun with spellcheck

This won't work so well if you're a good typist! But type a story idea or retype something you've already written really fast. You're trying to avoid spelling things properly! Then run spellcheck and choose some word other than what you meant to type.

When you're done read over the text and see if it sparks any new ideas.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Foods flash

Set the timer for 10-15 minutes. Pick one of the following headlines and write the news report.
  • Teddy Grahams may slow spread of ankle stones.
  • Battered liver could prevent excitable neck.
  • Powdered pancake mix could cause ear shrinkage.
  • Jellied beef could cause squeaky gums.
  • Boiled cake could increase risk of armpit flatulence.
  • Olestra may lead to rectal weasels.
  • Turkey neck may increase risk of tongue arthritis.
These were automatically generated at The Not My Desk New Food Dire Warning And/Or Healthful Revelation Generator.


Sniglets are words that should be in the dictionary but aren't. I picked these from Bert Christensen's page because they sound interesting on their own. You can try writing sentences using the words with whatever definition pops into your head or check out the definitions he gave at his website.
  • chalktrauma
  • arachnidiot
  • baldage
  • bargue
  • bimp
  • airdirt
  • charp
  • dipwavers
  • exaspirin
  • facon
  • fraznit
  • fuffie

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hellish heaven, Heavenly hell and a Smoking kingdom

Use the following in sentences:
  • heavenly hell
  • hellish heaven
  • smoky kingdom
  • obsessed altar
  • unexpected window
  • reckless chamber
  • doubtful forest
  • lacy abyss
  • tumultuous barrier
  • doomed garden


Use a literal interpretation of a common idiom as a writing prompt.
  • you are what you eat
  • between the devil and the deep blue sea
  • in living color
  • knocked my socks off
  • blow one's mind
  • killing with kindness

Saturday, March 11, 2006


This week collect names of colors that strike you. Paint stores, drugstores. (I found Wal-Mart impersonal enough that I didn't feel like the manager was going to ask me why I was looking at products and writing things down.)
  • Paint
  • Make-up: lipstick, haircolor, nail color, blush, eye shadow
  • And while you're there, might as well do: Fragrances

Peter Anspach's Evil Overlord list

Provide this to your villains before they confront your hero so they don't make the same mistakes every villain seems to. ;-) Or use it to pack every known cliche into a farce.

At his website Peter has a few more suggestions in "Cell Block A" and "Cell Block B". There are similar lists for heroes and sidekicks and evil overlord's daughters at Evil Rulers. And for anime fans there is Issendai's If I Ever Become a Dragonball Character... and If I Ever Become an Anime Character....
Being an Evil Overlord seems to be a good career choice. It pays well, there are all sorts of perks and you can set your own hours. However every Evil Overlord I've read about in books or seen in movies invariably gets overthrown and destroyed in the end. I've noticed that no matter whether they are barbarian lords, deranged wizards, mad scientists or alien invaders, they always seem to make the same basic mistakes every single time. With that in mind, allow me to present...

The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.
  7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."
  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
  11. I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
  12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.
  13. All slain enemies will be cremated, or at least have several rounds of ammunition emptied into them, not left for dead at the bottom of the cliff. The announcement of their deaths, as well as any accompanying celebration, will be deferred until after the aforementioned disposal.
  14. The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.
  15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
  16. I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."
  17. When I employ people as advisors, I will occasionally listen to their advice.
  18. I will not have a son. Although his laughably under-planned attempt to usurp power would easily fail, it would provide a fatal distraction at a crucial point in time.
  19. I will not have a daughter. She would be as beautiful as she was evil, but one look at the hero's rugged countenance and she'd betray her own father.
  20. Despite its proven stress-relieving effect, I will not indulge in maniacal laughter. When so occupied, it's too easy to miss unexpected developments that a more attentive individual could adjust to accordingly.
  21. I will hire a talented fashion designer to create original uniforms for my Legions of Terror, as opposed to some cheap knock-offs that make them look like Nazi stormtroopers, Roman footsoldiers, or savage Mongol hordes. All were eventually defeated and I want my troops to have a more positive mind-set.
  22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head.
  23. I will keep a special cache of low-tech weapons and train my troops in their use. That way -- even if the heroes manage to neutralize my power generator and/or render the standard-issue energy weapons useless -- my troops will not be overrun by a handful of savages armed with spears and rocks.
  24. I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)
  25. No matter how well it would perform, I will never construct any sort of machinery which is completely indestructible except for one small and virtually inaccessible vulnerable spot.
  26. No matter how attractive certain members of the rebellion are, there is probably someone just as attractive who is not desperate to kill me. Therefore, I will think twice before ordering a prisoner sent to my bedchamber.
  27. I will never build only one of anything important. All important systems will have redundant control panels and power supplies. For the same reason I will always carry at least two fully loaded weapons at all times.
  28. My pet monster will be kept in a secure cage from which it cannot escape and into which I could not accidentally stumble.
  29. I will dress in bright and cheery colors, and so throw my enemies into confusion.
  30. All bumbling conjurers, clumsy squires, no-talent bards, and cowardly thieves in the land will be preemptively put to death. My foes will surely give up and abandon their quest if they have no source of comic relief.
  31. All naive, busty tavern wenches in my realm will be replaced with surly, world-weary waitresses who will provide no unexpected reinforcement and/or romantic subplot for the hero or his sidekick.
  32. I will not fly into a rage and kill a messenger who brings me bad news just to illustrate how evil I really am. Good messengers are hard to come by.
  33. I won't require high-ranking female members of my organization to wear a stainless-steel bustier. Morale is better with a more casual dress-code. Similarly, outfits made entirely from black leather will be reserved for formal occasions.
  34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.
  35. I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.
  36. I will not imprison members of the same party in the same cell block, let alone the same cell. If they are important prisoners, I will keep the only key to the cell door on my person instead of handing out copies to every bottom-rung guard in the prison.
  37. If my trusted lieutenant tells me my Legions of Terror are losing a battle, I will believe him. After all, he's my trusted lieutenant.
  38. If an enemy I have just killed has a younger sibling or offspring anywhere, I will find them and have them killed immediately, instead of waiting for them to grow up harboring feelings of vengeance towards me in my old age.
  39. If I absolutely must ride into battle, I will certainly not ride at the forefront of my Legions of Terror, nor will I seek out my opposite number among his army.
  40. I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
  41. Once my power is secure, I will destroy all those pesky time-travel devices.
  42. When I capture the hero, I will make sure I also get his dog, monkey, ferret, or whatever sickeningly cute little animal capable of untying ropes and filching keys happens to follow him around.
  43. I will maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when I capture the beautiful rebel and she claims she is attracted to my power and good looks and will gladly betray her companions if I just let her in on my plans.
  44. I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
  45. I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.
  46. If an advisor says to me "My liege, he is but one man. What can one man possibly do?", I will reply "This." and kill the advisor.
  47. If I learn that a callow youth has begun a quest to destroy me, I will slay him while he is still a callow youth instead of waiting for him to mature.
  48. I will treat any beast which I control through magic or technology with respect and kindness. Thus if the control is ever broken, it will not immediately come after me for revenge.
  49. If I learn the whereabouts of the one artifact which can destroy me, I will not send all my troops out to seize it. Instead I will send them out to seize something else and quietly put a Want-Ad in the local paper.
  50. My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard IBM and Macintosh powerbooks.
  51. If one of my dungeon guards begins expressing concern over the conditions in the beautiful princess' cell, I will immediately transfer him to a less people-oriented position.
  52. I will hire a team of board-certified architects and surveyors to examine my castle and inform me of any secret passages and abandoned tunnels that I might not know about.
  53. If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.
  54. I will not strike a bargain with a demonic being then attempt to double-cross it simply because I feel like being contrary.
  55. The deformed mutants and odd-ball psychotics will have their place in my Legions of Terror. However before I send them out on important covert missions that require tact and subtlety, I will first see if there is anyone else equally qualified who would attract less attention.
  56. My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.
  57. Before employing any captured artifacts or machinery, I will carefully read the owner's manual.
  58. If it becomes necessary to escape, I will never stop to pose dramatically and toss off a one-liner.
  59. I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
  60. My five-year-old child advisor will also be asked to decipher any code I am thinking of using. If he breaks the code in under 30 seconds, it will not be used. Note: this also applies to passwords.
  61. If my advisors ask "Why are you risking everything on such a mad scheme?", I will not proceed until I have a response that satisfies them.
  62. I will design fortress hallways with no alcoves or protruding structural supports which intruders could use for cover in a firefight.
  63. Bulk trash will be disposed of in incinerators, not compactors. And they will be kept hot, with none of that nonsense about flames going through accessible tunnels at predictable intervals.
  64. I will see a competent psychiatrist and get cured of all extremely unusual phobias and bizarre compulsive habits which could prove to be a disadvantage.
  65. If I must have computer systems with publically available terminals, the maps they display of my complex will have a room clearly marked as the Main Control Room. That room will be the Execution Chamber. The actual main control room will be marked as Sewage Overflow Containment.
  66. My security keypad will actually be a fingerprint scanner. Anyone who watches someone press a sequence of buttons or dusts the pad for fingerprints then subsequently tries to enter by repeating that sequence will trigger the alarm system.
  67. No matter how many shorts we have in the system, my guards will be instructed to treat every surveillance camera malfunction as a full-scale emergency.
  68. I will spare someone who saved my life sometime in the past. This is only reasonable as it encourages others to do so. However, the offer is good one time only. If they want me to spare them again, they'd better save my life again.
  69. All midwives will be banned from the realm. All babies will be delivered at state-approved hospitals. Orphans will be placed in foster-homes, not abandoned in the woods to be raised by creatures of the wild.
  70. When my guards split up to search for intruders, they will always travel in groups of at least two. They will be trained so that if one of them disappears mysteriously while on patrol, the other will immediately initiate an alert and call for backup, instead of quizzically peering around a corner.
  71. If I decide to test a lieutenant's loyalty and see if he/she should be made a trusted lieutenant, I will have a crack squad of marksmen standing by in case the answer is no.
  72. If all the heroes are standing together around a strange device and begin to taunt me, I will pull out a conventional weapon instead of using my unstoppable superweapon on them.
  73. I will not agree to let the heroes go free if they win a rigged contest, even though my advisors assure me it is impossible for them to win.
  74. When I create a multimedia presentation of my plan designed so that my five-year-old advisor can easily understand the details, I will not label the disk "Project Overlord" and leave it lying on top of my desk.
  75. I will instruct my Legions of Terror to attack the hero en masse, instead of standing around waiting while members break off and attack one or two at a time.
  76. If the hero runs up to my roof, I will not run up after him and struggle with him in an attempt to push him over the edge. I will also not engage him at the edge of a cliff. (In the middle of a rope-bridge over a river of molten lava is not even worth considering.)
  77. If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutentant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer.
  78. I will not tell my Legions of Terror "And he must be taken alive!" The command will be "And try to take him alive if it is reasonably practical."
  79. If my doomsday device happens to come with a reverse switch, as soon as it has been employed it will be melted down and made into limited-edition commemorative coins.
  80. If my weakest troops fail to eliminate a hero, I will send out my best troops instead of wasting time with progressively stronger ones as he gets closer and closer to my fortress.
  81. If I am fighting with the hero atop a moving platform, have disarmed him, and am about to finish him off and he glances behind me and drops flat, I too will drop flat instead of quizzically turning around to find out what he saw.
  82. I will not shoot at any of my enemies if they are standing in front of the crucial support beam to a heavy, dangerous, unbalanced structure.
  83. If I'm eating dinner with the hero, put poison in his goblet, then have to leave the table for any reason, I will order new drinks for both of us instead of trying to decide whether or not to switch with him.
  84. I will not have captives of one sex guarded by members of the opposite sex.
  85. I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."
  86. I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.
  87. My vats of hazardous chemicals will be covered when not in use. Also, I will not construct walkways above them.
  88. If a group of henchmen fail miserably at a task, I will not berate them for incompetence then send the same group out to try the task again.
  89. After I captures the hero's superweapon, I will not immediately disband my legions and relax my guard because I believe whoever holds the weapon is unstoppable. After all, the hero held the weapon and I took it from him.
  90. I will not design my Main Control Room so that every workstation is facing away from the door.
  91. I will not ignore the messenger that stumbles in exhausted and obviously agitated until my personal grooming or current entertainment is finished. It might actually be important.
  92. If I ever talk to the hero on the phone, I will not taunt him. Instead I will say this his dogged perseverance has given me new insight on the futility of my evil ways and that if he leaves me alone for a few months of quiet contemplation I will likely return to the path of righteousness. (Heroes are incredibly gullible in this regard.)
  93. If I decide to hold a double execution of the hero and an underling who failed or betrayed me, I will see to it that the hero is scheduled to go first.
  94. When arresting prisoners, my guards will not allow them to stop and grab a useless trinket of purely sentimental value.
  95. My dungeon will have its own qualified medical staff complete with bodyguards. That way if a prisoner becomes sick and his cellmate tells the guard it's an emergency, the guard will fetch a trauma team instead of opening up the cell for a look.
  96. My door mechanisms will be designed so that blasting the control panel on the outside seals the door and blasting the control panel on the inside opens the door, not vice versa.
  97. My dungeon cells will not be furnished with objects that contain reflective surfaces or anything that can be unravelled.
  98. If an attractive young couple enters my realm, I will carefully monitor their activities. If I find they are happy and affectionate, I will ignore them. However if circumstance have forced them together against their will and they spend all their time bickering and criticizing each other except during the intermittent occasions when they are saving each others' lives at which point there are hints of sexual tension, I will immediately order their execution.
  99. Any data file of crucial importance will be padded to 1.45Mb in size.
  100. Finally, to keep my subjects permanently locked in a mindless trance, I will provide each of them with free unlimited Internet access.
This Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach. If you enjoy it, feel free to pass it along or post it anywhere, provided that (1) it is not altered in any way, and (2) this copyright notice is attached.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I knew you'd be back

She says "Well, well, I knew you'd be back eventually."

Some things to think about:
  • Who is she?
  • Have you met her before?
  • If not, has she mistaken you for someone else?
  • What does she have?
  • An object? Information? Something else?
  • How much does she want for it?
  • Does she take you to it or give it to you?
  • Are you in danger?
  • From whom?
Take it from there.

Names, names

Choose a funny and a serious name for each of the following:

a desert town
a race horse
a space shuttle
a manga or comic book title
a new disease
a beauty salon
a polluted river
a burglar
a yacht
a literary magazine

Adapted from "Naming the Diner, Naming the Diet, Naming the Dog" in What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

List poem

Despite the fact that this idea comes from a book about writing poetry, it gets at the same idea as capturing images in your Writer's Journal. It's about noticing the quirky details that bring a scene to life.

So make a list of things around you, perhaps what's on your desk. Perhaps the family room. Perhaps a busy coffee shop. Be aware of the details. It's not just a pencil, it's an unsharpened pencil, a chewed pencil, a neon pencil, a weary pencil ...

If you want to be poetic, go back over your list and organize them in a satisfying order.

Robert Mitchell suggests that such an exercise will help you "begin to see the possibility of 'speaking' in images rather than in sentences or concepts." Fiction writers kind of need sentences or readers won't stick around long ;-) but we can borrow the poets' penchant for painting images with words.

From: The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach, edited by Robin Behn and Chase Twichell.

Turn around

Write down 10 things that you hate. Now create a character who loves one of them. Write a scene where she has just lost what she loves, has just regained it or believes she's about to finally get it.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


This week pay particular attention to the elderly when you're making notes of people you see in your writer's notebook

As an exercise, try listing least a dozen ways to suggest someone is very old. Then scroll down and see some others that you may want to note as you're observing.
oversized nose and ears
amount of hair (many women's hair thins as they age too)
hair line
color of hair
condition/thinness of skin
age spots
shaky hands
slow pace
unsteady gait
quality of vision
sensible shoes
pants hiked up
condition of hearing
quality of voice
bird-like appetite
attitude or outlook
where they are on Saturday night

Half of the above are mine and half from "Funny, you don't look 75" in What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

(There's also a revised edition in hard back of What if? but I haven't seen that one yet.)

Behind the name

If you enjoy choosing names by meaning, Behind the Name is not only a useful site but an accurate one. (Both my name and my daughter's name (Joyce and Kathryn) are often misdefined in baby name books as being related to "joyous" and "pure", neither of which is correct. This site traces both back accurately.)

Name Translator translates a name into a different nationality (with lots of options to choose from).

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.)

For example, here's the list for "blue":
AZURE f English
AZZURRA f Italian
CYAN f English
KHAJAG m Armenian
LIVIUS m Ancient Roman
NEELA f Indian
NILA f Indian
QING f Chinese
SHYAM m Indian, Hindu Mythology
SINI f Finnish
SUNIL m Indian
THANH m & f Vietnamese
and "firey":
AODH m Irish, Scottish
AZAR f Iranian
BASTET f Egyptian Mythology
BRENTON m English
CINÁED m Scottish
FINTAN m Irish
HOURIG f Armenian
HUO m & f Chinese
JOASH m Biblical
NINA (3) f Native American
OGNYAN m Bulgarian
PLAMEN m Bulgarian
PYRRHUS m Greek Mythology (Latinized), Ancient Greek (Latinized)
SHULA f Arabic

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Abhorring masonry

Kathryn's down with a cold :-( so I haven't had much time to mess with prompts. Here's a standby that's easy to generate and that I have fun with. Write 10 sentences that contain all of the words in each group.
  • abhorring, masonry, east, aerobics, swallowtail
  • loop, solicitation, shiverer, subrange, marten
  • clamp, evicting, overseers, six, them
  • blighted, ozone, undressed, envisaged, spanner
  • phrased, valiant, sneer, scrolled, apocalypse
  • pansy, there, patented, octopus, sunbeams
  • writ, someplace, intellect, respected, furthermost
  • lossiest, molder, characteristic, tabernacles, fragmentation
  • vitae, unsatisfactory, pacts, aboriginal, summoner
  • luckily, semesters, raged, allayed, springtime
Hmmm. Those words are automatically generated from a huge spreadsheet and looking over some of them ... vitae? lossiest? ... I think I need to do some editing! ;-)

A bonsai, a toothbrush and some loose change

Pick one of the following sets of words as a writing prompt.
  • A bonsai, a toothbrush and some loose change.
  • A birdfeeder, an oak tree and a broken paddle.
  • A mouse, a silver tray and a ship in a bottle.
  • Macaroni and cheese, a box of matches and an empty cup.
  • A bale of hay, a diamond and a comic book.
These were generated on the Random Writing Prompts page at Glen and Karen Bledsoe's website

Feel free to mix and match or go to the website and generate new pieces for parts that don't grab you. (I went through several interations to avoid contemporary items like basketballs.)

Character Questionnaire

Time to create a character (or 2 or 3).

The temptation will be to agnonize over the answers to create the perfect character.

To avoid that try creating 3:
  1. one that you'd love to write about
  2. one whose answers are the total opposite (the bad guy perhaps?)
  3. one just to goof around with (the plucky sidekick?)
If you don't know the answer to a question skip it or, even better, put down something wild! It's not carved in stone and it may spark some ideas that brings the character to life for you. (You can always toss it out at the end if it doesn't fit.)

There are 90 questions and I'll send them out 3 per day so you don't feel overwhelmed. If you skip a day or 10 days, don't sweat it. No one question is key. Just pick up again with that day's questions.

Day 1
  • What does he want more than anything in the world?
  • What one object would she grab if her house were on fire?
  • What secret does he hope is never revealed? Does anyone else know it?
Day 2
  • What does she fear most in the world? How far would she go to avoid it?
  • If she could have one object from his childhood back again, what would it be?
  • When faced with her worst enemy, what does she do?
Day 3
  • What piece of artwork does he have in a space he calls his own?
  • If she could only keep one photograph from her childhood, what would it be?
  • Your character walks into his home and sees blood on the floor? What's his first reaction?
Day 4
  • What hobbies or side interests are most important to her?
  • What does he always carry with him?
  • What does her bedroom look like?
Day 5
  • If he had a free day, what would he do?
  • She's been told she has a month to live. What would she do?
  • Make a list of all the things that are important to him, including principles, physical things, emotional things. Go back through the list and circle the things he'd be willing to fight or die for.
Day 6
  • What was her last nightmare? What was her last pleasant dream?
  • Whose forgiveness does he seek and why?
  • What does she daydream about?
Day 7
  • Who refuses to speak to him and why?
  • If she were told she was destined to fulfill a great prophecy, how would she react?
  • Who important in his life has died and how did he handle it?
Day 8
  • What does she feel about fate and destiny?
  • What scars does he have? What are the stories behind them?
  • What tattoos does she have? Why? If she doesn't would she? What would it be if she would?
Day 9
  • How would his parents describe him as a child and now?
  • Who is her best friend?
  • Who is his worst enemy?
Day 10
  • What one person does she most wish she didn't have to put up with, but feels she has to?
  • Who is his confidant?
  • Who did she give presents to on the last gift giving occasion? What did she give?
Day 11
  • What was his favorite gift that he received of all time? Who gave it to him?
  • Does she have a green thumb?
  • Does he have pets? Did he have a special pet as a child?
Day 12
  • Make up 3 book titles he read last year.
  • What does he do when stress builds up?
  • What’s her favorite retreat?
Day 13
  • Does she feel she has responsibilities that are more than she can handle? What is she doing about them?
  • What did she want to be when she grew up?
  • What does he want to do but can’t?
Day 14
  • What was on her wish list when she was a child?
  • What is his secret dream?
  • What did her parents say to her that she’ll never forget?
Day 15
  • He has a box of things stashed away that he won’t get rid of. What’s in that box?
  • What is her worst flaw according to you? What does she think her worst flaw is?
  • What is his greatest strength according to you? What does he think his greatest strength is?
Day 16
  • What is her greatest regret in life? Does she intend to do something about it?
  • What major thing does he want to accomplish in life?
  • How does she feel about growing old?
Day 17
  • He has an award on his shelf. What’s it for? Does he feel he deserves it?
  • Has she ever struck someone in anger? How does she feel about that?
  • What makes him embarrassed?
Day 18
  • What makes her proud?
  • Does he still keep in touch with his childhood friends? Which ones? Why?
  • Write about her favorite birthday (or favorite holiday that went perfectly).
Day 19
  • Write about his worst birthday (or favorite holiday that went badly.)
  • What rule would she say is the most important to live by?
  • Is there anyone he despises?
Day 20
  • She has just received an envelope. It fills her with dread. What’s in it?
  • List 5 things that could motivate him to violence.
  • List 3 things that could motivate her to kill.
Day 21
  • What is his romantic history? Best? Worst?
  • What about her annoys others?
  • Does he like poetry?
Day 22
  • How would she describe her ideal mate? How would you?
  • If a spell turned him into the animal that most resembles his heart, what would he turn into?
  • What’s the strangest thing she ever did?
Day 23
  • What’s the luckiest thing that ever happened to him?
  • If she had unlimited wealth, what would she spend it on?
  • If he was a writer, what would he write?
Day 24
  • If she could be someone else, who would she be?
  • Describe the nature and intensity of his religious feelings?
  • What three adjectives best describe her inner nature? What three would she pick?
Day 25
  • What three adjectives best describe his outer nature? What three would he pick?
  • How does she expect to be treated differently than she treats others?
  • What sort of legacy does he wish to leave behind?
Day 26
  • What would she like written on her tombstone? What would others write?
  • Write an obituary for him.
  • What person has most influenced her development as an adult?
Day 27
  • Who were his heroes as a child?
  • What was the biggest lie she ever told?
  • Has he ever broken any laws? Why? Does he feel justified?
Day 28
  • What does she think is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen?
  • What does he think is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen?
  • What does she think is her purpose in life?
Day 29
  • What trait most annoys him when he encounters it in others?
  • Does she feel responsible for anyone besides herself?
  • How well does he handle change?
Day 30
  • Does she have any artistic talent (writing, drawing, music)? Are they well developed or raw? Secret or public?
  • Does he swear?
  • How does she respond when unjustly accused of something?

Most character creation charts begin (and often are limited to) physical appearance but that's really the least important aspect of a character. These questions will help you get inside the psyche of your character to know what formed him and what makes him tick.

The 90 questions I chose are adapted from 365, Volume 1: 365 Character Questions for Writers and Roleplayers by Heather Grove. If you really like the idea, consider going there to download the full PDF and giving her a donation since she obviously put a lot of work into it! (There's a slightly different format at Character Questionnaire where the questions are grouped by category.)

Top 10 tabloid headlines for March 2006

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.) 
  10. 500,000 FLAWED DICTIONARIES DESTROYED — because 'cleanliness' is next to 'godliness'! — WWN