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 ....)