Story Challenge of the Week

This piece was done by Sceith. You can find more of her work here.

This piece was done by Sceith. You can find more of her work here.

Sometimes books can kick your tail. You read and reread and you still feel like you’re only understanding a part of what the author is trying to say. I have to admit that I’m not a particularly fast reader. I average about 3-4 hours to read 50 pages. This does not bode well for me going into my new graduate program, which is why I’m trying very hard to get a lot of my reading done now. However, some books progress significantly slower than that, unfortunately. Regardless, though, life is good, the world keeps turning, and God will provide for our needs. Anyway, you are not here to listen to me whine, you’re here for a story challenge. So, you know the rules. Take your subject and run with it. Write me a story of 1000 words or less and stay on topic. As before, if it’s in any way applicable, you should use this to try to develop your world a little more :).

Your Challenge: What makes a good ruler?

Sunday Picture Post

Well, as you all know, we don’t normally do posts on Sunday. We prefer to take the day off. I do have something extra special for you though (at least I think it’s extra special). As anyone who’s been following the blog for a while probably knows, I thoroughly enjoy miniatures games. I found one a while back that is truly and thoroughly amazing. The name of the game is Godslayer, and the owners of Megalith Games (the company that produces the game) gave me permission to post some very beautiful promo photos of some of the upcoming releases for the game. They’re fairly large, so I’m just going to post a couple a week until I’ve gone through them all:

This guy is probably my second favorite of the bunch. He is a shaman from the beastspawn faction of the game.

This guy is probably my second favorite of the bunch. He is a shaman from the beastspawn faction of the game.

And this one's just neat. This is an animated statue that fights for the Halodynes (think Greek city states).

And this one’s just neat. This is an animated statue that fights for the Halodynes (think Greek city states).

Philosophical Story Challenge

football-team-and-coachGood everyone! I apologize for the lateness of this post, but it is Saturday once again and as such it is time for another Philosophical Story Challenge. For this week’s challenge I want us to focus a bit on social groups. I’ve written a lot on personal identity and the philosophical aspects of that, but I want to step forward a bit and look at societal identity and the varying ways that it influences our thinking. It seems to be a theme of history that different groups of people have always created some form of social group divisions. What is, perhaps, even more interesting, is that historically these divisions were generally based on family or belief and pertained to survival. People took care of their own and often fought with people of different groups to protect their land or their resources. Yet, in America today (and really in most all of western culture), we see these same divisions when there appears to be no real need for them. Think of sports teams and alma maters. Why do we create such a fierce, dividing, loyalty to these things? Why do we divide ourselves into social groups when those groups serve no practical purpose? Your challenge this week is to write a story in which there are social groups of a nature similar to sports teams, alma maters, religions, political beliefs, etc. but these social groups exist to fill some tangible, societal need instead of just a desire for societal identity. As always, please keep your stories under 1,000 words if you want to post them on here, but feel free to write more!

Plot Challenge of the Week

Well, I have to admit that I’ve fallen behind on my German. I actually haven’t practiced for a while now, which isn’t really a good thing. However, I am in the middle of Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue which I am thoroughly enjoying and I managed to find a copy of Richard Cavendish’s The Tarot for a little light, fun reading. I’ve also just started Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, which promises to be suitably odd thus far, so I have to say that my reading life is, at the moment, fairly full and varied. Anyway, it’s time for a plot challenge, and today’s plot challenge is a picture exercise. As we’ve been going through various efforts to build up your own unique world, I want you to add to that world through this challenge. I’m going to give you a picture and I want you to develop a part of your world based on what you see. It should be a setting that is believable in your world, and that has potential for stories in it. Here’s you’re picture:

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What are Your Influences?

ladyoftheriversIt’s important that we know and understand our influences as writers and recognize when those influences appear in our own writing, both well and poorly. I just finished The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory, which is a novel that fictionalizes most of the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, the Dowager Duchess of Bedford, wife of Henry Woodville, and mother of Queen Elizabeth. The novel focuses heavily on the relationship between Jacquetta and Margaret Anjou, the wife of King Henry the VI of England. By and large it was a wonderful novel. Not being a Medieval historian I can’t actually tell you how accurate the novel is, but a little light research has shown that at least most of the major characters and events actually existed and happened. In fact, the only point of contention that I have with the novel is one of obvious influence. There are points in the novel that are obviously influenced by concepts of modern feminism, which by and large are well-written and effective. The character of Jacquetta is both very strong and a good wife, mother, and friend to those around her. However, the author writes several scenes from Jacquetta’s perspective in which the character seems jealous of Margaret Anjou’s place as ‘a woman in her power’, normally after Margaret has done something truly horrible, like have a bunch of innocent people executed.

Henry was not exactly a good or wise king.

Henry was not exactly a good or wise king.

This obviously has my mind on our influences. The author of this work was fairly obviously influenced by feminist thought and ideals, and that influence generally comes through in her work in a positive fashion. Jacquetta is an excellent example of someone who is both a strong woman and a good person. This lends credence to her use as a positive example of ‘a woman in her power’, as Jacquetta is certainly powerful in several ways. However, the use of Margaret Anjou as a second positive example of ‘a woman in her power’ is problematic, especially in the scenes where the author makes these allusions. Where Jacquetta wields her power well and wisely, Margaret (who is doubtlessly a woman of power) uses her power for selfish ends that do not bring about good results for anyone but herself, and ultimately not for herself. It is possible, perhaps even probable, that the author intends to contrast Jacquetta and Margaret as two powerful women, one good and the other wicked, but the scenes I am speaking of do not support such a contrast. Instead, they throw it into doubt.

And Margaret Anjou wasn't exactly a good person.

And Margaret Anjou wasn’t exactly a good person.

Whenever we write multiple influences show themselves. Often we are aware of at least some of them. My own writing is obviously influenced by my Christian beliefs, my research into the occult, my philosophical and theological studies, my martial arts practice, and my own fantasy and science fiction reading. However, there are usually influences that are less obvious to us as authors. It is important to make the attempt to identify some of these influences, though it is unlikely that you will ever identify all of them, and seek to understand their proper place in your writing. For instance, my own somewhat troubled childhood has certainly influenced my writing, as has my generally pessimistic/realistic view of the world, my romantic frustrations, and my generally low view of man’s moral nature. I’m sure that there are probably some influences that don’t really have any positive place in writing. I may be wrong about this, and I’m not going to try to identify any, but it is my guess that there must be at least a few influences that should simply be excised. However, by and large every influence contributes something to our writing, and it is up to us to determine how much contribution we allow, and what specific contributions we allow. From the example above, I think that feminism could perhaps have had a more positive influence in Gregory’s novel if it had a little less overall influence in her novel.

So, this is my quesiton to you on this fine July day: what are the major influences in your writing? Have you taken account of them? Have you examined how they contribute to your work? Have you sought to tease out the good and the bad and deal with them individually? All of these are things that are worth doing.

Scene Challenge of the Week

StrainDelToroHoganCoverWelcome to Wednesday! So, we’ve added a lot of followers in the past month, and there seems to be a pretty regular stream coming in. We’ve gone from around 700 to almost 1200 and I’m honestly really excited about this growth. So, I’ve set a new goal! Someday, I want this blog to have 20,000 followers. Trust me when I say that I realize we are no where near making this a reality. This is a long-term goal and I don’t expect to see it happen next year, or even in the next five years. I do think that it’s a realistic seven to ten year goal, but we’ll see what happens. As you know, today is your scene challenge, and you all should know the rules, but just in case: 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: Choose one of your favorite scenes from a novel. After reading the scene a couple of times, rewrite it in your own style and voice. The characters and basic elements of the scene should remain the same, but the way it is written should reflect your voice and style of writing, rather than the original author’s. This can be very challenging, so don’t be too disappointed if you need a few tries to go it well.

Poetry: The Castle Crumbles

fantasy castle in cloudsI’m really busy with my thesis work this week, so I thought I would share some more of my poetry with you. I wrote this particular poem after a really bad breakup. It was inspired by a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Enjoy :)

The Castle Crumbles

We built a castle in the air—

and as Thoreau or maybe Emerson advise,

we tried to put a foundation under it—

and it was all I could have wished.

Though I’ve never been much for dreams,

I liked this one, perhaps or certainly because

it seemed real. We watched the thunderstorms

and listened to the rain crash around us,

beauty so great we thought we’d never want to leave.

I couldn’t see the ground beneath us anymore,

but I said it was ok because our castle was still anchored.

A good castle is mostly flights of fantasy, with just a dash

of intruding reality to keep you sane.

But one day without warning,

the storms cleared and I found reality far away.

Most fantasies crack before they collapse,

but our castle crumbled at a touch of the sun.

We built too high and forgot our roots

and all I could do was watch as things fell apart.

Now, from earth, I see only broken remnants.

I’ll leave the castles in the air to the dreamers,

and content myself with the storms below.

Story Challenge of the Week

images (2)Well, I’m driving back to Wake Forest today. Yay for travelling! Okay… honestly, I don’t expect any of you to be particularly concerned with my travel itinerary, I just didn’t know how else to begin today’s post. I’m sitting here after having read a bunch of philosophy and my brain is a little… weary. I think weary is probably the best word for it at the moment. So, today is your story challenge and I’m going to connect this post to the Plot Challenges I’ve been having you do to build your world. I want you to set this story in one of the nations that you developed for this post. One of the best ways to develop a world to write in, amazingly enough, is to write in that world. The more you write, the more your understanding of the world will solidify. The key here is to remember what you’ve written before and keep your world consistent (this is where world bibles come in handy). So, pick your nation and then write a story based off of these questions:

Your Challenge: What character archetype did you develop this nation around? Who was the ruler? Now that you have that in mind, consider: what is this particular ruler’s philosophy of governance and authority? How does he rule? Why does he rule that way? What does he believe is good about his reign? Write a story characterizing this ruler and his particular ideology. If you like the exercise, do it for all of the rulers/ruling bodies that you created. As always, have fun with this exercise. If you don’t enjoy it (at least to some degree) then you’re doing it wrong.

Sunday Picture Post

So, I’m sure you probably know that we don’t usually post on Sundays. If you don’t… well, we don’t usually post on Sundays. We like to take Sundays off here at The Art of Writing (though it is possible that in the coming months you might see some satire from a friend of mine who used to post for us. Anyway, you probably also know that I like to give you all something nice to look at. So, from the abhorrent depths of the Google search engine, mined with much danger, I present you this:

The apes shall rise! ... Go see the movie :P.

The apes shall rise! … Go see the movie :P.

Philosophical Story Challenge

human_nature_by_molicious-d4x4992Hey everyone! Time for another philosophical story challenge. I’ve really enjoyed reading the responses to the last few that I posted, so keep up the good work everyone! For this week’s challenge I want to look at the idea of human nature. In the world today we chalk a lot of things up to “human nature” but if you’ve ever sat down and tried to pin-point characteristics of human nature it can be difficult, to say the least. Sure, it’s easy to say things like love and friendship are part of human nature–and they certainly are–but then we have to confront the elephant in the room: hatred. It seems hatred is as much a part of human nature as love and the desire for societal connection. I mean, if we just look at the history of the world it is filled with violence, and perhaps even more intriguing to me is the fact that most of this violence is justified by love of different things. In fact, I think it can honestly be said that sometimes both parties in a conflict can desire the same thing, but because of differences in religion or culture this common goal is never achieved. It’s tragic, really. So for your challenge this week I want you to write a story where there is some form of conflict and both sides ultimately want the same thing, but due to fear and hatred or discrimination it cannot be attained.

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