The Planner Experiment: May Week Three – New idea for writing prompts

May week three

Finding writing prompts in old movies

The other day, while thinking about which classic monster I wanted to put in space for the Monsters in Space anthology, I remembered I have a copy of Little Shop of Horrors, the black and white, non-musical with Jack Nicholson. I also needed to come up with some writing prompts for this week’s pages, so I started the movie and sat down with a notebook and pen to jot down any writing prompts that came to mine, or any Audrey Jr. in space ideas, whichever came first.

To my surprise, every little thing began to trigger writing prompt ideas. First, I was inspired by the setting of a flower shop, then by the characters, then by getting ideas from films, then odd and fun dialogue. While I was writing the prompts, I noticed that a couple of them could, perhaps build off of one another.

A new idea for the planner

After writing twenty-eight unique prompts, I looked back through and grouped them into four weeks of prompts that could possibly work together to inspire work on the same story throughout the week.

Since I began this project, I’ve had fun making up the prompts, but not used many of them. I think this new idea of using each prompt to build a story through the week will be more useful. As I learned last month, I can write a story a week, so if I use the prompts to inspire a small section of a story each day, then I’ll be more likely to reach that goal of a finished draft each week.

So many prompts

After Little Shop of Horrors, I put in the original Night of the Living Dead and the writing prompt ideas just kept coming (mostly from dialogue). Now that I’ve discovered this technique, I doubt I’ll ever need to worry about coming up with prompts. I have collections of old black and white, even silent, Alfred Hitchcock and black and white Sherlock Holmes. I’m not sure the black and white is necessary for my prompt writing technique, but I’m going to stick with it for a while.

This week’s pages

Last week, I only got two submissions out. But I did get two submissions out, so that’s movement in the right direction. One of my submissions was a photography submission, an exciting first.

This week we’re hitting many of the month’s deadlines, especially for poetry. I’ve been telling myself I’m going to type up my poems that I have not published on this site and send them out, so this week is the week for my new poetry submissions.

This week’s goal, again, is to fill in the daily planner pages and hit those three submissions a day. I hope you’ll join me.

2019 Planner May Week Three

Reading poetry with a twist

I’m reading a lot of poetry. I’m still reading through all of the books I found to inspire my poetry last month. Last week, I tried something new and found it moving and enjoyable. I was reading Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart by Alice Walker, but not getting very far with it, so I downloaded the audio book, read by the author and listened to it while I worked for a while. Then I picked up the book and read along while I listened. I really enjoyed it, having her voice in my head instead of my own. I highly recommend this experience.

This week I’ll also be reading the poetry of

Diane Seuss
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl: Poems
Four-Legged Girl: Poems

Alberto Rios
A Small Story about the Sky
The Dangerous Shirt

and

Louis Jenkins
Winter Road

Happy Reading, Writing, Planning and Submitting!

Advertisements

#OctPoWriMo Day 13 Blitz Poem: If I Were You

Ex

Not Like You

Absolute ultimatum
Absolute end
End of an age
End of trust
Trust is everything
Trust betrayed
Betrayed our love
Betrayed and alone
Alone, far from home
Alone and afraid
Afraid of uncertainty
Afraid to discover
Discover yourself
Discover you were wrong
Wrong to believe
Wrong to deceive
Deceive your believer
Deceive with a smile
Smile through the pain
Smile while the heart breaks
Breaks barriers
Breaks in the story
Story twisted
Story old as time
Time selfishly stolen
Time to mourn
Mourn lost trust
Mourn our love
Love ripped away in a day
Love in a paper heart
Heart involuntarily tightens
Heart in pieces on the ground
Ground fell away
Ground into dust
Dust to dust
Dust in the wind
Wind chills
Wind of change
Change your ways
Change your mind
Mind your manners
Mind to consider
Consider your options
Consider how I feel
Feel the love
Feel for another
Another day in paradise
Another love lost
Lost
Paradise

#OctPoWriMo Day 11: Cascade – Falling Through The Cracks

cracks in the pavement

Forever In Need

Forward and back
forward and back
I follow you to your tiny world
a forest within a pavement crack

The alluring scent
guides you ever after
A trail of bodies in labor
forward and back

Forever in need
saving for winter’s cold
Famine or greed?
Forward and back

Fascinated, I hover,
adding extra lenses
Finally, on my belly
I follow you to your tiny world

Weed to a tree,
pebble becomes mountain
I lose a day in
a forest within a pavement crack

#OctPoWriMo Day 4: The Guilty Man and other animals

The Guilty Man and other animals

Trapped
Cornered
Wild eyes darting
All claws and fangs
Each hair erect
Sprouting from goose flesh
Jaw tight
Muscles twitching
Blood rushing from core to extremities
Flush and frothing
Fight or flight
The uncontrolled response
Is the same

The Leviathan In The Fog

This week, I had fun with Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds.com blog. He offered a list of ten titles and challenged writers to choose one and write its story. I tried out a few different titles and story ideas, but “The Leviathan In The Fog” triggered a memory of a personal encounter, so I felt the most connection to this story. And with no further ado . . .

 

The Leviathan in the Fog

by Maria L. Berg

Moments past dawn and it is already hot. Dew, settled on the long blades of grass during the chill of night, sizzles to steam, creating a thick fog that hovers near the earth. The orchestra of invisible locusts plays a deafening song. The leviathan stirs, alert to an invisible invasion.

Fumes of diesel and rubber, hours old, still linger. A pungent deterrent, narrowing possible paths. The leviathan slowly stretches along the cracks and pebbles, finding every sensation an irritant. Gone are the days of wandering in mindless solitude, tentacles swaying fearlessly in the breeze. With the humans encroaching and the new fad of rampant hermaphroditic reproduction, the once vast world feels confining. Recently, the bumbling masses started eating each others’ shells. Eating each other! That’s what their uncontrolled orgies have gotten them. Terrestrial gastropods have no self-control.

Contracting, toward a leaf, the leviathan smells distinct clues of foreign intrusion: an unfamiliar sweet, rotting fruit; soil of a course mineral make-up; the bark of an unknown tree. Curiosity becomes alarm. The invasion is happening, but where are the invaders? The locusts continue their two-note serenade without pause. No breach could escape their scrutiny. Hunger prevails over alarm, but the leaf is all wrong: rubbery and stringy; each vein leaks a gluey, bitter puss.

Dissatisfied, the leviathan stretches further through the fog and discovers, retracting in horror, a capacious piece of broken shell. The deep mahogany and umber swirls are slashed with jagged white edges where violent pressure transposed it from home to waste. Only two other small pieces remain, the rest are crumbled and trampled to tiny specks and flakes. While tasting one of the smaller pieces of shell, the leviathan worries that the pebble irritants, glided over earlier, are pieces of a trail of snails.

The recognition of self in the smell is difficult to process. A perceptual dilemma like sucking on one’s own eye stalk. The leviathan feels ill and wants to recoil, but the calcium is difficult to come by these days.

The sun rises behind the trees. The fog will soon burn off and the leviathan will need to dig into the soft dirt under the tall grass to hide from predators and the blistering heat, but the second small piece of shell is too tempting. Enraptured in gluttony, the leviathan doesn’t hear the lack of locusts’ song, or the generators’ rising hum as lights are flicked on. Vibrations growing underfoot like a stampede gaining momentum do, finally, reach into the gorge. The click and scrape of heavy doors is the final warning.

The sole of a shoe. An earth shattering crunch.

In the throws of death, the leviathan hears, “Ew. What is that? There’s like slime up to my ankle. Is that a snail? A snail? We must be in hell because a snail that big will eternally haunt my dreams.”

Then a scream of shattering revelation.

“They’re everywhere. Oh, Lord help me, they’re everywhere.”

Need your next great idea? Try this!

A few years ago, after reading Dufresne’s Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months, I created my go to story idea generator; my Plot-o-Matic. The Plot-o-Matic is a set of three different colored cards: green = Subject (person or occupation), yellow = Conflict (something the subject wants or needs), and blue = action (something the subject does to achieve that goal or overcome the conflict). When I’m looking for a story idea, I pick three cards, one of each color, and see if the story I want to write comes together. I have used that Plot-o-Matic to come up with many short story and flash fiction ideas. It’s a fun and useful tool and it was free, other than paper and printer ink.

When I became a blogger, I started searching Amazon for fun things to recommend for you, writers and readers, and noticed there were Plot-o-Matic-esque products on the market like The Storymatic and The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain. Then, when shopping for a game for my nephew, I noticed Rory’s Story Cubes among the games and bought a set to try them out.

DSC07558

Rory’s Story Cubes

The game and how to play

Rory’s Story Cubes are six-sided cubes with simple images on each side. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by human symbols. They dominate my fabricglass art and my puzzle design. I love looking up symbols in symbol dictionaries and dream dictionaries. How people express so much meaning through a simple shape over eons is exciting to me. So this game is  right up my alley.

There are different ways to play. The instructions page provided with my set provides 3 ideas:

  1. Roll all 9 cubes and look at the face up images. Pick an image that will be the starting point for your story. Beginning with “Once upon a time . . .,” make up a story that somehow links together all 9 face up images.

  2. Think up a title or theme for a story. (Examples: The beach, My fantastic vacation, Dream.) Then roll all 9 cubes and try to tell a story that relates back to the title or theme.

  3. Divide the cubes evenly among the players. (It’s ok if some get more than others.) Starting with one player and continuing in a circle, take turns rolling the cubes and adding to the story based on the face up images. Stop after all 9 cubes have been rolled, or continue rolling for additional rounds.

Rory’s Story cubes also offers more inspiration on their website.

Let’s Play

So let’s test it out. Can these story cubes inspire my writing? How will they compare to the Plot-o-matic?

DSC07559

What story does this roll give us? Hmm. Who’s my protagonist?

A happy man examines a letter that says he has to come home right now, so he jumps out of the plane, but on the way down a bee stings him. While sucking on the sore sting on his hand he does not pay attention to his magnifying glass that sets fire to his parachute. Luckily he lands in a tree, but he walks with a limp from then on and has to use a cane.

How about another one?

DSC07560

The hour was getting late for saving the earth, so the alien came disguised as a rainbow to alter the magnetic poles, but when it did, the water flowed upside down confusing the fishes and killing the bees and now the earth is overrun by scarab beetles.

Here’s one for you. Please leave your stories in the comments.

story cube 5

Now let’s play another way. One cube at a time.

story cube 7

Sasquatch, of course.

story cube 8

took a trip to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.

story cube 9

A freak storm surprised him. Lightning almost hit him, so he found an opening and hid inside the pyramid.

story cube 10

He pulled a flashlight from his backpack and began to look around the small chamber in the pyramid.

story cube 11

While examining an intricate spiderweb, he felt a chilly hand on his shoulder and roared turning around ready to attack.

story cube 12

But it was only a friendly mummified pharaoh who wanted to meet the furry large guest in his home.

story cube 13

The pharaoh asked if the bright light and crashing sound outside had been a meteor or an asteroid. He hoped it was the gods come to join him in the afterlife. Sasquatch hated to disappoint him,  but  told him it was only a bad storm.

story cube 14

Sasquatch pulled his favorite book out of his backpack. It was a book about the pharaohs of Egypt. He gave the pharaoh his flashlight and a sharpie. “Hey, could you find yourself in my book and sign your pic?”

The pharaoh started leafing through the pages. He started laughing. “I’m not in here. They haven’t found my chamber.” He shined the flashlight around the room. “See,” he said, “Not discovered yet.” He held the book and pen out to Sasquatch.

Sasquatch shrugged. “Wanna sign it anyway?” he said. How about right in the front?”

story cube 15

After the pharaoh signed his book, Sasquatch climbed to the very top of the pyramid, waited for a large gust of wind and opened his parachute. The giant wind, helped along by the ancient pharaoh’s good wishes took Sasquatch all the way back to his home in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Here’s a video from the Rory’s Story Cubes website showing another story inspired by the story cubes:

Analysis

My stories inspired by story cubes tend toward the silly and ridiculous, but I had a lot of fun and wasn’t using them to work on anything in particular.

The Plot-o-Matic also lends to the silly and ridiculous. I’m seeing a trend here. It may not be the tools, but the user. Hmm.

I like the story cubes. They feel less rigid than the Plot-o-matic, as the different images can symbolize the subject, conflict and/or the action. The story cubes also seem more conducive to group writing and play.

As you can see, like the Plot-o-Matic, story cubes are a fun, playful, idea-conjuring resource with a vast array of outcomes, but what if some of the images don’t work for you and/or you would like something more specific to your story idea?

Rory’s Story Cubes has created a variety of different cube sets to address that issue. You can choose from:

Rory’s Story Cubes Actions

Rory’s Story Cubes – Voyages

Rory’s Story Cubes Bundle with Original, Actions, Voyages, Prehistoria, Enchanted, Clues, Intergalactic, Medic & Score 

But what if you want something very specific to your story that all those almost infinite possibilities didn’t symbolize?

How to personalize your Story Cubes

I came up with a quick DIY project for you to get the most out of your Story Cubes.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A pen
  • White label stickers
  • Scissors
  • OR for those who cannot read their own drawing
  • A printer
  • ink
  • printer paper and tape (double-sided preferred)
  • or printable sticker paper

I’m pretty sure you get where I’m going with this, but since I want to draw little symbols for my cubes . . .

Instructions:

  1. Measure one side of a cube (height and width to cover image)

three story cubes, a ruler, a pen and some white stickers

 

I don’t think I need an abacus, a teepee, or an L in a box (?) so I’ve chosen to replace these three symbols with symbols more pertinent to my story.

 

2. Take the sheet of labels and draw out a square that matches those measurements

3. Draw your preferred symbol within the square you drew

Drawings on sticker paper. A goatman has been placed over the teepee.

To be more specific to my stories, I’ve drawn a volcano, an alligator and a goatman. I’ve already cut out the goatman and placed him over the teepee.

My symbols may not curb the silliness of my stories, but they are more specific to what I’m writing.

4. Cut out the square and stick it over the side of the square you want to replace

5. Repeat until all unwanted symbols have been replaced

Three story cubes with hand-drawn symbols

6. Roll cubes

And there you have it. Three unique and fun stories to write. I would love to see what you come up with in the comments.

I found that when I rolled with my story-specific tiles, the game changed for me. The symbols became more of a What If game. What if the alligator is afraid of his own shadow? What would happen if the goatman got a bee sting? Do I want to bring magic into my volcano story?

I may be onto something. Adding personal symbols to the story cubes may be a more powerful writing tool than I thought.

I look forward to reading your interpretations of the story cube rolls.

Happy Reading and Writing!

 

Book Spine Poems: Happy #NationalPoetryMonth

This morning, I came across an article in School Library Journal called

Here’s How You Make a Book Spine Poem with Your Students/Patrons by Travis Jonker

The concept is simple, fun and it inspired me. Here are my poems, created from my bookshelf in celebration of National Poetry Month. I hope you will join me and link to your poems in the comments.

Blind Sided: a short poem made of stacked books

Blind Sided

Beyond good and evil

Back roads inside the criminal mind

Blind side our kind

Mothers Talk: a poem in three books

Mothers Talk

In the company of cheerful ladies

The devil’s teeth serving up the harvest

Paper and Fire Don't Mix: a poem in three books

Paper And Fire Don’t Mix

The people of paper

Civilization and its discontents

The girl who played with fire

The Happy Evening News: a poem in four books

The Happy Evening News

Who’s writing this

furiously happy

evening news?

Bad monkey!

Stained Glass Death Switch: a poem in five books

Stained Glass Death Switch

The book of illusion’s stained glass death switch

Crowns what the dead know

The Unforgettable Photograph: a poem in eight books

The Unforgettable Photograph

The unforgettable photograph:

point zero; nowhere wild.

Chop wood, carry water

where there is no doctor.

When you are engulfed in flames,

teach yourself to dream the dream of Scipio.

A Quick #Movember Update and a game of #pessimisticmoustache

To raise money for Prostate Cancer Research, people all over the world are growing mustaches this month. If you haven’t seen Adam Garone (the founder of Movember)’s Ted Talk, I recommend watching it. It’s a fun story.

To create Movember awareness, Diana Rose Wilson and I have turned my game Pessimistic Moustache into a twitter hashtag game only about mustaches. We would absolutely love you to jump over to twitter and join us at #pessimisticmoustache. The rules and background of the game are found in my original post:

The Pessimistic Moustache Game: Avoiding cliche description

How to play #pessimisticmoustache for #Movember: The quick and dirty version:

1. Look at a picture or GIF of a mustache

2. Pick an ism that you think would describe said mustache

3. Warp that ism into a descriptive sentence and tweet your sentence using the hashtag #pessimisticmoustache

4. (optional but greatly appreciated) Add your own picture of your, or your friend’s Movember mustache

5. Invite your friends to play #pessimisticmoustache and shout out your favorites

Based on a great description in an Agatha Christie novel, the game challenges you to match an ism to a body part. For the month of November, it’s all about mustaches. Having a list of isms at your fingertips makes the game easy. I enjoy the list of Philisophical Isms at Phrontistery. Phrontistery is a wonderful site for word lovers. I highly recommend spending some time exploring.

So Let’s Play!

Here’s an example:

Andrick is participating in Movember. He let me take a picture of his mustache growth.

Man looking at camera with small amount of mustach growth

One Week’s Growth – I see a lot of potential

When I look at this mustache, I see future possibilities: It could go Tom Selleck; It could go Snidely Whiplash. So, in that sense, this is a futuristic mustache. I could write: A futuristic mustache betrayed his grim smile.

Or it could be a euhemeristic mustache, meaning that his mustache explains mythology as growing out of history (I go for the sophisticated, layered mustache meanings). In this case I might Tweet: The man with the euhemeristic mustache walked as if he had wings on his heals.

I like fortuitism for this mustache. Fortuitism is the belief in evolution by chance variation. See, it ties into the idea that at this point the mustache is in a formative stage. Could a gust of wind, or some jam on the lip steer it from a Tom Selleck to a Snidely Whiplash?

Now, I need to change my chosen ism into a description. Fortuitistic- this may not actually be a word, but it is closer to my meaning that fortuitous, so I’m going with fortuitistic -artistic license and all that. So, my tweet will be: The fortuitistic mustache skipping across his lip expressed his whimsy, or was it loose morals?

Need a break from #NaNoWriMo? Hop over to #pessimisticmoustache for some fun and to show your support for Men’s health, then do some word mining at Phrontistery.info. There you have it, my simple formula for happiness.

 

The Pessimistic Moustache Game: Avoiding cliche description

 

 The idea and tools

I recently read The Hollow by Agatha Christie and one simple but unique description jumped out at me.

“He came in accompanied by Inspector Grange, who was a large, heavy built man with a down-drooping, pessimistic moustache.”

I love the idea of pessimistic facial hair and it really got me thinking. What other isms could be paired with body parts to make unique descriptions? I started a list of isms to join pessimism: optimism, skepticism, nihilism, liberalism, etc. I also wrote a list of often described body parts: cheeks, eyes, lips and so on.Once I exhausted my own ideas, I did a little hunting on line and found some useful sites for more ideas. For isms check out The Phrontistery. I printed out their amazing list of philosophical isms and their definitions. For a list of cliché body part descriptions head over to obsidian bookshelf.

The game

So how do you play The Pessimistic Moustache Game? To start, one player has a list of body parts or other physical descriptions (e.g. gait, scar, laugh, etc.) and the other player(s) has the list of isms. The person with the body part list chooses a body part and says it out loud. Then the other player(s) has to match it with an ism to use as a descriptor. The person who chooses the best ism for the body part gets to choose the next ism and the other player(s) matches it with a corresponding body part.

You can add another dimension to the game by printing out pictures of people to inspire the descriptions though that might limit the responses.

My experiences

To date, this game amuses me to no end. I find the exercise challenging and every match makes me laugh. Has it improved my writing? Have I found the perfect new way to create unique descriptions? Maybe not, but I’ve only played with one other person so far and the possibilities are endless. It sure does make me laugh.

Further development

A couple days ago, I was reading In the Beauty of the Lillies by John Updike and found another very interesting phrase.

“. . . its heavy sweet smell rose around him possessively . . .”

I hadn’t thought of a smell being possessive before. And if a smell can be possessive, why not someone’s fingernails, or lips? The list of isms could definitely be expanded to include other conceptual adjectives that one would not usually attribute to body parts.

Then there is also descriptions of sensations (like smell) and perceptions. The Pessimistic Moustache Game could include matching senses to isms. What is the smell of materialism? What is the texture of postmodern feminism?

I hope you enjoy playing Pessimistic Moustache and it gets the neurons churning while you laugh and laugh. Please send me your favorite matches in the comments, so all my readers can play along.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Radio Inspire Me: A Fun, New (to me) Writing Exercise

My excitement with Future Learn’s Fiction Course continues. One of the exercises from week two is to turn on the radio and come up with a story or beginning of a story (500 words) based on what you hear. I was skeptical but determined to try, so I set my radio to AM and slowly moved the dial until I heard a voice. The first thing I heard was not only give the rooms of your house warmth, style, and comfort. I quickly changed the tuner to noise, so I didn’t hear anything else. The voice made me think of a door-to-door salesman and I imagined some odd things for him to be selling. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to try a couple more. By the time I developed my idea, all of my radio segments fit right in (they are in italics) and I wrote an idea for a Sci-Fi Flash Fiction story. Enjoy!

dsc02686.jpg

 

Horace Bentley-Jaguar IV felt a bit woozy as he adjusted to the three-dimensionally rendered environment. Wiggling his toes felt real, but they wiggled inside shoes made from animal hide buffed to a glaring shine, the kind “wealthy” people had worn on earth during the times of excessive greed and poverty before the original Moon Colonies. He held a colorful beverage with small white and green spheres skewered by a tiny stick floating in the liquid. Wanting the full experience, he brought the glass to his lips. He felt a sharp tingle on his tongue, then a slight burn in his throat, but he didn’t taste or smell anything. Good try, he thought.

With his first immersed step, a warm, confident voice said, “Welcome to your new BAM-AG Home and the best decision you will ever make.” The voice reminded Horace of a strange history lesson he had once seen as a boy. A man in stiff, off-white polyester (a frightening chemical concoction that was banned on the Moon) with large green and blue horizontal and vertical stripes from shoulder to pant hem had arrived at a woman’s door and used a similar voice in an attempt to convince her that she wanted to exchange his pieces of thick, hairy floor covering for pieces of paper.

The voice of the retro-plaid coercer continued, “BAM-AG appreciates that you love your current BAM-AG Home, but with the overcrowding of the Moon Colonies, violent asphyxiation fatalities have surpassed reports of gun violence and oxygen combustion combined. That is a 600% increase over the last six years. If this trend continues, the Moon will be as unlivable as the Earth in only ten short years. But you already know that, don’t you?”

Horace nodded his head enthusiastically, pushing the gyroscopic centering mechanism of the rendering to its limits.

“Lucky for you, the same visionary company that developed The Moon Colonies understood the market and had the ability to teach me their understanding, so I can share it with you. When you purchase a BAM-AG Home you are getting the best that The Conglomerate of Corporate Super-Powers can offer. In other words, your investment is backed by the leaders you trust.”

Horace admired The Logos of The Great Leaders tastefully rendered along the mantel.

“The mind-blowing Future Tech Sensors covering every surface of your home, respond to your physical and emotional needs before you even know them yourself. The intuitive controls not only give the rooms of your house warmth, style and comfort, but also provide you with complete security: regulating oxygen levels to reduce combustion; controlling perimeter armaments in case of threat; and delivering holographic companionship and entertainment.”

The inspiring tones of The BAM-AG March began to play behind the voice bringing a tingle from Horace’s temples to the top of his scalp.

Today is the day that you need to remember those lost–not only those on Earth, but the increasing losses here on the Moon—and plan for your family’s future. Don’t wait! Act today and your BAM-AG Home will be ready when your grandchildren arrive on Mars.”