Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pocket Muse

pocket_muse.jpgMonica Wood, author of Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing and Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration, both of which are full of ideas and pictures to inspire, has been gathering writing tips since 2000 at her website.

Here's a sampling to get you inspired to click the link :-)
  • For the "cruelest month," [April] write about an act of cruelty that yields the opposite of the intended outcome.

  • If you're feeling anything like me today, the words are coming very hard. Try a word-association game with yourself to get the creative flow back. Start with an ordinary word: "tree." Then start associating like crazy until you come up with something that interests you. Tree, bird, sky, plane, hijacking. Try it again, with "road." Road, asphalt, steam, engine, battery, assault. I've just talked myself back into writing.

  • Think of two objects that are seemingly unconnected -- a house for sale and a model plane; a storm drain and an office window; a mantel clock and a yellow slicker -- and make a connection. Any connection at all, no matter how vague, will get something going.

  • A good scene--in fiction or nonfiction--contains layers. In other words, more than one thing is going on, no matter how straightforward the scene might appear. To find those layers, keep asking yourself, "What else?" For example, you might think the scene you're writing is about a man discovering his wife's affair. He's furious that she's been unfaithful. What else? He's a bit smug that his suspicion turned out to be right. What else? He's disappointed that his wife didn't choose a more attractive, interesting lover. What else? He's insulted that his wife didn't choose a more attractive, interesting lover! What else? He wonders, maybe a little, whether he himself might be unattractive and uninteresting, exactly the sort of man to whom his wife seems to be attracted. What else?

  • Why not take advantage of having been forced to listen to forty thousand versions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" last month? Write something that exploits one of the twelve lines. Begin a scene with nine ladies dancing, or write about somebody who is missing five gold rings. A partridge in a pear tree might be a bit much, but you could make a little hay with twelve guys on drums.

  • CRAFT: Some writers have a terrible time with titles, so here's an extremely subjective primer on choosing titles.

    The best titles, in my view, contain a noun--not an abstract noun like gratitude or restitution, but a muscular, concrete noun like lawn mower or blanket or streetwalker. Often, the noun has a modifier: "The 500-pound Lawn Mower"; "The Last Green Blanket"; "A Streetwalker's Bible." In short, pick something that puts a picture in the reader's head, along with a mystery. Think The Virgin Suicides. Think The Bluest Eye. Think The Sweet Hereafter.

    Verb forms make for uninteresting titles, I think, especially gerunds. "Disappearing" is my worst title ever, to an early short story. Gerunds strike me as too thematic, too calculated to announce the story's intentions. Titles like "Telling Lies," "Leaving Home," "Knowing the Score" (not actual titles, to my knowledge) don't draw me in. There is no picture to hang onto. Waiting for Godot is terrible, if I may be so bold; The Bald Soprano is great. Verbs can work well, though, if used as an imperative--for example, Come To Me by Amy Bloom; Read This and Tell Me What It Says by Manette Ansay.

    I also love possessives in titles: My first published story was called "Alison's Hair," and I still like this awkward, young story, partly for sentimental reasons, but mostly because the title still pleases me. One more thing about titles--often they will come late in the writing process, as a sign that you finally "get" what the story's about. What a feeling!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Up to no evil

yin_yang_eye.jpgNo evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. Plato (427 BC - 347 BC)

Is it true? Is it not true? Does someone believe it's true and then oops? What about its opposite "No good can happen to an evil man, either in life or after death?"

See where it takes you for 10 to 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

M.E.R.R.Y. C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

our-saviors_birthday_you-en.jpgMerry Christmas! Here's something to do while you wait for everyone else to get up so you can open your presents :-)

What if the following were acronyms? What would they stand for? They can deal with Christmas or not, you decide.
And here's a present for you Star Trek fans: New Star Trek episodes.

Considering everyone's doing this for free just for love of Star Trek, they aren't bad. (Try one of the newer ones to begin.) The special effects are quite good and George Takei gets to show off his sword skills in World Enough and Time :-)

Hope your day is a joyous one!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A stork, onion rings, and some building blocks

stork_blocks_onion_rings.jpgWrite a holiday or seasonal story using one of the following sets of objects:
  • A stork, onion rings, and some building blocks.
  • A gumdrop, a pair of snowshoes, and a bucket of sand.
  • A can of soda, a romance novel, and a rubber animal nose.
  • A new puppy, a silver bell, and a disguise.
  • A cardboard box, an old car, and some peppermint candy.
Words generated at Random Writing Prompt Generators where there are several writing prompt generators.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A not so wintry tale

wind.jpgUse as many of the following words as you can in a piece (story, song, poem or whatever you come up with!) that isn't about winter or the holidays.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What to do after NaNo

lady_writing_a_letter.jpgHere's a list of upcoming writing challenges posted at the NaNoWriMo website. On that page there are also "Thoughts on publishing" and "Tips on rewriting."

  • Script Frenzy - NaNoWriMo's sister challenge (April). Goal: Write a 100-page screenplay or stage play in April.

  • - National Novel Finishing Month (December). Goal: 30,000 words.

  • JaNoWriMo - January Novel Writing Month (January). Goal: 50,000 words, or whatever goal you set.

  • FAWM - February Album Writing Month (February). Goal: Write 14 original songs in a month.

  • NaNoEdMo - National Novel Editing Month (March). Goal: Commit to 50 hours of novel editing.

  • JulNoWriMo - July Novel Writing Month (July). Goal: 50,000 words for a new or unfinished manuscript.

  • 24 Hour Comics Day - (Changes annually, lasts 24 hours). Goal: Draw a 24-page comic in one 24-hour period.

  • 48 Hour Film Project - (Varies; operates via tours around the USA, lasts 48 hours). Goal: Create a short film in 48 hours.

  • Book in a Week - (Begins on the Monday of the first full week of each month, lasts one week). Goal: Write a novel.

  • Mad Challenge - (Varies). Goal: Complete a variety of point challenges issued by moderators, including writing 10,000 in 5 hours.

  • April Fool's - (April). Goal: Set a word-count goal for yourself and fulfill it by the end of the month.

  • 3-Day Novel Contest - (August 30-September 1). Goal: Write a novel in three days.

  • NaPlWriMo - National Playwriting Month (November). Goal: Write a play in one month.

  • NaNoMangO - The artist's alternative to NaNoWriMo (June and November). Goal: Draw 30 pages of sequential art in one month. (Though try searching on NaNoMangO and the year. There are several communities that host this.)

  • AugNoWriMo - August Novel Writing Month (August). Goal: Write a novel in one month.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Go outside and play

outside_small.jpg(Click to enlarge) Use the picture for a 10-15 minute writing prompt.

A few questions to get you started:
  • Why are they there?
  • Do they know each other?
  • How are they related to each other?
  • Who put the couch and TV there?
  • Did the couch and TV arrive at the same time?
  • Why are they watching on TV what they can see with their eyes?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


whortleberries.jpgUse one of the following as a first line:

"I didn't trust a smile with that many teeth ..."
"Whortleberries and tart lime ..."
"The blue mists..."
"His compassion was like a shadow,..."
"I call it a filthy honor, when..."

These come from: Story Ideas: The first words.

(She has a couple more interesting generators there too.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Truth is stranger

lucky_diamond_rich.jpgI could tie this into writing in a number of ways -- they all undoubtedly have stories behind their current appearance for one thing -- but I'll just let The Top 10 Physically Modified People inspire you.

Also check out the list of favorites on the right side like "11 phenomenal images of earth", "interesting elevators", "9 creative staircases", "10 of the best natural phenomena". The monthly archives take you to a page of summaries. Clicking on a title will take you to the pictures.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Splashed with white

window.jpgPick one of the following rooms and let the description inspire what follows for 10-15 minutes.

When you're done writing, go to the The Room Description Generator and generate 50 rooms. The wording in some is a bit awkward since they're all automatically generated. Read through the descriptions. Note when your attention gets sparked. While the writing won't be winning any Pulitzer Prizes ;-) the fact that it's so starkly descriptive makes the attention grabbing phrases stand out even more. In contrast, prize winning writing tends to be so well crafted that it leaves you overwhelmed with the writer's skill. This is baby steps.

Give some thought to why something grabbed your attention to help sparkle up your own descriptions. For me it was four things: the contradictions, the scents, the action descriptors and the concrete images.

Contradiction suggest a deliberate action with reasons that aren't apparent. Which is one of the foundational rules of writing: raise questions in your reader's mind. We're pattern seeking creatures. When things don't immediately fit we subconsciously seek reasons why they've happened as they've happened. Why would a grand room with dark rose walls have a packed floor?

The rooms are static but then the scents imply something has happened (again raising questions): a person has passed through (cologne), some event happened (mildew from flood or rain or broken roof). Sound would have worked too. In fact it's another of the foundational rules of writing: bring in all the senses.

While I don't know if the writer of the phrases intended the walls to be literally splashed, it's a more dynamic image than painted. :-)

Concrete images is fairly self explanatory. They create strong images in our minds: "warm brown evocative of cocoa" (also worked in a sense there), "The floor is a patchwork of small rugs."

  • It's a simple room, with walls splashed in springtime green and a floor that's peeling linoleum. It is adequately lit, though rather cavernous.

  • It's a vast room, but quite brightly lit. The walls are obscured entirely by floor to ceiling bookshelves, broken up by lacy, pale pink curtains on the windows.

  • The floor in this room is dark blue carpet. The walls are an ugly orange with a border of stark white along the top and bottom. An unpleasant mildew smell is noticeable, until the surprising draft from the open window dissipates it.

  • The room is brightly lit, and expansive. The floor is dark blue carpet. One wall is carefully wallpapered in springtime green, while the rest are a warm brown evocative of cocoa.

  • The room is brightly lit, and confined. The floor is a dizzying pattern of tiling. One wall is painted in the colour of eggshells, while the rest are lavender. A burnt odor is palpable, until the strong wind from the open window dissipates it.

  • The scent of autumn leaves fills the air in this spacious room. The floor is a patchwork of small rugs, while the walls are cheerily splashed with white.

  • The walls in this grand room are covered in graffiti. Strong cologne hangs in the air. The floor is an intricate design of ceramic tiles.

  • This grand room is sunny. The walls are dark rose. Cigar smoke is noticeable. The floor is nothing but packed dirt.

  • There are sheer curtains decorating the open windows in this vast room. The odor of unwashed bodies that suffuses the room is stirred by the warm wind from the windows.

  • The room is almost lightless, and cramped. The floor is carpeted in nondescript beige. One wall is painted in a drab white, while the rest are lavender.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Slider

The_Slider.jpgThe name of the book is The Slider. Write a summary of each chapter. (After you're done, if you want to see where the titles came from, click the picture.)
  1. Metal Guru
  2. Mystic Lady
  3. The Slider
  4. Baby Boomerang
  5. Spaceball Ricochet
  6. Buick MacKane
  7. Telegram Sam
  8. Rabbit Fighter
  9. Baby Strange
  10. Ballrooms of Mars
  11. Chariot Choogle
  12. Main Man
  13. Cadillac
  14. Thunderwing
  15. Lady

Saturday, December 01, 2007

First impressions

Psychostick.jpgDid your NaNo novel finish the month titled "NaNo 2007"? Except for my first NaNo which was always called Flight, the other two were named at the last moment before I uploaded. If you still need a title, here's some title naming strategies.
  • Use the name of a character, place or significant object
  • Name plus some element from the story
  • Phrase from the novel
  • Line uttered by a character

  • Play on words (common in the mystery genre, often indicates a lighter tone) (Tea and Curses, No Time or Treason)
  • Play on a recognizable title (War and Pieces, Withering Heights)

  • There's a good brainstorming process to use at Write a Good Book Title and Greatly Increase the Marketability of Your Book!.

    The author suggests writing a paragraph description of your book. From that paragraph list all the nouns and verbs. Then for 5 minutes make combinations of the two. Don't worry if some don't make sense together! If you don't like any of the combinations together, then spend 5 minutes brainstorming words related to your nouns and verbs then repeat making combinations. When you find a verb and noun pair you like, then spend 5 minutes brainstorming phrases using that pair of words.

  • And another more focused brainstorming process at Title Creation on DeviantArt, which helps you play around with character names, settings and themes.

  • Here's a couple of random title generators. The first, Random Book Title Generator, is completely random but comes up with some surprisingly intriguing titles like "The Missing Night", "Living Tales", and "Widow of the Prophecy". The second, Title Generator by Aabashenya, asks for some help like a verb ending in -ing, a plural noun, which, if you did one of the previous two brainstorm processes, can be well focused for your book.

  • Alter phrases, epigrams, cliches, aphorisms, idioms: Cliche Web and CLICHÉS: AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE

  • Use phrases from Shakespeare, Bible, and Nursery rhymes:

    A short Shakespeare list
    A longer Shakespeare list
    More extensive list (with links to sources)
    Several thousand (with links to sources)
    Probably the most extensive (listed by play)

    Old Testament extensive (Bartlett's)
    New Testament extensive (Bartlett's)

    I want Bartleby's results to be better displayed, but there's a wealth of searchable books there (Bartlett's Quotations, Columbia Encyclopedia, Brewer's Phrase and Fable, Bullfinch's Mythology, author's works in the public domain and loads more.) (The books have nicer formatting. It's just the engine that searches all the books that returns some ugly results.)

  • Be inspired by titles in your genre. The most likely part of your book to be changed by an editor is the title. Readers expect genre titles to conform to a certain feel, that is The Elemental Fire Queen of Goronji probably isn't a mystery. ;-) Here's some lists of books:
    Fairy tales
    Fantasy novels
    Science fiction
    Fictional (not fiction!) books
    Best sellers
    Also try Amazon. Type in some key words from your book and see what Search turns up.

  • And finally, here's a Fantasy Novel Title Generator. You can generate from 1 to 50 titles at a time. Here's some examples:
    Child's Discord
    Desert of the Shining Stone
    Eladian's Lady
    Dalisrte's Emerald
    Demon's Discord
    Heart, Autumn and Stone
    Hirorte's Winter
    Mistress of Pride
    Secret Hero of Enijil
    Spell Sea of Ortanor
    Spirit Citadel of Redudiel
    Storm's Fate
    The Destiny of Quainill
    The Elven Master
    The Faerie Demon
    The Fire of the Citadel
    The Illusion of Hirotanor
    The Iron Faerie
    The Trisimene Winter
    The Legend of Reduldas
    The Night of the Spirit
    The Pillana Master
    The Prophecy of Pilmene
    The Orbar Wizard The Repetidian Sun
    The Rogue and the Master
    The Rune Ruby
    Unholy Heart of Egibar
    Valdiriel's Spirit
    Winter and Prophecy

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Chocolate skunk

chocolateskunk.jpgFor each set of 7 words, generate a sentence. To make it extra challenging, use them in order. (Feel free to change tenses and word forms.)
  1. gallop crooked siren macabre fluttering shudder vintage
  2. torment traveler deftly surprise poem hairy ticket
  3. shy skull brash horror release rage journey
  4. traitor tranquil raced deadly grumpy rhapsody jagged
  5. temple reward tunnel foster sick tournament spotless
  6. chocolate harrowing skunk jokes wander artist frightened
  7. sequined insectoid shallow daunting pyramid book gorgeous
  8. competition ooze foggy flames spiral stranger quickest
  9. coward thief scared eyeball screech laugh strange
  10. tease shiver ancient twitch squealed absorb liar
  11. angel nasty fever visitor dependable modified curved
  12. impenetrable fuzzy unusual outstanding microscopic talons typical
  13. deep triumphant evaded wings flipped overgrown stripes
  14. foolish slobbered idiot adroit acrobat cherish cheater
  15. magnetic patrol hidden guess vanish shard crawled
  16. teeming dancer thrill transform mask thirst limber
  17. deny dictator sweat swelling worried rust curdling
  18. brave checkered sly fierce hobbled underneath fatal
  19. beast distant altered ingenious ruined flammable mirror
  20. certain clever guard accident screeched spiky slimy

Saturday, October 27, 2007

National Novel Writing Month

nanowrimo.gifNational Novel Writing Month begins November 1! (Next Thursday.)

If you haven't heard about NaNoWriMo before, all across the world, people set aside the month of November to try to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Just 30 days. (Most people participating have jobs or go to school so those are not excuses!)

Yes, it's insane but it's also a lot of fun :-)

What's the point? Well, for one thing, to prove to yourself you can do it. For another, to get the experience of writing without editing. That second thing is the most powerful for me: learning to write without asking yourself if it's good or not. As Chris Baty has said:
The key to NaNoWriMo success is to lower your expectations from 'best seller' to 'would not make someone vomit.' -- Chris Baty
The goal is to produce words. Not great prose. Just words. You can plan ahead of time, think up a plot, but no actual writing of the novel until November 1.

My daughter Kat (16) and I have done it (and completed it! often with minutes to spare ;-) 3 times now and are planning to do it again.

I've done it twice with ideas I came up with the night before. Last year I had a handful of random characters about a week before.

Considering the novel I was working on before NaNoWriMo (for ::: cough ::: 20 years) was just 100,000 words of notes, it truly amazed me that a novel could flow out (okay struggle out somedays ;-) of me without a great deal of planning. :-)
The biggest thing separating people from their artistic ambitions is not a lack of talent. It's the lack of a deadline. -- Chris Baty
You don't have to finish the novel. You just need to produce at least 50,000 words of the novel. No one reads what you've written. When you're done, you upload the file and a machine counts the words. (Apparently it's very generous about what it considers a word.) If it counts at least 50,000, you win!

What do you win? The satisfaction of having written a novel! :-) (And also a downloadable certificate you can print out and hang on your refrigerator.)

There are several people who have gone on to complete and polish their NaNoWriMo projects and gotten them published. So you never know!
Writing can be more fun if you stop trying to get it perfect on the first go-round. You can get it perfect in the rewrite. The first draft is all about making wonderful messes. -- Chris Baty
To produce 50,000 words by the end of November, the minimum you need to write is 1700 words per day. That doesn't give you much padding for the days the words aren't flowing and for little things like Thanksgiving, so setting a goal of 2000 words a day gives some generous padding.

Chris Baty, who began the insanity, says in his "No Plot, No Problem" book that it takes most people 1.5 - 2 hours a day. The truth is that it takes as much time as you give it. If you give it all day, it takes all day. (Which it does for Kat and me ;-)

NaNoWriMo has a website (above) with lots of tips and a massive message board with a huge number of tips and ideas and lots and lots of support from people who are also putting themselves through the torture. (There are folders where people are giving away plots and characters for the taking :-) There are regional "write-ins" where NaNoWriMoers gather in coffee shops and Pizza Huts to write together to encourage each other.

If you want to participate, go to the website and register. I think you don't have to register until you're ready to upload but if you do register you can post on the boards.

I'll be posting tips and such throughout the month (that can also be used as stand alone writing prompts).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hot trends and hatebooks

volkswagen-beetle.jpgGoogle Trends tracks searches that have shown sudden surges in popularity and updates the lists throughout the day.

Here's your character's most recent searches. Start writing about his or her life and why he or she is searching for these particular items. If you don't know what something is, make it up!
white dog poop
brussels griffon
light of doom
teacup pigs
teen witch
mute math
gossip girl dare devil
toto toilet

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Angel of Death

shinigaminoballadmomothegir.jpgThis is from the NaNoWriMo Adopt-a-plot folder where writers post extra plots they won't be using.

Use it as a 10-15 minute writing prompt or go for a longer piece.
#419: "A group of select people are contacted divinely and instructed to help others prepare themselves for death (yeah, probably in that weird angel-of-death way, and think the elderly or terminally ill). They're escorted by angels in human guise to their "charges". But the job is dangerous, as there are demons in human guise (pretending to be angels) trying to trick the people into helping people prepare for death who aren't about to go (such as people contemplating suicide, etc.)!" -- Xandurth

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Left vs Right

Here's a fun test. Is the dancer rotating right (clockwise) or left (counterclockwise)?

Left vs Right Brain: Test for creativity or logic (also here if that one disappears).

They say if she's rotating right you're using the right side of your brain, the artistic side. If she's rotating left you're using the left side of your brain, the logical side. I don't know if that's true or not, but it's a cool effect anyway!

For me she's usually rotating left, but sometimes she goes right. Which does conform to the engineer and artist parts in me. My daughter can make it switch back and for as she looks at it. I can't! When I look at it I can't imagine how it could possibly go other other way, even though it might switch directions next time I look at it :-)

What does that have to do with writing? Writing draws on both logic (left brain) and creativity (right brain). Stories need to make sense, be logical. They also need to be surprising. It's a balance. When structuring a story, some writers feel more comfortable relying on the logical side, some on the creative side. That's why some writing advisors will say you must plan your novel before beginning and others say planning will stifle creativity. The truth is whatever you find works for you. Play around with planning and not planning and you'll find the balance that works for you. (And the balance may change for different projects.)

With National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) coming up next month, you'll have a great opportunity to experience letting your right brain take the driver's seat. :-) (More on NaNoWriMo later.)

There are also right brain and left brain writing prompts. Right brain prompts often present random ideas and let your brain find connections. Left brain prompts often begin with a structure and let your brain use that as a foundation to play with ideas.

The WritingFix has a nice collection of right brain and left brain prompts. It used to be easy to navigate but someone "fixed" the layout and now it just makes your eyes hurt. (It also used to be easier to ignore the teacherly advice on how various exercises tie into the "important stuff" the kids are "supposed" to be learning from the exercise.) But here are some links (that link, at least as I'm writing this, to the pages with the more readable "unfixed" layout, with a nice navigation on the left.) I've used several of these as prompts here over the years.

Right brain writing prompts:
Word Games with Serendipity

Story Starters for Writers

Great Sentence Creators

Who/What/When/Where Game

Visual Sparks for Writers

Right-Brained Poetry Prompts

Alliterative Sparks for Writers

Miscellaneous Right-Brained Writing Prompts
Left brain writing prompts:
Start and Stop Game

Imitating Written Structures

Step-by-Step Mini Writers' Workshops

List Writes

Playing with Language

Structured Paragraphs

Left-Brained Poetry Prompts

Sausage Sentences (old prompt but "new improved" page layout)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Red cars go faster

bugatti-veyron.jpgUse as many of the phrases as you can in a 10-15 minute writing piece. (Order isn't important.)
I'm always right
hot metal
we start fires
pigeon detectives
the conformist takes all
limited edition yogurt
loveliest alarm
first, the lights
you got me wrong
red cars go faster
make up
meet the boss
amputee smile
city place
innocent child
come down captain
the pragmatist
what we all want
shut your eyes and you'll burst into flames
(In case you're curious, they came from song and band names on the album What We All Want.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You are what you eat

square-watermelons.jpgGo to your refrigerator and write down 10 random or oddest items in there. Write the introductory paragraphs of a character who only has those items in his or her refrigerator.

(Alternatively, go to the grocery store and go hog weird wild to choose 10 items.)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First things first

cat-farmhouse.jpgFirst lines of course! They come first for readers, though not necessarily for writers. It might even be the last line you write once you've written the story and know what it's all about.

The first line should create the need to know more. It sets up questions in the readers mind. Why? How did that happen? Who did it?

Here's the American Book Review's List of 100 best first lines from novels.

But even more grabbing to my mind, since I read genre fiction rather than literary fiction, are these collected by Allan Rousselle on his blog. (I like that idea of collecting a particular author's first lines. I'll have to try it!)

He also wrote an essay about First Lines.

There are also several great first lines at the post at the bottom of the page at Bibliobibuli.

Use these as writing prompts or examples of great first lines to inspire you.

Robert Heinlein

From Beyond This Horizon, his first published novel:
Their problems were solved: the poor they no longer had with them; the sick, the lame, the halt, and the blind were historic memories; the ancient casues of war no longer obtained; they had more freedom than Man has ever enjoyed. All of them should have been happy --

From The Day After Tomorrow:
"What the hell goes on here?"

From "Waldo":
The act was billed as ballet tap -- which does not describe it.

From "Magic, Inc.":
"Whose spells are you using, buddy?"

From "The Roads Must Roll":
"Who makes the roads roll?"

From "Requiem":
On a high hill in Samoa there is a grave.

From "The Long Watch":
Johnny Dahlquist blew smoke at the Geiger counter.

From "The Green Hills of Earth":
This is the story of Rhysling, the blind singer of the Spaceways -- but not the official version.

From The Puppet Masters:
Were they truly intelligent?

From "Jerry Was a Man":
Don't blame the Martians.

From The Door Into Summer:
One winter shortly before the Six Weeks War my tomcat, Petronius the Arbiter, and I lived in an old farmhouse in Connecticut.

From Have Space Suit -- Will Travel:
You see, I had this space suit.

From "The Year of the Jackpot":
At first Potiphar Breen did not notice the girl who was undressing.

From "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag":
"Is it blood, doctor?"

From Stranger in a Strange Land:
Once upon a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.

From Time Enough for Love:
History has the relation to truth that theology has to religion -- ie, none to speak of.

From The Number of the Beast:
"He's a Mad Scientist and I'm his Beautiful Daughter."

From The Cat Who Walks Through Walls:
"We need you to kill a man."

From To Sail Beyond the Sunset:
I woke up in bed with a man and a cat. The man was a stranger; the cat was not.

And lastly, a first line that certainly makes *me* want to read more, from "It's Great to be Back!":
"Hurry up, Allan!"

Stephen King

From Rage:
The morning I got it on was nice; a nice May morning.

From 'Salem's Lot:
Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son.

From The Shining:
Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.

From "Night Surf":
After the guy was dead and the smell of his burning flesh was on the air, we all went back down to the beach.

From "The Mangler":
Officer Hunton got to the laundry just as the ambulance was leaving -- slowly, with no sirens or flashing lights.

From "Trucks":
The guy's name was Snodgrass and I could see him getting ready to do something crazy.

From "The Ledge":
"Go on," Cressner said again. "Look in the bag."

From "The Lawnmower Man":
In previous years, Harold Parkette had always taken pride in his lawn.

From Cujo:
Once upon a time, not so long ago, a monster came to the small town of Castle Rock, Maine.

From "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption":
There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess -- I'm the guy who can get it for you.

From Christine:
This is the story of a lover's triangle, I suppose you'd say -- Arnie Cunningham, Leigh Cabot, and, of course, Christine.

From "The Mist":
This is what happened.

From It:
The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years -- if it ever did end -- began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.

From The Dark Tower:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

From "Secret Window, Secret Garden":
"You stole my story," the man on the doorstep said.

From "The Library Police":
Everything, Sam Peebles decided later, was the fault of the goddamned acrobat.

From "Dolan's Cadillac":
I waited and watched for seven years.

From "The Doctor's Case":
I believe there was only one occasion upon which I actually solved a crime before my slightly fabulous friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

From "Why We're in Vietnam":
When someone dies, you think about the past.

From "L.T.'s Theory of Pets":
My friend L.T. hardly ever talks about how his wife disappeared, or how she's probably dead, just another victim of the axe man, but he likes to tell the story of how she walked out on him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

No want!

mace.jpgWrite a want ad or a for sale ad.

Here's some ideas to get the juices flowing:

  • The unexpected litter of dragon hatchlings deposited on your door step
  • Shuttle Repair for Dummies
  • Tickets to Angels v. Demons match
  • Alien object
  • Ex-husband/Ex-wife
  • A mace
  • Griffin manure
  • Space salvage
  • Lute collection
  • A camelipolus, complete with harness
  • Slightly used intergalactic transport
  • Tooth fairy collection

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Adventure is just bad planning

halparhavinconondrum.jpgHere's the first line:

"Adventure is just bad planning."

Take it from there!

(It's a quote from Roald Amundsen.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Why are you?

hagrid.jpgI was searching for a weekly tip and came across a page on creating characters. It's a pretty good page, actually, but one piece of advice made me realize why so many character questionnaires feel flat to me: it's because the questions ask what rather than why.

The author suggests reverse engineering a character. Go through a favorite book and write down the characteristics of your favorite characters. Write questions that would prompt the descriptions as a response. Then use those questions to interview your own character: create three responses for each question.

One of the responses was, "Hagrid is a large man, so big he must be part giant." A very interesting answer! But the question the article's author came up with is, "What is this character's physical size?" Um, large? It just doesn't lead your mind down interesting paths.

But a question like "Why are you the size you are?" can bring out rich details from a character's past. "Because I'm half giant," is a much more interesting answer than "Really big." Though "15 feet," or however large Hagrid is, is intriguing, it obviously leads to, "Why are you 15 feet tall." Might as well begin with the why!

The page is Creating Characters from Scratch.

The reverse engineering process is described towards the end of the article.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Unreadable underneath

livingdeaddoll.jpgUse only the following words to write with. Cut them up, shuffle them around and see what you come up with.
(The words came from a paragraph in a novel. If, when you're done, you want to see what the author came up with, check the comments)