Saturday, March 31, 2007

Writers' Blocks

writersblocks.jpgThis is a story built block by block rather than the "I'm stuck" kind of writer's block.

At their website RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) posts the beginning of a story each month at Writers' Blocks and anyone who wants to can contribute to it. It stays up for a week then then the final story is posted.

The next story begins April 2.

The past stories are all at Previous Writers' Blocks. They all seem to have contemporary settings with some fantastical twist to them.

I haven't seen it in action so I don't know how they handle multiple entries for the next block or how they notify writers that the next block needs to be a wrap up. Each story ends up with five blocks in addition to the story starter.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Google to Advertise on the Moon

googlemoon.jpgCome up with a list of news releases or reports for April Fool's Day that sound believable enough to be true. Some examples:
Personalized Dunlop Tires
Computer Virus Spreads to Human
Virgin Atlantic Buys Butterfly Advertising Space
There are more examples at April Fools R Us.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tattoo you

tattoo.jpg Your character has several tattoos. Use at least 3 from the list below (some are a feature of a tattoo but some are locations or reasons behind a tattoo) but also make up some of your own. Describe them and tell what their significance is.
a name
a design that covers the whole hand
rite of passage
clan symbol
a symbol in the middle of the forehead
a design around or near the left eye
a memento
an eye

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Dialogue Chicken

chickens.jpgIn Dialogue Chicken, players create dialogues based on two randomly-juxtaposed lines of dialogue.

What You Need

Many sheets of note-paper.
One pencil per player.
A four-minute timer.


Each player writes two separate lines of dialogue, one per slip of paper. Each line should begin with the name of a character, followed by something that that character says. Shuffle all the slips of paper into a face-down pile. Give each player a healthy supply of note-paper.

Generating the Prompt

At the beginning of each round, the current Judge draws two lines of dialogue from the face-down pile, and reads them aloud in either order. The Judge writes a (1) on the first paper, and a (2) on the second.

Writing the Entries

You have four minutes to write as many dialogues as you'd like which incorporate the two lines of dialogue. The two lines can appear anywhere within your dialogue, in any order. You don't have to copy the lines; simply insert a (1) or a (2) at the appropriate place.

Judging the Entries

The Judge selects one player to read all the entries aloud. After hearing them all, the Judge picks two favorites, and the respective creators receive one point each. If the same player created both of the chosen entries, that player gets both points. Use the two lines of dialogue to track the points. After each player has been the Judge once, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins.

Dialogue Chicken is a game that's an offshoot of the "Chicken Game System" designed by Kory Heath and collaborators.

There are more pencil and paper games at The Chicken Game System and a commercial version called Why Did the Chicken ...? with a bit on how to play.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Weekend 8: Subplots

kenshin.jpgYes, we're back. :-)

Eighth weekend with "Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery @ Amazon".

This weekend is sub-plots.

This one's a whole lot easier to understand and explain! :-)

A subplot is another story that runs along side the main story. A novel can have several subplots. They add richness and texture to the story and the characters.

The main plot in a mystery is the hunt for the killer. The subplots run along with it. The authors focus on the rather trite "false trail leading to a scapegoat" in their examples. In fact the Christie novel, Body in the Library, even has bumbling police following the false trail ;-) A false trail is undoubtedly a useful tactic for a first mystery: it builds in a false picture of what really happened.

But subplots, of course, can be any side stories that are going on during the course of the novel. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series seems to be 80% subplots that involve the main character's out of the office life. ;-) Usually, because it does often feel more satisfying to the reader, something from the main story has caused or has some effect on the subplot (like when her car gets blown up during an investigation and she has to borrow her grandfather's (?) car.) Sometimes vice versa, that is, she'll have to change her bounty hunting because of some crisis with her sister.

Guidelines for Using Subplot

1. Subplots come from back story.

In the author's example, there are several events in the background of various characters that get mined to create the subplot.

As a reader it often seems as though the author pictures the end of the story and that automatically creates all the characters, their backgrounds and their quirks necessary to reach it. It seems like a magic mysterious process. :-)

But from what the authors are showing, and what has happened to me during the novels created for National Novel Writing Month, the story gets shaped out of the random, quirky ideas that have no real meaning at the time they're written. The quirky ideas just pour out in the planning process (for the authors) or the writing process (for me ;-). Some quirky ideas that don't end up fitting with anything, get removed eventually from the story. Some that were minor initially, the author goes back and fleshes them out.

It's sort of like creating a patchwork quilt from randomly grabbed squares. Someone can look at the finished product and wonder how the artist knew those particular shades would work so well before she started. How did she come up with the idea to put those together? The truth is the idea came from what she had available to her.

So, as with quilts, subplots can come out of the random background material you've already generated.

2. Subplots come from character.

A subplot can come from a character that you find you like as you're writing or thinking about her. She gets fleshed out and the random ideas about her create a subplot which weaves into the main plot (and can often change the direction you had originally intended to head it in.)

3. Subplots come from objects.

A subplot can come from an object. The authors use the Maltese Falcon as an example. People have been questing for the statue of the bird for a long time. The bird draws those people together to continue their quest while the story takes place. They aren't part of the murder. They are, basically, distraction. But entertaining distraction :-)

4. Subplots come from theme.

Often it's been said that you don't know your theme until you've finished your first draft ;-) Which is just to say if you have no idea what your theme is, don't worry about it. It's pretty common not to see an overall message until the whole thing is done. (So then, for your second draft, you go back and strengthen the scenes that support the theme and lessen or cut out the parts that don't. It makes it *seem* like you knew from the beginning that you were writing about "The Death of Love" or "Man's inhumanity to man" ;-)

Anyway, the authors use "F is for Fugitive" as an example where Sue Grafton has interwoven three stories of "Lost Fathers" into the novel: the scapegoat's father, the father of the victim's unborn child and the victim's father.

It can be very satisfying when a theme inspired subplot also involves the detective. *But* it can also feel forced if it doesn't grow naturally from the character or you can see it coming from halfway through the book. It doesn't ring true if every mystery a detective solves involves some soul ripping revelation about herself ;-)

Novel work

1. Back story

Review what you did for Weekend 5: Backstory to find events, objects, and people that might work into subplots. The authors suggest that playing "What if" might help: What if a character gets another scene to tell more about himself? What would come out? How does the character change if she's wearing a tennis outfit, or a bathing suit, or prison dungarees? (The finished novel never shows all the playing around with possible ideas and directions the author has done in the creation process ;-)

2. Scene Cards

Use scene cards to track the course of your subplot through the structure of your novel. The authors suggest that if you have more than one subplot to use different colors for the cards. Name the subplots (as well as the scenes). Use colorful names that will evoke strong feelings and memories to help you.

3. Plot Picture

Redraw your plot picture diagram. Put the main scenes above the rising line. Put the subplots below. The authors suggest that in a 250-300 page mystery, a subplot needs half a dozen scenes.

Next week is The Working Synopsis.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mellifluous spells

flamingrain.jpgFor each letter of the alphabet (or as far as you can get in 10-15 minutes!) come up with a spell (like light) and then play around with the sounds that make up that word to create another word or words that sound good with it to complete the name of the spell. *Avoid* starting your other words with the same letter as your initial word. If you want, tell what the spell does if it's not obvious.

Here's an example: If the word you begin with is "flame", the sounds in that word are: "f", "l", "ay", "m". You don't need to use all the sounds. You can substitute or add related sounds so "v" instead of "f", "r" instead of "l" and "n" or "ng" or "nk" instead of "m". So Flame of Morphelius and Flaming Rain would work.

Here's a list of related sounds that I posted last year for the By the sound of things prompt:
Dentals (means teeth): t, d, th
Labials (means lips): b, p
Gutturals (back of the throat): g, k, ng
Labiodentals: f, v
Sibilants (they hiss!): s, z, sh, ch, zh, j
Nasals (nose): m, n, ng, nk
Liquids: l, r
The repetition of sound is what helps give Avada Kedavra a chilling sound. (Including rhythm and that "d"s and "k" tend to have a dangerous sound to them.) Expecto Petronum, Locomotor Mortis also have repeated sounds. In a story I'm writing I came up with Lufail's Flay.

If you want to spend time playing around with sounds rather than coming up with the initial word, here's some possibilities. Feel free to ignore or play around (change the tense, add plurals, etc.) with them.
anvil, angel, ancient
blade, blood, bubble
curse, crypt, candle
dragon, demon, dagger
elephant, enforcer, enigma
flame, fortress, feather
ghost, grave, glass
hex, hook, haze
interrogation, ice, itch
jinx, jewel, joy
kitten, kiss, killer
lance, lady, loom
mirror, mandible, moon
night, knock, nag
oil, oppression, ooze
puzzle, putrification, pumpkin
quill, quest, quiescence
reveal, riot, rogue
surge, seer, sword
torrent, tracker, thief
urge, ugly, ulimate
vine, vision, vitality
wing, wasteland, wisdom
xenophobia, complex, anxiety
yearn, yielding, youth
zoo, zombie, zero

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Powahz of da sparkleh

sparklypurplewombat.jpgYour protagonist has received this message from your antagonist:


Your protagonist grows pale with fear.

What happens next?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Make Beliefs Comix!

(Click to enlarge.)

Bill Zimmerman shared his Make Beliefs Comix! site on the UnschoolingWriters list this week.

It's a comic strip generator. There are options for 2, 3 or 4 panels. You can chose from 10 characters, expressions for the characters, change their size and the direction they're facing, then add word balloons and whatever text you want. If you're stuck there are even some ideas to get you started. When you're satisfied you can print it out or email it.

(I had some problems with the emailing and printing -- the image wasn't the same as on the last screen -- which I wrote to him about so if you can use screen capture, you might want to do that before depending on print or email.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I sold it on eBay

MysteriousObject1.jpg Write a description of this object for an eBay listing. (Click on it for a larger image.) Tell what it is and what it does, the condition of it, any problems you've had with it, warnings you think might be useful before someone purchases it. (The size isn't obvious from the picture so you may assume it's any size you want.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ocean angels

angelwing.jpgCut out the following words. Shuffle them about to form colorful combinations. Use your favorites in a writing piece (prose or poetry).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

"Dull women ..."

Not sure what happened to the quote. I know I made a JPEG for it but obviously never saved it. Until I get a chance to do it again, here's the text version:

Dull women have immaculate houses. - Anonymous

(Though not all women with immaculate houses are dull. Those who can do it all and have clean houses are just irritating --- or have cleaning services ;-)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Weekend 8: A break

cat_hammock.jpgA break from the mystery writing.

We have the technology now: a brand new old computer. Next week we'll be working on Weekend 7 so we're a bit behind.

Just do it

howiwrite.jpgKat's favorite author is Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series. We've been reading her How I Write: Secrets of a Best Selling Author.

Like most writing books you come away with lots of what to do and not so much how, perhaps because the how is so individual most authors can't really explain it in a way that sets off light bulbs for others. But it is funny like her books and there is some good encouragement.
"For thirty years I'd been telling myself stories and I'd never once put one on paper! I knew nothing about the business of writing. Didn't know any writers. Didn't have any skills. Had forgotten how to punctuate a sentence and hadn't a clue how to write dialogue. So, armed with all this ignorance, I set out to write a book. My first attempt was horrible and embarrassing. Ditto the second. The third book was less horrible, and I'd gotten beyond embarrassment. Still couldn't sell anything. The thing is, I discovered I loved the process. I had a supportive family and my Jersey belligerence kicked in. I hung in there and kept trying to get better ... and ten yeas after I made the decision to write a book, I finally sold one (Hero at Large.)"
Discipline Essentials

Write something every day, even if it means getting just a few sentence on the screen. Here are a few different ways to accompish this:
  • Do it by time. Start small, if you want. Start with five minutes and increase the time b five minutes a day. In two weeks, you'll be sitting at your desk for about an hour a day. Add more time as you choose.
  • Do it by pages. Start with one paragraph a day and work toward a page a day. If you do only that, by year's end you will have written 365 pages.
  • Do it by word count. Plan to write a specific number of words each day. Hemingway wrote around five hundred words a day -- approximately two pages. In his short lifetime (Hemingway died at sixty-one), those two pages a day produced nine novels and a bunch of short stories -- with plenty of tikme out for game hunting and fishing.
  • Do it by appointment. Treat writing like any other part of your daily routine. Carve out a place -- the corner of a room or the kitchen table -- and a certain time of each day for writing. Then show up for work.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fireball scream

Fireball.jpgWrite a paragraph that has something to do with each of the following words. Have the first sentence begin with the first letter, the second sentence begin with the second letter. But don't use the word in the paragraph! Do as many as 10-15 minutes allows.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Curious ferocity


Begin a sentence with the first word of the pair and end it with the last. If you need to change the type of word (change ferocious to ferocity or fierce or ferociously) feel free.
curious . . . . . ferocious
unappreciated . . sensitive
vapid . . . . . . crazy
somber. . . . . . concise
foggy . . . . . . egotistical
dangerous . . . . considerate
willowy . . . . . capricious
hilarious . . . . mystical
blithe. . . . . . reckless
allusive. . . . . divine
dizzy . . . . . . ornery
Inspired by the Start and Stop Game at Writing Fix.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

It's like a ...

dog-that-looks-like-a-towel.jpgThis Writer's notebook idea came to me while collecting poetry ideas for Poetry Month.

Observe people and things, notice sounds, smells, and textures then write comparisons using like or as.

(The previous notebook ideas are archived at the Blogsome blog.)

Here's some quick examples I generated while at Starbucks:
slumped like a drought touched flower
chewing like a sun beaten cow
alert like a nervous cat
pony tail flat against his back like road kill
teeth clutching her lip like a clamp
pony tail like a clutch of too long sheep's wool
worrying at a nail like a cat peeling its claws
sign swaying on a corner in the wind like a drunk who has forgotten where he was headed
steaming like a teapot at a winter cafe
heavy sway of her hair like a horse's tail
hair hugging her face like a hood drawn tight

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nom de plumage

nomdeplumage.jpgCome up with colorful pen names for writers in as many of the following genres as time allows.
Graphic novel
Newspaper article (news, sports, arts, fluff ...)
Historical romance
Travel literature
Tabloid reporter
Lyrics (country, rock, pop, opera ...)
Religious literature
Regency romance
Detective fiction
Science fiction
Legal thriller
Crime fiction

Top 10 Tabloid Headlines for March 2007

wwwn-coyotes.gifExcept, again, they're really from 2005 since the City Newstand list is still on hiatus.

From the City Newstand in Chicago, for writing prompts or just for fun :-)

Top Ten Tabloid Headlines from March 2005
  1. Attack of the giant baby-biting RATS! — SUN
  5. PIZZA WAS SERVED AT THE LAST SUPPER . . . and the pies were delivered — WWN
  10. Tough guy walks 2 miles with a bullet in his brain — SUN