I have to be honest, sometimes it’s a lot more difficult to come up with these challenges than you’d think. Especially after doing this for a couple of years, I’m pretty sure that I’ve probably recycled a few themes. I don’t do so intentionally, and if I have no one has mentioned it, but I’m pretty sure it has happened. In the Christian scriptures the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the son. Everything’s been done before. You could take this very literally and assume some Atlantianesqe culture built the first particle accelerator at the dawn of time (though I’m guessing few of us actually do), or you could take it to mean that its really hard to be original. So, for today’s story challenge I want you to write me a 500-1000 word story about the following:
Your challenge: Write me a story about what it means to be original. You can use any definition of originality that you want, but the definition of the word has to be clear by the end of the story.
Hey everyone, I hope you are all ready for the weekend! It’s time to kick off another Saturday with a Philosophical Story Challenge. Today I want to briefly describe a philosophical movement known as Anti-realism. Anti-realism is a very general term used mostly to describe any position which denies the existence of an objective reality. For example, a solipsist is an anti-realist that doesn’t believe other minds exist. Likewise, some anti-realists may deny the objective existence of matter. All that to say it is important to understand that there can be many types of anti-realists who disbelieve in different objective realities, which is what I want us to focus on this week in our stories. This week’s challenge is to write a story from an anti-realist perspective, but I am leaving what type of anti-realism up to your own choice. As I mentioned, there are a multitude of anti-realist positions from which to choose, and writing with them should not require too much effort in understanding. As usual, please keep your stories under 1,000 words, and have fun!
It’s Friday, which means that you probably have the weekend off. I certainly hope that you enjoy it! We’re also edging ever closer to Christmas, so I hope that you’ve bought all of your presents and have them stashed away already. So, this week’s challenge is a picture challenge. Most of you will know what this is already, but for those who don’t: I’m going to give you a single picture, and I want you to design your setting around that picture. Note that your setting should revolve around the location pictured, but it should expand beyond the location pictured. In other words, you should use the picture provided as an anchor for your setting, and build a full setting around it. Your picture is below… guess what inspired it:
It’s been some time since I actually wrote a post on writing. Most of my recent posts have been challenges, blog updates, etc. However, a while back Selanya wrote a post on poetics that I’ve been wanting to respond to a little more completely than a comment will allow. Now, let me first say that Selanya has a one-up on me here. I’ve never taken a class in poetics, or read much on the subject (aside from parts of Aristotle’s Poetics). That being said, I do (amazingly enough) have an opinion here, and a fairly strong one at that. The question of what makes for good literature is, to some degree, a matter of taste and interest. For instance, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has been quite popular, and I don’t know anyone with even a minor education in literature who consider’s it an example of what books should be. In fact, there are plenty of popular books that aren’t particularly well-written and, as Cassandra and I discussed some time back, YA fiction is particularly well known for turning out sub-par examples of literary effort (though there are a few shining exceptions). However, just because there is clear disagreement doesn’t mean there aren’t strong arguments for or against something. As Selanya pointed out in her second post on Poetics, Aristotle and others have argued that a story must both ‘teach and delight’. For fiction to be considered ‘good’ or ‘worthwhile’ it must have an underlying point beyond the simple titillation of the faculties.
To some degree, I agree with Selanya that a character should be more than a mere mouthpiece for an author’s viewpoints. However, there are many excellent examples of books that serve just that purpose (some include Candide, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Utopia, and Starship Troopers) and it is certainly difficult to argue that these are not good books, though some may not be considered good fiction. I will argue, probably to my death, that it is certainly better to ere on the side of presenting mouthpiece characters than on the side of having no clear underlying purpose. Any book that does not teach is without value. Neal Postman presented a compelling argument against the dangers of mere entertainment in Amusing Ourselves to Death and his argument is one that certainly applies to literature as much as it does to film. Here I must say that I disagree with Postman’s argument that television is a medium that limits meaningful content. I think that shows such as Dollhouse or The Simpsons (seriously, the first six seasons are excellent religious satire) and movies such as Schindler’s List or V for Vendetta provide clear evidence that the video format can and does provide deep philosophical, political, and religious content, though this ability is certainly under utilized.
However, Postman’s argument that the modern world and likely future are much more similar to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (in which the masses are controlled through their desire to be entertained) is certainly accurate. The quest for entertainment for the sake of entertainment removes meaning from our lives. This does not mean that entertainment is wicked in and of itself, but that it should be a medium for more meaningful things. Fiction is certainly much more popular than academic work (compare the number of copies sold of Twilight to the number of copies sold of Warranted Christian Belief), and it has the potential to reach many more people with a clear, meaningful message. This clearly begs the question (literally speaking, not the logical fallacy), who is going to take advantage of it? Thus far, in America, political liberals have been much more effective at using the American media (in pretty much every genre) to advance their core messages. This can be done very poorly (did you see the movie remake of The Lorax?) or it can be done extremely well. However, it is being done.
It is clear that what we write can influence others, even if we don’t write particularly well. However, good literature must do more than influence. In my opinion literature must influence individuals to positive ends, provide entertainment, meaningful content, and show artistic quality in order to be considered ‘good’. Selanya, I certainly hope you will give your thoughts here.
First let me apologize that this post went up late. The only excuse I have is exhaustion. I’m going to have to take a week of my break from classes and get several months worth of posts written after Christmas. So, anyway, it’s Wednesday, which means that it’s time for a scene challenge. So, 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 rules: This week you must write a 300+ word scene using sentences of no more than six words. Again, if you’ve been following the blog, then you’ve done this before. If you do this correctly then you should have at least 50 sentences in your scene. Your cue: “‘Zurn fluttered his antennae. There was something in the room. He could feel it…”
Well, I tried to give you an unusual set up here. Obviously this probably won’t be real world fiction (though it would be interesting if you wrote a story from a roaches pov). Have fun and I’d love to see what you come up with.
This is a fluffy little something which is perhaps a bit premature for the season — but there’s always snow somewhere.
Luca can hear the snow falling. I watch him flinch and shudder where he sits against the headboard, wrapped in the thickest of the quilts with his knees drawn to his chin. Last winter’s snows were not so loud for him – they fostered sleep instead of driving it away – but of course that was when the curse was still new-laid. We still thought it a blessing then. It’s but early in the season now, and there are many snows to come, which I am realizing means many sleepless nights for Luca.
From outside, there’s a soft thump – a snowpile falling free of a demurring branch – and Luca jumps half out of his skin. Leaving my work at the table, I cross the cabin with soft steps. I settle myself on the edge of the bed, and he drops his head onto my shoulder with a leadenness that speaks despair. We sit for a while in what to me is silence, though Luca continues to tremble. The light of the two candles burning on the table is dim from this side of the room, and the air is cold enough to make my fingers stiff. We tried lighting a fire on the night of the first frost, but Luca couldn’t bear the squeaking and snapping of the wood. Candles, he has told me, only sizzle a bit.
Another violent start wracks him, though I can’t hear its source. I kick off my boots and pull my legs up so I can turn to wrap my arms around him. He unfolds a little. “We’ve faced much more fearsome foes,” I murmur. “We’ve bested giants and wyverns and a host of others. We can surely best the snow.” One great mercy of the curse – it enlarges the woodland noises, but not the sound of voices. If it had been otherwise and Luca was forced into solitude, I’m sure I would have long since lost him to madness or a death self-wrought.
He lets out a bitter scrape of a laugh. “It’s ridiculous – I’m ridiculous,” he whispers. “I know, and I know, and I still can’t make it stop.”
“What does it sound like?” I remember how he described the autumn rain as a galloping charge of cavalry, the rolling mists as an hours-long whispered conference heard echoing down a hall.
“Metal on glass,” he says, wincing against my shoulder. “Scraping and clattering, like needles shaken in a jar – and it goes on and on and it just keeps getting heavier on the ground and pressing down on itself so it screeches–”
I press my hands over his ears. I know it doesn’t help – we’ve tried everything. But I can’t stand my helplessness. We’ve shared all our fights from when we were children until now. This is the first time Luca’s had an enemy I can’t help him against. My long-ingrained instinct is to throw myself between him and whatever’s chewing on him, but it’s all inside his head where I can’t get at it to tear it apart. The blades that hang over the lintel are useless now, though they’ve slain monsters of all kinds. All I can do for him is reach for his mind however I can. Words, to start.
“It’s funny, that it would make such a nasty sound,” I say. It’s not funny, not with Luca shaking in my arms. But one makes light of pain to distract from it. “People always speak of snow as being so soft and gentle. I wonder how everyone would feel if they could hear it properly. Do you remember the stories your mam would tell about the children who were left in the forest in the winter?”
Luca nods. “Snow for a blanket,” he mumbles, the words falling in remembered cadence. “Yet it loved them so much that it kept them warm.”
“We tried to sleep in the snow once, didn’t we?”
I nudge him with my elbow, smiling in spite of everything. “We did! Probably after hearing that story for the first time. It was the winter I had the broken arm, remember? We thought the snow would love us like the lost children your mam told us about. Saints, we were stupid kids.”
“We were.” I think I feel him easing a little as he goes on. “You were always the one to lead us into trouble, though, as I remember.”
“You were always the one to follow.”
He laughs – a real laugh, just for a moment. “I’m just too easily bullied, that’s all.”
“Mm. I like to think I’ve been a good influence. You’ve led a very interesting life, and I take credit for that.”
“Interesting…” His smile is audible even to me, and it warms me down to my toes.
“I’ll stand by that word,” I tell him. “Can I remind you just how interesting your life has been? I’ve been there for very nearly all of it, after all. I’m quite qualified to narrate it back to you.”
Luca nods. I start at the beginning of things, with the story of our leaving home. We were thirteen then; before I’ve reached the misadventure which was my fifteenth birthday, Luca has stopped making interjections. He’s sound asleep. Silently I thank all the saints I can name. I don’t dare to move for fear of waking him again – the candles can burn themselves out. I feel the familiar swell of victory. No blood’s been shed, but I’ve won Luca a measure of peace for the time being.
There are stories enough for every winter’s night. They’ll serve as sword, and I’ll wield them as fiercely as I ever did any other weapon. I join Luca in quiescence, carried by the knowledge that I can slay this monster, too.
Welcome to December everyone. The month that we all spend gearing up for a single day of celebration. Up go the decorations, sales flyers, and let’s all go shopping for lots of brand new toys. Can you tell the this isn’t my favorite time of the year? I know I hide it well, but I feel like you can see it. Honestly, it’s not the idea of Christmas that I have a problem with. Honestly, I love the idea of Christmas, from Christ in the manger, to advent, to beautiful decorations, to exchanging gifts (admittedly, I not a big fan of Santa). It’s the way that it’s practiced that I hate, and boy do I hate it. I’ve been known to utter more than one ‘Bah Humbug’ during the Christmas season. However, that’s mostly because I see so many people getting lost in glitz, glamour, and materialism and entirely missing the spirit of the season. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting presents. I like giving presents. However, it’s the meaning behind the giving and receiving that’s important. It doesn’t matter how expensive the present is, or how good a deal you got on it. What matters is the love that went into identifying and procuring it. Honestly, I hate the materialism and commercialism of the season because I get wrapped up in it all too easily, and I really wish that horrible habit would go away. So, this is the idea behind your challenge this week.
Your challenge: Think about what Christmas really means to you. Not what stores say it means, or what your pastor says it means, or what you mom says it means, or what ‘the right answer’ is. I want you to write me a story about what Christmas means to you and why.
Well, it’s Sunday, and you all know that means that we’re taking the day off. I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family, and that your gratitude follows you throughout the coming year. Remember that it’s easy to be thankful one day of the year, but it’s healthy to be thankful for every day we have. …Now I sound like a greeting card, don’t I? Still, greeting card or not, it’s true. As always I’ve procured for you a special kind of awesomeness for today. I don’t know who took the time to set this up, but whoever did is surely a very special person. I love it and I thought I’d share it with you.
Hello again everyone; I hope those of us who live in America had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope the rest of the world is having a good weekend. Saturday is here once more and so it is time for another philosophical story challenge. This week’s challenge involves the origins of morality. One of the main tenets of theological philosophy is that morality cannot be accounted for by purely naturalistic reasoning; that is, given a universe which happened into existence by chance, based entirely on natural phenomena, there can be no real morality. Sure, we can have societal standards and a made up morality, but the argument is that such a made up morality is meaningless. What gives one person the right to impose their morality on another? What gives society the right to create these supposed morals? If morality is subjective, it is a lie that serves only to enslave people. However, it can only be objective if there be some greater standard. Your challenge this week is to write a story which explains which side of the issue you think is correct, and why. Do you think subjective morality can be valid? Or do you believe in objective morality?