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

Excavating the Mind Round 2: The poem, the sequential mass

Amazing headlines and a burlap sack

 
I read across the yellowing paper under the burlap sack “Attraction Dear Reader Israel-Syria River Fastest Gun JFK To Head”

across from these headlines the fuzzy blue face admires,
casually aware of thumb tacks
ironic placement comes to light,
reminding me of cyclical efforts to tirelessly beckon sleep
and the weight that killing germs has taken on, so quickly changing focus
of mortal fears and intentions

Is the sky half full or empty when the clouds part only on my right?
wet makes the world reflective
I missed the camellia’s dance on the wind that must have caressed it
with strong gusts to deposit it so far from its bush.
Here, alone in loveliness, swirls of gaudy pink and white,
showing off its golden sex, it punctuates the pavement
But I can imagine the rhythm which lingers
in the metronomic drips of the accumulated leftover rain
microscopic twirlers within the droplets, like the camellia
her shocking cotton-candy petals betray her; she wants to fit in.
The relationship falters when she blooms; her strength and beauty overwhelm.
In a world of gigantic rhododendrons, this flower became a tree.

squatting down to see his world
new perspective’s surprises unveil
a small bit of crumpled foil on the walk so out of place like drugged teens
the follower staggers, attempting to communicate released control
he leads to places I can’t follow
and only pops his head out when I’m too slow
A canyon created, mysterious geological event.
Moss and detritus of trees collect on and in his new surfaces.
from here I see rot and damage near the base
but sometimes rot fuels new life, hope to feed a future
new points of view open whole new worlds, untouchable mysteries
he rears up, pounces on the unseen, again and again

Accumulating colors into the big box of crayons with the sharpener,
crayons juxtaposed with Miracle Gro Shake and Feed tell the story
of my nephew’s attention,
the hand drawn labels, his symbols of language
renaming my vegetables to be
adding the stove to the picture induces my own childhood
melting crayons between waxed paper to grow layers of color
to scratch away rainbow scenes of Halloween witches and jack-o-lanterns
trick-or-treating through the black layer of night

Joyful memories collect in a glass jar of buttons,
my precious gift from my mother who knows me so well,
a history of someone else’s sewing life, leftover closures,
one or more than needed for a loved one’s shirt, dress or coat,
or that one article of clothing wanted but too dear to afford,
replicated by a skilled hand over weeks or months,
this jar of time and intimate design found its way to a sink
next to a vacuum for cleaning a computer that,
at this angle, looks like a robot’s foot also by a sink,
a sink that dripped so it is turned off,
a useless sink, except for its shadow, swan-like, gliding to the jar,
to inspect the colorful contents, to peck and pry the lid,
to crave one button so entirely that it must pluck it in its beak
and taste its story only to enjoy the taste
of that story’s longing so thoroughly that it glides
down its throat and sticks there, choking and gurgling

Music, the skeleton key to memory, to emotion, to the subconscious,
enhancing the flavors of attention and mood
This decorative, vintage key I wear around my neck, the one
that opened our practice room in the old hotel that burned
or the small, recognizable key I called “the key to my heart” with a sly smirk
Music tempers all these keys, opens their doors with new light
flooding each room, perching on different objects each time
a blue note, turned orange by the days, alights a prism of shadows
the crooner’s microphone croons alone, a symbol of passions
warm vibrations again to come
I bob and sway to children’s songs of other lands
in the same way I move to your jazz variations
with joy of place and sound, with wonder and understanding,
I have no choice but to dance in my seat,
putting weight in my pelvis and shoulders, knowing my gut and my breast

I want to play, I search for toys and find
tiny soldiers hiding among the stones of the hearth
I want adventure and wander among the cinders inside the fireplace
goslings arrive as if to accentuate my childishness, so fluffy
this time the geese, now parents, don’t linger for photographic evidence
from the best side

Music holds history like a jar of buttons. A sound, the design of an age,
revealing tools, technologies, politics and fads
all revealed in only the first few notes of a needle on vinyl,
reminding me of a very different world view.
My innocent, naive openness, my rosy oneness
fueled by false advertising and deceptive equivalencies.
Her voice influences the lighting. His piano changes how I see.
The saxophone transports me through time,
then when the needle stops, I stop. I can’t go on with this manipulation.
I need silence, to rest and reflect. To clean up my mess.
Two lifetimes later, I remember everything
was in gelatin and the water tasted like iron,
but I can’t forget the man begging me for my ticket to the buffet

fresh goslings

Happy Reading and Writing!

Excavating the Mind: The poem, the sequential mass

Don't look down

The Dark-Eyed Junko’s Alert

He greets me for the morning game of follow the leader
don’t leave the door open, space will fill
light paints the world with shadow
our observations manipulate what we observe
captured in every reflective surface,
our shadows join the trees’
across the grass, the water, each other

Flowers steal focus, the little I have left
with shocking leopard-print spots dripping dew
and inviting fragrance on the slightest breeze
tickling my nose with soft petals and stamen
yellow dots of pollen cover
procreation fills the air

I chase the birds that chase each other
loudly displaying their worth
The geese pay me, my camera, and my feline companion no mind
The Dark-Eyed Junko’s alert: loud, short and sharp
is a song compared to Bewick’s Wren’s screams
like a fire alarm in a hotel
the huge call from its tiny, fluffy body amuses

Life punctuates the world with sound
the clear calls on one side of the house
like a volley, a game of table tennis, from the other

With everything blooming and growing new life,
the dead ivy on the side of the cedar
clings like a bad omen

upon closer look, mysteries abound in the mundane
That buoy is a clown nose on the lake
a fox head pounces in the movement of the water
What is that roll of hair in the fire-pit?
dissection only reveals more questions
rusted bolts and nails joined in concrete, resting on a rusting pail
(Why would anyone keep that?)
strangely phallic, yet looks like a human heart

Suds on the water surprise
gathering on only one side of the dock
pulsing against rocks, sharp edges and crevices
the bubbles do not pop
evidence of the folly of man’s
attempt to control nature
I don’t know why she swallowed the fly
murky and choppy, the light swerves and curls
like tracing an oil slick,
golden snakes on the slate surface whisper
another omen
the lake does not invite today

My companion becomes impatient, he wants to wander on
He has accrued his own follower
We now play follow the follower of the leader
or follow the leader who follows the leader

my reflection shows up in unexpected places
patterns in nature-repetitions with slight variance
insights lead me back to previous observations
because sometimes it’s fun not to be in focus
and certain illusions can’t be photographed

taking pictures through doorways only re-shapes the frame
a truly different perspective is needed for change
objects joined in space invoke history
a juxtaposition of the absurd: my meaning

We three wander again
each unique but not unique
exploring an order of chaos
creating our pattern of observing
thus changing natural patterns
seeing through to the dramatic
light behind the subject
which has become a subject through our looking
then looking through
illuminating its veins, stems, roots
we pause, observe it from above, below and every side,
capture its light
never the same

 

I shared this poem with dVerse Poet’s Pub’s Open Link Night.

Next Week

I really enjoyed Excavating the Mind and think the challenge of repeating the exercise will force the observations deeper. So starting tomorrow, I’ll begin a new set of observations, for five days this time with drafting on Saturday and another poem next Sunday.

I hope you will join me.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise is free to download today and tomorrow.

I saw Jennifer Garner talking to Jimmy Fallon about the charity #SaveWithStories and I wanted to do my part, so my book is free today and tomorrow.

Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise

Get your free copy of Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise.

Happy Reading!

100 Million Masks Challenge: A way to help fight the virus.

Hi Everyone! I got a great phone call this morning. My friend called to make me aware of an opportunity to help in the fight against Corona virus.

mask

Providence medical is putting together sewing kits so people who can sew and have a sewing machine can make protective masks for medical professionals in their area.

I’m in Western Washington and the first kit pick-up is on Monday. I’ll let you all know how it goes. If you are in the area and want to participate please sign up!

Here’s to your health. We’re all in this together.

Discovering a New Palette

four ink blots

Sunday morning I was debating whether or not I should order a new little watercolor kit because the one I’ve been using is almost out of paint, but then I remembered an old Gallery art kit in my closet. I was excited to find a whole new palette of colors to play with.

new palette

Gallery separated the palettes into Primary Colors, Earth Tones, and Pastel Shades which makes for nice layers of tones.

The lesson I’ve learned from this discovery is an important lesson even if we weren’t in a pandemic: Look through your supplies before ordering more. You may already have what you need.

The poem

This morning, I took my trash out and went to check my mail. I’m not sure why it surprised me, but kids were playing in the park on the corner and people walked by walking their dogs. Life goes on in my neighborhood. More than normal, I guess, since the kids aren’t in school and people aren’t going to work.

I had to work at it, but I believe I wrote a positive poem for today which was my intention. I used the Sasquatch magnetic poetry kit.

hunt the mysterious at home

Happy Reading and Writing!

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.