How to make plotting your short story fun with Jason L. Blair’s Full Deck Roleplaying: A Scenario

If you haven’t read it yet, you’ll want to read through my last post about Setting and Characters, so this makes some sense. Okay, back to the action:

Since Luchinda dressed for her character, the rest of us decided to dress up too. Woody wasn’t too excited when I handed him a cape and the closest thing I had to a beret.

“Look, honey, I’ll wear one too,” said Luchinda. That worked. Now, the group is all dressed up and ready for the first scenario.

all dressed up and ready to play

 

The Situation

Miss Blue puts on devil horns, “I have a feeling I’ll be playing devil’s advocate,” she says. “Now, where to begin?

“I’m thinking all of you have to meet and start your quest, so let’s say that Mr. Caldwell contacted Dr. Jetland at the university because he believes he has discovered proof of knowledge of an active wormhole and wants her expert opinion. Dr. Jetland brings her Post Doc along to assist and Natalia is at the meeting as Mr. Caldwell’s body guard and to protect the evidence.

“So this first situation is the characters meeting and seeing the first evidence of the conspiracy. What will your goals be?”

“My goal will be to convince the doctors to take me seriously and help me find the wormhole,” says Woody.

“Good. Right. And my goal will be to protect him, protect the evidence and make them do it!” says Luchinda.

“My goal is to examine the evidence objectively and determine if there is any scientific basis for Mr. Caldwell’s discovery,” I say.

“Then what’s my goal?” says Teddy.

“To assist me, of course,” I say.

“I think I should do more than that,” says Teddy, “My goal will be to add some passion for astrophysics and perception to your observations. Maybe not be quite as objective.”

“Fine, sounds good,” I say.

Actions

Miss Blue says we should start on her left and go around the table, so Luchinda looks at her cards and plays the Jack of hearts. Her character Natalia Bash, goes against her nature to give Mr. Caldwell, his research, and theories a rousing introduction while attempting to seduce the new arrivals into joining their cause.

Woody, not having any hearts, plays a 6 of diamonds to introduce Mr. Caldwell’s theory that futurism of the 50’s and 60’s was actually realism from another planet found through a stable wormhole.

I play a 9 of clubs to show that Dr. Jetland doesn’t have time or patience for lofty words, but came to see proof of a stable wormhole. I see Teddy pulling out a 6 of spades. “You would want to see the evidence first, wouldn’t you Dr. Bernstein?” I nudge.

Teddy lays a 7 of clubs adding 3 to my 9.

All attention on Miss Blue

Miss Blue smiles, I was beginning to think I was going to have to create some conflict already, but it looks like Natalia and Ottis will have to beat an 11 of clubs before they can win over the doctors to their cause.

“That’s easy,” says Luchinda. She lays a King of clubs and a six of clubs. “Natalia beats them into submission.”

“I don’t think physically beating them is going to get them to help us,” says Woody.

“Right,” says Luchinda. “I use psychological warfare to bring them to our side, making them think it was their idea.

“Good,” says Woody, placing a four of diamonds on the table. Now that they are listening, I will continue explaining my theory.”

I play an Ace of spades and a seven of spades in alignment with my Wisdom focus to get around Natalia’s psychological tricks and demand to see the pages that Ottis had told me about.

Teddy plays a Jack of hearts attempting to soften my demands and ask more nicely to see the proof.

Luchinda plays a 7 of Clubs, “Natalia still does not trust you. She guards Ottis and the evidence watching you closely, ready for a fight.”

Woody looks around the table with a slight curl to his lips. He plays a Joker. “Ottis never doubted he could convince you. He unlocks his top desk drawer, pulls out a few diary pages and clears his throat to read–”

“Just then, the janitor who had come in and emptied the waste basket pulls a gun on Ottis. ‘I’ll take those,’ he says and runs out the door.” Miss Blue looks pretty proud of herself.

“The cabal,” Teddy says.

“What? I didn’t get to fight him,” says Luchinda.

“Not yet,” says Miss Blue.

“Are you sure we’re playing this right?” I ask.

“Are you having fun?” says Miss Blue.

“Yes,” everyone offers.

“Then what does it matter? Let’s keep going and learn as we go.”

“We still have cards left for this round. It’s my turn, so let’s finish off by deciding if we go after him or make a different plan,” I say.

We all agree.

I play a six of diamonds offering that we should let him go and try to discover more clues.

Teddy plays a Queen and a six of spades to align with his wisdom focus to evade any confrontation with the armed man and get Ottis to write down what he remembers from the stolen pages.

Miss Blue pulls a complications card. An Ace of Hearts. An innocent will die. “Can anyone beat that? No? Sorry guys. As you are discussing your next moves, the man with your pages ran into the street and expecting you to follow, took a hostage. When people crowded around, blocking his path, he shot the hostage and slipped through the shocked bystanders.”

Luchinda plays her last card, a six of diamonds. “Great, Natalia should be fighting and she’s thinking. Maybe I think I recognized the man, a fellow mercenary.”

Woody plays an eight of spades to evade the doctors’ questions about why Natalia might know the gunman.

I play a Jack of hearts and Dr. Jetland makes an emotional speech about how it is now vital that we find the wormhole before a killer does.

Teddy plays nine of diamonds while Dr. Bernstein thinks long and hard about leaving his Post Doc and teaching elementary school.

Woody is the only player with a card left. He plays the two of spades. Ottis Caldwell is still hiding something and, though meekly, tries to evade.

End of Round One

Reviewing My Experiment

There it is. One round of play. I was surprised how much there was to think about and experience with only five cards each. Of course that pesky Miss Blue threw some wrenches in the mix. Though the story and the game had only begun, my friends had to go home and my short story has been submitted and reviewed, so I thought I’d do a quick review of the experience.

photography – The set-up was intensive and time-consuming, but fun. Any reason to pull out costumes is good for me. I found the space around my dining room table very limiting for trying to take pictures of all four actors. The windows, even with the drapes and blinds down, backlit the best angle for the full tableau. However, for a first attempt, I thought I got some interesting shots.

writing – Creating friends from my objets d-art, giving them names and backgrounds and then having them create characters was a fun and constructive way to get a story brewing. I had never really worked on meta story writing before and I enjoyed the layers of it. I enjoyed everything about the card suit meanings for set-up and though I only played one round, game-play definitely led to unique ideas, I would not have enjoyed contemplating otherwise.

the game – This is the first time I’ve tried a table top roleplaying game, so I am not the person to compare it to other games. I also doubt we played it exactly as intended and having human friends with their own thoughts, most likely would have made play more lively. However, as a writer using it as a creativity engine, I had great results. I wrote the short story for The Writer’s Games and received positive feedback on the characters and their interactions, so Full Deck Roleplaying is a proven character development tool. I also received positive feedback on my premise and setting, so overall, my intended use was a success.

Thanks for playing along. If you’re feeling stuck or looking to add some fun to your writing process, I recommend giving Full Deck Roleplaying a try.

 

How to make plotting your short story fun with Jason L. Blair’s Full Deck Roleplaying: Setting & Characters

I’ve been talking a lot about poetry lately, but I’m also participating in The Writer’s Games. The challenge to write a short story to a prompt each weekend started two weeks ago. I’ll be getting a new prompt this evening.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have found many fun plotting games and devices over the years:

story plotting is fun

Yesterday, I happened upon a new one. Writer and game designer Jason L. Blair did a guest post on Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds introducing his new tabletop RPG (role playing game) Full Deck Roleplaying.

I downloaded the Playtest PDF to see what he was talking about and enjoyed that the game is played with a regular deck of playing cards, so I could play along right away.

As I began to read the instructions, I instantly knew this wasn’t only a game, but my kind of writing tool: simple, fun, and full of beautiful illustrations!

The game rules set up categories for scene and character creation based on the four suits: spades, hearts, diamonds or clubs. I’m excited to get started, so I’m going to start drawing cards to see what I’m working with. I found a brand new, unopened deck of bicycle fire cards in the cupboard, so that’s fun. It took me a while to break them in to shuffle well.

As I read through the game play again, I was inspired to try a real test run of the game. To do that, I needed some friends to play with, so to have some much needed fun today (since my internet has been so slow as to be useless for two days now), I decided to create a photography tableau of friends playing the game and run through a scenario.

ready friends

Here are my friends:

Teddy has lived with me since before I was a Swedish exchange student. He has traveled the world with me and is a great travel companion: We never bicker, probably because he doesn’t mind letting me lead, and we like the same things.

Miss Blue and I met in New Orleans. We met at the hat shop I worked at in the French Quarter. She always liked my designs the best. We went for drinks when I got off of work one day and became fast friends. She can be a bit self-centered and is always borrowing my clothes without asking. I get over it quickly though because she looks good in them and she’s a warm fuzzy in my life.

I met Luchinda in San Antonio. She has a very vibrant, spicy personality. Being so passionate, she can also be quick to anger. She and I have a great time, in small doses.

Woody was introduced to me by my artist friend, E. Spencer Matthews III. Woody’s an old fashioned kind of guy who always looks a bit haunted, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. I think he plans on cheating; just look at his deck of cards. He and Luchinda are a fun couple, very lively, great energy, at least, when they’re not fighting.

I thought Levi might join us. He seemed interested when I was setting up the table, but he doesn’t like my friends. He’s playing kitty in a drum right now. Maybe he’ll join us later. If he does, he can play my character while I take pictures.

Miss Blue has printed out game booklets with the rules and player sheets for everyone and will play as the dealer. When she set out a deck of FLORIDA playing cards as the challenge deck, we all laughed.

“I bet there are some unimaginable challenges in there,” I said.

“I hope there won’t be any gator wrestling,” said Teddy with a little shiver.

“I’m up for any kind of wrestling challenge,” said Luchinda.

Woody stared at the Florida deck with a haunted look. I wondered if he had experienced some Florida challenges he would rather not remember.

Miss Blue starts the game by drawing the setting cards.

the setting

Setting

Time: Jack of Spades = Past

Theme: 7 of diamonds = Sci-Fi

Trope: King of Clubs = Conspiracy

“Well that’s just Roswell,” Luchinda blurts out sounding disappointed.

“Or kinda Stargate,” I say.

“What’s wrong with Roswell?” You loved the museum, if I remember correctly,” Woody says with a sly smile.

Luchinda blushes and giggles.

What do you think, Teddy?” I ask. “What setting do you think the cards tell us to have?”

Teddy takes a sip from his candy cane shot glass and says, “The past doesn’t have to be long ago past. It can be last week or a year ago. What if the conspiracy is Bio-weapons and we are trying to find the horrible labs where they are experimenting with the viruses and stop the pandemic before it happens?”

Everyone, other than Teddy, moans.

Miss Blue pats his paw. “Teddy Dear, we’re playing this to escape the pandemic, pretend it’s not happening for a few hours. Lets try something more fantastical.”

“I know, ” she says, “let’s play that all those ideas in the fifties and sixties of space-age colonies and things were true, but they were built on another planet because what really happened is they discovered a wormhole and found abandoned human futuristic buildings and dwellings. They sold these places to the super-rich and kept it secret. They were so happy and secretive, they didn’t have children and the secret died out. We discovered some clues to how to find and activate the wormhole. What you think?”

“Yeah, and there’s a cabal trying to stop us,” says Teddy.

“Sounds good to me,” says Luchinda. “I’ll wrestle the entire cabal of selfish bad guys so we can live happily ever after. Won’t I honey?” she says to Woody, pushing out her full lower lip.

“I’m in,” says Woody. “What do we do next?”

Miss Blue says, “Now, you each get to draw cards from your own decks to create your characters. Shuffle, if you want, then turn over your top card. That will be your character’s focus.”

Woody's asking Luchinda if she shuffled her cards because she has drawn three Jacks in a row

Character

Focus: Teddy and I both got spades which is Wisdom, makes sense, Woody got a heart which is empathy, not sure about that. I guess it’s a character not him– but Luchinda drew a club which means strength, a little on the nose, so now I’m wondering about Woody.

Motivation: This time I matched with Woody: We are both motivated by honor. I mean, our characters are, I mean, we drew clubs. Teddy got a heart which is Love and Luchinda drew a diamond which is money. Woody couldn’t stifle a chuckle at that. Luchinda knocked his hat off. He left it off. I like his bald head.

Light: We each got a different suit which should be good for game play: I got clubs, Woody diamonds, Luchinda hearts, Teddy spades. So my good is that I’m talented, Woody is Affluent (I don’t think that’s true, but he is secretive), Luchinda is Generous (that made everyone laugh, I mean, she is in spirit) and Teddy is Perceptive which everyone knows is true.

Darkness: As for our dark sides, Woody and I are both obsessed, Luchinda is violent (really, it’s like her character is just her), and Teddy is greedy.

So now we get to state three things about our character’s first impression and name them.

Final Details

We chat for a while then Miss Blue gets our attention and says, “Okay, so tell us the name of your character and three things we would notice upon first impression. Woody, why don’t you start.

Woody loosens his tie slightly and says, “His name is Ottis Caldwell, he’s an art historian who is also an activist. His cause is human equality and thinks everyone should have access to space travel, not just the super-rich. Three things that people notice about him right away, are the stains and paints on him because he is always cleaning art or making art. He often smells of turpentine. And he drives a fancy sports car that seems incongruous with his beliefs and activities, but belonged to his father and he tends to it obsessively.”

Everyone  claps, “Maria, tell us about your character,” Miss Blue says.

I look at my notes and feel nervous for some reason. “Dr. Estelle Jetland is a professor of Physics at the Florida Institute of Technology and often consults and works with NASA. She is fascinated with wormholes. She often seems like she’s not listening when you talk to her, but her eyes shine and her whole body appears to vibrate when she gets excited by an idea. People are often surprised that a physics professor has such a beautiful singing voice and can play so many instruments. When she becomes interested in something, she will obsessively research it until she has read everything there is to find on the subject. Teddy is her post doc assistant.

Teddy clears his throat. “Uh, yes. My character is an astrophysicist named Dr. Björn Bernstein. He is doing his post doc with Dr. Jetland at Florida Tech. People don’t really notice him because he always has his head in his work, but what they do notice is he’s quiet, but when he does speak–”

“Boring,” Luchinda interrupts. “I’m a bad ass mercenary named Natalia Bash. First off, I’m gorgeous, tall and lean, but second, every bit of me is muscle. Third, I’m gruff, and confident and nobody messes with me. Right. Where’s my leather jacket? There. Now, let’s play!”

choosing our characters

Monday Quadrille – Mr. Fix-it

Since I finished my short story draft for the Writer’s Games and need to let it sit a bit before the final edit, I thought I would wander over to the dVerse Poets Pub where it’s Monday Quadrille day. Today’s word to put into my 44 word poem is “fix.”

tools of physical labor

Mr. Fix-it

He has always been Mr. Fix-it
he can fix anything
every motor, structure, even nature
bends to his will eventually

But this time admit
he can’t fix this
the right part isn’t online
WD40 won’t loosen this screw
no spray will discourage this scourge

National Poetry Writing Month is Here!

Greet the day with song resized

Blogging A to Z

This year I wanted to do something a little different. I’ll still be exploring great words, but instead of new words I decided to concentrate on specific terminology. Every skill, concentration, study or craft has its own terminology. I thought I would add some music to my poetry by looking at the terminology of music from A to Z.

For my “A” words I’ll start with some words that express tempo (relative rapidity or rate of movement):

adagio – in a leisurely manner, slowly

allegro – brisk or rapid

andante – moderately slow and even, a walking tempo

NaPoWriMo

Prompt: “write a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances.”

My action ideas: downhill skiing, water skiing, synchronized swimming, encountering a bear in the wild.

Today’s resource is the Synaesthetic Metaphor Generator. It wasn’t what I expected. Most of the responses I received were neither metaphors nor similes, but after many tries I got a few that I liked:

as lime-green as incandescence
her nerves are ebony lava tubes
my cells are amber nebulae

PAD Challenge

Prompt: a new world

The poem

Shaky Legs

Dragged slowly behind
The push and pull threatens
as I try to control my wobbly knees
and coax my feet with their unwieldy extensions
into position against the current

At my signal
–when I believe I am ready–
I am yanked from buoyancy
only to flail and twist in the cold
losing my legs in every direction
to be slapped hard on the way down

The rope circles back around
I grab for it
Again I fight into the correct coil
then call on the power
to break through the surface tension
and skitter across the waves
all for that one moment of glassy calm
that feels like soaring

 

Big changes to the pages: December Planner Pages. The end of the experiment.

December pages.jpg

For this final month of the planner experiment, I had a big think. I put way to much work into this to completely abandon the idea, but I also think I went about it backwards, or at least not exactly the right way.

What I have learned thus far

Yes, having a goal of 100 rejections on the year is a good one. It helps get you used to rejection letters which is part of the process of getting your stories published. And it gets you into the practice of resubmitting the story and not giving up. Perseverance is the word that keeps coming up in interviews with published authors, so there is no giving up, no matter how many rejections. So many rejections.

However, every editor of every magazine expects you to subscribe to the magazine, follow their social media, read all of their interviews and pretty much spend all of your time figuring out what they want to read, then write it perfectly and stunningly while being creative, but in the way they want it to be creative then pay a fee to submit it and unless you can read their mind, it still probably won’t fit the upcoming issue and thus will get rejected anyway.

After spending way too much money on literary magazines this year, and reading so many stories online, I learned some interesting things.

  • The majority of literary magazines aren’t magazines at all: they are books.
  • They are expensive books.
  • I liked very few of the stories I read in these expensive books.
  • When trying to read all of these expensive books, I got burned out and barely read any novels. Bummer.
  • Submitting to literary magazines is incredibly time consuming and energy zapping.

But this experiment still has one month left and I’m not completely giving up on it, so what to do?

This month’s changes

I took a look at my shelf of accumulated literary magazines and ended up with enough multiple issues of certain journals to make a study of it. On the pages, I took out the images and journal of the day and turned it into a journal of the week. It makes sense to me that every journal that I put my time into should pay its writers and I should read enough issues of the journal to find out if I would want my story in it.

While frantically trying to learn about all the journals and send my stories to as many as I could, I didn’t think about whether I liked the journals. I forgot to think about myself in the equation. I wanted my stories to find homes so badly that I didn’t think about the homes they might move into and whether or not they would like their roommates.

Instead of feeling rushed to get to know a journal per day which turned out to be a maddening pace. I want to take my time. Yesterday, I found a story in the latest Ploughshares that I liked, “The Caller” by Ian Stansel. Ploughshares is a tough journal to get to know because two of the three journals I have from this year had guest editors. But it’s time to try again.

The other problem I have with the journal of the day concept, other than fees and no pay, is the volatility. The information I provide can be incorrect by the time you get the file. However, if I only introduce four or five journals per month, the reader will have time to research the journal themselves and really get to know the journal before submitting. Along with this change, I’ve put only one spot for three submissions per week which feels much saner and doable.

Something I hadn’t included before which I have made the first focus this month if editing. I need to spend more time using what I’m learning from reading all of these short stories to improve my own stories, so I added a daily focus and daily editing goals. I hope we’ll find this change useful and inspiring.

The pages

So here are the last of the free daily planner pages of 2019. I hope you have had a productive and successful writing year. Were you published this year? Please leave links in the comments so I can read your successful stories and poems and promote them here on Experience Writing.

Fourth Quarter 2019 Planner Pages December new style

I had some fun with some fonts. I used Morris Roman and Deutch Gothic. Both are free to download and install.

I would love to hear what you think of the new pages. What do you find useful? What would you change? Do you like the new idea of one journal per week? Let me know in the comments. Thank you to everyone who tried out the pages and followed along with the experiment. I’ll have a wrap-up with my numbers and experiences submitting my stories this year.

Happy Holidays!

and Happy Reading and Writing!!

Approach to the moment of truth on #NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 19

abandoned in the rain

Image prompt: I imagined my main character revisiting the abandoned property on a rainy day, so I spent a little time taking pictures in the rain.

I like the title from Day 19 2017: Approach to the moment of truth. I’m feeling this on many levels. This week is going to be tough. I’ve already lost my momentum and I’m going to be completely distracted by the impeachment hearings, so I’m going to need to try some new things. I’ve cued up a Virtual Write-In for the break in the hearing. Virtual Write-ins have helped my word count in the past.

But it may also be that these prompts aren’t working for me every day. It was a good experiment and worked pretty well in the beginning, but this week I may need other inspiration. So if you don’t see these posts from me this week, I will hopefully find other inspiration to share.

#vss365: bust

He remembered small plastic busts of famous composers on the piano. Mama would play with them and arrange them. They became a clue into her mood. Kirk learned the connection and often consulted them as augurs.

Today’s Simple Task

MC micro-focused on today: What can s/he do in this moment? It’s time for arain in the bushes new and better plan.

→ This is a good exercise for me today. My MC is always hyper-observant and really exploring that will help develop his relationship with his environment. I also need to explore his plan before he left home and how it changes over time.

Warm-up Exercise

Set your timer for 5 minutes. Brainstorm all of your MC’s traits. Sort them into strengths and weaknesses.

Choose the trait you see as the main weakness. Set your timer for 5 minutes again and Cluster or Mind Map around that word.

Set your timer for another 5 minutes. Write a scene where this weakness becomes a strength.

→ This is a good exercise. Actually writing down traits and whether they are strengths or weaknesses and how, in certain situations, they can switch, helps add depth to the character and guide how he will act in unexpected situations. Doing this exercise helped me connect some of my MC’s backstory to his current perceptions and actions.

Word Of The Day

augur: v. to give promise of something to come later

I looked up this word again and am not quite sure why I chose the definition I did in 2017. Augur has all sorts of interesting definitions as both a noun and a verb (from dictionary.com):

noun

one of a group of ancient Roman officials charged with observing and interpreting omens for guidance in public affairs.
soothsayer; prophet.

verb (used with object)

to divine or predict, as from omens; prognosticate.
to serve as an omen or promise of; foreshadow; betoken: Mounting sales augur a profitable year.

verb (used without object)

to conjecture from signs or omens; predict.
to be a sign; bode: The movement of troops augurs ill for the peace of the area.

verb (used without object)

to argue, talk, or converse.

noun

an excessively talkative person.

British dictionary definitions

noun

Also called: auspex (in ancient Rome) a religious official who observed and interpreted omens and signs to help guide the making of public decisions
any prophet or soothsayer

verb

to predict (some future event), as from signs or omens
(tr; may take a clause as object) to be an omen (of); presage
(intr) to foreshadow future events to be as specified; bode this augurs well for us

My sentences using augur:

It was possible that the break-in was an attempted robbery, but the missing picture augured more personal attacks.

He felt the runny yolks augured coming disappointments.

He hadn’t imagined her as an augur during the first time they met, but this morning she wouldn’t let him get a word in. Maybe she had had too much coffee.

They augured in a style that implied an inside joke. It made him uncomfortable.

8 Action Verbs:

He felt like the appointed translator. He wished Oren would snap out of it, talk like a normal person, but that was impatience. He would have to slow down to make this work.

When in the tree house, they had collaborated on many stories. Kirk needed to remember them now, but he felt like that part of his memory was locked.

Everything felt decided without him. These were his decisions. Who was pulling the strings?

He exhibited signs of anxiety. Kirk wished he knew how to calm him. What had he done when they were young. Stories, Oren needed to tell a story. Kirk needed to listen.

Oren inspected the page. Kirk thought maybe he was getting through, making a connection. Oren ate it.

Kirk negotiated a sit down by bringing the dog a bone. Oren sat with him and they both watched the dog gnaw on it. It was a start.

The drawings represented his reality. Kirk had to adapt his perception. He needed to learn the rules of how Oren translated three dimensions to two. Each of the symbols was drawn over. Each symbol had more than one meaning.

It often felt like she wasn’t supervised. Kirk wondered if the sheriff was paying attention to his case at all.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Connotations: I love this quote from Barbara Baig in Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers

If you imagine that putting a word into the mind of your reader is like casting a stone in a pond, then the denotation is the splash the stone makes as it hits the water, while the connotations of the word are like the ripples that follow the splash.

We did the first connotations exercise on Day 6, but exploiting the connotations of words to create ripples of meaning in the mind takes practice and skill, so lets do another one. Read your favorite author paying attention to words chosen for positive and negative connotations. Collect these words in a notebook and practice using them in your own writing.

Since today is full of impeachment hearings, I thought I would collect words from what I hear today and use the political partisanship as an exercise in the connotations and denotation of these words.

Collected words: hope, stakes, assistance, linkage, alarmed, investigations, inappropriate, sharp, rejected, credible, competent, professional, accusations, power, sometimes, full-throated, parallel process, relay, correct, accurate, separate process, understanding, receive-mode

I could do this all day and probably should, but receive-mode felt like a great ending. You can imagine how I’ll be playing with these words, their connotations and denotation.

 

raindrops

Happy Reading and Writing!

The hero is frustrated on #NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 18

Ex

#NaNoWriMo Day 18 (2017): Frustration and Breaking Through Negative Thinking

This is the perfect theme for both my MC and for me. My MC is stuck in a town he no longer recognizes and doesn’t know what’s going on with the case. And I would like the words and ideas to flow faster and with less effort.

#vss365: jive

When Mama wasn’t performing, she really liked jive music. She tried to teach Kirk to dance to it when he was big enough, but he never got the hang of it. She would pull on Daddy’s arm, but he wouldn’t get up from the couch.

Today’s Simple Task

MC’s frustration: Another character breaks his or her trust. How will your main character overcome his or her mounting frustration?

The only person who kind of has my MC’s trust is the detective. How would she break that trust? She could get him to come into the station under false pretenses. She could come onto him to get him to let down his guard. She could say they found something on the property when they hadn’t, just to get his reaction.

His partner back home could break his trust and take his job out from under him. Or Oren could break his trust once they re-establish their relationship.

Warm-up Exercise

Set your timer for 10 minutes. You have taken a picture of your Main Character. You hand it to him or her. Have your MC respond to the picture in their own words. Do they feel it is a good likeness? How do they feel about how they look?

This is a good exercise for today. I could have Kirk see his mug shot. I also have a photograph that Kirk brought with him that I don’t think I’ve described yet, so he could be thinking about that picture and compare it to the mug shot.

Extra Prompt

I really like a prompt from November 16th 2017. I think it goes well with today’s theme and will help with my story.

 Setting through your character’s perspective
Consider the room you’re sitting in right now. Take 5 minutes to describe that room from the point of view of someone who is blissfully happy. Now, take another 5 minutes and describe the room from the point of view of someone who is frustrated and angry. Notice how the descriptions are different?
Now, think of a setting in your book. How does your character feel while they’re there? Nervous? Relaxed? In a hurry? Take 10 minutes to describe that setting from the perspective of your character, taking into account their emotional state.

Word Of The Day

importune: v. to plead or beg for persistently

Oren importuned to accompany him, but then when he acquiesced, Oren appeared bored and wanted to go home.

8 Action Verbs:

Kirk anticipated that she would be in a hurry to finish interviewing him, but she didn’t call.

The area had been cleared. The clothes and the sleeping bag were gone.

His lawyer counseled him to stop answering their questions, but it was a little late for that.

He examined the page. He recognized their secret language they had used as kids. He compared it to the journal. There were similarities. Things were starting to make sense.

He increased the zoom. He was right. There was someone over there.

She monitored his reaction carefully. He really didn’t appear to know her. She pulled the sheet back from the second body. This time he reacted.

He rendered an impressive almost photo-realistic likeness of her face.

She usually structured her time. Spending two days in bed was something she hadn’t done since college.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

I also liked the Sentence Challenge from the 16th better than today’s so I’m doing it.

Inspired by Crafting Dynamic Dialogue: The Complete Guide to Speaking, Conversing, Arguing, and Thinking in Fiction (Creative Writing Essentials) by The editors of writer’s digest.

Create a dialogue exchange in which information is being revealed. Try adding an interruption to the scene so the most important information is delayed, perhaps even to another scene.

I’m trying to think of which of today’s scenes this will work well with. I think it would most likely be a conversation between Shawna and Kirk. Perhaps the scene when Shawna has identified the body and thinks the identity will be a  real shocker for Kirk, so she tries to break down his defenses before the big reveal.

 

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises.

The Midpoint #NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 15

inmost-cave

Truth is I’m not into this today

I set my alarm for 6 am so I could watch Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony and to be honest, I don’t give a crap about writing fiction today. I have tried to keep this site a-political, but I cried on Wednesday when Ambassador Taylor talked about being on the front lines, knowing the aid was being withheld and being thanked for assistance and then today, I cried when Ms. Yovanovitch thanked for the question, but refused to talk about how it affected her family.

I was a Washington State senate page in high school. I thought I was going to be a leader and believed I could be president if I wanted to. I learned too much about process and politics in a very short time, but still believed things could change. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa– I had that green passport. They made me swear that oath.– and almost died there. I cannot stand the idiocy of the Republicans on display. I feel sorry for everyone that believed traditions and norms could withstand one bad TV president (including me because I had faith in the Republican Senators to respect their oaths to the Constitution at least!).  It took me all day to come up with my very short story and that’s the best I’m gonna do. Have a great weekend. I’ll see you on Monday.

#vss365: pound

This time, she #pounded her water, wiped her lips, crumpled the plastic bottle, tossed it across her body, and hit the trash can in the corner without ever shifting her gaze from his. Last time, she was intimidating. This time, he was scared.

Today’s Simple Task

Imagery: The most shocking or devastating thing that could happen to a symbol, icon, or thing.

I was thinking yesterday about what would happen if Oren’s journal was destroyed. I still need to discover my protagonist’s symbols so that I can explore what the most shocking or devastating thing that could happen to that symbol. I’m going to journal about this and I think I’d like to do some arts and crafts/ painting and drawing around these symbol ideas to see what comes through. Especially since Oren communicates symbolically.

Warm-up Exercise

Have your protagonist write his or her will or manifesto.

This has come up before and I still haven’t done it, so looking at what Kirk values that he would put in a will would be a good exercise. Also, having him write a manifesto about his views of the world and his beliefs might also be a good exercise. However, I don’t think these exercises will help with today’s scenes, so I may save this one for another time.

Word Of The Day

opprobrium: n.  1. something that brings disgrace or reproach; 2. public disgrace from conduct considered outrageous or shameful.

8 Action Verbs:

answered

classified

corresponded

evaluated

incorporated

modified

reduced

stimulated

Awesome Sentence Challenge

From The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers (6th Edition) by Chris M. Anson.

Avoid unnecessary Nominalizations: When you create a noun from some other kind of word. Example: the verb complete becomes the noun completion, or the adjective happy becomes the noun happiness.

As you write, pay special attention to nominalizations that:

  • Draw readers’ attention away from a sentence’s proper focus
  • Lead to vague sentence subjects or objects
  • Cause you to leave important information out of a sentence

Examples: Using the action verbs above I made the nominalizations: classification, correspondence, evaluation, incorporation, modification, reduction, stimulation. Now I need to come up with when these would be “unnecessary nominalizations” to avoid.

I went back to The Longman Handbook and found some examples:

Vague: Dissatisfaction among employees often leads to shoddiness in products. (nominations: dissatisfaction and shoddiness)

Revised: Dissatisfied employees often make shoddy products.

Those were nominalizations of adjectives. Here’s an example with verbs:

The committee held a discussion of the new regulations for airplane safety. A limitation on flammable seat materials ow is necessary.

Revised: The committee discussed the new regulations for airplane safety. Airlines now must limit flammable seat materials.

So let’s try it:

She created a classification system for an evaluation of the evidence. This modification produced a reduction of necessary labor and a stimulation of connections.

Revised: She classified and evaluated the evidence. Her method reduced labor hours and stimulated connections.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey:

Approach To The Inmost Cave (The emotion your MC feels as he has to traverse this last corridor to the cave): Eight of swords

Leap of faith your MC must take: Two of wands

Old angst that MC revisits: Four of cups

Already almost halfway through: #NaNoWriMo Day 14

useful things

I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through. I hope you’re NaNoWriMo writing is going great! If you have any questions about any of these prompts or my writing process, please let me know in the comments. It would be nice to hear what kinds of prompts and exercises you use to keep your ideas flowing. What is your writing process (during NaNoWriMo or anytime)?

Day 14 (2017)

My MC is about to face the inmost cave. What about himself is he afraid to face? What and who will make him face it?

Today, I wandered about exploring some new things. The #vss365 word led to an entire exciting scene. The Amazing Sentence Challenge led me to explore Parallels in fiction which led me to explore Coincidence in fiction. So today is an exploring and filling the well of creativity kind of day today. Recognizing that this is also an important part of my writing process, I’m going to hurry up and finish my words for NaNoWriMo today and see where the whimsy of today takes me.

#vss365: drill

The long drill bit burst through the wall spraying drywall dust over the pillows and bedspread. If he hadn’t run to the door, thinking the creep from last night was trying to get in by taking the door off its hinges, it could have gone through the back of his head.

 

Today’s Simple Task

Your MC feels self-doubt and abandons his/her main objective for a lesser goal. S/he explores some regrets.

→ When I left my MC yesterday, he needed to go shopping because exploring the property had ruined both pairs of pants he brought. Is that what he will abandon for a lesser goal? Or will I be looking at his main objective which is not being convicted of murder and going home. I don’t think he’ll be abandoning that main objective for a lesser goal, or will he?

Warm-up Exercise

Set your timer for 15 minutes. What will your hero do to resist change? What will your hero do to fight the biggest battle he must overcome – himself? – from SavetheCat.com

→ This exercise really helped me get to some points in my MC’s character arc. It always amazes me how the ticking of a cheap kitchen timer helps me break through my inner editor and get words on the page.

Word Of The Day

spendthrift: noun- a person who spends possessions or money extravagantly or wastefully; prodigal. adjective- wastefully extravagant; prodigal.

Kirk had never that himself a spendthrift, but after meeting that man who had nothing, he couldn’t pay these prices for a pair of pants. He decided to find a charity store.

8 Action Verbs:

To clear his head and make sure he could still read words, he grabbed the Bible from the bedside drawer. Guests had annotated the pages in the margins, sometimes all over the page with their names and dates of stay, weird things that had happened in this room. After flipping through a few pages, he shut it and put it in the back corner of the bottom drawer of the dresser where he would not have the chance to see it again.

She clarified her position by handing him his keys and walking away.

They correlated his arrival in town with every bad thing that happened in the area.

He estimated he now had hours, not days to prove he couldn’t have done it.

Their ability to communicate improved after a couple of days.

He moderated his emotions by counting backward in his head.

He recorded sounds of the lake, waves against the bulkhead, burps and pops of water under a dock, splashes of fish jumping.

He started. He was so jumpy these days.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

As you develop your antagonist and your secondary characters, you want to show parallels between them and your protagonist. Parallelism is also important in your sentences.

If two or more ideas are parallel, they are easier to grasp when expressed in parallel grammatical form. -from A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker and Robert A. Schwegler

a. Balance parallel ideas in a series: Hooked on thriller novels, I learned that there is nothing more important than being rich, typing code, and to have having more than one gun.

→Watching Ida Lupina, he felt he needed to harden his heart, sharpen his wit, and tighten his belt.

b. Balance parallel ideas presented as pairs- these ideas are usually connected with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or); a pair of correlative conjunctions (either . . . or, not only . . . but also); with a word introducing a comparison (than, as): It is easier to speak in abstractions than grounding to ground one’s thoughts in reality.

→He found it harder to ignore the house than to enter it.

→Not only was he finding his footing but also enjoying his evening.

c. Repeat function words to clarify parallels- Function words such as prepositions (by, to) and subordinating conjunctions (that, because) signal the grammatical nature of the word groups that follow: In an attempt to stop her thumb-sucking habit, her parents tried painting a noxious substance on her thumb to change the taste or making her wear gloves changing to change the texture.

→He thought he could distract her by changing the subject, by pointing at something, or, if he had to, by touching her hand.

While you write today, look out for places to use parallelism for clarity in your sentences.

Extra Exercise for today

I’m going to take a look at that first part of the Awesome sentence challenge and make it a prompt. To do that, I thought I would look at how other authors approach parallelism in their writing and found some different takes on the idea.

The prompt: What does parallel mean to you in your writing? Look for parallels between your protagonist, antagonist, and secondary characters (traits, backgrounds, interests, events). Look for parallels for foreshadowing. Look for parallel and perpendicular character development.

Research

Speaking of parallels, I decided to start diving into the work of Ida Lupino since I made her my hero’s mentor. She was the only woman to direct an episode of the original Twilight Zone and since I like that show I decided to start there before diving into her movies. The first episode I watched was one that she acted in called the 16 Millimeter Shrine. The story is about an aging actress that cuts herself off from the world. The parallel’s to Ida’s real life were incredibly apparent, perhaps the cliche of the aging actress, it also, in a way predicted her future, like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Ah, the circle of life.

The second episode I watched was the one she directed. Episode 25 from season 5 called The Masks. It takes place in New Orleans during Mardi Gras of course (because in the cinematic universe it is always Mardi Gras in New Orleans). I almost didn’t watch it. The coincidence of her episode being in New Orleans was a bit too much, but I went ahead and put it on while I wrote.

This made me think of coincidences. How do coincidences affect my MC?

Coincidences

I don’t think I’ve really explored this topic, so I found some interesting articles.

Now I’ll be scouring my reading and writing for coincidences.

Recommended Word Crawl

Alice in Wonderland Word Crawl

Need a break from all this writing, but still want to be working on your hero’s journey? You could watch Alice In Wonderland and compare her Hero’s Journey to your Hero’s Journey or plot out the Save the Cat Story Beats and compare them to yours. Have fun with it!

Happy Writing!

I hope you find some inspiration in these exercises.

Building toward the midpoint on #NaNoWriMo 2019 Day 13

buckets

Image prompt: I love this idea that rusted and broken useless buckets gather together and still collect things. Where do buckets gather in my story? What do they collect?

On Day 13 in 2017 I was ambitious and already at the midpoint, looking at the Inmost Cave. This year, I feel like I’m still very much at the beginning. So today, I decided to make a day to hit the scenes I need, to build toward that midpoint.

Brainstorming Exercise: There are a few ways for me to do this. I’m going to create four checklists that all overlap.

  1. Save the Cat beat sheet
  2. The hero’s journey
  3. Three act structure
  4. Story Grid essential scenes

I’m going to check off each of the scenes I’ve written so far for each of these plot/scene checklists and brainstorm what scenes need to happen to build to my mid-point.

This exercise was great!! Seeing my scenes in the different plot structures helped me see where things have already changed from my original beat sheet and where I would like to made changes. It opened my eyes to areas that will need higher stakes and more conflict, and I was able to see where my essential scenes are. I was excited to see I’ve already planned all of them. I’m feeling good that I’m on track to hit the important scenes and building tension and intrigue as I approach my midpoint.

#vss365: Wind

I love the quote used in this prompt:

If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees. -Khalil Gibran

She liked to #wind her up. She flushed and her eyes lit up when she defended her opinions. Sadly, she caught on and stopped taking the bait.

Today’s Simple Task

Reversal of yesterday. Show that whatever your MC discovered yesterday, the opposite is actually true.

→ I love this prompt, especially for this WIP (work in progress). This could happen almost every day for my protagonist and antagonist. Where to begin?

Warm-up Exercise

Try this prompt from Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne.

Answering Machine: Your character is troubled as usual. What is today’s specific problem? Write about it. Now, he has a voice mail message and is surprised to learn that the message solves his problem, alleviates his trouble. Play (write) the message.

→This is kind of funny: When I first looked at the exercise and saw Answering Machine, I imagined that the message would cause a conflict. I imagined that if my MC received a message from home, it would be something he couldn’t solve because he was so far away and would make things very difficult for him. Then I read the prompt and the message is supposed to alleviate his trouble. Do I want to write both ideas?

Word Of The Day

sonorous: adj. loud, deep or resonant as a sound.

His anger exploded as a sonorous boom.

8 Action Verbs:

She analyzed her notes. What hadn’t he said? What was he avoiding?

He chose to change direction while they walked. She hadn’t noticed at the time because he said he thought he had seen something, but now she wondered if he had done it on purpose.

She corrected her timeline. They may not have abandoned the property when she thought. If true, that would be even more disturbing.

His established routine needed to stay intact.

He implemented his plan. It had to work.

He modeled his plan after one of Oren’s stories.

He received a package at the front desk.

The man spoke strangely, as if within one sentence some words were meant for you and some were not.

Awesome Sentence Challenge

Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses

Using serial descriptive clauses, try to write the longest sentence you can.

Each of her questions felt like a trick, leading yet digging, boiled down to yes or no but expecting so much more, asking for subliminal clues, triggering micro-expressions, an eye movement, a nostril flare.

Happy Reading and Writing!

I hope you find some of these exercises inspiring. I’ll see you tomorrow.