Thursday, December 30, 2010


Create 12 resolutions, or lessons learned this year, that leave the reader to fill in the rest of the story. For example:

1. I will remember: chocolate sauce is for ice cream.

2. I will stop bothering the goat.

3. My boss has enough suggestions on where to shove it.

4. There is a reason they are called permanent.

5. "Do not tap on glass" is not a suggestion.

To take it a bit further, come up with clean back stories for each. :-)

Happy New Years!

Lists of Bart's chalkboard opening lines. They should all be the same, but the internet can be ephemeral.

Simpson's Archive: Blackboard Openings
Bart's Blackboard (Screen caps.)
List of Chalkboard Gag - Wikisimpsons

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yuletide Yeti

I Love the Yeti (So You Don't Have To)
For each letter of the alphabet, come up with an alliterative line (tabloid headline if you're up to the challenge) that relates to winter and holiday season.

With Xmas exuberance and exaltation they excavated the exotic excelsior.

Yesterday youthful Yeti from Yokohama arrived by Yugo for their yearly Yuletide Yodeling in Yiddish. (Critics are not appreciated.)

The zaftig zebra zigzagged the Zamboni like a zombie on Zoloft.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Midnight maniac

Midnight maniac

Hoping tonight's midnight maniac brings you what you've wished for!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A very dragon Christmas

Christmas must be dragon heaven time! All the glitter and glitz. Or maybe just young dragons who haven't learned the difference between glitter and gems, glitz and gold.

Write about a young dragon and his or her reaction to stumbling on a town being decorated for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas

There's a myth that during the English Reformation when Catholicism was outlawed, the 12 Days of Christmas was a mnemonic to pass on the tenets of Catholicism.

Snopes does a good job of debunking this myth, but there's something intriguing about codes hidden in plain sight that's probably kept it alive.

So, come up with your own secret coding. It needn't be religious. And maybe you can come up with a more clever code that relates to the objects also and not just the numbers. (Like you'd really need a song to remember the numbers 1-12 ;-) Note, they aren't just doves but turtle doves, not just hens but French hens. And a more natural dramatic moment would be half way through at 6, so why is it 5 golden rings? Notice the type of entries changes after 5: they're no longer just objects but objects in motion.

Here's what's supposedly encoded in the song:
  1. Partridge = Jesus or God
  2. Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
  3. French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
  4. Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
  5. Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
  6. Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
  7. Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
  8. Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
  9. Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
  10. Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
  11. Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
  12. Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Plot Whisperer

Need to whip that NaNo or other story into shape? The Plot Whisperer can help.

One of the links in the What to do after NaNo post was to PlotWriMo, the International Plot Writing Month. (Unfortunately she didn't make the posts a single click! The first post is on November 30th and the rest are in December.)

She's been posting an exercise a day to help you structure your novel. The process is broken down into 31 focused, well defined steps so it doesn't feel like an overwhelming task. And if you've been using December as NaNoWriMo finishing month, you're all set for the new year to get editing.

She has also been posting short weekly videos on developing plot, Plot a Novel, Memoir or Screenplay. (Scroll down the right side for the first post.) Each covers just one topic and she provides several examples from literature and gives you an assignment at the end of each for your current book. (This would be especially useful the month before NaNo. I'll make a note to mention it next October.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Princesses with silver plated assault weapons? Or maybe fairy princesses?

Even a kids' birthday party could make for a story.

Or something else?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Warm soft cash

Who and what is on the money in your current story? What denominations do you have? Does the lowest denomination have the most important person since they'll be seen the most often? Or the higher denomination because they're worth more? What's it made of? What shape is it?

If you're not working on a current story feel free to make up money from a favorite story. What does the Red Queen's money look like in Wonderland? Or in Oz? In Pern? I'm not sure if we saw the money in Harry Potter. Would the figures move?

As usual, click the picture to be taken somewhere, this time to World's Weirdest Currency where you can see coins with pop up heads and shaped like guitars among other oddities. There's also a book, Unusual World Coins, with "400 years of micro-nation coinage, fantasy issues (such as Middle Earth - Lord of the Rings), medieval fair coinage, historical fantasy and pretender issues." (Which is a bit pricey so hopefully in your library!)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

But officer ...

I need to leave very early to get into Boston traffic court for my first ever speeding ticket.

So, in honor of what I get to do today, in the world of your favorite book, movie, your own current work, come up with a dozen excuses to give the officer for why you were speeding. What would Harry Potter say? What would Han Solo say (if he didn't have a Jedi with him?) What would Captain Kirk say?

The best response is to go to court and just plain admit you were wrong and promise to never do it again, but that's not very interesting! ;-) You can be way more creative than that!

(BTW, yes, the not so interesting story worked :-)

Here's some creative (contemporary) stories:

Best Ticket Excuses Contest
Best Traffic Ticket Excuses

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Yes, it's Photoshopped! No kittens were
squished in the taking of this picture.
A pleonasm is "the use of more words than those necessary to express an idea".

Choose 10 of the following pleonasms. Change one of the repetitious words to come up with a new -- and probably very odd! -- concept then use it in a sentence. Partial satisfaction? Ignorant experts?

(Sorry for the long list! After two whittles, this is what was left and I ran out of time to make it shorter.)

If you've come upon examples of pleonasms in real life or from your imagination, Anu Garg is running a contest this week (ends Friday, Dec 10).

absolutely essential
actual facts
anonymous stranger
artificial prosthesis
basic necessities
boat marina
bouquet of flowers
brief moment
burning embers
cacophony of sound
completely annihilate
desirable benefits
eradicate completely
face mask
fall down
favorable approval
final end
final ultimatum
fly through the air
free gift
frozen ice
full satisfaction
green [or blue or whatever] in color
harmful injuries
introduced for the first time
knowledgeable experts
lag behind
live studio audience
live witness
look ahead to the future
look back in retrospect
manually by hand
mental telepathy
natural instinct
new invention
over exaggerate
personal friend
positive identification
pouring down rain
protest against
pursue after
safe haven
sand dune
serious danger
sudden impulse
three-way love triangle
total destruction
true facts
truly sincere
unexpected emergency
unintentional mistake
very unique

There's even more at Pleonasms.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What to do after NaNoWriMo

Writing in the Sky by Shinichi Maruyama
If you found a month madly dedicated to one project exhilarating amidst the exhaustion :-) there are more challenges throughout the year, some lasting a month, some a week, some 3 days, some 24 straight hours. :-) (The NaNoWriMo folks aren't affiliated with any of these except Script Frenzy.)

From the I Wrote a Novel, Now What? page at the NaNoWriMo site which might have more challenges added throughout the year (plus a few free contests). (For readers in the future, if you've stumbled across this page during November, the link probably won't work. A fresh page will go up early December.)

December - National Novel Finishing Month (December). Goal: 30,000 words.
De-PlotWriMo - Plot Writing Month (December). Goal: Refine the plot arc of your first draft.

Varies or throughout the year
NaBloPoMo - National Blog Posting Month (Year-Round). Goal: Post every day for a month.
WriYe - (Year-Round). Goal: Set a word-count goal for the year and work towards it between January 1 and December 31.
48 Hour Film Project - (Varies; operates via tours around the USA, lasts 48 hours). Goal: Create a short film in 48 hours.
SciFiWriMo - Science Fiction Writing Month (Year-Round). Goal: choose a target word count and reach it in a month, writing sci-fi or fantasy.
750 Words (Year-Round). Goal: write 750 words a day. Includes month-long challenges.

JanNoWriMo - Goal: Write either 50k or your own word-count goal in January.

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.

Script Frenzy - NaNoWriMo's sister challenge (April). Goal: Write a 100-page screenplay, stage play, comic book, or set of TV scripts in April.
RePoWriMo - Refrigerator Poetry Writing Month (April). Goal: Write poetry using only refrigerator poetry magnets.
April Fool's - (April). Goal: Set a word-count goal for yourself and fulfill it by the end of the month.

National Picture Book Writing Week - (First week of May). Goal: Write 7 picture books in 7 days.
NEPMo - National Epic Poetry Month (May). Goal: Write 5,000 lines epic poem in May.
SoFoBoMo - Solo Photo Book Month (Between May first and June 31). Goal: Create a solo photo book within 31 days.
Story A Day - (Throughout May). The only rules: Write a story a day. Finish them. Note from me: this could easily be harder than NaNo if your stories are more than 1667 words each! :-) If you'd like to keep word count under control you might want to check out the various forms of Flash fiction.

ComiKaze - Create a 24 page comic in 24 hours. Participants pages are posted at the Pulp Faction forums.
WriDaNoJu - Write a Damn Novel in June (June). Goal: Write 50K in the 30 days of June. It's perfectly situated six months from November so you have optimum time to prepare for WriDaNoJu and NaNoWriMo.
SoCNoC - Southern Cross Novel Challenge (June). Goal: Write 50,000 words of fiction.

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

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

3-Day Novel Contest - (September). Goal: Write a novel in three days. They've been doing this since 1977. So cool!
SeptNoWriMo - September Novel Writing Month (September). Goal: Set a word-count goal and edit, write, or edit and write throughout the month of September!

24 Hour Comics Day - (Date changes annually, lasts 24 hours). Goal: Draw a 24-page comic in one 24-hour period.
GothNoWriMo - Gothic Novel Writing Month (October). Goal: Write a gothic novel in October.

NaPlWriMo - National Playwriting Month (November). Goal: Write a play in one month.
NaNoMango - The manga alternative to NaNoWriMo. Either 30 penciled, 15 inked, or 10 completely finished pages of a comic book in 30 days.
PiBoIdMo - Picture Book Idea Month (November). Goal: Write 30 ideas in 30 days.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Rose isn't a rose

A field of flowers is obviously more beautiful than a bare patch of ground.

Or is it? What about the microbes and other beasts and plants using that field before the flowers came along and invaded? That flowering plant drills roots down into the soil, stealing water and nutrients that get sucked up into a structure that blocks the sun then drops it's waste onto the ground that attracts different microbes to consume it.

Write about the invasion from the point of view of one of the original inhabitants.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dwindling dweeby dwarf dwellings

Something quick and, for those on the final day of NaNoWriMo, a bit of a mental break from plotting :-)

There are only 4 words in the English language that begin with dw. Write at least 10 very different sentences using at least 3 of the dw words in each sentence in different ways (obviously changing tenses and forms as you wish).


Inspired by #88 in Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring! by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Be thankful today because tomorrow ...

Bigger at Motifake
What are your characters thankful for? Yes, even the bad guy.

Let them be blissfully thankful today. Because all those things they're thankful for are their weaknesses and tomorrow you will have Fate and the bad guy take them all away <eg>.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Internal conflicts

Have the heart, soul, mind and body of a character argue about what's been done to them and what direction things should go. It can be the character in your Nano, a favorite character you created, or one someone else created.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adambot and Evedroid

Adoptabots by Brian Marshall
Retell the story of Adam and Eve from the point of view of robots with their creator in the role of God.

What knowledge would their creator not want them to have? What would this forbidden portal to knowledge be? What would it look like to them?

Who would want to tempt them to take the knowledge and why? What form would the tempter take?

Their knowledge of the world would be only what their creator allowed them to have. Some artificial intelligence research involves giving robots some rudimentary goals and an understanding of how to explore. This allows them to build their own understanding of their world, refining it as they learn from the results of what they try. So what would their view of their world be? What understanding would they have of their creator? If they were to record their story of how they were kicked out of or escaped from robot paradise how would it read? What misconceptions would they have in their understanding of their creator and his or her motives and of robot paradise?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All of the damned

All of the damned
Cripes. All of them? Yes, every single one of them. In your Nano. Soon. (Though of course you can take it in creative directions!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Muck it up

Are things sailing along a little too smoothly in the middle of your story? Do you have a story you abandoned when things got boring? Try one of these:
  • Your character gets defensive, edgy, paranoid. Maybe for good reason.
  • Do you believe in justice? If so, who is not getting their fair share of bad karma? Even the scales by doing something unfortunate to the character that has suffered the least.
  • Which character, if killed, would really mess up this whole situation? I know, they are too important to kill off. But due to pressing family problems, they could leave indefinitely.
  • One of your antagonists is or becomes very wealthy. How will they use this against you?
  • Peer pressure [or hazing] is fun, especially when it convinces your character to shoplift, tresspass or go naked.
  • An assumed name, identity, role: someone is not who they are pretending to be.
  • Tomorrow morning your character rolls over and sees the fruit of last night's mistake on their pillow...more interesting: maybe they don't regret it. [The original said "sleeping on their pillow" but leaving it out opens up the possibilities! :-D]

These are from Random Plot Points where there lots of random ways to muck up your plot. :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dead seagull

Dead seagull

Not sure why it didn't occur to me before to find song titles that sounded like plot ninjas! But I'll try to continue that for the rest of the month. :-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Briefcase full of guts

Briefcase full of guts

Warm up or a plot ninja for your NaNo novel? Not too difficult if you're writing a murder mystery but might be a challenge for a romance! ;-) I collected a slew of Plot Ninjas if you'd like to try some.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First impressions

Write about a favorite character or your character (can be the main character, villain, a character you're intrigued by) from the point of view of a stranger. Put the character in his or her element or everyday life and describe someone's first impression of them.

Now try putting the character in a situation they don't feel comfortable in. How would a stranger describe them?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Great Expectations

Pointing by Marcus Ranum
A big fan of the gangster era genre, Lizzy has spent weekends designing characters to take with her on her Great Expectations virtual reality experience. The characters are base level, perfectly capable of reacting in unique ways to the novel (or genre) they're designed for, either to help her or to throw monkey wrenches into the plot. If she sets the randomizer before entering her experience, one or more will only seem to be as she designed them.

Lizzy enters the virtual reality world and the doors lock behind her for the duration. Then she realizes she's in the wrong novel, she's in a fantasy genre instead. And she's trapped with characters incapable of realizing the genre has shifted.

Feel free to randomize the two genres Lizzy ends up in.

(The subgenre list is from AllBookstores).

Here's some that caught my attention as I was randomizing:

  • Monastic (Mystery) -- Spicy (Romance)
  • English Country House (Mystery) -- Space Travel (Scifi Fantasy)
  • Glitz and Glamor (Romance) -- Psychological (Horror)
  • Vengance (Western) -- Regency (Romance)
  • Gothic (Horror) -- Fairy Tales (Scifi Fantasy)
  • Husband and Wife (Mystery) -- Wild Frontiers (Scifi Fantasy)

Idea from Teresa Schultz-Jones's Nano.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hairy alternative grungy metal rocks II

I need something easy. I'm falling behind on my NaNo word count. There's a reason Chris Baty says don't start with a story you've already worked on. And it's not because it makes it too easy. It's because it's harder without the ability to let anything happen! ;-)

So ... onto the prompt. Use the following phrases in sentences. (If you can't make the phrase work, feel free use the words individually.)

death clock
blood sweat tears
buck cherry
arrow smith (or aero if you can make it work)
iron maiden
nine inch nails
beastie boys
sound garden
dead seagull
alien ant farm
wolf mother
deaf leopard
finger eleven
living color
them crooked vultures
hammer fist
screaming monkey boners
faith no more

If you'd like some more: Part I.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A maddening cow disease

Click image for larger view
Click -- HERE -- for even larger (but you may want to avoid
the caption at the bottom so it doesn't constrain your ideas).
Yes, those are mini cows bursting out of people. The tub says "Opening Mixture."

The people are panicking but not attacking anyone. Do they know they'll eventually be okay or have their violent reactions been suppressed?

The people in brown, green and blue seem exceedingly calm. They obviously know what's going on but also seem certain the cow people won't attack them. Why?

Are they creating the cow people or curing them? What do they intend to do with these cow people or what caused them to become like this?

What will they do with all the mini cows?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Talking trash

"The wastebasket is a writer's best friend." -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

What if it were? What if an author sequestered himself or herself with a chatty wastebasket. Does it give good advice? Is its goal to be filled? Does it interact with the Muse (from Tuesday)? Does the Muse not like her creations ending up in the wastebasket? Or does she accept it as part of the process to make room for new ideas?

What does the author do with the wastebasket during NaNoWriMo when the goal is to not delete?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Life is like ..."

"Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.…"
Samuel Butler

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Whose Muse?

Who is your Muse?

Describe the Muse that comes up with the wild ideas that seem to come from no where as you're writing. What is she/he/it like when you remove the shackles and open the cage door for NaNoWriMo? What about after NaNo when the editing process begins? How do your Muse and your inner Editor interact? Is there conflict of epic proportions?

Or, if you'd rather, what about Ozzy Osbourne's muse? Or J.K. Rowling? Lady Gaga? George Lucas? Alfred Hitchcock?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Speak of the devil

“Speak of the Devil, here she comes now," Raz grumbled into Limo's tufty ear, then immediately punctuated it with an "Erp!" when the Devil's crimson gaze turned toward her.

Take it from there!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reality bites

Create a reality show around a favorite character, or, if you're doing NaNoWriMo this year and have a story idea, your main character or main antagonist. Putting them in a high pressure situation is bound to bring out some new personality quirks and conflicts.

Perhaps one of your NaNo characters is the central figure of the show and the other competes to win an opportunity to be a partner or be mentored. Or the protagonist and antagonist compete against each other.

If you have only an unwilling knowledge of reality TV, there are far more types than you might imagine. (Wikipedia has a good list of subcategories of reality TV shows with examples of each.) Some cribbed from there:

Documentary style shows: Selected strangers required to live together. Recording a celebrity's or unusual person's home life. Or the daily doings of someone in an interesting profession.

Contest style shows: Competitors face a series of physical, intellectual, skill based or creative challenges and are eliminated by the host or the audience. This includes dating shows and career opportunity shows.

Improvement shows: Someone or something is made over.

Swap shows: Someone is inserted into another person's life to sink or swim.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

High Church of the Evil Stepmother

The World is divided into armed camps ready to commit genocide just because we can't agree on whose fairy tales to believe. -- Ed Krebs, photographer (b. 1951)

Of course Krebs's "fairy tales" is a snarky reference to religion, but what if the beliefs actually were fairy tales? What if the wars are over which of the various interpretations of Snow White is the real one? Were they dwarves or theives? Was it 7 dwarves for 40 dragons? Was the instigator an evil step-mother or two jealous sisters?

(There's a list of mostly European fairy tales at Fairy Tales if you'd like to explore other fairy tales with multiple versions.)

Or broader, perhaps Grimm versus Perrault? European versus Chinese? Marvel versus DC? Classic Star Trek or revamped story line?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Congenially congealed

Aunt Hexia has brought her (in)famous lime jello salad to the family picnic.

There are, as usual, mysterious things suspended in it. (Could those be pretzels? Are those olives or is something looking back at you?)

Capture the dozen tactful statements you hear being made. What do you say?

Inspired by #111 in Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring! by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Prince

(Geez, I just totally disappeared. I did the 24 hour comic book challenge over the weekend with my daughter and didn't expect it to throw me completely off schedule. If you're curious to see it: A Morning in the Life of a Magical Girl.)

You're hired to be The Prince's bodyguard, caretaker, watchdog, general factotum while he's visiting your city. The Prince proves to be quite high maintenance. You need to keep him occupied, happy and within sight. For the next 48 hours when he will give a speech at the opening ceremonies of the intergalactic exposition your skills are challenged to the fullest.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Camera obscura

Click for larger but crappier size

You found this picture in your fiancé or fiancée's desk drawer. One of them is your intended. On the back is written (in whatever order you choose -- try drawing them at random!)

Dad, Mom, Fi, Fletcher, Jonna, me.

Good luck, Jeff

Feinstein Family 2002

Is the message Good luck! (signed) Jeff or Good luck (to) Jeff? Your intended's name is not on the list, nor is it Jeff (and no way to tell if Jeff is also "me") but the picture is definitely him or her and the last name is Feinstein. The necklace in the picture looks like the one he or she often wears.

Take it from there.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Man was made ...

"Man was made at the end of the
week's work when God was tired."
-- Mark Twain

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

d deth of soc

Periodic text message table (click)
"The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers."

--Spuriously attributed to Plato quoting Socrates though probably made up in the 60's.
The current older generation grouses about how the current youth have forgotten what's important in life. They're wallowing in selfishness and shallowness that will degenerate society with things like texting and internet socialization and underwear hanging out of their pants.

It's always been that way. The current group of grousers were complained about by the adults of their generation. The youth would never amount to anything because of that awful dissolute rock music and the long hair and weird clothes made it impossible to tell the girls from the guys.

And, as also happens, as each generation of teens becomes adults they change society by integrating what's important to them.

What's absolutely certain is that the current group of teens will grow old and grouse about the hopelessness of the teens around them.

So what will they complain about -- text about as they cling to their ancient, but supposedly superior technology?
"I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words. When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of restraint."

-- Spuriously attributed to Hesiod (8th century B.C.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

24 Hour Comic Book Challenge

Next Saturday, October 2, starting at 3PM, the 24 Hour Comic Book Challenge begins. The goal is to create a complete (penciled, inked, and lettered) 24 page comic in 24 hours.

My daughter Kat and I will be there, pencils, inking pens and paper at the ready :-) You can check at the ComicsPro site to see if there's a hosting site near you. Of course anyone can do it at home, knowing that people all over the world are hunkering over their drawing tables or computer tablets at the same time, but a group can often be inspiring and energizing :-)

If you make it all the way through the 24 hours, you can submit a copy of your comic to the archives at Ohio State University.

How much preparation you do before the 24 hours begins is up to you since it's a personal challenge rather than a contest but you can't start the comic until the 24 hours begins. The original challenge was created in 1990 by Scott McCloud for himself long-time fellow comic artist Steve Bisset. Scott's rules were you needed to begin with no preconceived idea, no character sketches! The rules for the Australian version are: "The Challenge is to create a comic in 24 hours, in whatever medium you're comfortable in. Use ink, computer graphics, paint, magazine photos, crayons; use paper, bristol board, wacom tablets - it doesn't matter." So it's up to you! It's your comic. Your challenge.

One tip Scott passed on is the pages should generally have more than one panel (to feel like a comic book) but don't try to do more than 4 panels per page. (It's hard enough as it is!)

These are not pretty comics :-) The finished product will be glaringly imperfect but the point is to get past the perfectionism block to complete a story. Tip: If you're spending more than an hour (sketching, inking, lettering) on a page, you're going too slow.

Here's some online comic creation sites. Not guaranteeing any of these will help with a 24 hour comic, but they look like fun :-) Some might be useful for storyboards. The Marvel site will create a 22-page comic but perhaps it does so much for you that it might take the challenge out of the challenge.

Marvel's Superhero Squad
This is nifty. You can create either a comic strip or comic book (up to 22 pages) starring Marvel Superheros. Choose the page layout, drag over resizable characters, backgrounds, objects, words balloons. Download when you're done.

Stripcreator at Make a comic
1-3 panels. Simple pull down menus to choose location, funky characters, emotions and so on. Slick and simple. Could be good for quick storyboards.

Make Beliefs Comix
Click and drag from 20 characters with many emotion options, word balloons, captions and objects. You can even write in Latin (among other languages)! There's also a monthly contest there for comics created with Make Beliefs Comix.

Pixton: Click and Drag comics
Multiple layouts for strips and comic pages.

I didn't register to check it out, but the 1-3 panel strips on the main page suggest you can draw your own characters. It looks like you can create your own characters and emotions so you can use them over again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unconventional inspiration

Unconventional for speculative fiction anyway. Each genre has its cliches. Are you up to the challenge of genre-bending these Chick Lit cliches (from Chicklit Club) into speculative fiction? There's ethnic, mystery, historical (Jane Austen has been recategorized as chick lit.), Christian, why not anthro? Or zombie? Or magical girl? (Though, come to think of it, that already is!)

Not having broad experience with chick lit or flicks I'll paraphrase from the teeming mass of experts at Wikipedia: Chick lit is about women who can stand on their own two feet. Often they're trying to make it in the modern world dealing with issues that women face, centered around relationships with family and friends and sometimes -- though not always -- a romantic interest.


What would chick lit be without its conventions and devices? Those character types and stereotypes that appear in book after book. But are these cliches expected by fans or a real turnoff? Read on for the top 10 character cliches.

Chick lit cliches: characters
  1. Gay friend.
  2. True love who heroine despises at first but is attracted to nevertheless.
  3. The wrong guy - he's either a jerk, insensitive, unfaithful or too preoccupied.
  4. Bubbly best friend.
  5. Cheating husband.
  6. Overbearing mother.
  7. Backstabbing colleague/ boss from hell.
  8. Double-crossing friend.
  9. Dysfunctional family members.
  10. Diva celebrity.
And there's more. Here's those other cliches that appear so often in the plot and setting.

Chick lit cliches: other
  1. Surprise pregnancy that is bleedin' obvious to anyone but the woman involved. Often related to pregnancy that happens to mid-30s woman from one-night stand.
  2. Urban setting. And characters often catch up at cafes and bars.
  3. Designer clothes/shoes obsession.
  4. Everyone works in publishing/PR/fashion.
  5. Hatches, matches and dispatches - someone, somewhere always falls pregnant, gets married or dies.
  6. Fight with the true love where it seems they'll never get together.
  7. An American goes to England, or vice versa.
  8. Significant birthday approaching.
  9. Living well (cool apartment, socialising, taxis, clothes) despite meager earnings.
  10. Regular coffee/Coke/ice-cream/chocolate habit.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fireball fail

Ball ... Face ... Slideshow
"Uh-oh!" She sensed something had gone wrong mere heartbeats before her own fire ball came careening back to explode at the most unfortunate location...

This is one of the many many fantasy first lines offered up for grabs at the Nanowrimo Forums where each genre folder often has up-for-grab plots, plot twist and so on. I've posted the 2009 Fantasy list below.

First lines

First Friday in May, any year, NYC
These are the fantasy first lines up for grabs at the Nanowrimo Forums. (The forums are archived before NaNoWriMo each November with fresh genre folders. So there may be a new first line folder there or, if not, you can register and start one :-) And magically it will fill with first lines!)

As you scan through, get a feel for the type of lines that grab you. The most compelling generally create a question in your mind as you wonder what happened or what's about to happen with this unsettling or unusual situation. For character driven stories generally a character's life had or is about to have a monkey wrench thrown into it. They're about to lose something important like the easy life they were living or the rock-free path to an important goal they were traveling.

In a novel, the first line needn't lead right into the main problem but an unsettling feeling can grab the reader, a feeling that bigger unsettling things are coming. Like, "The phone rang in the middle of the night," "The phaser blasted a hole inches from my head." Even if that call or phaser blast isn't a life changing event, you can use the tension like distant thunder as you drop in more rumbles that a Big Thing is approaching.
  • "Uh-oh!" He sensed something had gone wrong mere heartbeats before his own fire ball came careening back to explode at the most unfortunate location...
  • A gryphon tethered to the apple tree in front of the house meant only one thing . . .
  • The magic was supposed to work. So why was she still standing here, gaping at her hand as though it had grown three extra fingers and a nose?
  • Why aren't you wearing any pants?
  • It all started when the dragon left.
  • An arrow arched across the sky and plunged into the bushes.
  • A salamander once told me that you never know where you're going until you get there, and even then you might not know. Salamanders never made much sense to me either.
  • Magic had disappeared, and I was the cause of it.
  • And the world that had been was no more.
  • It was a dark, stormy night...
  • He was a dark and stormy knight...
  • It was a bright and sunny day ...
  • It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, it was a pleasant sunny day, but it should have been a dark and stormy night!
  • No one can go back and write a new beginning, but anyone can start today and write a new ending.
  • Legend said he would come. Reason said he would not.
  • The cart rocked from side to side, as the single horse pulled it over the thin, muddy road. The bodies of the freshly hanged robbers lay limply piled on each other, heads lolling back and forth. One started to move, and from beneath her friends, NAME climbed out of the cart.
  • Watch her, he'd said. Protect her. Maybe he'd forgotten who I am.
  • "You called on the Thunder?! Great! Just great! What's the Wind going to say about this? You know you always use the Wind."
  • Seven shadowy figures stood in the light of the fire they encircled, waiting for the arrival of their eighth member. It was time to take action, even if it meant going to war.
  • The sky seemed serene only seconds before it burst into flame.
  • What the heck happened to the bologna?
  • The (boy/girl/etc/ or I works) screamed as I opened my birthday gift. In the box stood a gnome.
  • Wake up sleepyhead! You've just missed it! The waffles have begun flying!
  • "Give me blood."
  • Legend has it that there were three towers at the ends of the world that held up the cosmos. [name] knew that it wasn't true. Of course it couldn't be true; he'd been there. It was actually five towers.
  • There was nobody left to question the wind.
  • The dragon looked at him with his sword and armour, uttered the single word "amateurs", and flew away to find some lunch.
  • There are always beaches of some form or other in all the worlds of the cosmos, on this one sat a crying giant.
  • The orc stood up, looked at me, and sat down again. "I can't eat you, you're way to short and scrawny. Come back in five years, then I'll consider eating you."
  • Does your birthday begin with you being snatched out of bed, stabbed with a knife then kicked out of a tenth story window?
  • Once upon a time there lived a princess who had never been shut in a tower, never been cursed by an evil witch, and was not at all beautiful. Her life was exceedingly dull until the day the sorcerer arrived.
  • She looked at the emu and burst into tears. "You don't know me at all, do you?" she wailed. "You know my favorite bird is a water ouzel!"
  • 'That morning the woman came to our village. The woman with her hair as red as fire and as black as the devil. I was afraid of her.
  • There are three rules to life. The most important one being: Never mess with flying monkeys.
  • I was not lying when I said that Heaven smells of fresh strawberries.
  • Nothing in ____'s entire life has prepared him/her for this.
  • His hair is black as ebony, his lips are red as blood, and his skin is pale as snow. He is my brother, and I love him with all my heart.
  • "Why the (insert curse word here) would anyone believe in a godsforsaken prophecy?"
  • Everything started with an explosion sixteen years ago.
  • I was always obsessed with green Formica counter-tops.
  • If my counting is correct, this is the seventh time I have died. It really does get annoying after a while.
  • *insert color here*' eyes opened to a new world.
  • "Am I... Alive?"
  • Why don't you try online chat rooms? I'll bet you'll find the right demon there.
  • "Don't get me wrong, I like dragons. I just don't like them sitting on my chest at three in the morning, demanding Turkish coffee and bread pudding right away."
  • Demons don't have much imagination.
  • His sainted grandmother had a good expression for times like this: "life is a bucket of shit with its handles on the inside."
  • "And just what do you think killing him will accomplish? You'll have to do better than that if you want to make a change in the world."
  • "Ha! Give me one reason not to kill you."
  • "Have fun in the labyrinth, then."
  • "I always knew that the end of the world would come, but I never imagined that I'd be the one ending it."
  • "These men are the only things protecting us from the Scourge, and you want to use them for that?!"
  • The rain poured down in torrents, bombarding the two without mercy. "Hey look, the gods are showing how much they like us!"
  • _____ walked over to him, helping slide the thin shaft from his shoulder. He slapped him on the back and smiled; "These barbarians need to work on their manners!"
  • ___ had never been lucky still he/she ought to know better than to piss off a fairy.
  • "Now, seriously...who let the dogs out?" ____ questioned while trying to avoid being licked by a two-headed hellhound.
  • "May I remind you that he was coming after you with a sword at the time. And he was stark naked."
  • Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess but this story is not about her.
  • "You think this is a fantasy? Hehehe... no. This is my world. It is something much, much more."
  • In their darkest hour, in their time of greatest need, the blade was taken up by a hero... and shattered like glass with the first blow.
  • Destiny had a way of coming for people, of taking their hand and leading them on their path, but MC had never cared for destiny. The last time it had come for him/her, he/she had butchered it where it stood and gone on his/her way.
  • It was a time when man's worth was judged by his ability to take life.
  • Vengeance was a self-perpetuating cycle of eternal life, thriving on the deaths of those that came before. MC laughed. He/she may die, but vengeance never would.
  • It is not often that you can trace the end of the world back to one person. But in the case of [planet/place/etc], you can do exactly that.
  • The sky wept as the land beneath it died.
  • "Oh bother." Lesker said with a sigh as he awoke to the bright morning sky. It promised to be a beautiful spring morning, the birds were already singing and dancing in the trees above and the snow white apple blossoms spread out across the orchard below him. The outer fringes of Rellis could be seen across the tree tops. He was almost a hundred miles in the wrong direction. . .again. He had accidentally teleported himself in his sleep before but it seemed to be happening with more frequency of late. Sitting on the log next to the fire he didn't remember building Lesker began to puzzle his new predicament out.
  • I love my field partner and boyfriend to death, but he's an absolute danger magnet. Someday I'm going to teach him how to get from point A to point B without trying to get himself killed. No one was even after us last time he was sent to the hospital. We were just walking to school—no disguises, no magic, no mind tricks, no hidden enemies, no ninjas, and no work—just walking to school and he somehow managed to trip on the sidewalk, fall into the open street, and get hit by a car. I mean, who has that kind of luck? Idiot. But I still love him. He's one of those people you just can't help but love, you know? I'll be putting up with his shenanigans and allowing him to scare me silly for the rest of my life, simply because I can't imagine life without him anymore. Sorry thing for an eighteen-year-old-girl to say, huh?
  • [someone] "Hey!"

    [someone else] "What?"

    [someone] "I'll give you a ride to the hospital if" . . .

    Real life conversation once.
  • I am the most famous teenager in the United States. That is...I'm the most famous, but no one really knows. Only the dragons.
  • MC took a breath and closed his/her eyes, willing the power they kept telling him/her flowed through his/her veins to come out of his/her veins and into her ash wand. Everyone else in his/her year could cast this spell. It was a simple spell, a transportation spell that they should have learned in their first month. And most of them had learned it. But not MC. MC could no more manage a transport spell than he/she could fly… something else he/she should be able to do.
  • MC had never been a particularly brave person. He/she had always prided himself on his/her theory that it was better to run away than to stay and be eaten by whichever tiger happened to be attacking the village that day. The fact that tigers very rarely attacked Location was of absolutely no importance. Nor did he/she care much about the things people told him when they wanted him/her to be braver, things like 'you're only young once,' or 'when i was your age, insects were the size of griffons.' MC wanted to grow up as quickly as he/she could, and he/she did not much care what had happened when his/her parents were young. He/she had not been around then, and he/she was glad for it.
  • MC looked at the list before him/her, trying to decide which sounded the least dreadful.
  • In a time before time, villains gathered huge armies and crushed empires. These days, they're more prone to drinking coffee and staging political coups.
  • By the time I finished sending a perfectly worded email to my adviser, my coffee was stone cold, my lights had gone out, and my heater had turned off of its own volition.
  • An armchair came flying at my head.
  • The damsel wasn't looking very distressed; the prince was throwing assorted fruit at his henchmen; and through it all, the dragon was smiling smugly down at his handiwork.
  • Not many people in the world can say their dinners were interrupted by a pair of elves with swords jumping through the kitchen window.
  • When  ________ had a dream about fire and magic, she/he knew something in the world had changed. Whether for the worse or the better, nobody could have said.
  • A cheese quesadilla with Bacon on it when cooked on a dragon's fire is something else altogether.
  • The best things in life are often products of someone's imagination running amok.
  • "It was # years ago that Main Villain (MV) suffered a fate worse than death. MV had once been highly esteemed, loved by most of the known world. But because of MV's actions on that fateful day the person MV most loved died in MV's arms. It can only be concluded that MV went a bit insane because of this. And that is why it snowed turnips last Friday/month/summer and we are going off to fight the forces of evil."
  • In [City Name], you could buy souls on the black market.
  • Never take advice from a talking plant. It can only end badly. That was the first rule they taught me at the academy. That was also the first rule I broke.
  • Right after her morning tea, the Queen sent her Master of Arms to awaken her Monster.
  • It was the ugliest ghost [name] had ever seen, and that including the poor soul at the air terminal with its ribs sticking out of its back.
  • Before things were peaceful and dragons lived in peace with humans. They were messengers, carriers, and friends.
  • "What in the name of potatoes are you doing here?" I asked.
  • "Oh now look what you did! Why didn't you stop and ask for directions, you are such a male sometimes," my friend shouted.
  • There's no guarantee I'll be able to finish telling you this story, but I'll start anyway. I used to be a princess, but I've been stripped of my crown and banned from my country.
  • It was raining. Again. It always rained in (country). That wouldn't have been a problem if it weren't for the fact that the royal messenger was trying his damnedest to keep dry the important documents tucked under his oiled cloak. If even a drop landed on the official-looking papers, (messenger) had little doubt Her Royal Majesty would find something very blunt and shove it in a rather inconvenient part of his body....
  • Sometimes you have these memories of things that happened a long time ago, but they're so hideous that you don't dare look directly at them. Sort of like scars that you keep hidden from everyone else but can't quite forget, because you know they will always be with you even in your final days.
  • Before The End, people complained that the world was falling apart. That it was rotten from the inside out, and that our society would eventually crack from the strain of so much filth and corruption like many civilizations before it. But they didn't really expect for it to come, leastways not when they were still alive. And only when The End finally arrived on our world's doorstep did the domino effect begin.