Thursday, July 31, 2008

Orchestrated Search #2: Simply Music

Songs don't just tell stories - they can BE stories. All you need is a playlist. If you have songs in your My Music folder, load them into your media player. If you have a portable MP3 player, set it to shuffle. If you can't have it shuffle, then you'll have to play it and see where it leads you.

Ready? Have a pen and piece of paper ready; or start up a new document on your word processor. You'll have to take note of each song that plays, assign it to the following designations, and yes, write a short story. You have your pick of characters' names and location names, and you can make it as long or as short as you want. Just make sure that you incorporate the themes of the songs that play (NOT the songs themselves, see, but what the songs mean to you. If the song tells a story, you can incorporate that story into your story; or if the song is about heartbreak, then you'll have a heartbreaking thing happening somewhere in your tale).

Now, press PLAY. Don't forward through the songs. Listen to each one and go through each one. No shortcuts!

1. The first song that plays describes your lead character.

2. The second song that plays describes your location.

3. The third song that plays describes the opening of your story.

4. The fourth song that plays talks about how the action builds up in your story (or, what happens that brings about the conflict).

5. The fifth song that plays talks about the conflict itself, the main point of your story, the grand adventure, or whatever the song describes.

6. The sixth song that plays talks about how the conflict is resolved.

7. The seventh song that plays talks about what keeps your lead character alive and kicking (or dying and decaying) through your story.

8. The eighth song that plays talks about the main weakness of your lead character that nearly knocks him or her off balance and sends him hurtling into depression/desperation/insanity/the Abyss.

9. The ninth song that plays talks about what fuels your lead character to do better and resolve the conflict. Note how this is different from the sixth song that plays. The sixth song describes the resolution itself, while the ninth song describes something less tangible that moves your character forward.

10. The tenth and last song that plays describes the final scene in your short story.

Don't forget to post your stories and/or links to them in the comments section. Happy writing!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Triad #2: One and One Make...


In love.

That's right. You are working on a love story. A short story on love. Two people, animals, microbes, things, concepts, what-have-you in love.

And you need these three things in your short story, which should not exceed 1,000 words.

1. A slap on the face.
2. A slammed door.
3. A rose.

And yes, melodrama is welcome.

Please don't forget to post your stories, or share your links to them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Chew on This!

"One nice thing about putting the thing away for a couple of months before looking at it is that you start appreciate your own wit. Of course, this can be carried too far. But it's kind of cool when you crack up a piece of writing, and then realize you wrote it.
I recommend this feeling. "

- Steven Brust

Monday, July 21, 2008

Grammar is Your Friend

You might think that good grammar is a myth, a pipe dream, and something out-of-date in this day and age of shoot now, apologize later. Indeed, when text language seems to litter the forums and mailing lists of the Internet universe, and where writers and editors are readily available, grammar doesn't seem so important anymore.

Despite all these, however, good grammar is a must anywhere. Think: how would you react if you received a poorly-worded, poorly-constructed application for a post at your company? Would you let the person in if his or her job demanded great writing skills? Now start getting your grammar skills working!

Not everyone knows everything about good grammar, so you can use the Purdue Owl Website as a guide (access it through When in doubt, do research. You may have to work harder to get your writing finished, but hey, at least you can say you did your best, right?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Photo Prompt: A Blurred City

A blurred city at night, and an onslaught of light. It's time for you to write fiction.

Use this photo as your guide, and don't forget to post your story/chapter/novel/epic/masterpiece in the comments section (or a link please, lest the comments box explode due to text density).

Good luck, and happy writing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a great way for you to actually push yourself to write, but critics can often see it as an exercise in pushing yourself way too fast, and over the edge. Maybe into insanity? Or into mediocrity? In either case, you may be going too fast nowhere, so now's the time to see how well you'll fare in November.

Here's an experiment that you may want to try. Do freehand writing, without making any judgments in terms of grammar, syntax, and style. Just write whatever comes to mind. However, set a time for yourself. Say, set a timer to five minutes, and stop writing as soon as the timer goes off. Now, count how many words you've put in. This is your word speed when you're not thinking and just writing like there's no tomorrow.

Pick a time of the day to do this: you can choose the morning, when you wake up, so that you don't have any idea what the problems of the day will be; or you can choose the evening, right before you sleep, so that the day's problems can be washed away through writing. In any case, pick a convenient time, a time when you are not forced to write.

This exercise will allow you to see how fast you write when you are having fun and just letting your ideas fly. You may want to note your speed, just so you know if you're really on a roll (writing at your recorded speed or slightly higher or slightly lower), if your writing might be going a little out of hand (if you're writing way too much, and most likely not making a lot of sense), or if you are getting burned out (if you're going way too slow).

Of course, this isn't your single benchmark for good writing, but it can be a good guide for NaNoWriMo. After all, you do need to know when you should stop writing and start breathing for a moment.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Last Sentence #1

Your job, dear writer, is to open your journal and start writing, or open a new file on your computer and start typing. It's time to write a short story of no more than 5000 words, with your choice of plot and characters, and with the style that you want. All that I ask is that you end it with the following sentence.

"She could not weep, but she could harden her heart, until it would break into a thousand pieces and be no more."

Good luck! Share your stories through the comments section, by pasting it (if it's short) or providing a link. Have fun!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The First Sentence #1

Get your writing muscles working. It's time to write. Your task is to write a short story of no more than 5,000 words. Here's your first sentence.

"He promised to call, but he didn't."

Be sure to share your stories by posting links in the comments section!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

And Now, a Movie of Subtitled Fun...

Some moviegoers will balk at the idea of watching “foreign films” because they don't like reading through subtitles. However, not all the films shot in the language that you understand are good; there are many creatively made, wonderfully shot films that are subtitled, raw with their native languages. There is music in language, and you know this as a writer; dub voices over, and you lose a lot of the original beauty of a film.

If you love “foreign films,” then you are in luck; and if you avoid them, then it's time to overcome your fear. Your job is to review a film with subtitles. This is going to be a challenge: you will have to pay attention to how well a movie is shot, how well it is acted, and how great the technicals are, ALL while you read the subtitles and get the story.

The objective of this exercise is to widen your appreciation for film, above and beyond those that fall into your comfort zone. This can allow you to soak in different cultures, to appreciate other languages, and to broaden your cultural horizons. It may sound vague, but with more and more exposure to foreign films, you may find yourself becoming more and more open to other cultures, other worldviews, and other minds. You might find yourself wanting to travel to other countries – and you may find yourself becoming a better writer, too.

There is one more objective to this exercise: you are about to embark on a multitasking quest. You need to scrutinize many aspects of a film while reading the dialogue. Can you do it?

So go ahead: rent the first “foreign film” that you find and start writing your review. It may be easier to do this at home, since you can pause the film to read subtitles. You can even watch the film over without the subtitles so that you can appreciate the technical aspects of it better.

My recommendations: Life is Beautiful (Italy), Cinema Paradiso (Italy), City of God (Brazil), Talk to Her (Spain), Dreams (Japan), Solomon and Gaenor (Wales), Slumdog Millionaire (India), and Mongol (China). Please don't get mad at me for these choices; they're the first that came to mind, and I know that there are thousands of other films out there that are far better.

Good luck, happy watching, and happy reviewing!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What If #1: The Last One on the Planet

"What woke up one morning, and all the people in the world had disappeared?"

You're all alone on the planet. There is no one in sight. You decide to keep a diary of your new life. What would your very first entry be?

For this exercise, write in the form of a diary entry, and with the "What if" shown above. Your entry can be as long or as short as you like. Don't forget to share your work by either posting it, or posting a link to it, in the comments section!

Happy speculating!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Unblocker #1: Think, but Don't

An unblocker is nothing but a prompt, something to make you write freely, without worrying who will read your work or if you're breaking all the rules in grammar. It's also designed to let you free your head of mental cobwebs, and give your imagination a chance to break free of your fears. Are you ready?

All you need is a pen, some paper, and a place where you can sit comfortably. Don't think about grammar, syntax, or even penmanship. Just write.

Start off with:

"I think..."

If you have a hard time writing things down, then you may choose to write with your laptop or desktop computer. In any case, avoid hitting the BACKSPACE or DELETE key. Just write as though there were no tomorrow, and stop only when you want to. Don't be afraid. Writing doesn't bite.