Okay, again, apologies that this post is going up late. However, I do a plot challenge for you today. 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:
We are very tired. Actually, between work, trying to read, the gym, taking care of Tobin and Alayna, and the sleep study, I am flat out exhausted. However, I have a plot challenge for you. Last week I asked you to develop a metanarrative for a story: the broad, overarching details and plot. One of the major things I asked you to do is figure out what the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story are. This week, I want you to narrow your focus. I want you to choose two of those three points (i.e. beginning and middle or middle and end–not beginning and end) and figure out how the story gets from Point A to Point B. You want to treat this in the same way that you did the metanarrative–just narrower. So, if you choose the beginning and middle, then the beginning is still the beginning, but the middle is the new end of this portion of the narrative, and you need a new middle or middles. Some questions to consider:
- What settings are significant for this section of the story? Does it all happen in one place or are multiple settings important? Perhaps characters are traveling?
- What needs to change to move the story along? Perhaps a house burns down? A civil war begins? Someone gets fired? Perhaps multiple things need to happen.
- Who are the important characters for this part of the story? What new minor supporting characters are necessary? How much of a backstory do they need to have? Consider that none of your characters should simply be flat. Even if a character is just a bartender who appears in two scenes, you should have some idea of who he/she is and what his/her life story is.
- How do you major characters need to change between the Point A and Point B and what is going to motivate this change? If you want a masterful example of masterful character development over the course of a novel read Glen Cook’s Shadow’s Linger and pay attention to the character Marron Shed.
- What needs to happen to set the stage for the next part of the story? Remember that, once you get down under the metanarrative you’re dealing with parts of an interwoven whole. So, what connects this part of your story to the parts that come before and after it? What needs to happen in this part that either ends story-lines from the last part, or opens story-lines for the next part?
Well, it turns out that when very, very young kids develop bad habits (which they do very quickly), it can be very difficult to break them. We’re working on teaching Tobin that he doesn’t actually need to nurse in order to go to sleep, even though he’s convinced that he does. Eventually we’re going to have to teach him that he can go to sleep on his own, without one of us holding him, but I have a feeling that it’s going to work better if we deal with one thing at a time. Trying to handle everything at once is probably going to be a nightmare. Anyway, I have a scene challenge for you. 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: write me a scene of at least 300 and no more than 1500 words that effectively expresses your preferred approach to parenting. This could be a specific parenting theory (like Tiger Momming, Attachment Parenting, Free Range Parenting, etc), or it could be a view espoused by some acclaimed expert (like James Dobson or Dr. Spock). This is not to be an essay about your position, nor is it to be a character simply presenting your position in monologue. I want your scene to be vivid, dynamic, and meaningful, but also to give the reader a clear sense of your opinion on the event/issue about which you chose to write. Express your opinion through the way you set your scene, the setting that you choose, the situation in which your character’s find themselves, and the way they interact with one another both verbally and, more importantly, non-verbally. Have fun!
Okay, I do have a story challenge for you, and it’s time for my favorite story challenge. I’m going to give you a series of criteria including genre, theme, some character archetypes, etc. Your job is to write a story that includes all of the features required in the challenge. If you intend to post it here, please keep it short. However, the complexity of this challenge often requires a longer story.
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Modern Fiction
Setting: Your setting for this story is very open. I cannot be a Science Fiction setting, and like last time it must be a practical setting (i.e. a setting in which the characters actually need to make wise decisions). However, other than this you can do what you please.
1) The Angry Dwarf
2) The Mystic
3) The Bandit
4) The Naive Pilgrim
1) A seashell
2) A sword
3) A book of high literature
So, I honestly think that Alayna and I have been blessed with a dream baby. I struggle to think of something that you would want in a baby that our child isn’t: he is alert (very alert actually and interested in his surroundings), he is exceedingly calm (the only times he fusses at all are when he’s either really hungry or being changed… healing circumcisions will do that), he started nursing almost immediately, he is healthy, nurses well, poops well, etc, he sleeps very well, and he’s cute as a button to top it all off. Anyway, it’s time for a plot challenge. Many of you have probably done this challenge before, so I hope you have fun with it! This week’s post and next week’s post are going to go together. This week I want you to put together a general metanarrative for your story. You’ll need to figure out the following:
- Your genre: is this story a fantasy, sci-fi, urban fantasy, spy fiction, mystery, modern adventure, etc?
- Your theme: what ideas do you want to explore? Politics, relationship, metaphysics, criminal psychology, theological questions, mystical questions, etc?
- Your major setting: what nation, country, locale, village, apartment building, etc is your story set in? Consider that some novels/movies/etc have taken place in elevators… literally, the entire story… in an elevator. Others take place over an entire galaxy.
- Your main characters: who is your protagonist? Is he a hero, an anti-hero, a villain, something else? Who is your antagonist? What is his plan and purpose?
- Your major supporting characters: who is your protagonist close to? Your antagonist? What major people will help shape the story?
- Growth: how will your main characters/world grow over the course of the story? What is the beginning? The middle? The end? Pick out three specific, major events that you want to be the landmarks of your story.
Well, momma and baby are both still doing fine. Everything thus far is progressing smoothly and our son is a remarkably unfussy child. He generally seems content with life. However, still in the hospital and still getting used to the whole parenting thing, so: I have a scene challenge for you 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: I want you to write a scene using sentences of six words or less. The goal of this exercise is to develop a comfort with short, staccato bursts that get straight to the point. This isn’t a style that everyone uses, though some rather well known authors have, but it can be as helpful to have in your repertoire as the long, florid style that we practice using the 150 word sentence challenges. So, your scene should be at least 300 words, preferably somewhat longer, and it should be entirely of sentences that are six words or less. Here’s you’re prompt: “The head just popped out…”
Okay, I would apologize that there was no post on Monday, and that this is all you’ll get for Tuesday, but honestly I’ve been busy since Sunday night with the birth of my son, and I’m just not sorry that was more important to me than putting up a blog post. I’ve written about priorities on this blog previously, and this is one of those points in which I have the chance to live them out. Honestly, the only reason that I’m posting right now are that my wife and son are both sleeping peacefully at the moment. Suffice it to say that we have a healthy baby boy, and that Alayna was a champ throughout the labor and delivery. It was a long, stressful, and exciting day, and now we have an amazing little boy. We’re excited about this. I hope that you all are having a wonderful day as well!
Did you know that Jurassic Park is on netflix at the moment? Alayna and I just finished watching it (though this was partially out of a hope that the more startling scenes in the movie might send her into labor). Her due date is past and we’re both just waiting for the moment when everything starts happening. The hospital bag is packed, plans are made, car seats installed, etc. Now we’re just waiting on the kid to arrive. Fair warning, next week is my week for posts, but if Alayna’s labor happens on a post day… well, I’m sure you can guess where I’m going to put the priority. So, if I can, I’ll have posts up for all of you. If posts don’t go up then you’ll know why (or at least the most likely reason why). Anyway, I have a writing exercise for you today, but if anyone wants to chime in with ideas, please do. For today’s exercise I’m going to give you a picture and I want you to use it as inspiration to design one part of the world you’ve started. This could be fleshing out one of the nations that you’ve already come up with or it could be creating an all new nation or continent for your world:
Well, Alayna’s due date is today. She really wants the baby to come (as do I), but I suppose that he will come when he comes. Until then (or now…depending) we’ll have to be patient and do the best we can to take care of him where he is. Aside from that, I have a few of my books for next semester finished already, four (and a halfish) left to go of the one’s that I already have. I’ll start into a couple of new ones tomorrow (I’m not even going to try to get back into O’Donovan until after I’m off the sleep study–I will say that this is the first book that I’ve had to read multiple times in order to make sense of, which I take to be a good thing). Once the baby comes study will become that much more interesting. Anyway, I’ve got a scene challenge for you. If you can’t remember the rules, I’ll provide them: 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: I want you to write an intensely expectant scene. This should be a scene that not only makes me feel like your characters are waiting for something, but a scene that actually makes me feel as though something exciting/terrible/surprising/tumultuous/etc is about to happen. You should focus on developing a scene that builds the sense of expectation and tension in the reader, but not necessarily in a bad way (remember, I’m expecting a baby…that is intensely expectant). This is going to be similar to a rewriting challenge, and thus I want you to find something that evokes this kind of feeling that can inspire you. However, instead of simply rewriting the scene, I want you to write a scene of your own that evokes the same feeling. Your own voice, your own characters, your own setting. Everything should be your own. This isn’t a simple rewrite for practice. I want you to write a scene that reflects the same mood, evokes the same emotions, and handles plot in a similar way, but that is still completely your own work.
Have you even noticed that women get something of a short shrift in the sci-fi/fantasy world? Whether it is in comic books, novels, movies, etc women are often depicted as oversexualized objects or playthings or as overpowered and interminably alone (because no one can match them) or as overdependent and incapable of any significant action of their own. Now, this is not to say that all science fiction and fantasy depict women in these ways, and there are some very good female characters in science fiction/fantasy works, but a lot of it does depict women in these ways. There have been many theories about why this is–the most popular is generally that so much of the science fiction/fantasy world is dominated by men, but the fact that female authors generally portray female characters in the same ways seems to discount this. I think that it is more likely that the American view of women as a whole simply varies between unhealthy extremes of dependence, use, and conquest rather than seeing women significantly as whole people who struggle, need, provide, and triumph. However, this is just my theory so, take or leave it as you will. Anyway, let’s get into the exercise. You know the rules: I give you a picture and you give me a story of 1000 words or less (at least if you want to post it here) that explains what is happening in the picture. Remember the lesson from last time, stay true to the picture. Let the audience know what is happening in the background of the picture without actually altering any of the picture’s own details. Enjoy (and try not to fall into the above tropes):