Thursday, December 31, 2009

Purfectly resolved

What are your pet's 10 New Year's resolutions for you? What failings does your pet see in your abilities to meet his needs and how does he want you to change? Your worst failings (according to you) may be of no concern to your pet or may be pluses. What's fat but a softer, warmer lap?

It can be a present or past pet or an imaginary pet. However you do it, get into the pet's head and see the world through his eyes. As always, you needn't be you and the world need not be ours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


"The bad news for agoraphobics is that a cure is just around the corner." (Passed on by one of the readers of Word A Day.)

Agoraphobia means "fear of open spaces, leaving a safe place, or crowded public places" so an agoraphobic would certainly dread heading out for a cure, even around the corner.

Can you come up with more bad news in that same vein?

What about for other phobias, such as:

Claustrophobia -- fear of confined spaces.
Acrophobia -- fear of heights.
Mysophobia -- fear of being contaminated with dirt or germs.
Xenophobia -- fear of strangers or foreigners.
Necrophobia -- fear of death or dead things.
Brontophobia -- fear of thunder and lightening.
Carcinophobia -- fear of cancer.
Aviophobia -- fear of flying.
Arachnophobia -- fear of spiders.
Ophidiophobia -- fear of snakes.
Cynophobia -- fear of dogs.
Trypanophobia -- fear of injections.
Dentophobia -- fear of dentists.

Maybe you can come up with the bad news but need a phobia to fit it. Fredd Culbertson has collected a massive Phobia List.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Help (desperately) wanted

With all the children in the world needing toys on Christmas, the job of Santa's elf is strained past the breaking point. The hours have expanded, there's no time to repair the workshop, there hasn't been a pay raise in years, and the only time off is Christmas Eve when Santa's away.

Create a help wanted ad for the position of Santa's elf. Job seekers will want to know about responsibilities, job requirements, hours, compensation, benefits. You need all your creative writing skills to make this sound enticing.

Excellent. But then one of Santa's disgruntled ex-elves hacks into the ad and inserts commentary ...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bare bears

Choose one of the following homophone sets and write a microfiction (under 100 words). In this case your microfiction must include a setting, character or characters, conflict (a want blocked by an obstacle), and resolution. (If you want an additional challenge -- or to help limit the possibilities -- make it about winter or the holiday season.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis better to give

It's better to give than receive. Really better since the gift that's been regifted for a dozen holiday seasons is cursed and if it's beneath your tree on Christmas morning you're destined for a year of petty annoyances. You can't throw it away or break it. To get the curse out of your house, you need to give it as a holiday present to someone else.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Night and day

"They shared a country of origin and a rented taxi, one driving it by night and one by day, but little else. Until one fateful day."

The taxi, of course, needn't be a yellow cab. It can be a Victorian hackney, a hover car that's seen prouder days, a water taxi, whatever you can come up with to suit your world.

The above blurb is for the article Night and Day in the NY Times that is a study in contrasts. If you want to read it after crafting your own story, be forewarned it's violent, but the good guy comes through fine! (Interestingly they are not from a country typically associated with violence.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jubilant jubilee

Create a new holiday or celebration that somehow involves the following:

  • a broken knife
  • a red cupcake
  • covering the head
  • a black horse
  • a mirror
  • sunset
  • a pinch of salt

The words can be part of the back story or the celebration, e.g., a more common object may represent something intangible or unavailable in the present day. It may help to brainstorm each to let related ideas and connections flow out.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


In a rhopalic creation each successive word is longer by a letter or a syllable. It can be a sentence, a poem, a dialog, a headline ...

Dmitri Borgmann wrote a rhopalic sentence up to 20 letters: "I do not know where family doctors acquired illegibly perplexing handwriting; nevertheless, extraordinary pharmaceutical intellectuality, counterbalancing indecipherability, transcendentalises intercommunications' incomprehensibleness."

If you'd like to try your hand at writing a rhopalic headline, Anu Garg of A Word a Day is running a contest that ends this Friday. The headlines submitted can be real or imaginary, can be increasing or decreasing word lengths.

Anu Garg has posted the best entries at his website: Rhopalic headline contest.

Alternatively, how far can you get on a rhopalic alliterative alphabet before going nuts? ;-)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The mix-up

Write down the names of 10 of your characters.

Then answer the following questions.
  1. 4 invites 3 and 8 to dinner at their house. What happens?
  2. 9 tries to get 5 to go to a strip club. What happens?
  3. 5 needs to stay somewhere other than home for the night. Do they chose 1 or 6?
  4. 2 and 7 are making out. 10 walks in. What is their reaction?
  5. 3 falls in love with 5. 8 is jealous. What happens?
  6. 4 jumps you in a dark alleyway. Who comes to your rescue: 10, 2, or 7?
  7. 1 decides to make dinner. Fifteen minutes later, what is happening?
  8. 2 writes a book about his/her life. What is 5's review of it?
  9. 7 kidnaps 2 and demands something from 5 for 2's release. What is it?
  10. 3 has to marry either 8, 4, or 9. Who do they choose?
  11. You get to meet either 1 or 6. Who do you chose?
  12. 9 challenges 4 to a duel. Why?
  13. Everyone is playing poker. Who's easiest to read? Most difficult? Who will lose first?
  14. Everyone is invited to 2 and 10's wedding except for 8. How does 8 react?
  15. Why is 6 afraid of 7?
  16. 10 gathers everyone around to tell them a fairy tale. How does it go?
  17. 1 arrives late for 2 and 10's wedding. What happens, and why were they late?
  18. A love potion causes 6 and 9 to fall in love. What happens?
  19. 3, 4, 6 and 8 all go to the zoo for 8’s birthday party. How does it go? What presents do they get 8?
  20. Everyone's protesting something outside of your house. What are they protesting? What do you do?
  21. 9 murders 1's best friend. What does 1 do to get back at 9?
  22. 6 and 1 are in mortal danger. Only one of them can survive. Does 6 save him/herself or 1?
  23. Which one of them is most likely to fail at life?
  24. 5, 3 and 10 are trapped in a collapsed building. Who's the most helpful? Least? Who's likely to loose it first?
  25. 3 starts a day camp. What happens?
  26. 4, 6, and 7 are celebrating something. 8 walks in. What happens?
  27. 1 starts to write a fan-fiction where 9 and 10 are going out. What is 2’s reaction?
  28. 7 makes an apple pie. Is it any good?
  29. What song or book would you choose to represent 1?
  30. The quiz is over. What does everyone go to do now?
I don't know where these types of quizzes began but they pop up often on Deviant art. Though meme is used to describe any framework for people to use on their own characters, a search for "character meme" will turn up several. These questions mostly came from blackvixzin's Character Quiz :D on Deviantart.

Just to drive anal people crazy I changed some of the questions and altered a few numbers since I'm anal enough to want the characters distributed fairly evenly ;-)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In tune

Okay, something easy for those who are brain fried after Nano ;-)

Spell your character's or a favorite character's name in songs titles from your iTunes list.

Or come up with a relevant word for each letter (an acrostic) then search for those words in your list (or at the iTunes store for greater variety).

Don't have iTunes?

Try the lists of movies at NetFlix.

(Click on a genre or sub-genre. If genre, first click on See All [genre] beneath Search. Then for either click on the Sortable List button then Title to alphabetize.)

Or Anime or Manga at Anime News Network:

Amazon or your library would also give you a good size list if you're doing an acrostic.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Enter the storm

Enter the storm

A month of NaNo prompts

Last prompt before the end! Hope the light at the end of the tunnel is closer than you expected. (I have about 3000 words left to do.) Or that you at least had fun this month! :-)

I had a last minute NaNo inspiration that will help me. I tend to skip over description. So for each day of NaNo month I'll send out a prompt to focus your attention on something you might not ordinarily notice in whatever scene you're working on. The intent is not to generate great prose but to force you to expand your vision of what's going on around and inside your characters.

Write at least one paragraph for the day's prompt:
  1. Describe your point of view (POV) character's current emotional state and how it affects him or her from head to toe.
  2. Describe the shoes of the next character that walks into the scene and what they remind the POV character of.
  3. Describe the weather (or environment if weather isn't relevant to your story) in the scene you're writing right now. Involve all 5 senses.
  4. Relate something in your current scene to a toy from your POV character's childhood. Dig deep and make emotional connections to then and now.
  5. The current situation to your POV character is [fill in an animal]. Extend the metaphor. What in the situation are the teeth? Why is something like the breath? How does it relate to the sound the character makes? (And whatever else you can come up with. Use all five senses!)
  6. It starts raining (or stops raining). Describe the emotions *and* memories this evokes in your POV character.
  7. In the next conversation, describe something the character is doing as they speak each line of dialogue.
  8. Relate your POV character's best friend (current or childhood) to one of the characters they're with right now. Likenesses and differences. Relate both physical traits as well as attitude, temperament, life story ...
  9. Describe your POV character's inner state in terms of one of the seasons, that is, the seasons that are relevant to your story.
  10. A bug is in your current scene. Use the bug's actions as a mirror of what's going on with the situation or inside your POV character.
  11. Pick one object in your current scene and describe it fully, using all five senses. (Yes, taste and smell can be a challenge sometimes!)
  12. My daughter's favorite: Food descriptions! For the next meal your character has, describe, obviously, taste and sight and smell, but also texture, presentation, how the colors work together, emotional reactions, physical reactions, memories.
  13. Something in the current scene transports your POV back to a place they frequently played (playground, tree house, junker car behind the shed, mom's closet ...) Pay particular attention to the resonance of the emotions between the two places.
  14. In the next populous area your character visits, sum up their impression with one word. Rather than agonizing over the right word -- which wastes valuable NaNo time! -- use the first word that comes to mind. Then take that word and run with it as a metaphor or analogy. How does the word relate to the people, buildings, atmosphere, smell, colors, sounds ...
  15. Relate the current situation the character is in to a game, like chess, dice, Monopoly, dominos, poker. Even if your setting isn't contemporary it's likely every culture will have games of chance involving dice-like objects (bones for instance) or strategy board game (like chess or go or parchisi).
  16. Describe the next store your POV character visits. How are the proprietor or associate like the store? How do the appearances (dirtiness, cleanliness, order, chaos) relate? The voice and speech mannerisms?
  17. Relate your POV character's current emotional state to a storm. It might be the anticipation of an approaching storm, the middle of the storm, or the relief or aftermath of a storm. Work the metaphor for all it's worth to gain you lots of NaNo points!
  18. Another character is fiddling with an object -- jewelry, something in or from their pocket, something they picked up. Use the manipulations as a window in the character's fluctuating emotional state.
  19. If the current situation continues, how does your POV character envision himself or herself and the important players in their life in the future? You can get detailed down to pets and number of children (like a drunken ramble). If they envision them all dead, what level of Hell is being readied and what special tortures await? (Then have another character bop them over the head to get them out of their funk ;-)
  20. In the current scene, some skill your character is using she picked up somewhere from somebody during the course of her life. Reflect on that, particularly the emotional resonance the experience has for your character.
  21. Rather than expand, synopsize. Someone new enters your story, or your character needs to relate what's been happening since the beginning of the story on a post card or Facebook update. Make each word count for dozens.
  22. Your POV character hears a song and it evokes strong memories full of emotion and sensory detail.
  23. Something repulsive happens to your POV character. Maggoty food? Slops dumped on them? Being sneezed on if they're germophobic? Describe it in all it's gory disgusting detail.
  24. Have your POV character imagine what it's like to be another character. What it literally feels like to walk in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. Most interesting will be to explore someone whose values and preferences and personality are most different from your POV character's.
  25. Your character's shoe (or body part or other abused, neglected piece of equipment for the shoeless) has been through hell the past few hundred pages. Let it vent. (It can be your POV character's dream so you can fit it into your Nano ;-)
  26. Your POV character watches something break as though it were happening in slow motion. Use this as a metaphor and relate the sensory details to the worst thing that could happen to shatter the goal the character is working toward.
  27. Is there lack of care for what kind of impact people are having on their world? For a moment some uncaring, thoughtless act of disregard for the world strikes a personal note for your POV character. Bring the details to life and, if you can, tie it into the greater goal the character is working toward. Let them rant <eg>.
  28. Your POV character is drifting off to sleep, but The Big Problem still hasn't been solved and is pulling one way while the body is pulling the other way to get some much needed rest. Describe this mini-war as well as the character's feelings as they're torn between a need for action and a need for rest.
  29. For a moment your POV character wishes they had some power that would fix the situation. Invisibility? Laser-beam eyes? Level 16 Charm? Let them fantasize and feel what it would be like.
  30. Have your POV character describe their ideal world (or ideal time off for when this is all over) in all it's sensory glory as they seek the strength to keep going.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A scrumptious word feast

Come up with enticing and scrumptious ways of describing food you'll be eating. What if your descriptions were in competition with other family members' to win the coveted right to present the Thanksgiving day feast?

Or, if you're doing Nano, have the characters declare a one day truce and each describe the dish they'll bring to the Thanksgiving day feast.

Good eats!

Pick your favorite recipe. Your character has been planning to create this dish for quite some time as a special event or celebration. The dish can be grand but needn't be -- like the last ballpark hotdog with relish eaten with Dad, the "special" last maggoty meal the evil overlord served his prisoners -- but it's emotionally tied into the character or someone the character feels strongly toward and holds some special importance. Each ingredient has been carefully chosen or overseen from its beginning.

As you go through each ingredient, have your character talk about where it came from, why and what its importance is. Maybe they're far from home -- a ship? another planet? an alternate universe? -- and the ingredients aren't easy to come by.

Then describe what it's for. It could be something sweet :-) It could be twisted Wherever it leads you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give it a rest

Have one of your characters write a letter to the main opposition describing why they need to stop what they're doing.

It could be the main character to the one standing in their way, the bad guy to the good guy, a minor character who can see both sides and is torn between them.

If you're not doing NaNo use this on a story that didn't quite work for you, or for a story written by someone else.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What should happen next?

I stumbled across a few tarot spreads designed specifically for writing projects and the need to use them as a NaNo prompt wouldn't let go! They're a bit more time consuming than the other prompts I've posted but may be less time consuming and more productive than banging your head against the desk as you struggle to figure out what should happen next ;-)

The spreads are all designed by Arwen.

The first is a Goal, Motivation, Conflict spread. She suggests it's best used during writing after you know your characters and when you're stuck on where they should go next. (Click on the image for Arwen's explanation of the layout.)

If your knowledge of tarot extends no further than the ability to place cards on a table, you can draw each of the 7 cards below and it will give you explanations.

Type in a Question like "Who is my character?" or "What is my character's goal?", under Deck choose a deck that sounds like it fits your story (you might need to explore them a bit), under Spread choose One card.

If you want to explore the possibilities for your main characters (or it might work for protagonist and antagonist), this spread can be used over and over. It's called a ladder spread because the top card (7) can become the bottom (2) card of the next set and so on up the ladder as you keep plotting your story out. (Click on the image for Arwen's explanation of the layout.)

Arwen also designed a Characterization Spread that delves into childhood and other influences on your character.

There are more Tarot Spreads for Writers at the Aeclectic Tarot Forum. Scroll 1/3 of the way down the page (or search for "writer".)

If using tarot for plotting intrigues you, there's also Tarot for Writers by Corinne Kenner that gets some great reviews.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In the end

For each of your main characters, including your antagonist, write out how they think at this moment in your story all this will end, who will live, who will die, who will get what they want or what they'll get instead and what are the consequences? Maybe the bad guy will come up with a better ending that you have planned! ;-)

(If you're not doing NaNo, use this for a story you never finished.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just go away

Make a list of the "Top 10 things I wish would just disappear."

Brainstorm your own list first. (You may find the first batch are predictable so don't stop at 10, keep going to let the mundane run out.) I suspect you'll come up with a wider, quirkier variety than you could make up for a character. Poll your friends!

Then try your character's.

(From Writing Fix.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

All fouled up

Michael Arnzen keeps popping up like a zombie who just won't accept a shovel to the head! And as usual time is crunched during NaNo so I'll totally rip off his delicious list of Twisted Prompts for Nanowrimo Writers to inspire you:
  • Unexpectedly kill a character. Have your protagonist hear their dying words…but only partially.

  • Take a break and reflect: What element of fiction is the weakest in your book right now: character, setting, dialogue or conflict? Choose one. The next time you hit the keyboard, write three paragraphs of prose dedicated just to that element in some way. And make it DARK.

  • The next time you give a description of a character’s physical features, identify a disfigurement. ANYTHING, ranging from an almost imperceptible scar on their brow to giant webbed feet. Expound through dialogue or monologue about what sort of torment that disfigurement causes the character, and how they endure it.

  • Notice the teeth.

  • Give your viewpoint character permission to have a lengthy flight of fantasy, imagining what they would do if they had psychic powers or dreaming how they might solve the main conflict if they had superhuman powers of some kind.

  • Set your next dialogue-driven scene in a foul restaurant. Break up the conversation with intermittent observations of the low hygiene and filthy food. At the end, draw comparisons between the establishment and the novel’s conflict or antagonist.

  • Use a banal object in a scene as a makeshift weapon.

  • “Goth up” a minor character and give them something morbidly pithy or darkly ominous to say.

  • Take your main character’s hostilities and frustrations out on an inconsequential object…but in prose that dramatizes this eruption in an ultraviolent way.

  • Treat weather as a monster.

  • As you head into your next plot point, ask yourself: “And what could make the outcome even worse?”

  • Review your manuscript so far. Seize on an object or image from your description that you mentioned in passing, and bring it back into the picture in an uncannily meaningful way.

  • Something strange is hidden under the desk/table/seat. Your protagonist stumbles on it. This is important to a future scene. But keep the discovery a secret for now. You’ll figure out its importance later.

  • Make your main character sick. Whether a cold or a contracted disease. Use this sickness in an unexpected way to solve a problem.

  • Describe a new character (as they enter the story) in the darkest way you know how, from head to toe. Then make them so nice it’s laughable.

  • Introduce your viewpoint character to Insanity.

  • Reference a horror movie or book in an explicit/overt/obvious way. Then turn it inside-out.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Writing down the page

  • You know how sometimes an idea will pop into your head while you're writing something else? It's an obvious idea and you know you'll remember it so you slog through the scene and by the end you've forgotten what it was?
  • You know how sometimes you'll hover over the keyboard, debating which choice to make and you just can't decide what would work best?
One of the Nanoers at our local kick off party mentioned a technique in Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray called:

Writing Down the Page

(I can't find a description on line so either she misremembered its name or no one else found it nifty, but I'm finding it useful! If anyone knows what it's called, please let me know!)

It's a way to capture fleeting ideas and get you writing instead of hovering.

If you use this for your whole NaNo (which I'm doing), you'll end up with a flowing collection of ideas. Which is a great way to send your internal editor on vacation since you may not be writing complete sentences and you're deliberately including a range of ideas some of which you know you'll eventually eliminate.

The important part is: don't write paragraphs. Hit carriage return after each sentence or snatch of an idea. It's going to look more like a poem, a long list, than a novel. It's a free flowing brainstorm. You can put an extra carriage return when you start a new idea and label it with some bold text.

Sometimes a fairly cohesive scene will flow out. (Mine is conforming to scenes and chapters.) Often it will be snatches of dialog. Bits of description. Questions for you to answer. Or half a dozen possibilities of what a character might do and why.

So if you're stuck, don't ponder. Write down the problem. Explore it right there in your Nano. Brainstorm a list of possibilities. If an idea for a scene comes up while you're doing that, write it down right where you are. (You can mark it with xxx to remind yourself to move it and expand it later.)

What I've done with it so far is, at the beginning of each chapter, I explore the character's desires (wants, objectives, goals). Each scene will have a goal (getting the demon nest rooted out, for example) as well as the character's greater goal of the novel hovering over them.

Then I explore obstacles (conflicts) I can throw in their way. (I tend to be too nice to my characters! Deliberately brainstorming obstacles keeps me focused on a story's engine: overcoming difficulties!) Each of these obstacles creates an evolving set of minigoals for the character to achieve (getting away from the annoying coworker, getting shoes that don't have a broken heel, for example).

Then I write down possible responses to the obstacles and how the character can reveal more of who he is, reveal more of what's going on in the story, in what he chooses to do and the way he chooses to do it. It helps remind me of the tree I'm writing about rather than getting lost in the foliage of a few thousand individual leaves.

I'm finding it much easier to throw problems and obstacles at a character when I don't (yet) need to write the scene that gets them out of it!

Wooly bully

Use the following idioms as literally as possible without mentioning the original idiom, so "wet blanket" will include a real wet blanket. For Nano you may want to pick just one :-) For others, write a few sentences for as many as you can in 10 minutes, or use one and see where it takes you.
Cry over spilled milk.
Pull the wool over his eyes.
Wet behind the ears.
Wild goose chase.
Sky's the limit.
With flying colors.
Face the music.
Throw a monkey wrench into the works.
Can't make heads or tails out of it.
The pen is mightier than the sword.
Third time's the charm.
On cloud nine.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ordinary AND Special

Have your character list 5 ways they're ordinary (for their world, of course!) and 5 ways they're not ordinary. (Though you don't need to include it, they picked those particular items out of the totality of who they are for a reason.)

Idea from Charloft where's there's a new theme each day for your characters. (A very active community.) There are loads of responses to this particular one. In case the Live Journal community disappears one day, I saved the list.

I also opened an Ordinary and Special topic at the NaNoWriMo forums.

What's special or ordinary about the picture? Go to Face Research -- Make an Average. Click on several pictures. Click View Average and see what a composite of the pictures is like. (Try all the thin faces, all those with dark hair, all those with long chins, all with large ears ....) I tried to create a girl's face where race wasn't easy to pinpoint.

Roll over the post's image and you can see all the faces, male and female, averaged together. (The sampling of images does contain a large proportion of Caucasians.) Is it a girl or a boy? It would be interesting to see a composite of all 20 yos, 30 yos, etc in the world :-)

What's interesting is that average isn't bland but tends toward beauty. So beauty isn't so extraordinary as it is average!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Flash fiction and Plot generators

Whether you're gearing up for NaNo or want to try your hand at flash fiction, NaNo liaisons have passed on Plot Generator for the beginning of your story and Plot Twists.

Flash fiction are stories less than a 1000 words and come in many varieties with sometimes very specific rules. Some other names are: short-short stories, sudden, postcard, minute, furious, fast, quick, and skinny fiction. Many have websites where you can share the torture of confining your writing by word count:

365 Tomorrows posts a new flash fiction everyday. You may submit your (science fiction based) stories for consideration.

Camille Renshaw provides a good overview of the craft in The Essentials of Micro-Fiction.

Here are a few types of flash fiction with specific limitations:
  • pinhead stories (50 words or fewer)
  • nanofiction (less than 50)
  • 55 word (55 or fewer but must include a setting, character or characters, conflict, resolution, so it's not, for example, a slice of life piece.) You can read the 2008 winners of the 55-word contest run by New Times magazine for inspiration.
  • 69er, 88er, 99er
  • microfiction (under 100)
  • drabble (100 exactly and its spinoffs: dribble - exactly 50 words, droubble - exactly 200 words) The Drabble Project has some examples from drabble's beginnings.
  • ficleys (64-1024 words but you can continue someone else's story).

St. Anger

St. Anger

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Death of the party

Come up with a zombie party plan -- for real zombies. Invitations (date, time, place). Special instructions for guests (as in bring your own brains, dress). Food. Games.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gaggle of giggling ghoul girls

For each letter of the alphabet write a sentence that's ghoulishly alliterative.

A bit overkill for this ;-) but as I searched for a link for the picture, I found Wikipedia's List of monsters by culture [deleted] Legendary creatures.

Like Star Wars? Like zombies? Click the picture. :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A vicious monster

Create your own comic strip with the Historic Tale Construction Kit. There are people, buildings, animals and text from the Bayeux Tapestry to play with. When you're done you can submit it to the gallery. (Though I couldn't get the email or gallery to work. I had to save all the images and paste them together in Photoshop.)

Don't let the historic images limit you! Googling images for the kit I see several Harry Potter comics. (Like this bit of Harry Potter slash: A Chance Meeting. Note: preview it before you show it to your kids so you're not surprised by unexpected questions! ;-)

If all the possibilities leave you stuck for a story, begin with the foundation of storytelling: a desire, a want, a need. One of those characters wants something. Other characters will get in the way with desires of their own. One of those desires will triumph. Or not. Maybe a dragon will eat them all ;-)

(Click the image to see mine.)

Two tips:

If you like your backgrounds consistent from panel to panel, line images up with flaws on the fabric.

Sometimes the images misbehave. (At least they did for me in Safari.) Back up to the previous panel then return.

There is a similar story telling app, Create your own Bayeux Tapestry. The pictures are nice and it might be cool to work with but I haven't figured out how to save. If you want to try it, do something simple and play around with the saving and loading. If all fails, screen capture each page.

There's a nice collection of story telling tools aimed at kids at Introduce Your Kids to Story Telling Tools.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beneath the surface

"Sleep well?"

Somewhere in your piece will be those lines of dialogue. (You can build up to the first "Morning.")

Not much to go on. Or, really, too many possibilities! This is from an exercise on subtexting from Getting Into Character by Brandilyn Collins. The point is that we often don't say what we mean ... and it builds tension when our characters don't either.

The first "Morning," might really mean, "Where were you last night?" or "I know where you were last night (heh, heh, heh)," or "I'd like to bash your head in with a 2x4," or "I wish everything were as normal as I'm trying to make it feel."

One challenge of hinting at what's beneath the surface is that only one character, the point of view character, reveals their thoughts to the reader. The other character offers only a tiny, foggy window into what they're thinking through their body language, facial expression, tone and what they're saying instead of what they mean. What's going on beyond the fog is open to interpretation by the reader and by the, not necessarily objective, other character. (The point of view character is often not objective about their own thoughts and feelings either!) But the cool thing is that not knowing builds tension also and raises questions in the reader's mind that makes them want to read on and find the answers. (Which are all the current skills I'm working on!)

As always, and as mundane as the lines are, don't feel tied to a contemporary setting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ugly truth

Ugly truth

NaNo is coming!

October 31 at midnight, NaNoWriMo begins!

National Novel Writing Month is a time when people all over the world withdraw from life to crank out a 50,000 word novel in one month.

At first it seems insane and impossible. After doing it a few times, it's really not so bad! :-)

Everything you need to know about it is at the NaNoWriMo website.

I'll be posting prompts that are usable for Nano (or other writing) throughout the month. (If anyone wants to drop me a "Hi!"or add me as a buddy, I'm JFetteroll (so original, I'm always JFetteroll!) at the NaNo website.)

In the forums are online and face-to-face support. (Check out the regional boards to see if there are writing groups near you.) There are word wars (to see who can churn out the most words within a certain time) and prompts and people to help if you get stuck either emotionally, logically or factoidally.

And most people do get stuck around week 2, at the 15,000 word mark. Expect to hit that wall. At that point you've let your characters run rampant setting up their relationships and you suddenly realize you've written 15,000 words of crap and you've pushed the characters as far as you can go and alphabetizing your spices would be a much better use of your time. Every novelist hits that point. What separates the failed novelists from the successful ones is that the successful ones keep going. :-)

If you think you don't have time, I found this week's posting at the NaNo website inspiring :-) Cylithria Dubois -- what a great fantasy name! -- wrote her last novel while part of a forward observation team stationed in Iraq: Cylithria Dubois, Marine Corps novelist

Some tips:

 Don't worry about quality. Your goal is quantity not quality. Send your internal editor on vacation. This month there's no such thing as bad writing. (Or it's all bad! Whatever mindset keeps the words flowing for you.) Note: No one will read it. Bots at the website count your words to see if you've gotten at least 50,000.

 Don't worry about getting the beginning right. Jump into the middle of the story. Write the end first. Write the middle first. Doesn't matter!

 Don't worry about going in order. If you get stumped, or another scene is begging to be written, jump ahead. (As you find out more about your characters, you'll know how to fill those jumps in -- which might be after NaNo.)

 Don't worry about finishing the story. The goal is 50,000 words of a single work (eg, not a bunch of short stories). It doesn't have to be a complete novel. It's a way to get you started. (Novels are closer to 100,000 words, though it depends on the genre.)

You can plan as much or as little as you want, but no actual writing before November 1. Some people like an outline. Some people don't want to know where their characters are taking them. Whatever works for you.

Happy writing!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Squirrel wars

Is this unexpected?

Is this normal in your world?

Are other animals fighting or just the squirrels? Fighting over what?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The night before

Roll a die and pick one from each of the four following categories. Use them as the starting point of your piece.

(Roll a die. Sheesh. Can you tell I played Dungeons and Dragons? If you don't have a 10-sided die handy try the handy widget down at the bottom.)

  1. Dead of winter
  2. During a thunderstorm
  3. The morning after
  4. When the moon is full
  5. Just before dawn
  6. Midnight
  7. Height of summer
  8. In the middle of a battle
  9. In the middle of a storm
  10. The night before
  1. A death
  2. A secret needs to be told
  3. Someone has or will hurt someone
  4. A crime has occurred or is about to
  5. Someone has lost/found something
  6. Someone is falling in love
  7. Reminiscing on how things change
  8. There has been a family emergency
  9. Something embarrassing happened
  10. Someone holds a medication
  1. A match maker
  2. A nerd
  3. A barista
  4. A visitor
  5. A homeless man
  6. A novice
  7. A mechanic
  8. An eccentric
  9. A musician
  10. An actress
  1. A theater
  2. A wedding
  3. A cemetery
  4. A restaurant
  5. A dungeon/jail
  6. A mountain peak
  7. An inn
  8. A cave
  9. A sporting event
  10. A convention
Adapted from 6 Creative Writing Prompts to expand them beyond contemporary topics. All the situations except the last that mentioned a doctor were amazingly universal :-)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A proposition

(Click image to enlarge.)

"Listen, we've got a proposition for you."

As always, let you imagination take you where it will. Don't let it be hampered by 3 real monkeys staring at it. ;-) They could be aliens! Or products of a deteriorating mind. (Or so you think!) Or a sentient species in a fantasy world. Or ...

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I resign!

Write a resignation letter.

You could use it to tell the boss what you really think about him or her and the job and your co-workers.

Or resign from being the boss and tell your underlings what you think of them.

Or from:

• being the country's ruler.

• • being God. Or the Devil.

• • • being a hero. Or the bad guy.

• • • • being someone's fan. (You've moved on? They've disappointed you?)

• • • • • the "perfect" job that didn't even give you a call.

• • • • • • being a slave. Or being a prisoner. Or school.

• • • • • • • a marriage or family.

• • • • • • • • association with a race or species.

• • • • • • • • • a religion or political party or life style.

• • • • • • • • • • being someone's pet.

• • • • • • • • • • • being someone's possession (car, television, stove ....)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Now with 100% more zombies!

Take any movie and add zombies to it. Write a blurb for the ones that spark your interest. Expand one that really grabs you.

If you need a list of movies, here's one culled from Mr. Showbiz' Reader's Poll.

Star Wars
Gone With The Wind
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Empire Strikes Back
It's A Wonderful Life
E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial
The Wizard of Oz
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The Sound of Music
Singin' In The Rain
Dances With Wolves
The Princess Bride
Top Gun
West Side Story
Field of Dreams
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Jurassic Park
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
The Maltese Falcon
Back to the Future
Dead Poets Society
The Lion King
The Breakfast Club
Toy Story

Obviously there are oodles of lists available just a Google away by searching for "100 best movies". A good place to start is AFI's 100 lists.

Zombie courtesy of toxiccandie.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Let it loose

Let it loose

Something new today! :-) Every morning that I don't post a prompt, I'll post a phrase you can use to write for 5-10 minutes.

You can:
  1. use it for a focused free write: begin with the topic and let the words flow from you continuously without pause, disregarding spelling, grammar, drift from topic. Even if your brain stalls and you need to write "I can't think what to write" over and over. Keep doing that until a new thought comes.
  3. use it to spark a scene with your current characters. Likely it won't generate anything you can plop into your story, but see where your characters go with it. They're likely to give you some new insights into who they are.
  5. come up with a scenario then use the prompt to drive it.
  7. let the prompt inspire the scenario and run with it.
  9. use it for whatever you want!
To use your time most efficiently, try Dr. Wicked's Write or Die. Use the default settings (normal and strict). Set the length of time. Click Write!

In the interest of full disclosure, these are all song titles. I make no claim to toiling my brain over a new phrase each day ;-) I wanted something with an emotional ring to it but was easy and quick. Hopefully you'll quickly forget I mentioned they're song titles. My tastes range from Metallica to Rory Gallagher so it's unlikely anyone has a similar collection on their iPod ;-)

They're all speculative fiction friendly. Some, like titles from Judas Priest and Rob Zombie, pretty much can't be anything else!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nursing a grudge

Back! With a new router with lots of pretty green lights indicating it's alive. :-) So, on with the prompts ...

Literally. Your character is literally nursing a grudge. The grudge can be the emotion in physical form. It can be a specific grudge. It can be a creature named a grudge. Or someone named Grudge.

For some reason it needs some healing attention. Is it an easy patient? Is it grumpy and demanding?

Or is that nursing as in breastfeeding? Maybe it's a baby grudge and your character is it's mommy. Or wet nurse or other caretaker.

Whatever comes to mind, run with it and see where it takes you.