What’s the next level for writing?

rock-shadow

photo courtesy http://writingexercises.co.uk/random-image-generator.php

 

Writers and readers, would you like your books to be written at the next level? That is, written not by a human, but by an artificial intelligence?

Yes?

Good, because it’s coming. It’s here.

No?

Too bad, because soon robots will take writer’s jobs (everybody’s jobs).

In the meantime, here’s a website that lets you ease into a world without human fiction writers:

WritingExercises.co.uk

This site has a list of links (on the left side) which lets you generate “random” story elements, such as story titles, character descriptions, and dialogue.

I played around a bit, and here’s what I got:

Title: Poisoned Forest

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Town Name: Tombminster

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Character Name #1: Elaine Barnes (mixed and matched first / last names with Janice Wilkinson)

Character Description: A selfish 60 year-old woman

Traits: shy, unkind, materialistic

Job Title: Lighthouse Keeper

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Character Name #2: Janice Wilkinson (mixed and matched first / last names with Elaine Barnes)

Character Description: A helpful 33 year-old woman

Traits:  idealistic, decisive, compassionate

Job Title: Surveyor

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Quickie Plot:

The story begins in a church crypt
Someone mistakenly believes s/he has killed someone
It’s a story about learning from mistakes
Your character offers to lend a helping hand

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Random Dialogue (hacked this a bit):

“You came back!”

“Please don’t argue. You have to leave right now, you aren’t safe here.”

“This isn’t just about you. It’s about what’s best for all of us.”

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List of 3 Random Words:

education ghost coffin

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List of 8 Random Words (more=merrier):

queen
dominate
rotten
hamburger
confound
mad
pancake
shun

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More intriguing random stuff (I forget which links I clicked):

The old house, with its wildly overgrown garden, was silent, secretive

An imaginative 66 year-old woman, who comes from a poor background, lives in a terraced house and tends to be a little clumsy.

A generous 33 year-old woman, who comes from a poor background, lives in a caravan and tends to drink too much.

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So if you’re looking for story prompts, check it out. I’m going to put the above in a back burner folder and use it as a springboard for a future story, robots be damned. But in the meantime, feel free to jump on any of the random elements I found for your own stories.

Writer and multi-leveled castle-dweller Tom Merriman provided the theme for this post; thanks, Tom!

For a comprehensive list of partial and full stories, click here.

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“…and they said romance was dead…”

Not sure who “they” are, but fellow writer (and magical castle-dweller) Tom Merriman put forth this challenge.

And so I paced, pondered, and poked around the interwebs for tangential inspiration and found a free trial anagram site, and a free “make your own program-generated art” site. Just in time for Valentine’s Day. Pretty freaky. Here’s what I did:

and they said something (romance) was dead

The above was generated using the input “and they said something (romance) was dead” (slightly altered from Merriman’s theme for slight originality).

And because V-Day is supposed to be all about pairs, I did this:

a nasty odd screwhead idea man

…which was generated using the input “a nasty odd screwhead idea man”, which is an anagram of Merriman’s “and they said romance was dead” theme. My hubby picked it out from a list of contenders which included “I am shadowy as dead-end nectar,” and “Idea man hand-sedates yard cow.”

And they said romance was dead! Pshaw.

So now you have the tools to make your own free Valentine’s Day (or any day) cards! My gift to you.

Love,

CM

Snowpocalypse 2015… and Beyond!

Snowpocalypse2015backdeck Is it spring yet? Not here, but that doesn’t matter. Snowpocalypse 2015 has (hopefully) ended, and those of us who survived can celebrate by stocking up on iron (more about that further down). Or diving into reading and writing projects. I’m doing both. Care to join me? Here is a list of writing and reading activities I’ve either done in years past, or plan to do this year:

  1. Read or write poetry. Join a progressive poetry group.
  2. Reread a favorite book from your childhood.
  3. If you have children or are a caretaker of children, read to them.
  4. Buy a book for a child.
  5. Watch a movie based on a favorite book.
  6. Get a writing or reading buddy.
  7. Create a book cover for your book-in-progress.
  8. Map out a publication timeline for your WIP.
  9. Watch youtube videos of your favorite authors reading excerpts of their work and giving lectures or talks. I highly recommend Stephen King and Harlan Ellison.
  10. Read chapters of some of your favorite books out loud, and make notes of how you would improve the writing.
  11. Get involved with a local library event during National Library Week, April 12 – 18, 2015 (USA).
  12. Support your local bookstore by shopping on Independent Bookstore Day, May 2, 2015 (USA).
  13. Donate books to a book charity. If you don’t have any books you want to donate, buy some new or used and donate those.
  14. Attend a local author reading.
  15. Take a free online class. It can be a creative writing class, a literature class, or any class.
  16. Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Commit to strengthening the strengths, and improving the weaknesses.
  17. Start or join a writing or reading group.
  18. Commit to writing a set number of words per week, or per month.
  19. Submit a story to a call for submissions for an anthology.
  20. Apply for a residency retreat.
  21. Write a book review and post it on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, make one.
  22. Attend a writers’ conference.
  23. Read an edited and polished excerpt of your writing out loud at an open mic night.
  24. Enter your writing into a contest.
  25. Join an association, like the Independent Book Publishers Association.
  26. Write or read a novel outside your usual genres. If you do that already, then check out my genre list.
  27. Go on a solitary writer’s retreat of your own making.
  28. Read banned or challenged books during Banned Book Week, September 27 – October 3 2015. Tell people.
  29. Go on a literary pilgrimage to visit a place where a favorite author lived or wrote about.
  30. Write the draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo.
  31. Donate books to a juvenile detention center, homeless shelter, prison, half-way house, rehab center, or place of worship. Call to make arrangements first.
  32. Get a Fisher Space Pen and keep it next to some paper on your nightstand!

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And so I’m back! And at a less frenetic pace than last year. At the end of January I had to go to the ER for severe anemia… Then spent about a week at home just managing to crawl in and out of bed… After countless blood tests, and a month of recovery, my iron count is almost up to human level. Next month I have a hospital visit for even more tests. Maybe they’ll find another part of my internal parasitic twin (I’m assuming I have one. Where else is all my iron going? They already found my twin’s kidneys, so I assume I didn’t fully ingest her in the womb. Live and learn.)

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In the meantime, I (rather, my hubby) dug myself out of Snowpocalypse: Snowpocalypse2015frontyard

(This is my front yard. The snow is still over my head.)

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And I found (actually, I won) this: CMStewartBWP

Horror author J. Thorn gives away scary things at his Dark Realms website.

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And HDWP Books was hacked, but our fearless leader Charles Barouch saved the day! Check it out, I have a short story in every Theme-Thology anthology so far…

Theme-Thologies

Authors

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Speaking of my stories, my over-arching project this year is working on the novel I wrote during the last NaNoWriMo: MEATFUL THINGS. I feel like I have a solid draft, and I’ve been steadily improving it as my own health improves. I have some beta readers lined up, but could always use more. So if you’d like to provide feedback on a complete supernatural horror novel of approximately 52,000 words, shoot me an email (click on the “Who is CMStewart?” link), or leave a comment below. I’ll be sending the draft, along with a few book critique questions, to my beta readers at the end of March. Thanks!

Prisencolinensinainciusol

That is my flash fiction challenge for the 1st National / International Flash Fiction Day, this May 16th. For the unprisencolinensinainciusolified, I will explain. Prisencolinensinainciusol is officially recognized as “the greatest song ever,” and its accompanying video is officially recognized as “the all-time greatest artifact of human culture.”

The super sex-ay Italian responsible for this prompt is the insanely brilliant singer, songwriter, comedian, actor, film director, and TV host Adriano Celentano. He’s also unofficially recognized as the first internationally famous rapper.

See and hear for yourself:

Prisencolinensinainciusol original

Prisencolinensinainciusol transcripted

Now that you’ve been prisencolinensinainciusolified, care to join me in the challenge? Write a flash fiction story inspired by prisencolinensinainciusolification, post it on your blog, and link back in the comments of this post. I will put my own tale in this post on the 16th. All right!

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This story is PG.

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Giocherellona Misty

“Buona sera, Signorina Misty.”

“Buona sera, Signor Celentano. Grazie per me tutoraggio per l’ultima volta.”

“Molto buono, Misty! Il tuo italiano sta migliorando,” Adriano says. “I almost decided to skip your last tutoring lesson.” He looks over his shoulder. “The snow is really coming down. But I wanted to say goodbye to you and your parents.” He stomps his shoes and shakes the snow from his coat.

Misty smiles and steps aside. Adriano walks into the house and hangs his coat on the coat rack.

Clicking across the floor in her high heels, Misty quickly checks her nail polish and plops down on the loveseat. She props her heels on the coffee table, smoothes the hem of her miniskirt, and adjusts the strap of her halter top.

“My mom and dad aren’t here,” she says, smiling.

“Will they be back soon?”

“They’re in America, looking for a house.” She bends her knees and flexes her calf muscles. “We have the whole house to ourselves, Adriano.” She leans back folds her arms behind her head, her blonde curls haloing her face.

“Oh. Well, maybe I should leave. I mean . . the snow. Don’t wanna get snowed in, you know.” Adriano shoves his hands in his pants pockets.

“And skip my last lesson? I believe my parents paid you to tutor me all semester.”

“But you’re graduating early, aren’t you?”

“Yes. My marks are high enough that Signor Stan gave me permission to finish my senior year early. He already signed the waiver.”

Misty jumps up. “So let’s dance.” She turns on the DVD player, grabs Adriano’s arms, and gyrates to the beat.

“Ah, but I already have a girlfriend.” Adriano breaks away and crosses his arms.

“Where is she? In your pocket?” Misty laughs.

Adriano grins. “Well, we should get started on our lesson.”

“I changed my mind. I’m through with lessons.”

“I thought you wanted to become fluent in Italian.”

“Sono in grado di parlare italiano cosi come si puo.” Misty winks.

“Da quando?” Adriano shakes his head.

“Dato che sempre.” She turns off the DVD player.

“Then why am I being paid to tutor you in Italian?”

Misty looks at the ceiling. “My parents think you’ve been tutoring me in calculus. Funny thing, I’m not even taking calculus.”

“Ah-ha. Very funny. Well, tell your parents I said good-bye.” He grabs his coat and the door knob. “Good luck in America, Misty. I wish you well.”

“I see the snow is really piling up. Look.” Misty points to the window.

Adriano takes a step toward the window and lets out a low whistle. He turns back to Misty. “Looks dangerous.”

“Looks like nearly ten centimeters so far,” Misty says. “And icy. You should stay here until you can at least see the road. My parents would kill me if they thought I sent you home in a blizzard. And I would just die if you slid off the road.” She scoots to the side of the loveseat. “It looks so cold out there. Come here and sit by me.”

Adriano hangs his coat back on the rack and sits on a chair across from Misty.

“It’s so cold in this house.” Misty gives an exaggerated shiver. “Could you hand me that blanket on your chair?”

Adriano turns and grabs the blanket. He gives her the blanket, and she grabs his hand, pulling him toward her. “We might have to bundle up tonight. But don’t worry, I don’t bite.” She bites her lip and giggles.

He breaks free and sits back down in his chair. The blanket falls to the floor. “Maybe you should put on a sweater. Put on some sweatpants.”

“I don’t have any. Besides, I- yikes! I felt something crawling on me!” She jumps up. “Get it off! Get it off!”

“What? What is it?”

“It’s an ant. We have ants in this house.” She lifts her skirt over her hips and stomps on the floor.

“There are no ants in the middle of winter.”

“Oh. Silly me.” She giggles again.

Adriano shakes his head and puts his hand over his face. “Misty, I’m too old for you. All right?”

She sticks out her lip. “How old are you?”

“I’m twenty-eight.”

“Well I’m eighteen.”

Adriano looks at the floor.

“I just turned eighteen. My birthday is today. That’s only ten years difference.”

Adriano looks up. “Happy birthday.”

“Thank you. Aren’t you gonna ask me what I want for my birthday?”

He sighs. “I’m afraid to.”

“I want you to slip your shoes off.”

“Why?”

“You always slip your shoes off when you tutor me. Why don’t you slip your shoes off tonight?”

“I don’t know.”

Misty slides down onto the floor and crawls to Adriano’s feet. She unties his shoe laces and pulls his shoes off. She ties the laces together, climbs onto the table, and throws his shoes over the chandelier. They swing and twirl as the chandelier crystals clink.

“You may as well make yourself comfortable.” She jumps down. “You hungry? I’m starving. I hope you like store-bought pizza,” she calls from the kitchen. “It’s the only thing I know how to make.”

She turns on the oven, puts a frozen pizza in, and sets the timer. Back in the front room, she leans over the back of Adriano’s chair and lays her hand on his forehead. “You’re hot. It must be me. But if you pass out, I know mouth-to-mouth.”

Adriano pulls her hand away. “Misty, you can have any guy you want,” he says.

Misty sits on his lap and wraps her arm around his neck. “I want you.”

Adriano gently pushes her off, leans forward, and cradles his head in his hands.

“All right,” Misty says. “I get it. Wanna watch a movie?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“How about L’uomo che Guarda?”

“I’ve seen that one.”

“You like it?”

“Yes. But it’s mature.”

“You keep forgetting I’m eighteen.”

She turns off the lights, starts the movie, and sprawls out on the floor. Half an hour later, the timer rings, and she runs to the kitchen. She returns with the pizza, two wine glasses, and a bottle of Seghesio Dolcetto d’Alba Pajana. Adriano joins Misty on the floor, and she hands him the bottle.

“Open it please?”

Adriano pops the cork and pours the wine. “A giocherellona Misty,” he says, raising his glass.

“E afrodisiaci,” Misty adds.

“What are these leaves on the pizza?”

“Questi sono gli afrodisiaci,” she says, plucking a leaf and putting it in his mouth. “Basil.”

Misty licks her fingers and they take turns watching each other eat, and watching the people on the screen engage in flagrante delicto. An hour later, the movie is over, the pizza is gone, and the bottle is empty. Adriano lies on his back, his first few shirt buttons unbuttoned. Misty straddles his chest, her skirt hiked around her hips.

“The wine and the basil did me in, Misty. Perbacco, I don’t think I can sit up.”

Misty intertwines her fingers with Adriano’s. She leans forward, and her lips brush his ear.

“If you think I’m a virgin, I’m not,” she whispers. “You’re not my first.”

“I didn’t think that.”

“And if you think I can get pregnant, I can’t. I’ve been on the pill since I was sixteen. My parents are very permissive. So am I.” She kisses his neck, then his lips. “Bene?”

“Misty, you’re only eighteen. You’ll forget all about me. You’ll go to America and find yourself a nice American boyfriend. You’ll find yourself lots of American boyfriends. You won’t remember me.”

She trails her fingers over his face, down his neck, and down his chest. “So what’s stopping you? I’ll be on the other side of the world next week. You’ll never have to see me again. And now I think you would prefer that.”

He sits up. “That’s not true, Misty.” He cradles Misty’s head in his hands. “You don’t understand.” He kisses the top of her head and inhales deeply. “You smell so good. Like fresh, warm sugar cookies. With cinnamon.”

Misty pulls away and looks into his eyes. She grabs his hand and presses it against her breast. “And what do I feel like, Adriano?”

“Misty, per favore.”

“What do I feel like?”

“You feel . . Sento il tuo battito cardiaco.”

She presses her hand on his chest. “Just like yours.”

“Misty . . ”

“Just like yours, Adriano.”

She puts her hands on his shoulders, gently pushes him to the floor, and runs her fingers through his hair.

He slides his hands around her hips. “Misty. Ti amo. I’ve loved you from the first day I saw you. I just thought it was wrong. Avevo paura. I’m still afraid that you might still see me as your teacher. Then you would regret this.”

“I’m not a student anymore. Quit making excuses. Show me how much you’ll miss me.”

Misty slips off her shirt, then her bra.

“I need you to be the one to . . to initiate.”  He closes his eyes. “I have to be sure you want this. That I’m not pressuring you. Misty, Io ve desiderare. Si prega di fare l’amore con me.”

Outside, a faint rumbling. A couple minutes later, the rumbling grows louder.

Misty jumps up and peeks out the window. A wall of snow and ice plows onto the lawn. Blushing, she grabs her clothes and turns to Adriano.

“What is it?” Adriano says.

“Rapidamente, il tuo scarpe!”

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First / Last Sentences- a Sonia G Medeiros Challenge

Ever have the same odd image pop up in your mind year after year, seemingly without provocation or warning? A gruesome, disturbing image full of teeth and blood, and violent insanity?

Or maybe it’s just me?

In any case, thanks to Sonia G Medeiros‘s First / Last Sentences Challenge, I finally have an excuse to yank that tooth image from my mind and put it on paper!

(Or put it on my blog.)

The challenge to *write at most 100 words or either the opening or closing of a novel* is open at least through May, so there’s still time to participate. (You don’t have to write about teeth, the subject and genre are wide open.) Plus I heard each participant gets one free temporary yet worthwhile sense of accomplishment! I already snapped up my freebie with this characteristically brief entry:

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The orderlies wheeze and cower on the floor, their heads tucked under their arms, as Alicia giggles and one-by-one spits her cracked, bloody teeth out at her psychiatrists’ tear-stained faces.

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Flash Fiction February- My Participation in an Albert Berg Challenge

First off, go check out Albert Berg’s Flash Fiction February Challenge!

Nifty, eh? I’m participating, and will post my stories twice a week on this blog. For this challenge, I plan to keep my stories at about 300 to 500 words. I even made a list of flash fiction prompts.

I’ll be using these prompts in the challenge, and I’m sharing them in the spirit of writerly collaboration- no need to credit me if you use them. Feel free to use and abuse these prompts, or come up with your own, or mix and match, or forget about prompts and just start writing!

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Flash Fiction February Prompts

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1. Wardrobe Malfunction. “an accidental or supposedly accidental failure of clothing to cover parts of the body intended to be covered” –Urban Dictionary. Write a story about an entire wardrobe malfunctioning, or a single item of clothing flipping out- or off.

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2. Polygraph. “A polygraph (popularly referred to as a lie detector) measures and records several physiological indices . . while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions.” –Wiki. The consequences of truth, the consequences of lies. What happens when a polygraph test gives unexpected results?

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3. Embryo Transfer. Assisted reproduction. In vitro fertilization. Octomoms. Dads giving birth. (Pipefish and seahorses do it, so did the transgendered Matt Rice, Thomas Beatie, Scott Moore, and Yuval Topper.) What could go wrong? Write the wrong.

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4. Mormon Pioneers. Or any mass exodus. A group of believers has its collective faith tested on a long and tortuous journey. Do the gods reward or punish the cult? You decide.

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5. Welcome, Stranger. A stranger- animal, vegetable, or mineral, is welcomed into a house, town, or country. Time to go sci fi, fantasy, or bizarro.

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6. Minstrel Show. Put your politically incorrect cap on and write a story about a traveling troupe that makes a living by lampooning another culture or ethnic group.

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7. Bonfire of the Vanities. A person or group wages war against sin by collecting and publicly burning sinny objects. What are “sinny objects”? Cosmetics, books, mirrors, fine dresses, playing cards, musical instruments, manuscripts of secular songs, and artwork, including paintings and sculpture. This used to happen a lot. Still happens. Write your version.

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8. Devil’s Footprints. Or Satan’s shoeprints. Or Lucifer’s hoof prints. How about Mephistopheles’ paw prints? Beelzebub’s bird tracks? Whatever unholy creature made the tracks, they do exist in the space-time continuum. Mark your territory with horror, fantasy or bizarro.

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9. Red Scare. It’s coming. But what is the “red scare”? It could be the Hollywood communists, or could be the dreaded Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s a blood pathogen. Break out your most paranoid noir, sci fi, or futuristic speculation.

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10. Deep Blue. A computer intelligence usurps a human intelligence in chess (again), the Turing Test, in writing the Great American Novel, or playing 5-finger fillet. Or something else. How will mere humans go on?

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11. Golem. Inanimate matter becomes an animated, anthropomorphic being. What happens next? Tell the world via sci fi or horror.

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12. MacGuffin. Art thieves steal- or attempt to steal- from a museum, gallery, or estate. Are they successful? Do they sell the art, hold it for ransom, or have other plans for it? Track the clues in a crime, mystery, thriller, or caper.

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13. Last minute rush before Valentine’s Day! Play catch-up (or get ahead) on the challenge and choose one, two, or all three prompts. Or come up with something different altogether.

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Antikythera. In the years 1900 and 1901, divers discovered and recovered the first documented analog computer, built between 150 and 100 BC. Decades later, scientists concluded the computer was “designed to calculate astronomical positions.” They were wrong. The astronomical gearing was a foil. The timer on the Antikythera computer finally runs out. Antikythera reveals its true purpose.

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Black Sabbath. An up-and-coming heavy metal band have no collective memory of recording their debut album during a weekend bender. In one week, the album rockets to #1 on the charts. Your story is the explanation.

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Exploding Sewers! Miles of sewers explode, sending rubble, wastewater, and unmentionables into the now ripped-out city streets. Oh the humanity! Your story is the why and how.

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14. What Is Love? Two lovers endure a life-altering ordeal together. Does the aftermath bind them together or break them apart? Tell your found love / lost love story with magic realism, action-adventure, or romance.

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15. Genome. A genetic test reveals something abnormal in an individual’s karyotype. Is it aneuploidy, chromosome instability syndrome, or something else? Run the tests and record your results in a neuronovel, except keep it at flash fiction length.

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16. Toddlers’ Truce. Toddlers attempt to take over the world with their weapons of temper tantrums, marathon shrieking sessions, and diaper bombs. What else can possibly appease them? Write your humorous counter-offer, quick!

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17. Double Life. A seemingly ordinary character lives a double life. The double life is revealed, and the secrets are exposed. Whoops.

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18. Pigasus. When pigs fly. The porcine-impossible becomes mainstream. Literal or metaphorical.

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19. Insanity Plea. Which comes first- the insanity or the crime? Can guilt precipitate madness? You be the judge. Crime, horror, or neuro-ish.

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20. Future Shlock. Speed, technology, youth, and violence. Add a car, an airplane, and set it all in an industrial city. Any genre, as long as the result is futuristic and shlocky.

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21. Phoney War. What if there was a war but nobody showed up? A no-show war between villages, cities, or nations . . heck, even between entire universes.

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22. Moose Lodge Murders. Take a family trapped in a lodge during a snowstorm, add a couple of “entertainers,” a nurse, and a wheelchair. Throw in a completely inappropriate . . “flirtation” and several murders. Oh yeah- end it all with somebody in a moose suit getting kicked in the crotch. You figure it out. Mystery farce.

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23. Holiday in Galtür. A skiing resort village in east Austria. A couple on holiday. An avalanche. An action-adventure tale.

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24. Explosive Decompression. In-flight drama. A cargo door blows out of an airplane while flying over the sea. Another action-adventure.

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25. Cult of Personality. Mass media, propaganda, hero-worship. A dictator’s meteoric rise to power, and meteoric fall back to Earth. All wrapped up in a flash fiction package.

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26. Have some catching up to do on the challenge (or want to finish early)? Choose one, two, or all three prompts. Or come up with something different altogether.

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Seaside Visit. Someone from land visits the seaside and gets visited by something from the sea. Or vice versa. Vast and deep, but in flash fiction form.

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Dr. Caligari. Take a doctor and a sleepwalker, and throw in a few murders. But unseemly things aren’t always as they seem. Add a twist at the end. Murder mystery or horror.

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Ghost Rockets. They’re birds, they’re planes, they’re . . ghost rockets? Write a story about ghost rockets in flight, and the delight they bring to an afternoon viewer. Yep, you read that right.

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27. Luddite Moos. At the cusp of the technological Singularity, war is averted when the Cosmists turn the Terrans into virtual cows, so that they may contentedly moo in the fields. Sci fi.

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28. Dord. Connect a ghost word and an ancient bronze horn. Have fun with it.

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29 . . 29? Oh yeah, there’s one more day!

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Eclipse. Something is eating the Moon. Literally. Bizarro!

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Festival of Colour (version 2)- a Flash Dialogue

Thanks to Ozlem Yikici for this creativity exercise!

“A small quiet village approx 200 miles from the nearest city adorned with thatched cottages and surrounded by vast empty fields. Not much happens here, except for their festival – the festival of colour, this happens once a year; tourists and families from afar visit, no one misses this event. This is the highlight of the year for the villagers; they prepare for this the whole year.”

-Ozlem Yikici

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“Festival of Colour” characters created by Cynthia E.

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“Festival of Colour” Dialogue Prompts

“No children live in the village. A child hides in a barn and stays after the festivities. Your character(s) interacts with the child. The child has a secret. Add a surprise of your own -in keeping with your character(s) profile.”

-Ozlem Yikici

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Festival of Colour: Quarterstick

by CMStewart

“I see ya. No use hidin’ any more. So come on down, ya snot-nose.”

“Yes, sir.”

Punk-ass kids in a kid-free village. I have to put up with this nonsense every year. Damn Festival of Colour! It’s just an excuse for the city folk to let their brats trash our village. And I hafta clean it up afterwards!”

“Yes, sir.”

“So where’s the rest of yer gang? Holed up in the stable, or did the yeller-bellies leave ya behind?”

“No sir, just me.”

“Ya really think I couldn’t see ya up there in the loft? Yer red, white, an’ blue getup is like a firecracker in the hay.”

“I wanted you to see me, Ted. That’s why I stuck the tip of my shoe out.”

“How do ya know my name? If you’ve been rifling’ through my trailer, I’ll wring yer neck, ya good-fer-nothin’-”

“My name is Kate. I wasn’t in your trailer, I promise.”

“Don’t matter, Kate. Yer comin’ with me to the constable. Now gimme yer hand, an’ don’t even think about tryin’ to run- hey come back here, ya snot!”

“I’m going to your trailer now. You need to cool off your temper. Don’t tell anybody I’m here, or I’ll they them how you got that limp.”

“What the hell ya talkin’ about? I oughta-”

“And I promise I don’t have any firecrackers. My daddy told me they’re too dangerous for kids. He told me so I wouldn’t play with them like he did when he was a boy. Oh yeah- he also says he’s sorry.”

“Uh, sorry?”

“Yeah, he told me to tell you that. He said you were right about him, and that’s why he had to leave me here. My daddy is going away for a long time. He never stopped playing with firecrackers.”

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Festival of Colour (version 1)- a Flash Dialogue

 

photo used w/ permission from ShahMai Network http://www.shahmai.org/

Thanks to Ozlem Yikici for this creativity exercise!

“A small quiet village approx 200 miles from the nearest city adorned with thatched cottages and surrounded by vast empty fields. Not much happens here, except for their festival – the festival of colour, this happens once a year; tourists and families from afar visit, no one misses this event. This is the highlight of the year for the villagers; they prepare for this the whole year.”

-Ozlem Yikici

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“Festival of Colour” Characters (created by CMStewart)

Name: Mikael

Home: rural
village of Mantojärvi, Finland

Gender: male

Age: 23

Education:
rudimentary education, church-schooled until age 13

Occupation:
farmer and church deacon

Religion: devout
Finnish Neopagan

Relationships:
newlywed, no children

Notable
abilities / disabilities: none

Status:
respected by fellow villagers, in charge of yearly “Festival of Colour”

Personality:
devout, hard-working, obedient, traditional, superstitious

 *

Name: Niko

Home: rural
village of Mantojärvi, Finland

Gender: male

Age: 20

Education:
parochial-schooled until age 18

Occupation:
jack-of-all-trades

Religion: Finnish
Neopagan

Relationships:
single, no children

Notable
abilities / disabilities: none

Status:
well-liked by fellow villagers

Personality:
enthusiastic, inquisitive, cheerful, gossipy, a helper

 *

Name: “boy

Home: orphanage in Utsjoki, Finland (runaway to Mantojärvi)

Gender: male

Age: 7

Education: minimal home-schooling

Occupation: to find his family

Religion: none

Relationships: orphaned, father
dead, mother relocated

Notable
abilities / disabilities: excellent survival instincts / illiterate

Status:
orphan, runaway

Personality: suspicious, fearful,
loyal, distant, secretive

 *

—–

Character mentioned in dialogue, but
not present in scene-

Name: Sisko

Home: Mantojärvi, Finland (formerly from Utsjoki)

Gender: female

Age: 20

Education: minimal home-schooling

Occupation: housewife

Religion: none

Relationships: newlywed, 5 now-orphaned
children from previous relationship

Notable
abilities / disabilities: mentally disabled, illiterate, mute

Status:
foreigner from another village, chosen by god

Personality: complacent,
hard-working, agreeable, distant, silent

*

“Festival of Colour” Dialogue Prompts

“No children live in the village. A child hides in a barn and stays after the festivities. Your character(s) interacts with the child. The child has a secret. Add a surprise of your own -in keeping with your character(s) profile.”

-Ozlem Yikici

 * * * * *

Festival of Colour- Handfasting

by CMStewart

“Blessings Mikael, you’ve surely pleased Ukko- a fine hand-fasting at the grandest Festival of Colour yet! I hope our village has a turn of luck next year- Ukko be willing.”

“Thanks, Niko. ‘Twas me duty. Ordered by Mantojärvi’s church elders.”

“You think this’ll break the curse?”

“Yea. Curse has no chance ’gainst Ukko. An’ Sisko’s a fine lady ta boot. Birthed five babies by age o’ sixteen ‘fore her husband died. They all lived in a hill cave. No neighbors. An’ now that her young-uns are in Utsjoki’s orphanage, ‘tis Ukko’s will Sisko start anew in Mantojärvi. Elders’ tea leaves an’ rabbit offal said so.”

“Aye. You say her young-uns are in Utsjoki?”

“Yea. She’s a touch feeble-minded. Mute ta boot. Couldn’t care for ‘em alone. An’ I heard a rumor her pa laid with her, then shot hisself. So men folk in Utsjoki weren’t lined up for her hand when she widowed. But she’s got no kin folk, so I say a touch feeble-minded don’ make much diff’rence ta me. She’s a helluva cook. I’ll make her heavy with child by year’s turn. By next festival, our village will have its first baby in a dozen years.

“She cooked the hand-fasting feast, did she?

“Ev’ry last bit.”

“Aye, mighty fine woman, Mikael. And I thank you for helping me put my barn right. The crowd nearly filled it to the loft this year. Ah- what’s this? Look, a boy in the loft! Must’ve been left behind. Hey boy! What’s your name? Boy? I’m speaking to you, boy!”

“Ah shush, Niko, he’s just a young-un. An’ ya know, he looks just like Sisko! Could be he’s one-a Sisko’s young ‘uns. Could be mute like her, ta boot. Can ya speak boy?”

“Sisko.”

“Aye! Yer Sisko’s boy?”

“Veli.”

* * * * *


Immerse Yourself in the REAL World

Many writers tend to write in solitude, behind closed doors. They do better without the distraction of the “real” world. I know I’m like this. I’m most productive when I’m alone in front of my computer with the curtains drawn and the TV off. No music, no background chatter, no people vying for my attention. I’m able to focus on the settings, characters, motivations, and actions in my novels in clear and immediate detail. And that’s exactly what I need to do to produce a quality story. But sometimes I need a break from my solitude (vacuuming the floor or fixing dinner or saying “Hi” to the UPS guy doesn’t count). A break- defined as an unusual “real” world experience- can inject energy and newness into our writing. Even simple experiences can heighten our perceptions:

Are you a life-long city-dweller? Visit a family farm. Always lived in the country? Grab a friend and wander the streets of the nearest big city.

*

Attend a country-western music concert if you’re a headbanger. If you prefer classical, try techno. Listen with a playful attitude and an open mind.

*

Plan ahead and visit an unfamiliar environment- the beach, a cave, the desert, a forest, the mountains . .

*

Eat at a restaurant which serves a cuisine you haven’t yet tried. Or try cooking an unfamilar dish yourself.

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Commit to reading a novel in a genre you normally skip, and read it outdoors.

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Whatever- just do it!

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And let’s take it a step further. The next time you take a break, bring along a pen and notepad, a voice recorder, or a camcorder:

1. Sight- Look for something nobody else sees. Describe it in a way nobody else would.

2. Smell- Note the over-riding odors in your environment. Now note the underlying scent.

3. Sound- Pick a repetitive sound, close your eyes, clear your mind, and focus only on that sound. Keep focusing until your mind creates a vivid reaction. Describe the reaction.

4. Taste- The next time you’re hungry, drink a glass of water and go for a walk. On your walk, imagine preparing and eating your favorite food. Describe the taste. Then imagine preparing and eating your least favorite food. Describe the taste.

5. Touch- Choose 7 different inanimate objects along your walk (for example- tree, mulch, brick, etc.) As you pass each object, touch it and describe its personality.

Remember- simply reading about these exercises doesn’t count as actually doing the exercises.

So pick one- or all- and get out there and do it!

Then, if you’d like, share your experience below.

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p.s. If you’d like to catch up on my first flash-fiction-or-other challenge, click . . . . . . . . . . . . . HERE.