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