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.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Flower arrangement

"What the heck?? What's with the photo? Has she gone normal??"

No, wait! It's not just normal. It's subversively, deceptively normal.

Putting up some photos from England on Facebook, I remarked that I couldn't remember a street that didn't have flowers.

Of course that can't be true! :-) And yet ... I don't remember any. Could it be the flowers and attractive signs prevent people from paying attention to the other, duller streets where secrets lurk? No Admittance and Do Not Enter just make doors more intriguing. To hide something, just make it dull.

So, that's your challenge. You can use the picture or the idea of places that are enticing and attractive to keep people out of the boring areas where the secrets are. Maybe the shopkeepers get a break on taxes if they beautify their shops so even they don't know what's going on. Their efforts are sincere. The money, though, isn't.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Be the best someone else you can be

For today, pretend you're whatever character you're currently working with or want to work better with. Spend the day looking at the world through his or her personality.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Property protected by attack cat

Write a story about a being (demon, angel, ghost, android, fairy, alien, monster in the closet, etc.) that becomes fiercely protective of a young girl, and appears as a small, fierce cat.

Is the protection justified? Is the girl special? Is the being mistaken?

A bit pressed for time today, I grabbed that from Fiction Prompts at where there's a collection of ideas posted by members.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

If you have much ...

If you have much, give your wealth.
If you have little, give your heart. 

-- Arab proverb

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Stormy knights

It was a dark and stormy knight.

With a slight twist on the cliche opening line, write the opening paragraph or two in at least 5 of the following genres:

Newspaper article
Paranormal romance
Science fiction

Thursday, September 02, 2010

William and Billy

Caught up in a rouge space/time eddy created by scientists playing with time travel, Billy is whisked back to his childhood home where he meets up with his younger self, William. As a child, William is precocious and driven with a passion to excel at his myriad and varied talents. As an adult, Billy has found happiness in ways that William disapproves of.

The setting can, of course, be any time, any place. It was inspired by a comment on A dank and storied night. I was struck by the contrast between the two forms of the name William: William sounding very grown up and Billy sounding very kid-like and then heightening the contrast by switching them.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Hold fast to dreams ..."

"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly."

-- Langston Hughes