Scene Challenge of the Week

So, I don’t know how many people saw it, but apparently a couple of monster hunters (cryptobiologists? Not sure if they actually referred to themselves that way) used satellite photos to positively identify Nessie. Of course, from the photo, Nessie is apparently a giant catfish… or the wake of a flat fronted boat… though no boat appears in the photos. I don’t have a link to the article anymore, but it probably wouldn’t be difficult to find. I’ll leave it entirely up to you to decide what you think. So, this ramble does actually have a point. This week your scene challenge is a little bit different. If you don’t know the rules: I provide you with specific rules for how to write a particular scene.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your challenge: Go troll the web (preferably with a friend). Find something that strikes you as interesting and try to write a scene of at least 300 words describing the situation, scenario, scene, whatever. This could take multiple formats. For instance, you could write as though you were the one doing whatever you found. You could write from the perspective of a fictional character reading the story that you read. You could even write the scene as though it was an article or an incident report. The form is entirely up to you. When you’ve both finished your scenes, trade and read what the other person wrote. How did your perspective and personality affect the scene that you wrote? What did each of you focus on? What details are present in both stories, and what details are unique to each? Consider your particular viewpoints, attitudes, beliefs, and emotional connections. How did each of this affect your scene?

G’desh: Magic

Let’s talk magic. The part of a fantasy world that makes it really fantasy. Sometimes it’s understated, such as with Tolkien or Martin. Sometimes it’s vast and overwhelming, like with Rowling or Lucas. It may be rare, but in both cases it was an incredible advantage over common foes.

In your own world you have to find this balance. There will be some form of magic, whether it’s trees made of crystal or an order of magi capable of terraforming. It all depends on the moods and themes of your story and your world, along with what you can imagine.

The rules, or physics, of your magic are also important. Always keep in mind that magic becomes part of physics in your world, the rules of how the world works.

Some people have very rigid rules to magic, a trend which is growing. For the most part, Harry Potter had strict rules with some deviations. Meanwhile, Tolkien was filled with deviations. Go back even further, into the myths of old, and you’re struck by a splattering of random magical abilities which were personalized to the individual using it, even if it was a method supposedly passed down from a master. Magic was highly personalized back then.

Magic can be found in many places. Image taken by Rueters, found here: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/3d-magic-art-special-exhibition-hangzhou-china-365759

Magic can be found in many places. Image taken by Rueters, found here: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/3d-magic-art-special-exhibition-hangzhou-china-365759

G’desh used to have very strict rules, until I started reading Arabian Nights. Fire magic is king in my story, and while it isn’t to the point everyone knows it, most people in their life would witness it or at least meet someone capable of fire magic. It has rules that people mostly follow. The talented or determined can buck the system, but otherwise you learn from your master the same way he learned from his master.

Fire is considered so common because it’s something the people deal with on a daily basis, on a mundane level. The Bronze City, a portion of a city entirely covered in its namesake, will light anything on fire that stands on it during the noon sun. The desert is hot and unforgiving. Flames easily get out of control. The religion is based on fire, as one believes that it will purify or consume the souls of the dead. Despite the incredible power behind the fire wielders, they are simply a way of life and nothing special. This is to show the common theme of destruction and difficulty.

Alchemy is a different matter. Requiring so much studying and knowledge, along with having a wide swath of abilities, alchemy creates fear. Each alchemist has preferred methods, allowing them to create different concoctions. Because of this, the common person perceives the rules of alchemy are random. Despite it being a purely physical practice, they are given the title of witch most often.

In truth, the ability to make potions is a very underwhelming power. It takes time to titrate, calcinate, and other-big-chemistry-words-ate. You need to study what materials are needed for a potion, you have to know what individual items do, and you need to learn the correct way to extract what you want to make what you require. It can take days to make a single potion, and until then you’re really nothing. However, alchemists are capable of creating a large array of effects. They’re called egromancers, as a nod to Sir Burton. Egromancers were capable of doing many evil and wicked things, and though others share the title, alchemists are most often given such recognition. Despite an alchemist’s ability to create helpful elixirs, they are the theme of fear in the face of uncertainty, no matter it’s benevolence.

I also introduced djinn to shake up my fire system with a random element. The djinn are not simply capable of using fire, but they are fire. With the ability to shape shift and have overwhelming control of flame, they are a wild card. Parents tell stories about them to kids. One is seen in heavily populated areas every century, and those who meet the demon rarely understand who they’re talking to. Djinn are individual magic, legend, and power on a scale no other can claim.

The djinn are the heart of any myth, the reality of such legends, and the terror that such creatures may bring down, despite the idolization which often accompanies them. I would love to tell you there is some lesson behind why they shape shift and bring hurt to the world, but there isn’t. Ultimately, I thought it was cool so it happened.

Ultimately, make your magic fit your themes, moods, and, above all, make it awesome. It’s your tweak to the physics we earth beings know and love, and we better come to know and love yours as well.

Story Challenge of the Week

I love classic fantasy. Honestly, much as superheros, giant robots, and space battles are all cool, none of them compare in my book to some good swords and sorcery. This is one of the reasons that I’ve been upset with the rampant abuse of sexuality in the Game of Thrones series. It’s a good show, based on great novels, with interesting characters, a well-developed world, and a strong story. Still, I generally try to avoid watching it (obviously, I don’t always succeed) because of the sheer number of naked people. Don’t get me wrong, I think my posts here have shown that I’m not against graphic material when it serves a good and useful purpose (something that I think Martin generally handles very well in the series). However, most of the skin in HBO’s version of Game of Thrones does not serve a good and useful purpose. It’s just naked people prancing around on the screen for no good reason. It’s distracting. So, here is your challenge today. Consider the picture below and write me a story that explains the picture without any unnecessary distractions:

Sunday Picture Post

Well, happy Easter, everyone! I hope that you have a wonderful resurrection day. If you are a Christian, he is alive! If you’re not a Christian… well, that may or may not make sense. Anyway, since it’s Easter, I wanted to put up something… you know… Eastery… and not overly photoshopped. I hope that you enjoy!

easter-religious-sunny-rays

Philosophical Story Challenge

shutterstock_10314562_crop380wHello again, Saturday has returned, and with it comes another Philosophical Story Challenge. For this weeks challenge I want to us to focus on a concept that all of you should be familiar with, even if you don’t know it by its name: the Cornelian Dilemma. The Cornelian Dilemma occurs when a person is forced to make a choice between two options which are both negative. A great example of this would be in The Dark Knight when the Joker put a group of criminals on one barge and a group of civilians on another; each with the trigger to destroy the other barge. He gave the two groups of people the dilemma of choosing to save themselves and kill the others or save the others and condemn themselves. Neither group wants to die, but neither group wants to be responsible for killing the others–there appears to be no choice that is both moral and desirable; thus the dilemma is formed. Your challenge this week is to write a story involving a Cornelian Dilemma of your own creation. As always, please keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, otherwise feel free to write more!

Plot Challenge of the Week

Elven Mountain CityAnd then the Ogre ate the monkey… The End. Heh, my all-time favorite line from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies is: “And then they made me their chief.” Sometimes, it can be as much fun to just hear the tail end of a story as it could have been to hear the entire story. So, today’s exercise is a setting challenge. You’ve all done setting challenges before… unless you’re new to the blog. So, I’m going to give you a set of general guidelines, and your job is to create a setting that fits those guidelines. Within the guidelines provided you’re free to do whatever you want with your setting.

So, you’re setting guidelines:

1) Your setting must have at least three major cities with at least minimal demographics.

2) You must have at least one nation-state (this could encompass all three cities or you could write three separate city-states).

3) Your setting must be fantasy.

4) Your setting must include a dragon of at least human-level intelligence (thank me later :)).

5) Your setting must be politically unstable, perhaps on the verge of war.

Archetypal Heroes: The Willing Hero

3514028-captain-america-the-first-avenger-4fe203cd661b7-captain-america-3-the-death-of-steve-rogersHey guys, it’s time for another post in my discussion of the different archetypal heroes so for this week I’ve chosen the opposite of archetype I chose for my last post–the willing hero. Unlike the reluctant hero who tries to ignore his heroism, the willing hero knows his own heroism and accepts the responsibilities of it. Two obvious examples of this would be Spiderman and Captain America; heroes whose unwavering senses of virtue and justice compel them to be heroes even when that means going against their own personal desires. This archetype is often paired with a character flaw of varying degrees such as pride or overconfidence which delay the fulfillment of the quest and must be overcome. This is, in my personal opinion, one of the more difficult archetypes to write well; it is abysmally easy to create a hero that is a turn-off because of their willingness. On the other hand, though, some of the most successful hero stories reflect this archetype.

It is difficult to effectively write this archetype because the easiest way to do so is to give the character a flaw. This is a problem because often I see a lesser flaw over-accentuated to compensate for the abilities and willingness of the hero–simply put, it becomes unbelievable. Nevertheless, it is tempting to do this because we can’t give the hero a flaw that would make him unwilling, yet we must give him some sort of flaw because a perfect, willing hero is a boring hero. So, in our attempts to create a balanced and willing hero who is also interesting to read about we choose to forgo a requirement of character development in favor of a more interesting character at the start of the story; I don’t think I need to explain why this doesn’t work well. It makes a better story to develop a boring character into an interesting one than to create an interesting character and have nothing interesting to do with it.

All in all this is usually not my favorite heroic archetype, although it does bring a lot to the table and it when it is done well it can be very successful. I consider it to be a high risk, high reward character archetype.

Scene Challenge of the Week

eyesHave you ever found money that you’d forgotten you had? This happened to me. I found a check that I’d stuck in my wallet and then completely forgotten about. The timing was propitious as I’ve been wanting to buy a computer game called Blood Bowl, and now I can. If you’ve never heard of Blood Bowl, take the Warhammer fantasy world (Orks, Goblins, Elves, Trolls, Ogres, etc) and add in the game of American football… with the twist that the players are all trying to kill each other. The result is Blood Bowl. I think it should be fun. Anyway, I have a scene challenge for you. So, if you don’t already know the rules: I give you a prompt and you write a scene off of it.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your prompt: “Burah’s gaze was riveted. Even as he spoke, he couldn’t tear it away. ‘Is that his head…”

Your Grimalkin

You learn early in life that there are benefits to having a cat who can see faeries. When they come to steal your sister, for instance, there’s Grimalkin to stand over the cradle and yowl until your mother comes to pick up the baby and relight the lamp that’s been blown out to provide convenient shadows for hiding. When they sneak into your room at night to tie knots in your hair, they find Grimalkin lying on your pillow – very much awake and ready for them. You have only had the cat for a month when his presence makes the faeries decide to leave your house alone. You are six, and although you don’t know yet that they were faeries, you’re quite grateful that the things that move around in the dark are gone.

When you are fourteen, and beginning to realize that your cat should be looking much older than he does, you take him to the hedge witch across the brook and ask her to examine Grimalkin for signs that something’s amiss with him. He regards you with untroubled yellow eyes as the old woman looks him over – he’s never spoken to you, at least, but he often seems just on the verge of it. There’s a distinctness about his face and manner that implies there is a person of some sort in there. You’ve looked enough cats in the eye to realize that they generally do not possess this air. The hedge witch tells you that he’s a special one, unquestionably, but she can’t figure out exactly why. As you carry him home, he is most definitely smirking at you. That is when you make it a life’s goal: understand your cat, who cannot possibly be only a cat. You tell him as much: “I will puzzle you out.” And he blinks in the languid way that says he is as unimpressed as a creature can be. (This, at least, is something he has in common with other cats.)

By fifteen, you have run out of resources. The hedge witch has died; her successor is too young to know much yet, and says only that “he’s a handsome devil, ain’t he, with that dappled coat.” The priests will have nothing to do with cats. The keeper of the village books has no record of any such ageless creature as Grimalkin seems to be. No one else in the village seems likely to possess any insight on the matter. You are near despair – but you will not be beaten by a brown and white tabby who snores when he sleeps. When the peddlers come in the spring, you bring Grimalkin to their camp. They’ve seen more of the world than you have, and surely one of them must know something that would help.

One of them does, after a manner. You’re seated by the fire, your whiskered enigma sprawled across your lap, listening as the oldest of the peddlers begins to spin the evening’s stories. He tells of an unearthly court, a realm whose borders touch your own and whose ill-behaved inhabitants sometimes wander beyond their native demesne. The others who listen are only half doing so, but you are rapt. You question him when he is finished: do faeries steal children? Do they cause mischief in houses? He answers, though it is plain he does not believe the tales he has told. You believe him. You believe in the laughter you once heard beneath your bed, in the light footsteps that haunted your young dreams and ceased soon after Grimalkin arrived.

You bring your cat home and stare him in the face. “Whatever you are, you frighten faeries. I’ve learned that much.” He only looks back, one ear turned sideways. He is infuriating. “Shall I go ask them about you?” you say to him. “The faeries? Since they seem to be the only ones who might tell me.” The other ear twists back momentarily; it is the most perturbed you have ever seen him look. That, more than anything, decides the matter.

The village is nestled in a satisfyingly-thick wood which seems to fit the bill for faerie habitat as described by the peddler. On the following day, you shut Grimalkin in the house and leave just as the sun is setting. Your family will have your hide for leaving your day’s work unfinished, but you cannot spend another moment with that cat while he remains inexplicable. You have never ventured so far into the forest as you do now; perhaps being lost will help you discover the creatures you seek (or help them discover you). The blue spring night begins to settle among the pines as you wander along. Should you call for them? What name should they be called by?

It is as you are wondering this that you catch your toe on a root and go sprawling to the ground. Over the resulting streak of foul language, you hear the faintest strain of giggling. It’s them – it has to be them. You lift your head slowly, but you can see very little in the gathering dark (a darkness which has descended surprisingly quickly, hasn’t it?). There’s a flickering just beyond the edges of your vision that might well be your imagination…mightn’t it? “Begging your pardon,” you say, spitting out pine needles, “but I’ve come to ask about my cat.”

The giggling persists. It isn’t particularly nice giggling, you’ve realized. It makes your skin prickle. You look around for its source, beginning to feel that even an inexplicable cat might be tolerated if it meant getting away from that sound and from whatever is making it. There is a sudden flash of eyes in the dimness. You cry out and jump to your feet – and then realize that you know those eyes and the small silhouette they are attached to. Grimalkin circles your legs once, hissing out into the trees around you. The giggling cuts off abruptly on a harsh, crow-like sound. Faint footsteps sound from every direction, retreating hastily. How many of them were there? You are very cold all of a sudden, except for where your cat is leaning against your ankles.

A voice sounds – from that same place. “Idiot. Do you know what they do to the humans they catch?”

You are not in a state of mind to be surprised by much. “Now will you tell me what you are?”

“No. Pick me up. You have a lot of walking to do.”

“I locked you in – you don’t even have thumbs—”

“I also have a diminishing quantity of patience. Do you want to get home or not?”

You pick him up, and he directs your way in tones that are exactly as scathing as you imagined a cat’s would be. At your family’s demand, you offer the truth: you were lost in the wood, and Grimalkin brought you back. From your pillow, he gives you that languid blink again, saying nothing. You glower at him briefly before climbing into bed, but you have determined that he can keep his secrets so long as he keeps the faeries away. When you fall asleep, his purring lingers in your dreams.

Story Challenge of the Week

Ok, really... we all knew I wasn't likely to put up a picture of a woman in labor.

Ok, really… we all knew I wasn’t likely to put up a picture of a woman in labor.

As all of you know, I’m a comic book nerd. Honestly, if you haven’t figured that out yet, then either you’re new to the blog, or you just haven’t been paying attention. So, I’ve been watching Marvel’s Agents of Shield, which started off as a pretty iffy show at best, but has turned into a pretty awesome show. I’m watching the latest episode and it is not only strong, but actually surprising (well, sort of), which is a nice change of pace. However, today is your story challenge. So, you’ve all done this one before: I’m going to give you a theme prompt, but I want you to write this story in a genre that you don’t normally write in. If you usually write fantasy, then make this story a modern day romance. If you usually write romance, make this story a thriller. The key here is to get out of your comfort zone as a writer. Do something new.

You’re Theme: The birth of a hero… …literally… if you want some interesting idea fodder I suggest reading some Hindu mythology.

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