Thursday, June 29, 2006


Click for a larger image.

What is this?
What's going to happen?
Where is it?
Why are you here?

Go from there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


superstitionsAssume there is real magic behind superstitions. Pick a superstition and tell why it works. Here's a selection if you need one. (There were too many to choose from! ;-)
  • Meeting a dog - good luck (especially Dalmatians)
  • Naming a bear - provokes attack
  • To hide in a bull's pen - immunity from lightning
  • A cat washing on the doorstep - the clergy will visit
  • Good Luck: Sneezing 3 times before breakfast
  • Good Luck: Looking at the new moon over your right shoulder
  • Good Luck: Putting a dress on inside out
  • Good Luck: Golfers can have a successful day on the course if they start their round with odd numbered clubs and don't use balls with numbers higher than 4
  • See a penny, pick it up; all day long you will have good luck.
  • Bad Luck: If pepper is spilt, then you will have a serious argument with a friend.
  • Bad Luck: Sparrows are said to carry the souls of the deceased to the after-life. To kill one means that you will be cursed.
  • Bad Luck: Never mend a garment while you are wearing it, or misfortune will follow.
  • Bad Luck: New shoes should never be left on a table
Superstitions are from Old Superstitions

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilder questions


Here's a link to Patricia Wrede's Worldbuilder questions to ask when creating a fantasy world.

It looks like an awesome set of questions to ask yourself as you're creating a world, some you'd never think to think about. The questions are categorized. (I've listed the categories below.) Here's a sampling, one question from each category:
  • Do non-human races have their own games and leisure pastimes? How do they differ from human games? How do they reflect the physiology and/or particular magical talents of the non-human races?
  • How are living quarters arranged? Are bedrooms on the top floors for privacy or on the ground floor for convenience? Are parlors or libraries common? How are houses heated/cooled?
  • How is the day divided into smaller time units? What are they (Hour of the Lark, Sunrise Bell, Nones, etc.)? Are the names relevant to anything? Is the length of an hour fixed, or does it vary depending on changes in the length of the day as the seasons change?
  • Is forensic magic possible? Commonly used? Admissible in court? Used only for certain types of crimes (and if so, what)? Is it something any wizard can do, or do you have to specialize?
  • What things are considered luxuries--chocolate, coffee, cotton, flush toilets, spices?
  • What foods do non-humans like, and how do these differ from those favored by humans? Are some foods poisonous or distasteful to one species that are delicacies or necessary to another?
  • How many changes of clothes can a normal person afford? A noble person? A peasant?
  • What eating utensils are used, if any? Forks, eating knife, spoons, chopsticks, what?
  • What is the literacy level in the general population? Is literacy considered a useful/necessary skill for nobility, or something only scribes/clerks/wimps need?
  • How much do official attitudes toward other countries affect commerce and trade? Do merchants pretty much ignore tensions between governments as long as they can make a profit, or will this get them into trouble?
  • What gestures are insulting? What do they mean? Do some gestures differ in meaning depending on the culture or time (example: the American "V" for victory sign, which became the peace sign, is/was highly insulting in Europe)?
  • How has the presence of magic and magicians affected law and government? Are wizards barred from certain kinds of government jobs or offices? Do some positions require that their holder be a wizard?
  • How are two people who have not met before introduced to each other? What is the order of precedence when there are several people of differing sex, social status, or race/species present who must all be introduced to each other?
  • What areas do local slang phrases come out of? (Example: In a fishing town, referring to good luck as "a good catch"; in a farming town, as "a good harvest", etc.) What kinds of colorful turns of phrase do people use?
  • What level is medicine at? Who are the healers? Do you have to have a talent to heal? Who trains healers, herbalists, apothecaries, surgeons, magical vs. nonmagical healers, etc?
  • How has the presence of magic affected weapons technology? Do you have to do anything special to armor, weapons, walls, to make them better able to resist spells?
  • How important are "good manners" in this society? How do "good manners" differ from race to race? How to people/dwarves/elves/dragons react when someone has just been, by their standards, rude?
  • What customs surround death and burial? Is there a special class of people (doctors, priests, funeral directors, untouchables) who deal with dead bodies?
  • Are there certain classes of people (wizards, foreigners, children, peasants, women) who have fewer legal rights or less recourse than full citizens? Why? Are they considered mentally or morally deficient, a danger to the state, or is there some other rational?
  • If there are non-human inhabitants, are there any areas they particularly claim as their own (e.g., dwarves in caves under mountains)?
  • If there are imaginary animals (dragons, unicorns, etc.) how do they fit into the ecology? What do they eat? How much and what kind of habitat do they require? Are they intelligent and/or capable of working spells, talking, etc.? How common are they? Are any endangered species?
  • What water resources are available, and for what uses? (Example: a mill wheel requires flowing water, i.e., a river or stream; irrigation needs a large, dependable water source like a lake or large river, etc.)
  • How far back are there records or tales of historical events? How widely known are these stories?
  • How diverse is the population of this country--how many different races (human or non-human), creeds, etc. normally live in various cities and towns in this country? In what percentages?
  • Is there tension, rivalry, or outright hostility between any of the actual gods? How does this affect church politics? Court politics? People's everyday lives?
  • Is there much immigration into or out of various countries? Why? To or from what other areas?
  • How do the various temples and philosophies explain the classic "problem of evil"? Do they think bad things are always a just punishment for some transgression, a character-building exercise, the result of an evil antagonist (Satan, Loki), or just something the gods can't prevent?
  • Where does magic power come from: the gods, "mana" (cf. Larry Niven's Warlock stories), the personal will-power of the magician, etc.? Is it an exhaustible resource?
  • How are farming/food-producing areas divided up between humans/nonhumans? What kinds of conflicts are likely (example: expanding human farms encroaching on the forests werewolves or dragons use for hunting)?
  • In what areas might magic replace technology, and thus suppress its development (example: if a spell to keep food cold is easy and cheap, there's no need to invent refrigerators)? In what areas might magic cause more rapid technological or scientific development (common use of crystal balls might lead someone to think of inventing the lens/telescope sooner)?
  • Does it require a license to be a wizard? A driver's type license (something nearly everyone gets upon coming of age) or a doctor's-type license (something that only a small portion of the population will ever get)? Who certifies wizards: the government, wizard's guild, local priests, independent accounting firm?
  • How do people find out what is happening in the world -- rumor, town crier, newspapers, TV and radio? How slanted is the news they get this way, and in what direction? Is there freedom of the press? If not, who controls/censors it and through what means?
  • Does city layout reflect some philosophy (religious or architectural or political), such as that the "head" of the city must be at the center, the highest point, or the most strategic location? Or were layout considerations mainly practical? Or did most cities "just grow"?
  • What is considered a courteous response to a host's offer? Are there things it is considered rude to accept? Rude to turn down? Rude to ask for? Rude not to ask for?
  • What are the accepted conventions for making war (example: only fight in winter when nobody is busy with crops; don't make war on civilians; only certain kinds of weapons are used; etc)? Do they differ from race to race?
  • Does a magician's magical ability or power change over time --e.g., growing stronger or weaker during puberty, or with increasing age? Can a magician "use up" all of his/her magic, thus ceasing to be a magician? What do such magicians do then--retire to teach, commit suicide, get a normal day job, go into consulting?

The categories:
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Architecture
  • Calendar
  • Crime and the Legal System
  • Daily Life
  • Diet
  • Fashion and Dress
  • Eating customs
  • Education
  • Foreign Relations
  • Gestures
  • Government
  • Greeting and Meeting.
  • Language
  • Magic and Magicians
  • Magic and Technology
  • Manners
  • Medicine
  • People and Customs -- Ethics and Values
  • Physical and Historical Features
  • Climate and Geography
  • Natural Resources
  • General History
  • History of a Specific Country
  • Politics
  • Population
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Rules of Magic
  • Rural Factors
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Organization
  • Transportation and Communication
  • Urban Factors
  • Visits
  • War
  • Wizards

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Solemnly stuffed

glass.jpgUse the following words as a writing prompt ... in the order given! A bit more of a challenge but easier to keep track of which words you've used. ;-) (Expect to not get through all of them.)
glass blower
buzz bomb

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"From my point of view ..."

duomechaDescribe an event from 3 different points of view. You can use one of the following ideas if you wish. Feel free to play around with them.
  • Mecha pilot on his or her first long-anticipated mission, person oppressed by those who command the mechas, mechanic who has to fix the mechas after young reckless pilots bring them back.

  • Weary dragon rider putting on a performance, a child watching for the first time, dragon wishing it could be free, spouse of the dragon rider who fears flying.

  • Star ship captain on his or her first mission landing on a planet that hasn't be visited by outsiders before, an inhabitant of the planet, the red shirt who is going to get killed.

  • Newly made vampire who was turned unwillingly, her victim who has just been dumped by his girlfriend, vampire hunter who lives on the blood of vampires but is on a quest to eliminate them all.

  • Person facing a dilemma, shoulder angel, shoulder devil.
Inspired by #21 of What If?: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mysterious places

mysteriousbritain.jpgIf you need some inspiration on creating mysterious places, Mysterious Britain has a nice collection.

The main collection is at Featured Sites. There are photos, history, legends, enigmas for the sites listed. Some have a "Photo Gallery" link next to the name for more pictures.

If you go to the Home page there are links to more though shorter articles about other sites.

Here's a bit from "The Aldworth Giants".
The tiny atmospheric parish church at Aldworth, contains numerous huge effigies of the De La Beche family. The figures are supposed to be life size representations, depicting knights all over seven feet tall.

According to tradition the giants were known by other names: John Long, John Strong, John Never Afraid and John Ever Afraid. The effigy said to represent John Ever afraid no longer exists, but was set in an alcove in the outside wall of the church, which has now been blocked. It is said that he sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for worldly riches. The bargain was that the Devil would claim his soul whether he was buried inside or outside the church. Burying his body within the church walls meant that the Devil was cheated of his prize.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Surreal shopping list

olddog.jpgWrite a surreal "shopping list."

Have on your list one of the first thing, two of he second thing, three of the third ... If you want, have a theme running through it.

Let your imagination flow and list however many things 10-15 minutes will let you.

Here's an example if you need a jump start. The prompt and example were created by cuddledumplin at [a now defunct site].
  • One guard dog too old and tired to bark.
  • Two idealistic dancing robots who are short on skill but long on daring.
  • Three cups of sweet soup made from pansies, honey, cinnamon, and cream.
  • Four American tourists with faces more ironic than Wallace Stevens eating a vanilla cone at Versailles.
  • Five nightsticks of carved jade in the shape of slender elephants with diamond eyes and golden trunks that are used to squish ants.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Story spinner

lighthouse.jpgPick one of the following as a 10-15 minute writing prompt. Try to get all 4 words into your story.
  • Setting: in a lighthouse
    Starting phrase: "I remember disliking"
    4 words: wrestle, adamant, king-size bed, asterisk

  • Setting: in a ditch
    Starting phrase: "She adjusted her halo"
    4 words: disguise, harpoon, boxing match, sever

  • Setting: in a state park
    Starting phrase: "The best hiding place"
    4 words: flannel, flaky, leopard, splinter

  • Setting: in Hollywood
    Starting phrase: "It's hard to believe, but"
    4 words: tumble, curve ball, bleach, Siberia

  • Setting: in a doorway
    Starting phrase: "Winning isn't"
    4 words: foreigner, azalea, 3-d glasses, dictionary
These were automatically generated by Story Spinner.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

VORN: Cut ups

VORN.jpgA writer and artist (William Burroughs and Brion Gysin) did some experimenting with cutting up text and others with cutting up pictures to juxtapose them to find meaning in things that had never been put together before. They would take random pages, divide them into squares (2x2), cut up the squares and then put random squares next to each other, lining up the text, to make new pages.

There's an implementation of this idea at Understanding VORN.

I'm fascinated by it. It hasn't inspired me yet but I think it's really cool. :-)

What they've done is pull random pictures whose tags start with the letters V,O,R,N. (For vorn magazine, a German based art magazine. Vorn means "ahead", "in front", "to the fore".) Then it displays them as a block.

Here's their explanation:
Every five minutes it scours thousands of weblogs [Flikr and LiveJournal it says lower on the page], searching for the four most recently posted pictures that begin with the letters 'V', 'O', 'R', 'N'. Every five minutes, UNDERSTANDING VORN changes, filled with fresh words and pictures from the blogosphere.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Hellbent Ledger

devilcat.jpgSet a timer for 10-15 minutes.

You're a weary demon reporter for the Hellbent Ledger in Hell. Interview a new angel in Heaven.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Angel Sun Times

As the days get longer, it seems that available time shrinks ;-) So I'll be slowing down a bit over the summer and just send out one prompt on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of two.

angelcat.jpgSet a timer for 10-15 minutes.

You're a brand new angel reporter for the Angel Sun Times who just barely got into Heaven. Interview a demon in hell.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Suspended sentences

ltcgoudyinitials2.gifThis is from David Parlett's Suspensions.

One player takes a short sentence from a novel, less than 10 words, and writes it down. To the rest of the players he announces the initial letters of each word. Each player then writes down a sentence with words that begin with those letters. The players pass those back to the person with the real sentence who then alphabetizes them by first word and then reads them. Players try to guess which is the original sentence.

Tip: If short sentences are hard to find, cut out some of the phrases.

If you want to keep score, give a point to each person whose sentence gets picked as the real one.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Resonant consonants

resonant.jpgMake a list of words that have the same consonants *sounds* as your first name. (Or name of a pet, your last name ...)

Joyce is a good example since the "j" sound can also come from a "g" and the "ce" sound can come from an "s".

Rhymezone can help. There's pull down menu there that says "Match consonants only". Which actually matches consonant sounds not just consonants.

Use 10 of those words in a story, paragraph or sentence.

This is in the same vein of the "By the sound of things" prompt: Paying attention to words that resonate together because of similar internal sounds.

Top 10 Tabloid Headlines for June 2006

WWN-Mermancaught.gifFrom The City Newsstand's (a newsstand/bookstore in Chicago) monthly MAGBAG -- Top 10 Tabloid Headlines. (Mostly from Weekly World News (WWN) and the SUN.) 
  4. Researcher finds more than 100 businesses that are like show business! — WWN
  8. Catholic school sisters trade in their wooden rulers for the ultimate disciplinary tool . . . NUN CHUCKS! — WWN
  10. SCIENTIST PROVES... EARTH IS GOING THROUGH MENOPAUSE! Global warming is Earth's hot flashes! — WWN