Thursday, December 27, 2012

Manipulator General

This is Grandma. Mover and shaker of her world. Quite often without people realizing they're being moved and shaken.

This is her son-in-law. Too often left wondering whether he's been manipulated or not.

This is grandma's new ... companion. The son-in-law is suspicious. Grandma seems oblivious to the fact that he's manipulating her. Or is he? Who really has the upper hand?

Source: via Dragon on Pinterest

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sticky fingers

In $18 Million Theft, Victim Was a Canadian Maple Syrup Cartel

The police in Quebec arrested three men in connection with the theft of six million pounds of syrup from Canada's global strategic maple syrup reserve.

Yes, real story. :-) Not just a cartel. But one holding a global strategic reserve of maple syrup.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A wealth of opinions

Each weekday since 2010 the New York Times has posted Student Opinion questions. Each question is based on content from the week's New York Times. Here are some of the questions posted prior to June 2012. The above link takes you to the most recent questions.

Generally school writing prompts are bland and watered down, I suppose, to avoid anything a parent might disapprove of. Usually I'm asleep after reading 3 or 4 ;-) Most of these are refreshing. :-)

Each question below links to the original blog post where anyone from ages 13-25 may post. (Last names are removed and each comment is reviewed before being posted so it's a safe place to voice opinions.)

It's a bit of a stretch to tie this to speculative fiction -- you could ask your characters some of these questions :-) -- but it seemed too good of a list to pass up when I stumbled across it.
  1. Do You Know People Who Cheat on High-Stakes Tests?
  2. What Five Living People Should Be on the New Postage Stamps?
  3. Are the Web Filters at Your School Too Restrictive?
  4. What Famous Landmarks Have You Visited?
  5. Do Boys Have Less Intense Friendships Than Girls?
  6. How Impulsive Are You?
  7. How Much Do You Gossip?
  8. Would You Like to Live in Another Country?
  9. Who Are Your Opponents in Online Gaming?
  10. What’s on Your Playlist?
  11. If You Drink or Use Drugs, Do Your Parents Know?
  12. Does Your Homework Help You Learn?
  13. Do You Know Your First Amendment Rights?
  14. How Much Time Do You Spend in Nature?
  15. What Are the Most Important Changes, in Your Life and in the World, in the Last Decade?
  16. What Do You Wish Your Teachers Knew About You?
  17. What Are You Really Learning at School?
  18. What Teacher Would You Like to Thank?
  19. What Are the Right and Wrong Ways to Commemorate 9/11?
  20. How Should Schools Address Bullying?
  21. Did Your Parents Have a Life Before They Had Kids?
  22. Who Has the Power in School Social Life?
  23. Have You Experienced a Severe Weather Event?
  24. Do We Need a New Way to Teach Math?
  25. Do You Like Horror Movies?
  26. Is Your School Day Too Short?
  27. Is Modern Culture Ruining Childhood?
  28. What Would You Do if You Were President?
  29. What Do You Hope to Get Out of High School?
  30. Do You Have a Hard Time Making Decisions?
  31. Should Rich People Have to Pay More Taxes?
  32. How Do You Prepare to Go Back to School?
  33. How Have You Paid Tribute to Loved Ones?
  34. Who Are Your Favorite Movie Stars?
  35. How Did You Learn About Sex?
  36. Do You Choose Summer Activities to Look Good on Applications?
  37. Does Your School Value Students’ Digital Skills?
  38. What Are the Basic ‘Rules’ for Handling Breakups?
  39. What Fan Memorabilia Would You Pay Big Bucks For?
  40. Do You Know Your Way Around Your City or Town?
  41. Do You Play Violent Video Games?
  42. Are You More Introvert or Extrovert?
  43. Do You Read E-Books?
  44. Would You Pay Extra for a 3-D Movie?
  45. Do You Worry About the Lack of Anonymity in the Digital Age?
  46. What’s the Best Advice You’ve Gotten?
  47. What Makes a Graduation Ceremony Memorable?
  48. What Are Your Favorite Summer Hangouts?
  49. Do You Have Too Much Homework?
  50. What Is Your Best Subject?
  51. Are You Working This Summer?
  52. Where Do You Find New Music?
  53. What’s Your Role in Your Family?
  54. How Do You Feel About Your Last Name?
  55. Should Anthony Weiner Resign?
  56. Do You Talk About Report Cards With Your Parents?
  57. What Limits Should There Be on Teachers Writing Publicly About Students?
  58. How Do You Feel About Proms?
  59. What’s on Your Summer Reading List?
  60. Do You Have a Life Calling?
  61. Do You Speak a Second, or Third, Language?
  62. Are You Popular, Quirky or Conformist?
  63. Is College Overrated?
  64. Is 14 a ‘Magic Age’ for Forming Cultural Tastes?
  65. Is Cheerleading a Sport?
  66. Whose Fault Is It if a Child Is Failing in School?
  67. What’s Your Reaction to the Schwarzenegger Scandal?
  68. What Are the Best Things You’ve Acquired Secondhand?
  69. Was Common a Good Choice for White House Poetry Night?
  70. How Do You Define Wealthy?
  71. Are Adults Hurting Young Children by Pushing Them to Achieve?
  72. What Are Your Favorite Works of Art?
  73. What Nicknames Have You Ever Gotten or Given?
  74. Would You Want to Be a Tween or Teen Star?
  75. What Is Your Facebook Persona?
  76. Do Fraternities Promote Misogyny?
  77. How Would You Do on a Civics Test?
  78. Should Obama Have Released the Photos of Bin Laden’s Body?
  79. What Would You Do With a Gap Year?
  80. How Has Travel Affected You?
  81. What Is Your Reaction to the Death of Osama bin Laden?
  82. Do You Write in Cursive?
  83. Are You Going to Watch the Royal Wedding?
  84. What Annoys You?
  85. Is Your Generation More Self-Centered Than Earlier Generations?
  86. Why Do Doubts Persist About Where President Obama Was Born?
  87. What Are You Looking Forward To This Summer?
  88. Are You Afraid of Math?
  89. Are You a Good Driver?
  90. What Personal Achievements Make You Proud?
  91. Do You Get Enough Sleep?
  92. Nature or Nurture?
  93. What Song/Artist Pairings Would You Like to Hear?
  94. Does Your Digital Life Have Side Effects?
  95. What Ethical Dilemmas Have You Faced?
  96. What Can You Learn from ‘Teen Mom’?
  97. What Is the Perfect Combination of Children for Family Happiness?
  98. Is Online Learning as Good as Face-to-Face Learning?
  99. What Possessions Does Your Family Treasure?
  100. Would People Join an ‘Atheist Club’ in Your School?
  101. What Ideas Do You Have for a Reality Show?
  102. Do You Expect Your Parents to Give You Money?
  103. What Memorable Poetry Have You Ever Read or Heard?
  104. Should Schools Be Allowed to Use Corporal Punishment?
  105. Would You Want to Be a Teacher?
  106. How Should Educators and Legislators Deal With Minors Who ‘Sext’?
  107. What Places Do You Remember Fondly From Childhood?
  108. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
  109. Do You Use Twitter?
  110. Why Should We Care About Events in Other Parts of the World?
  111. What Would You Plan If a Local Museum Paid You to Attract Teens?
  112. What Do You Think of an SAT Essay Question About Reality TV?
  113. What Does ‘Middle Class’ Mean to You?
  114. What Role Do Pets Play in Your Family?
  115. What Are Some Recent Moments of Happiness in Your Life?
  116. What News Stories Are You Following?
  117. What Are the Best Live Theatrical Performances You’ve Ever Seen?
  118. Do You Eat Cafeteria Food?
  119. What Would You Like to Have Memorized?
  120. Does Class Size Matter?
  121. Why Do We Care About Charlie Sheen?
  122. What Role Should Community Colleges Play?
  123. Should Guns Be Permitted on College Campuses?
  124. Are You Hard or Easy on Yourself?
  125. What Hidden Talents Might You Have?
  126. How Do You Relieve Stress?
  127. Would You Mind if Your Parents Blogged About You?
  128. How Do You Define ‘Family’?
  129. Have You Ever Lost (or Found) Something Valuable?
  130. Do You Write in Your Books?
  131. What Are Your Favorite Games?
  132. How Important Is Fashion to You?
  133. What ‘Urban Legends’ Are There About Places in Your Area?
  134. What Are Your Ideas for School Fund-Raisers?
  135. How Do You Feel About Valentine’s Day?
  136. What Music Are You Listening To?
  137. What Are Your Best Sleepover Memories?
  138. What Cause Would Get You Into the Streets?
  139. How Important Is Arts Education?
  140. What Are Your Favorite Commercials?
  141. Do You Unknowingly Submit to Peer Pressure?
  142. What Will the Future Be Like?
  143. How Are You Handling This Winter Weather?
  144. What Is Your Racial and Ethnic Identity?
  145. Have You Been Following the News About Egypt?
  146. Are You a Saver or a Tosser?
  147. What Would a TV Show About Your Town Spoof?
  148. What Is Your Reaction to Obama’s Second State of the Union Address?
  149. Are Your Eating Habits Healthy?
  150. What’s Your Sunday Routine?
  151. Have You Ever Sent an Odd Message Because of Autocorrect?
  152. How Permissive Are Your Parents?
  153. How Should Parents Handle a Bad Report Card?
  154. When Do You Remember Learning a New Word?
  155. How Would You Like to Help Our World?
  156. Do You Have a Tutor?
  157. To What Piece of Technology Would You Write a ‘Love Letter’?
  158. How Do You Use Wikipedia?
  159. Should All Students Get Equal Space in a Yearbook?
  160. What Are Your Personal Superstitions?
  161. Should Stores Sell Violent Video Games to Minors?
  162. How Much Food Does Your Family Waste?
  163. Which Pop Music Stars Fascinate You?
  164. Would You Vote This Year If You Could?
  165. What Would You Ask President Obama?
  166. What Would You Risk Your Life For?
  167. Where in the World Would You Like to Get Lost?
  168. To What Business Would You Like to Give Advice?
  169. Do You Judge Political Candidates by Their Looks?
  170. Would You Trade Your Paper Books for Digital Versions?
  171. Do You Want to Live to 100?
  172. Do You Support or Oppose the Death Penalty?
  173. What is Your Favorite Place in Your House?
  174. Why Do We Like Reality Shows So Much?
  175. What ‘Mundane Moments’ From Your Life Might Make Great Essay Material?
  176. What Sports Teams Do You Root For?
  177. How Do Your Parents Teach You to Behave?
  178. To What Writer Would You Award a Prize?
  179. Can Money Buy You Happiness?
  180. How Would You Do in a ‘Free School’?
  181. What Do You Think of the Tea Party?
  182. What Should the Punishment Be for Acts of Cyberbullying?
  183. What Health Tips Have Worked for You?
  184. Can You Pass a Basic Religion Test?
  185. What Superpower Do You Wish You Had?
  186. What Advice Would You Give Younger Kids About Middle or High School?
  187. Are There Books That Should Be Banned From Your School Library?
  188. What Do You Want Your Obituary to Say?
  189. How (Over)Protective Are Your Parents?
  190. Do You Use Study Guides?
  191. Can Cellphones Be Educational Tools?
  192. What’s Special About Your Hometown?
  193. How Concerned Are You About Where Your Food Comes From?
  194. Is America a Great Country?
  195. How Will You Decide Where to Apply to College?
  196. What New Shows, Albums, Games or Movies Are You Looking Forward To?
  197. What Do You Remember About September 11, 2001?
  198. What Are You Looking Forward to (or Dreading) This School Year?
  199. Is Everything You’ve Been Taught About Study Habits Wrong?
  200. Do You Identify Yourself as a Democrat or a Republican?
  201. Do Your Test Scores Reflect How Good Your Teachers Are?
  202. Are You Allowed to Date?
  203. What’s on Your Fall Fashion Shopping List?
  204. How Would You Spend Grant Money for Schools?
  205. How Important Do You Think It Is to ‘Build Character’?
  206. Are You Putting Off Adulthood?
  207. What Artists Do You Consider ‘Sellouts’? Why?
  208. Should Students Get to Evaluate Their Teachers?
  209. What Is Your Favorite Comedy?
  210. Can a Video Game Be a Work of Art?
  211. What Can You Make From Scratch?
  212. Do You Agree With Obama’s Decision to Relieve McChrystal?
  213. Does Your Generation Have Too Much Self-Esteem?
  214. Are Your Grades Inflated?
  215. Do You Have a Best Friend?
  216. Can You Beat a Computer at ‘Jeopardy!’?
  217. What’s the Most Challenging Assignment You’ve Ever Had?
  218. What Do You Think of Obama’s Oval Office Speech on the Oil Spill?
  219. Do You Believe in Equal Rights for Women and Men?
  220. Do You Know Boys Who Regard Girls as ‘Prey’?
  221. Whom Would You Choose as a Commencement Speaker?
  222. What Life Lessons Has Adversity Taught You?
  223. Do You Have a Summer Job?
  224. What’s Your Favorite Summer Food?
  225. What Merit Badge Would You Create?
  226. What Can You Learn About Politics From Pop Songs?
  227. What Can You Learn From Other Religions?
  228. What Would a Video Study Reveal About Your Family?
  229. What Do Older Generations Misunderstand About Yours?
  230. How Young Is Too Young to Climb Mount Everest?
  231. What Questions Do You Have For Scientists in the Field?
  232. What Era Do You Wish You Had Lived In?
  233. What Are Your Attitudes Toward Money?
  234. What Would Your Dream House Be Like?
  235. What Assumptions Do People Make About You?
  236. What’s the Story Behind Your Name?
  237. Whom Would You Interview? What Would You Ask?
  238. Do You Believe in Intelligent Alien Life?
  239. Do You Worry About Terrorism?
  240. What Is Your Favorite Summer Movie?
  241. Is ‘Doing Nothing’ a Good Use of Your Time?
  242. What Cause Would You Rally Others to Support?
  243. What Music Are You Listening To?
  244. How Much Are You Influenced by Advertising?
  245. Would You Help an Injured Stranger?
  246. What Do You Think About the New Arizona Immigration Law?
  247. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  248. Do Apps Help You or Just Waste Your Time?
  249. Do You Keep a Diary or Journal?
  250. Should Schools Offer Cash Bonuses for Good Test Scores?
  251. Would You Like to Take a Class Online?
  252. Are Children of Illegal Immigrants Entitled to a Public Education?
  253. What Is Your Personal Credo?
  254. How Do You Personalize the Things You’re Required to Have at School?
  255. Should Students Be Required to Take Drug Tests?
  256. Do You Participate in Class?
  257. Do Attractive People Have Advantages Others Don’t?
  258. What Motivates You?
  259. Do You Support Affirmative Action?
  260. What Role Does Television Play in Your Life and the Life of Your Family?
  261. Why Do You Write?
  262. How Do You Use Facebook?
  263. What Journey Do You Most Want to Make?
  264. What Are You Afraid Of?
  265. What Have You Made Yourself?
  266. Do You Trust Your Government?
  267. What Are Your Favorite Cartoons?
  268. Who Is Your Role Model?
  269. Does Pop Culture Deserve Serious Study?
  270. Do You Have Good Manners?
  271. What Causes Should Philanthropic Groups Finance?
  272. Should Fertilized Eggs Be Given Legal Personhood?
  273. What Challenges Have You Set for Yourself?
  274. Have You Experienced Sexual Harassment?
  275. Do Leaders Have Moral Obligations?
  276. Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?
  277. Do Presidential Candidates Need to Be Good Debaters?
  278. Do You Shop at Locally Owned Businesses?
  279. Are You a Brand?
  280. Do You Sympathize With the Occupy Wall Street Movement?
  281. What Do You Read, and How Do You Read It?
  282. Should People Be Allowed to Obscure Their Identities Online?
  283. Which Is More Important: Talent or Hard Work?
  284. Do Your Parents Support Your Learning?
  285. What Are You Grateful For?
  286. What Time Should Black Friday Sales Start?
  287. What Are You Good At?
  288. Do Photoshopped Images Make You Feel Bad About Your Own Looks?
  289. When in Your Life Have You Been a Leader?
  290. What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’?
  291. What Artists or Bands of Today Are Destined for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
  292. Which Republican Candidate Will Win the Presidential Nomination?
  293. What’s Next for Computing?
  294. What New Emoticons Does the World Need?
  295. Should the Morning-After Pill Be Sold Over the Counter to People Under 17?
  296. Are We Losing the Art of Listening?
  297. Do You Discuss Religion With Friends?
  298. What Places in Your Past Do You Appreciate More Now, From a Distance?
  299. Would You Consider Deleting Your Facebook Account?
  300. Is It Wrong to Sell Store-Bought Pastries at a Bake Sale?
  301. What Will You Remember Most From 2011?
  302. Have You Ever Interacted With the Police?
  303. Can You Be Good Without God?
  304. What’s Your Favorite Holiday Food Memory?
  305. How Are You Spending the Holiday Break?
  306. Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions?
  307. Do You Have a Signature Clothing Item?
  308. Do Your Teachers Use Technology Well?
  309. What Would Your Personal Mascot Be?
  310. What Is Your Favorite Place?
  311. What if Your Parent Ran for President?
  312. What Game Would You Like to Redesign?
  313. What’s Your Favorite (Printable) Slang Term?
  314. Should Charities Focus More on America?
  315. What Is the Right Amount of Group Work in School?
  316. Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
  317. Who Would You Share Your Passwords With?
  318. Do You Think You’re Brave?
  319. What Is Your Most Memorable Writing Assignment?
  320. What Would You Like to Learn on Your Own?
  321. What’s Your Response to Obama’s Third State of the Union Address?
  322. What Are the Best Movies You Saw in 2011?
  323. Should the Dropout Age Be Raised?
  324. How Should You Handle the End of a Friendship?
  325. Do You Have a Blog?
  326. Do You Watch the Super Bowl?
  327. Do You Cook?
  328. Do College Rankings Matter?
  329. Do You Like Being Alone?
  330. What Story Does Your Personal Data Tell?
  331. How Would You Make Over Your Mall?
  332. How Do Male and Female Roles Differ in Your Family?
  333. Should Home-Schoolers Be Allowed to Play Public School Sports?
  334. Do You Eat Too Quickly?
  335. Who Inspires You?
  336. Are You a Novelty-Seeker?
  337. Would You Rather Attend a Public or a Private High School?
  338. How Much Information Is ‘Too Much Information’?
  339. Should Companies Collect Information About You?
  340. What Do You Eat During the School Day?
  341. What Are Your Favorite Young Adult Novels?
  342. What Kind of Feedback Helps You Improve?
  343. What Are Your Family Stories of Sacrifice?
  344. What’s the Racial Makeup of Your School?
  345. Fluent in Vocal Fry, Creaky Voice or Uptalk?
  346. What Would You Name Your Neighborhood?
  347. Can Kindness Become Cool?
  348. What Is Your Reaction to the Rush Limbaugh Controversy?
  349. What Have You Done to Earn Money?
  350. What Questions Do You Have About How the World Works?
  351. What Are Your Favorite Junk Foods?
  352. How Well Do You Think Standardized Tests Measure Your Abilities?
  353. How Important Is It to Have a Driver’s License?
  354. Do Social Media Campaigns Like Kony 2012 Stunt or Stimulate Real Change?
  355. How Do You Feel About Zoos?
  356. Would You Quit if Your Values Did Not Match Your Employers?
  357. Should the R Rating for ‘Bully’ Be Changed?
  358. Are Antismoking Ads Effective?
  359. Where Is the Line Between Truth and Fiction?
  360. How Productive and Organized Are You?
  361. What’s the Coolest Thing You’ve Ever Seen in a Museum?
  362. What Is Your Reaction to the Trayvon Martin Case?
  363. What Can Other Schools Learn — and Copy — From Your School?
  364. What Do You Hope to Be Doing the Year After You Graduate From College?
  365. What Small Things Have You Seen and Taken Note of Today?
  366. Do You Know How to Code?
  367. What Movies, Shows or Books Do You Wish Had Sequels, Spinoffs or New Episodes?
  368. What Would You Do If You Won the Lottery?
  369. Do You Want to Write a Book?
  370. How Do You Celebrate Spring?
  371. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Smart Phones Playing ‘Stupid Games’?
  372. How Do You Archive Your Life?
  373. Should Couples Live Together Before Marriage?
  374. What Is Your Fantasy Vacation?
  375. Is It Ethical to Eat Meat?
  376. What Things Did You Create When You Were a Child?
  377. When Did You Last Have a Great Conversation?
  378. Why Do You Share Photos?
  379. What Leader Would You Invite to Speak at Your School?
  380. What Have You And Your Family Accomplished Together?
  381. Is TV Too White?
  382. How Necessary Is a College Education?
  383. How Much Does Your Life in School Intersect With Your Life Outside School?
  384. How Important Is Keeping Your Cool?
  385. Do You Prefer Your Tacos ‘Authentic’ or ‘Appropriated’?
  386. What’s Cluttering Up Your Life?
  387. When Have You Ever Failed at Something? What Happened as a Result?
  388. What Teacher Do You Appreciate?
  389. Do You Prefer Your Children’s Book Characters Obedient or Contrary?
  390. When Should You Feel Guilty for Killing Zombies?
  391. How Should Parents Address Internet Pornography?
  392. Does Mitt Romney’s High School Bullying Matter?
  393. Is TV Stronger Than Ever, or Becoming Obsolete?
  394. When Is It O.K. to Replace Human Limbs With Technology?
  395. How Far Would You Go for Fashion?
  396. How Often Do You Interact With People of Another Race or Ethnicity?
  397. What Would Your Fantasy Road Trip Be Like?
  398. Would You Consider a Nontraditional Occupation?
  399. How Full Is Your Glass?
  400. What’s On Your Summer Reading List?
  401. What’s Your Comfort Food?
  402. What Cuts Should Cash-Strapped Schools Make?
  403. When Do You Become an Adult?
  404. Who Would Be the Ideal Celebrity Neighbor?
  405. How Close Are You to Your Parents?
  406. How Do You Keep Up With the News?
  407. What Advice Would You Give to Somebody Who Just Started Dating?
  408. What Is Your Opinion About the Morning-After Pill?
  409. Do You Have a Job?
  410. When Should Juvenile Offenders Receive Life Sentences?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Feathers and Moss




Source: via Dragon on Pinterest

Some choice images from the week's postings at the Dragon Writing Pinterest pages. Use the images as inspiration, changing however you wish. (For instance, those lanterns look like buildings to me.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 ... 12 ... 12

Write 12 sentences of 12 words each, each having to do with the number 12.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Writing inspiration

Prompted by a suggestion in a writing book to search the internet for images to inspire characters and Winter's face in The heart of Winter post, I created collections of intriguing faces and places, unusual dwellings and curious curiosities at Pinterest. I went nuts yesterday so there's already quite a few ;-)

Source: via Dragon on Pinterest
Source: Uploaded by user via Dragon on Pinterest

Source: via Dragon on Pinterest
Source: via Dragon on Pinterest

Bleed for the gods

Bleed for the gods

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The heart of Winter

Winter weather reflects Winter's state of mind and heart. If it's cold with a typical amount of cold and bluster she's having a grand season. If it's unseasonably warm, not enough snow, too cold it means something has upset her.

Think back on the winter we've had so far (well, okay, it's still fall but it is December!) and come up with a story that explains it. Is she upset with someone, perhaps one of the previous seasons? Does she depend on others to create winter effects? Clouds? Wind? The snow fairies? The frost elves? Are they not cooperating? Why?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The wedding cake in the middle of the road

The wedding cake in the middle of the road.

Take it from there. :-)

The original challenge was given to 6 writers to come up with a story to be told on NPR radio based around a wedding cake in the middle of the road. It was extended to 17 more to create The Wedding Cake in the Middle of the Road: 23 Variations on a Theme.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Story Sculptor

This is what has gotten me behind on everything.

No, not the gargoyle! Or even the picture of the gargoyle. (Look at that constipated face being so cute as he tries to squeeze out a story.)

It's what he links to that has kept me busy ...

It's sort of a MadLibs-type spreadsheet for your novel's overview. Sort of.

Fill in your main character, his or her goals, adversary and several other tidbits into the spreadsheet. From those it assembles loglines (story summaries). By reading through them you get to see if your ideas flow and play nicely together. Like:

The naive, impetuous farm boy battles to stop the Empire against the ruthless, technology-loving Empire supporter who wants to crush the rebels.


On the verge of another season of moisture farming in the middle of nowhere the naive, impetuous farm boy enters the conflict between the Empire and the rebels; but when the Death Star is finally revealed, he must answer 'Is faith or technology stronger?' before Obi-Wan is killed.

Plus many more. Once you've tweaked your ideas, you can read through a breakdown of a novel with your elements inserted like this overview of Act 1:

Meet Luke from Tatooine, a planet beyond the edge of the Empire being his naive, impetuous self.

Luke's life is stalled facing another season of moisture farming in the middle of nowhere. It may even be a good life but he, in essence, is dying since he's stopped growing. Luke either doesn't recognize that he has a problem or is confused why technology and what he has accomplished so far leaves him discontent. His values have gotten him what he wanted so far. (But can't get him what he really needs.) Luke's life may feel like armor protecting him or a comfortable rut. (Explore at home, work or play.)

And a bajillion more that lay out your whole story right up to the final dramatic finish.

Story Sculptor might be helpful when planning a novel to keep you focused on the elements a good story needs. I've definitely found it useful for editing finished novels. The spreadsheet highlighted where the novel's weak areas were, let me know the person I thought was the villain really wasn't, and generally helped me pull wild ideas into line so it didn't read like a mashup of five different stories.

Give it a try. There's more explanation at the website. It's free for now. (Maybe free forever, with donations gratefully and graciously accepted :-) (And do encourage updates and expansions.)  It can look overwhelming at first, though I think the first page of the spreadsheet does a good job of directing you.

(It's for Numbers '09 (Mac and iPad) and Excel 2007 (and later) (PC and Mac).)

Let me know if you find it helpful. Also problems and improvements. All constructive feedback is welcome. :-)

The original idea came from  Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. (Even he didn't believe it was the last since he wrote two sequels ;-)

What's wonderful about his book is the detailed breakdown of great stories (not just screenplays) he explores. As I read through his structure using "hero" and "villain" I really wanted a way to fill those in with a story's characters. Which gave me the idea for a spreadsheet. Then I stumbled across My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter and The Anatomy of Story by John Truby which added more ways of viewing story structure. (The first two are very easy reads.)

Then I went kind of crazy adding more ideas in. And it seemed a shame not to share it. :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thrown together

Cut up the following, creating three piles. Randomly match them up. Rearrange them until you have five combinations you like. Hint: look for unconventional combinations.

Use them individually for inspiration or strand them all together after a transportation failure (crash, storm, driver's death.) They can be stranded at a layover. It doesn't need to be a deserted island or planet unless you want it to be.

professional mournerhawaiian shirtspigeons
demon hunterhat with featherstelescope
university librarianbright red nailscomic book collection
celebrity bodyguardunconventional piercings  gourmet cookware
beachside bartendertattooed sayingsscrapbook of newspaper clippings
private eyedragon slippersJapanese weapon collection
investigative news reporter  religion-related jewelryukelele
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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Exorcist exercises

The exorcist and his or her partner, sometime lover and long-time friend receive a request from the ruler to handle a delicate situation.

The exorcist accepts with some concern. Ever since returning from the funeral of a relative, the exorcist's partner has been behaving out of character. Though feeling foolishly paranoid, the exorcist performed several tests to reveal possession but nothing showed up.

They accompany the messenger to a remote villa where the ruler's sister greets them. They are led to the heir apparent. A possession is clear even without tests. But that's the last thing that is clear.

Take it from there.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A character's random beginning

Historic LOLs
This is part of an exercise we did at a NaNoWriMo planning party. I tried to get it done before NaNo started but obvious failure.

First, we generated a random job. Which is the part that bogged me down for this post. But someone else has done a much better job using the data I was going to use:

Modern Job Title/Occupation Selector and Random Generator. You can go directly to Option #2 to generate random occupations.

There's also the Bullshit Job Title generator.

If those are a bit too real world for you, Seventh Sanctum has a Skills, Abilities and Traits generator. (As well as a billion other speculative fiction friendly generators.)

Second, generate one or more personal interests. More is not necessarily better! One or two is enough to provide character without feeling crowded. You can choose them from the same generator or different ones.

Third, generate the first letter of first and last names. (Or whatever number of names you'd like to give your character.

Now, come up with a name that relates in some way to the occupation or hobby.

Fourth, quiz your character. In general, I think character questionnaires can lead you to the false conclusion that the more details, the richer the character.

What helped with this questionnaire is it was done as an interview with a partner. The advantage is you're put on the spot to come up with an answer that somewhat makes sense but you can't think about it too much! What it can yield are some unexpected contrasts and connections.

Get your mom to ask. Skype with your NaNo buddy. Or imagine a reporter asking you these questions. The goal is to do them quickly with a bit of thought. The quiz is from the Gotham Writer's Workshop.

Character Questionnaire 1

This questionnaire is found in Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s Writing Fiction.

You might start with questions that address the basics about a character:

• What is your character’s name? Does the character have a nickname?

• What is your character’s hair color? Eye color?

• What kind of distinguishing facial features does your character have?

• Does your character have a birthmark? Where is it? What about scars? How did he get them?

• Who are your character’s friends and family? Who does she surround herself with? Who are the people your character is closest to? Who does he wish he were closest to?

• Where was your character born? Where has she lived since then? Where does she call home?

• Where does your character go when he’s angry?

• What is her biggest fear? Who has she told this to? Who would she never tell this to? Why?

• Does she have a secret?

• What makes your character laugh out loud?

• When has your character been in love? Had a broken heart?

Then dig deeper by asking more unconventional questions:

• What is in your character’s refrigerator right now? On her bedroom floor? On her nightstand? In her garbage can?

• Look at your character’s feet. Describe what you see there. Does he wear dress shoes, gym shoes, or none at all? Is he in socks that are ratty and full of holes? Or is he wearing a pair of blue and gold slippers knitted by his grandmother?

• When your character thinks of her childhood kitchen, what smell does she associate with it? Sauerkraut? Oatmeal cookies? Paint? Why is that smell so resonant for her?

• Your character is doing intense spring cleaning. What is easy for her to throw out? What is difficult for her to part with? Why?

• It’s Saturday at noon. What is your character doing? Give details. If he’s eating breakfast, what exactly does he eat? If she’s stretching out in her backyard to sun, what kind of blanket or towel does she lie on?

• What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

• Your character is getting ready for a night out. Where is she going? What does she wear? Who will she be with?

Character Questionnaire 2

This questionnaire was invented by the noted French author Marcel Proust. These questions are frequently used in interviews so you may want to pretend you’re interviewing your characters.

• What do you consider your greatest achievement?

• What is your idea of perfect happiness?

• What is your current state of mind?

• What is your favorite occupation?

• What is your most treasured possession?

• What or who is the greatest love of your life?

• What is your favorite journey?

• What is your most marked characteristic?

• When and where were you the happiest?

• What is it that you most dislike?

• What is your greatest fear?

• What is your greatest extravagance?

• Which living person do you most despise?

• What is your greatest regret?

• Which talent would you most like to have?

• Where would you like to live?

• What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

• What is the quality you most like in a man?

• What is the quality you most like in a woman?

• What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

• What is the trait you most deplore in others?

• What do you most value in your friends?

• Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

• Whose are your heroes in real life?

• Which living person do you most admire?

• What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

• On what occasions do you lie?

• Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

• If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

• What are your favorite names?

• How would you like to die?

• If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

• What is your motto?