Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In the beginning

Spend 15 minutes generating as many beginnings as you can. In 1 to 5 sentences -- the fewer the better! -- suggest that something is off and the character's life is about to have a monkey wrench thrown into it. In other words, grab the reader right from the beginning.

The best way to get better at beginnings is to read a lot of beginnings. Go to the library or bookstore and read the first few lines of many books in your favorite genre. If you're reluctant to move onto the next book, that's a good clue there's something there ;-)

I haven't read it but there's a book on just beginnings, Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton that gets 4.5 stars out of 33 reviews. The reviews indicate some solid information but flaws in the presentation. (The reviews can give you a good idea whether you'd be bothered too.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Tarot for Writers

Tarot for WritersTarot is so wrapped in mysticism that it comes across like a magical code to access another realm. It often seems if you don't lay the cards in the exact right positions, you might as well be laying out Pokemon cards in random ways and just making the whole thing up since it wouldn't be a real key.

And should upside down cards be treated as reversed in meaning or turned upright? It depends which author you read. How could it not make a difference? Oh, but they say, your choice will effect how the cards fall.

Those are cool, mystical concepts for stories but it felt like a barrier to finding new ways to use Tarot for other than personal questions.

Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner presents the cards in more practical language. They're not offered as ways to channel mystical knowledge from a realm beyond our understanding. They're offered as ways to tap the unique connections between random ideas that we each have and may be barely aware of. They're used as ways to get your thoughts out of standard ruts and jazz them up with new ideas sparked by random elements.

She covers the standard spreads and how they can be used for characters and stories. But she also -- and this is very helpful for those who are a bit rule bound ::cough cough:: -- delves into some writing concepts and lays cards out for them. She describes the spread, then an example of how some cards could be read in the spread, and some writing exercises.

For example, to create a protagonist, antagonist, protagonist's foil, antagonist's foil and supporting character, you lay out one card for each.

To create a character's physical description, you lay out one card each for age, ethnicity, height, weight, hair, birthmarks, clothing style .... and so on, getting as detailed as you want. (You could use cards to fill out one of the character questionnaires I've posted here. (Click on Character Development on the right hand side.)

To create a story, you can lay 3 cards: beginning, middle and end. Or lay them out in a pyramid of 7 cards to represent Exposition, Inciting Force, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, Denoument.

She covers several approaches each to character creation, story line and plot, setting and description. She provides various techniques to use cards to break writer's block. There are games for writers' groups. There are poetry sparks, both for content and form.

The big barrier, and this is true of all uses of Tarot, is there's a fairly steep learning curve involved in becoming familiar with the ideas tied to each card. Of course you can always use your own interpretation! You don't need to use the traditional associations. If a guy on a horse makes you think "Road trip!" for your characters, go for it :-)
TIP: Use Facade's Tarot Reading. Choose a spread with the same number of cards as the one you want to use from the book. The widget will provide the meanings.
To help with that learning curve, at the beginning of the book, she offers some good generalizations to help you get started. For instance she says all the wand cards deal with spiritual experience, cups deal with emotions, swords with thought and communication and pentacles with the physical and financial realm.

The cards she uses in the book have pictures for the Minor Arcana as well as the Major Arcana which not all decks have. The pictures would help the learning curve a lot! Instead of trying to connect 5 cups to flowing life, spilled milk, the 5 stages of grief and so forth, the images on the cards jog your memory.

The last two thirds of the book are a detailed description of each card in the Major and Minor Arcana. Each card has Key Symbols, Keywords and Writing practice. The Major Arcana also get Myth and Legend, Astrological Associations, Literary Archetypes, and the card's connection to writing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Great Debate

Do you have a protagonist/antagonist pair that you thought had the potential for a good story but they wandered about aimlessly? Perhaps a pair from one of your NaNoWriMo endeavors?

Bring the two of them on stage with a moderator and let them hash out their differences. Have each tell their point of view of events. Let each tell what they believe is the most important objective and why. Let each take a turn convincing the other how right they are and how wrong the other is.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beyond that smile

"She was much too chipper for a woman with a room full of dead bodies beyond the locked door behind her."

Are the bodies legitimately there? Perhaps she's a collector of ...? Try on a fantasy setting. A future setting. A city store front. A lonely outpost. War time. A peaceful town.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

For sale: Slightly used sister

Have a character write an ad to sell his or her sister.

Usually the dynamic is the annoying younger sister. What if it's an older sister? Teen? The perfectionist? The favored one? The one with super powers? The "different" one?

It could be an adult character writing it as a joke. Or not a joke.

What if the sister saw it? What ad would she write in response?

What if someone responds?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coffee with that?

Click image to enlarge

At first it struck me as a typical scene from a horror movie. But that cat seems a bit unconcerned.

So who's the cat?

Is this the girl's apartment or is she visiting?

Does she know this creature? Is it part of the refrigerator? Is the refrigerator a doorway?

Maybe it's a Magical Girl manga and this is just a typical morning. And it's not unusual for Japanese (manga) parents work in a foreign country, leaving their kids to raise themselves. The kids are always so neat! This looks more like reality ;-)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Alphabet of horrors

Installation by Filthy Luker
Write an alphabet where each alphabetic monster is bent on alphabetic mayhem on the next alphabetic beast. Where the Tentacled Terror tenses to tear into the Ulcerated Underdweller who upchucks upon the Venomous Villain as he voraciously vilifies ...

Idea from The Absolutely Awful Alphabet by Mordicai Gerstein.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

One by one

Write 11 sentences composed only of one syllable words. (For an extra challenge, write a story of one syllable words.) This is a great exercise if you're prone to flowery language :-)

If you'd like some seed words to get started, pick a being and a place.

Or choose two random one syllable words. (The beings and places from above are in this list too.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Prince of Sieves

The story is about a jack of all trades, a tad insane (perhaps), who says he's a prince, leisurely wandering the land. The seat of his vehicle is a throne. His horse is re-dyed frequently.

Enter a girl who claims she's his sister, tough, independent who seems to draw trouble which she revels in.

It feels like a fantasy story but try a modern setting. (You may lose the horse if you wish.) Or future. The two could be aliens, maybe of different species. One or both could be androids.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Rise and shine

As you slowly awaken, this is what you see. Take it from there.