Thursday, February 25, 2010

1001 cliffhangers

1001 Arabian Nights.

Actually today's post is number 1002, but the connection didn't occur to me before I posted yesterday's warm up. ;-)

Like in the original, write a series of cliffhangers. You don't need to write 1001. ;-) Try for at least 11.

For this prompt, create a series of cliffhangers. It might be easiest to treat it as camp so Good doesn't get in the way of Creativity ;-) Begin in your favorite genre, bring in some campy genre characters and stock genre situation. Brainstorm as many plot turns as you can.

Pick your favorites and organize them as a series of events. Describe the character's actions then tack on "but then" and throw in an obstacle or plot turn that slams the character off the direct pathway to happiness and gives them a problem to solve. Each time one obstacle is removed, slam them with another "but then" that makes things worse. It's even more satisfying if, rather than a random obstacle, a resolution creates another obstacle and makes matters worse.

Write it as a streaming narrative. Begin with the set up and environment, for example:

In the Kingdom of Brandish, Princess Peacock was preparing to marry the heroic farm boy who had saved her life ...

but then he was stricken by the flesh eating plague, followed in quick succession by her sister, the ministers, the guards and she was about to flee to escape the contagion and seek a cure ...

but then the also-plague stricken court jester, dropped before her choking out "The Mad Wizard ... he has ..."

but then the court jester passed out and uncertain if the Mad Wizard had the plague, had the cure or had a grudge she set out for his hut in the woods ...

but then ....

If you need help getting started, at Serendipity you can generate a fantasy plot. And generate plot twists. If you'd like to mine One Thousand and One Nights for ideas, Wikipedia has a list of characters:

If you've forgotten, One Thousand and One Nights is a series of continuing stories wrapped within the tale of King Shahryar. The King discovers his first wife was unfaithful and had her executed. He declared all women to be unfaithful and marries one virgin after another only to execute them in the morning. When virgins are seriously in short supply the Vizier, whose job it is to procure the virgins, his daughter, Scheherazade, offers to be the next bride. To save herself, she tells a story (to her sister as a goodbye as part of Scheherazade's plan) but ends it with a cliffhanger at dawn when she's supposed to be executed. The king, wanting to hear the end, spares her life until the next dawn. That night Scheherazade continues the story, but again comes to a cliffhanger at dawn. After 1001 nights she declares she has no more stories, but by then the king has fallen in love with her, had 3 sons and become a much better man because of the stories so makes her his queen.

Not all the stories in One Thousand and One Nights end with traditional cliffhangers. In some the characters begin telling other characters a different tale or in the midst of a discourse on philosophy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


As of today, that's how many posts there are at Dragon Writing Prompts :-)

I had vague thoughts of a prompt inspired by 1000 as I saw the number approaching. Well, no great original ideas popped into my head. No not-great original ones, either. ;-) So, since a picture's worth 1000 words, I browsed through the writing area of for a picture prompt.

(Click for larger view at the artist's Worth1000 page.)

Write a 1000 words inspired by the picture. Who is she? Or is she merely a tool and what she's doing more important?

Does the skeleton have something to do with death? Or bringing something back from death? Or the foundation of something she's building? Or is it her employer looking over her shoulder? ;-)

Why a cat and an octopus? What's imaged in the other balls? Why the bugs?

Some other stuff that doesn't have to do with the prompt, but does have to do with the picture and Worth1000.

marymagdalyne created and posted the picture that inspired the The Quatrains of Nostradamworth writing contest at Worth1000. It was originally for a photo effects challenge, Magical Mishaps, -- which is the original foundation of the Worth1000 website. The photos she used are here.

Pretty cool! Of course Worth1000 is chock full of coolness :-)

Worth1000 always has several writing contests going on. There are Advanced, Beginner and "Head to Head" (HxH, contests set up between specific members).

(You can enter without paying, but can't win. Credits are 10 for $1 so the entry fees aren't bank breakers ;-)

Just for fun, here are a few photo effects contests that relate to language. (Each has multiple pages of entries and at the bottom of each page are often links to previous or related contests.)

Literalisms 10
Some of the entries are "Tree Frog", "Road Rage", "She's an open book", "Change your mind". Very clever!

Emotion: Love 2010
Some very heart warming, some very clever :-)

And a few recent ones with loads of pictures begging for the stories behind them :-)

Cats vs Mice 3 - "Classic battle between good and evil."

Bizarrchitecture 10 - "The unique dream houses you'd like to own."

Anatomy Scramble 5 - "Rearranging body parts."

Ghost Ren 6 -- "Haunting art"

Back 2 Basics: Trolley

As a total aside -- though Pokemon is the reason my daughter began writing and drawing in earnest so the connection is not so far off in space as it seems ;-) -- I stumbled across a challenge there to create Pokemon from actual photos. There are 7 pages. Cubone (the winning entry) is astonishing :-) My daughter loved looking through them :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seriously lacking

Use as your first line:

"Three thousand habitable planets in the known universe, and I'm stuck on the only one without ______________. "

(Fill in the blank. Which is obvious *except* that this line is for a contest run by The First Line where one of the rules is you can't alter the given line -- except when noted ;-)

If you'd like to enter for a chance to be in their quarterly publication (in print since 1999), this one is due August 1, 2010. If you'd like to give it a try:
Fiction: All stories must be written with the first line provided. The line cannot be altered in any way, unless otherwise noted by the editors. The story should be between 300 and 3,000 words. The sentences can be found on the home page of The First Line's Web site, as well as in the prior issue. Note: We are open to all genres. We try to make TFL as eclectic as possible.
(The full submission rules. Note, unlike many contests, they don't charge for submissions.)

This year's first lines and due dates are on the front page. All they ask is that you not submit stories with their first lines to other journals or publish them on line (for the current or upcoming contests, I think. They're wording isn't clear so if you have a burning need to put up a story with a past first line, best to check with them.)

If you'd like to mine past first lines for ideas, they're listed with each volume on the subscription page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

All dressed up

"Any other bright ideas?! We dressed up for nothing!"

Take it from there. :-)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No! Yes!

What's happened that's caused these two very different reactions? (You don't need to stick with the contemporary setting if your imagination takes you elsewhere :-)

From Bright Ideas for Writing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


For each letter of the alphabet, come up with an adjective that fits your character.

Or, if you have a dumpster load of characters, have each adjective describe a different character.

(A little rusty on your parts of speech? An adjective describes a thing, like the ginormous, magenta, vivacious, flatulent elephant.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Rhinosaur & Who's the joke on

Rhinosaur & Who's the joke on

(Two this time. Rhinosaur seemed to need something to riff off of.)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ghost wars

"Ghost wars ... Not happening on my watch."

Take it from there.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Excitement wears orange socks

In The Book of Qualities, J. Ruth Gendler has personified 76 qualities and written mini-character sketches of them. (I copied a few of the shorter ones below.)

Give it a try. Think of the good and bad of each quality, the inappropriate reactions (I'm thinking of how envy can cause people to hate beauty, for instance), and how qualities interact. With some fleshing out, the mini-bio could form the basis of a character :-)

The generator randomly chooses a quality from Ruth Gendler's list. (Click on comments below for the full list.) There are also lists of qualities, emotions and characteristics in previous prompts: Character traits, Seven virtues and Freewriting to character building.


Beauty is startling. She wears a gold shawl in the summer and sells seven kinds of honey at the flea market. She is young and old at once, my daughter and my grandmother. In school she excelled at mathematics and poetry. Beauty doesn't anger easily, but she was annoyed with the journalist who kept asking her about her favorites -- as if she could have one favorite color or one favorite flower. She does not mind questions though, and she is fond of riddles. Beauty will dance with anyone who is brave enough to ask her.


Confidence ignores "No Trespassing" signs. It is as if he doesn't see them. He is an explorer committed to following his own direction. He studied mathematics in France and still views his life as a series of experiments. The only limits he respects are his own. He is honest and humble and very funny. After all these years, his sister doesn't understand why he still ice skates with Doubt.


Devotion lights candles at dusk. She braids her grandmother's hair with an antique comb. She works as an ecologist at the university. She wears long flowing tunics with bright cotton pants. She has never taken a dance class, but she moves with an unstudied grace, sensitive to the edge where her body meets the air.

Devotion balances periods of great stillness with times of movement and exuberance. She has prayed in many temples and seen evidence of God in unlikely places. She keeps a postcard of Saint Francis above her desk. A Yemenite amulet hangs in her window. Always she remembers to honor the Mother.


I have lived with uncertainty for a long time. I had thought ours would have been a much briefer affair. I had no idea how intimate we'd become until you showed up.

And now you are asking me to leave him, and there are a few things I need to know. Who are you? What are your motives? Can I trust you? Is it really me you want to spend more time with or Uncertainty you yearn to visit?


Power made me a coat. For a long time I kept it in the back of my closet. I didn't like to wear it much, but I always took good care of it. When I first started wearing it again, it smelled like mothballs. As I wore it more, it started fitting better, and stopped smelling like mothballs.

I was afraid if I wore the coat too much someone would want to take it or else I would accidentally leave it in the dojo dressing room. But it has my name on the label now, and it doesn't really fit anyone else. When people ask me where I found such a becoming garment, I tell them about the tailor, Power, who knows how to make coats that you grow into. First, you much find the courage to approach him and ask him to make your coat. Then, you must find patience inside yourself to wear the coat until it fits.