Writing Prompts VII

1. Create a setting where everything seems perfect, beyond expectations, until the characters of your story begin to dig beneath the surface. Soon, everything turns out to be a facade– Luxury gives way to mold and disease, opulence gives way to cheap corner cutting, and what was originally seen as something incredible and perfect is quickly exposed for what it really is.

2. Consider for a moment what it would be like to be directly involved in analyzing a situation or a threat to a population (of humans, bacteria, or other forms of plant or animal life) and addressing a solution of alternative action that could either be a fix (however temporary or permanent) or a preventative measure. Put yourself in the shoes of a professional scientist who considers it to be her or his duty to look at and handle this burgeoning situation, then write your groundbreaking report. If you’re stuck for ideas, create a new disease or “Chronic defect” and then approach it from the observational and detached position of a researcher.

3. People in today’s world have all kinds of strange allergies. Just right now, I can think of three such people, one allergic to red dye #5, one allergic to chlorinated water (as in pools) and one who’s allergic to cucumbers (even in the form of pickles.) Using an existing, but bizarre allergy (or by creating and using a new one) write a story about someone who suffers from it, how it effects their life, and how they ultimately overcome it.

4. Television rules the nation. Write a story where the mainstream media’s domination over the common man is emphasized, where the average populace blurs together, and only a few people are truly aloof and free. What makes them different (besides not watching TV?) How do they view the hypnotized masses? As tools, idiots, or souls to be pitied? Are they interested in change? What will they do to insure it happens (or to keep it from happening?)

5.Some series that have appeared since the advent of entertainment as a medium have become iconic, thoroughly integrating themselves into our society in a way that makes them unforgettable and subject to a massive fan base or instant recognition (like Sherlock Holmes or Star Wars). What is it that makes them so iconic, so popular? What is it that they have and so much else seems to so painfully lack? Try to capture that something and instill it into a story of your own invention.

6.Write a “Chop-Saki.” Think about every Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee film you’ve ever seen, every late night kung-fu flick you’ve ever sat and watched without reaching for the remote and changing the channel. Now, put that knowledge to work! Craft something new, something exciting that’s only cheesy if you want it to be.

7. The idea of being invaded by a hostile force is a terrifying one. Write a story where an invasion (either real, fantastic or futuristic, etc.) is imminent, and the invading force is superior in both equipment and tactics. How do you prepare to meet this invasion? Will you defend yourself? If so, then with what? However far your ingenuity takes you, will it be enough to turn the tide, or will you and your compatriots fall before your foes anyway?

8. A lot of college humor in the last few decades focuses on the comedic way that binge drinking tends to erase all of the memories of the night before and leave a person holding their head, wondering where they left their pants– and their dignity. Write a story where this is the case, but provide a way for the character (or at least the reader) to track back through the night of debauchery until the true list of the previous night’s events are laid bare.

9. Experiment with poetry and form. Try something new, play with it until it all fits together. If you’re strapped for ideas, try a Sestina form, a Fibonacci Sequence or a 26 line poem with lines that all begin with a letter of the alphabet, in proper order.

10. Resisting any impulses you may have of seeing it as morbid, visit a graveyard and check out the grave markers and headstones until you find one that catches you. Write a story about that person’s life, what it might have been like, the kind of things they might have had to deal with.

Wednesday Writing Prompts VI

1. Create an end of the world, apocalyptic scenario, and then invent a technology (or other creative means) with which a fraction of humanity can be saved from it. Now project the setting of your story several centuries (or more) into the future from there. How has the presence of this technology or means effected the lives of the people living in that time? What are the new “big problems” and larger changes in the structure, mythology, and general way of life of the survivors? What is it like to live in this time? What are the little things? The common problems? (If you’re strapped for ideas, consider the “traction cities” of Phillip Reeve’s “Mortal Engines” or the “Vaults” of the Fallout series.)

2. Visit an unfamiliar place (like a coffee shop in a different town) and sit around “people watching”. Work on setting a scene in the place, describe the features that make it unique, and feel free to draw from existing features, people, and even individual conversations as you work.

3. Study and existing illness (or create a new one) that may or may not be fatal. Now, pen the story of a person who has contracted that illness. What kind of symptoms is that person suffering? What does it feel like? Taste like? Smell like? Make the reader feel the experience exactly as the victim would. Use fear and familiar sensations of illness to maximum effect.

4. Take a moment from your past where you made the wrong decision and in doing so altered the course of your life in a way that you’re not entirely happy with. Now, imagine you have the chance to fix it, to talk to or trick your past self into making the right decision. How do you go about it? What do you say or do? Does it work? How does your present (then future) change as a result?

5. The lone wolf is a key character type that recurs in every genre of fiction that has ever been printed or penned (even romance, though the loner might get snared eventually.) Create a piece of fiction that incorporates such a character, either as the main driving force of the story, or as a character who interacts directly with the main character and in enough of a way that we can’t help but watch him/her and be interested.

6. Write a song, revise it, even go so far as to put it to music if you feel so inclined! Make it real, imagine it performed live, and then build a story around that song. Make it the centralmost metaphor for the story, and the very crux upon which the entire story rotates.

7. Step outside your bounds. Think about something that you think you “can’t write” or “suck at” and force yourself to write it. If you get stuck, study stories that follow the same idea, pick them apart and try to figure out what their authors are doing, how they’re able to write what you think you cannot. Remember, no matter what you might think, you can write anything. It just takes time, effort, and practice.

8. Create your own mythos – H.P. Lovecraft did it with Cthulhu and the elder gods, and others have done it since (like Alan Campbell and the mythos of Ulcis and Labyrinths that rises out of the novel “Scar Night” or the Faith of Yevon from Final Fantasy X.) Write the stories that tie the gods, goddesses and aspects of faith together for an entire people, and make a series of short stories (or even just one, like a creation story) out of them, almost as if you were the chief historian or head theologian dedicated to the preservation of all knowledge associated with the faith.

9. Languages are constantly changing. Going back a thousand years, even English becomes virtually unrecognizable to people who speak the modern tongue as their first language. Take a look at some of the most recent changes that have taken place in the language (or in any given pidgin or creole) and then exaggerate and project them into the future. Create a tongue that might be spoken in the next hundred, several hundred, or even one thousand years. Get creative: introduce new mannerisms, new expressions, concepts, words, and even grammatical rules that reflect where the language has gone in the intervening time. What kind of impact would spacefaring frontiersmen have on the language? Alien contact? Exposure to humans from other universes? Other realities? Now, write a story either told in that language, or featuring someone who speaks that way. (If you need ideas, consider the difference in the English spoken by the characters in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, or the difference between forms of Stripjap in Richard K. Morgan’s novel Woken Furies.

10. Take a historical figure like Einstein or Gengis Khan (or even a group of historical figures) and put them in an unfamiliar environment. It could be your present, the future, the distant past, or another planet/universe altogether. How would Winston Churchill and Joan of Arc react if they were both suddenly abducted by the same trans-dimensional alien ship and then put in close proximity? You can also consider where people who have disappeared have gone. What really happened to Amelia Earhart? Jimmy Hoffa? Does it involve a ‘37 chevy floating inexplicably in a distant corner of the galaxy?

Wednesday Writing Prompts V

1. Think about something that really bugs you, something in your life that irritates or frustrates you to no end. Put words to that frustration, explore it, let yourself go off on it, and then express your tirade in ink. Finally, formalize it (as an essay or an article) or put it in the mouth of a character who has the same (or a similar) problem.

2. Create a new holiday, one with a long, traditional background (either on Earth or somewhere else entirely!) And use it as the backdrop for a story. Detail it, give it festivals, flesh them out and make them real, then merge it all into the plot of a story. Use it to set the mood, to accentuate points, events, and even the climax. Make it the metaphor for the tale you’ve woven into it.

3. Write a story where two people are thinking about each other, without being anywhere near each other. Consider two lovers, or maybe two people who’ve just gone home after their first date, or even two friends with some point of contention between them, any of whom are having their own silent conversations in their minds. The thoughts could be dramatic and misguided, they could make assumptions, judgements, they could come quick and furious like the words of an argument– because that’s exactly what you’re going for. Now take these two lines of internal conversation and interlace them so it’s almost as if they were talking or arguing all along.

4. Create a story where all the characters have objectified names. Consider the relationship that could spring up between Left and Right, between Red and Tall, between Green and Cube. Consider how these relationships could interrelate: Is Green stalking Tall? Is Cube cheating on Right with Red? Remembering to keep things abstract, put pen to paper and see where a few objectified names can take you!

5. Consider for a moment a particle, a wave, an atom, a photon, or a neutron, and then consider what it might be like to be that thing. Consider the human implications of all matter being compressed into a single one-dimensional point right before the big bang that flung everything out and created the universe (as if there were human thought, as if you were occupying the point along with countless others) and then take it a step further. Look for places in science and theory that seem alien and cold to you, places where no rational mind could logically project a human consciousness, and then play with it. Become a quark for a day and discuss how irritating the subatomic bonds that hold you to your brothers are, or marvel in the long trip a photon takes toward Earth, only to miss it just barely and be sent on into the depths of space.

6. Write a modern story in such a way that it feels like Science Fiction. Go heavy with the technology and the explanations of proven theory that in an earlier decade might have been classified as Science Fiction. Talk about things is odd detail, like how the wireless transmitter in someone’s iPhone links up with distant towers of silicon and steel to connect him to a massive unseen network of information people refer to as “The Internet.”

7. Take something in the society around you that makes you uncomfortable or disgusted (like beauty contests, drag queens, McDonalds, pot smokers or American Idol) and write a story that casts it in a good light. It can be a story of redemption, of inspiration and strength that either leads the character out of the disturbing thing or further into it, depending on which way you want to go. (Like a drag queen who starts small but manages to transcend so many boundaries, so many stigmas and so much adversity that he wins some massive televised event and is recognized all over the world as someone incredible, someone who has fought hard and won through in spite of everything the world has thrown in his path to try to trip him up.)

8. Write a story where two things that are normally seen as total opposites (like love and garbage) become metaphors for one another.

9. Take some time to check out some of the “outer circle” dialects of English in the world today, and use their examples to create characters who speak these unusual dialects. Now, throw them into an unusual situation. You can create a world where everybody in the upper class talks one dialect and everyone in the lower talks another, or even throw three different dialect speakers into the same room and see where it goes, considering what words mean different things (or nothing at all) to people who speak a variation of English that comes from another side of the globe entirely.

10. Take something mundane that you have to do regularly and according to a certain schedule (like going to school or work) and make it fantastic. Instead of walking across campus to sit in a musty classroom that smells like old banana pancakes to listen to lectures from a bespectacled professor with a combover who shakes and drools as he talks (and probably farts dust), fly across campus in a biomimetic thrust pack, grind the asphalt with plates of nanoregenerative shielding, and slide across scarred linoleum into a hangar bay where a cute technician in a skin-tight jumpsuit stands waiting to teach you how to pilot the latest in uberdestructive mecha.

Pictures from around the farm

There's so much life around the farm this time of year, so many small animals just learning what it means to be alive. Out here, you're just surrounded by it, one soul among many, and even at night when things wind down and the sounds drop to their quietest, you can still feel it.

It's beautiful, it's surreal. I wouldn't trade a life on a farm for a life anywhere else.

Wednesday Writing Prompts IV

1. Consider a process of ordinary living that goes unseen by most people (like what happens to a letter when it’s between mailboxes, or how meat gets from the cow to the microwave dinner,) and make it fantastic! Maybe the postman puts the letter into an interdimensional pocket where it falls down a rabbit hole and lands in a heap of envelopes waiting to be sorted by spirits or to be carefully considered by a special ops detachment of Santa’s Elves.

2. Secrecy is a form of government regulation. Consider something unusual that the government might feel should be kept secret, (you can use the previous prompt for ideas) and then draw up a plan designed to keep it secret, including ways to “clean up” any security leaks which might eventually occur. Now, imagine it is your job to blow the lid on this secret, and then pen your story, regardless of whether it ends in revelation and triumph or defeat and tighter security measures.

3. You’re driving, and bam! you see an unusual animal out of the corner of your eye, just standing there on the side of the road. What is it? How did it get there? What happens next? You’re the driver, you decide.

4. Take a place, any place– it could be the town or city where you live, the house where you grew up, or someplace entirely different, then imagine what it will be like 25 years from now. Now try 50 years. Maybe 150, or even 500! Pick one of these future times, then set a story there. What is going amid this future backdrop? Is there love? Spaceships? Are people arguing? Has there been a catastrophe, or just a period of steady growth?

5. Take the basic concept for a genre or a subgenre (like Science Fiction or Cyberpunk) and recast it into an entirely different culture. (Think sword and sorcery gone Kalahari Bushmen or Ancient China’s take on Steampunk, for example) If you need ideas, check out George Alec Effinger’s “When Gravity Fails”, a book which expertly mixes the rich culture of the Islamic Middle East with the gritty, post-modern flavors of Cyberpunk.

6. Someone you consider it your duty to watch out for has a tiny bag of strange powder that they’re trying to hide, but they aren’t doing a very good job of it. Do you confront them? Do you watch them from a distance? What’s in the bag? A chemical? A drug? Fairy dust? What’s the backstory? How does your tale resolve itself?

7. A man sits in a parking lot in a strange car. What’s his story? Describe the car. What does it look like? Where has it been? Does it frighten you, or does it make you happy? If you were to go out and talk to him, what would he say? What would you learn?

8. Write a story in which the characters, the places, the brands, and everything else takes the names of people you know. Throw in references to say, the “Smith CafĂ©,” or the “Anderson N-30 Sport Bike,” etc. Use the attributes of the people whose names you are using in order to drive the story forward, as well as to set the tone for the environment in which it takes place, the plot, etc.

9. Write a story about a character that defies conventions, (like an elderly woman who loves videogames, a baby who travels through time and fixes the problems of the future or past, or a mild mannered pastor that whips his congregation up by summoning demons or awakening the undead,) and then take a trip through that character’s life. Is his or her unconventional nature ultimately something that will prove to be the instrument of his or her downfall, or is this unconventional person merely awesome?

10. Write a poem where most, if not all of the words used begin with the same letter (Percy’s purple plastic purse portrays people peeling poofy pomegranates) and then explain how this might be possible. Make it real, expand it, describe the scene (in normal prose) of people peeling poofy pomegranates, and then build a story around it.


I found the most amazing thing in the parking lot of a gas station yesterday.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve found some pretty amazing things on the ground– mostly money, a few tens, a few twenties, things that people lose but don’t usually go back for or can’t claim at a lost and found.

Yesterday, I found a Nintendo DS.

I have to admit, my first thought was something along the lines of “Holy– sweet!” but as I turned the thing over in my hands and looked at it, realizing what a prize I’d found, it also struck me as what a prize someone else had lost. I’ve seen DS’s in the store– they’re not cheap, and they’re certainly out of my spending range. “Should I keep it?” I wondered. It was a sure bet that I probably wouldn’t get a chance to hold one in my hands again until Nintendo came out with something better and slashed the price on the DS to somewhere near reasonable, and by then it might not even matter anymore. I stood there in the rain just looking at it for probably five seconds, torn.

And then my ethics kicked in.

I’m not a religious person, but I live by one singular rule, a code that I think is valid in any situation where one is presented with a moral dilemma: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

So I took it into the gas station and gave it to the attendant, hoping that the person who lost it would come back looking for it and ask the attendant those hopeful words: “Has anyone turned in a...”

Because if it was my DS, I’d hope, even expect someone else to do the same for me.

It’s not a perfect world, there are plenty of unethical things going on everyday that we cannot change, but what we can do is teach by example. We can live ethically, simply because to do otherwise is to be a douchebag, and if enough of us do it, we can change the world.

May 1st is Buy Indy Day!

Today is the day to get out there and support the independent authors, musicians and artists of the world, so if you haven't given Pink Carbide a read yet, check it out below!

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