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Author Topic: Writing exercises?  (Read 4697 times)
Roney
Lochage
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« on: April 17, 2008, 06:12:04 PM »

I can't believe that I'm suggesting this, knowing my intermittent time for the forums and historical success with deadlines, but...

While we're waiting for the private forum, does anyone else like the idea of playing at some creative writing exercises?  Just some simple things to keep the creative juices flowing, whether that's something to write while you're between ideas, a change of pace during a long, soul-crushing slog of a chapter, or the pressure valve needed to release a creative block.

It could go something like this:
  • once a fortnight I post a topic
  • forumites who find it sufficiently challenging or interesting or fun write their take on the topic and post it -- there's no social obligation to join in if it doesn't grab you
  • there's no upper or lower word limit, but I recommend a sweet spot of 250-300 words -- it seemed to work quite well for the Flash Fiction contest
  • other forumites crit the submitted pieces and/or suggest topics for the next round
  • lather, rinse, repeat
  • rules evolve as we discover what works

Disclaimer 1: I'm no kind of creative writing tutor.  I haven't done anything like this since high school (a long time ago) so it will take community involvement to come up with intriguing new topics and to crit the submissions.

Disclaimer 2: I'm interested in this for personal gain, because I find the responses to stories on the forum insightful and sometimes inspiring, so I'd like to try out lots of different things and see what the reaction is.  And because I never get anything done without some kind of deadline.  But I'm hoping that if it would help me then it may also help others.

Disclaimer 3: It's intended as a light-hearted complement to the other writing stuff in the forums, not a replacement.  Specifically, it wouldn't be a good place to post finished stories for critiquing: it would damage your chances of selling them.  The idea is to flex your writing muscle on a micro piece of throwaway prose, for the practice.

If you're interested, please reply to this post saying as much.  (Publicly rather than PM, please, so everyone can see how popular it is.)  If I get enough responses I'll post the first topic.  And if you've got any suggestions for topics just shout them out.

To get the ball rolling:
  • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
  • An execution, told in the second person
  • First Contact (the transcript)
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Heradel
Bill Peters, EP Assistant
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Posts: 2938


Part-Time Psychopomp.


« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2008, 06:23:14 PM »

I'd be interested.
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Windup
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Posts: 909



« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2008, 06:41:49 PM »


Sounds good.  What's the deadline? 

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jodymonster
Palmer
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Posts: 54


« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2008, 07:17:32 PM »

I'm interested.  It sounds like a lot of fun, not just writing, but reading others responses.  Good idea, Roney. I hope it takes off. 
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"If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up." -Hunter S. Thompson
CammoBlammo
Matross
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Posts: 199



« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2008, 05:01:46 AM »

I can't promise I'll be involved, but if it becomes an ongoing thing I'm sure you'll see something from me.
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Tango Alpha Delta
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« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2008, 09:33:58 AM »

Hit us with a topic, Roney!  See what happens!
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CammoBlammo
Matross
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« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2008, 03:14:23 PM »


To get the ball rolling:
  • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
  • An execution, told in the second person
  • First Contact (the transcript)

Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin
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Russell Nash
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« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2008, 05:54:57 AM »


To get the ball rolling:
  • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
  • An execution, told in the second person
  • First Contact (the transcript)

Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin

I dare you.  See if you can do it.  If you can, I might even be shamed into posting something.  That's probably more threat than motivation.
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CammoBlammo
Matross
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Posts: 199



« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2008, 06:23:02 AM »


    To get the ball rolling:
    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
    • An execution, told in the second person
    • First Contact (the transcript)

    Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin

    I dare you.  See if you can do it.  If you can, I might even be shamed into posting something.  That's probably more threat than motivation.


    Okay, done.

    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn Check
    • An execution, told in the second person Check
    • First Contact (the transcript) Check

    Okay, I did cheat slightly, but I think I pulled it together, all in the context of a well known folk tale. Roney, did you want to organise a spot to post it?
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    Roney
    Lochage
    *****
    Posts: 418



    « Reply #9 on: April 22, 2008, 04:57:14 PM »

    To get the ball rolling:
    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
    • An execution, told in the second person
    • First Contact (the transcript)
    Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin
    I dare you.  See if you can do it.  If you can, I might even be shamed into posting something.  That's probably more threat than motivation.

    Okay, done.

    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn Check
    • An execution, told in the second person Check
    • First Contact (the transcript) Check

    Okay, I did cheat slightly, but I think I pulled it together, all in the context of a well known folk tale. Roney, did you want to organise a spot to post it?

    Heh, I was hoping to come up with topics that were intriguing, instructive and challenging... not bizarre, perverted and intimidating.  I don't think combining those three off-the-cuff ideas will encourage participation.

    However, if anyone does want to post their take on this "Topic Zero" in this thread while I'm trying to think of a Topic #1, please do go ahead.  You can try to set the bar for "most outrageous interpretation" good and high for future weeks. Smiley
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    Tango Alpha Delta
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    « Reply #10 on: April 22, 2008, 05:23:58 PM »


    To get the ball rolling:
    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
    • An execution, told in the second person
    • First Contact (the transcript)

    Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin

    Okay, wow... I tried to do all three the other night, and knocked out a 1200 word ... something... that I'm kind of proud of!  (And, of course, I haven't had time for anything else the last couple of days.)
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    Roney
    Lochage
    *****
    Posts: 418



    « Reply #11 on: April 22, 2008, 06:25:57 PM »

    Okay, wow... I tried to do all three the other night, and knocked out a 1200 word ... something... that I'm kind of proud of!  (And, of course, I haven't had time for anything else the last couple of days.)

    Shocked What have I started?

    Okay guys and gals, bring on the First Contact Unicorn Execution stories...
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    CammoBlammo
    Matross
    ****
    Posts: 199



    « Reply #12 on: April 22, 2008, 10:39:31 PM »

    Okay folks, here's my contribution. I've combined all three suggestions, although I have had to stretch the rules a bit. For example, can transcripts be done in the second person?

    This is a second draft. I had a lot of good material in the first draft that just didn't fit the plot, so I turfed it. All comments gratefully received!



    The Last of the Unicorns

    You fly across the plains of Africa, dig beneath the mountains of Europe, scale the eyries of America, searching for creatures which won't survive the deluge. Soon, every species in creation has been accounted for, their representatives flying, swimming and running to the Ark which will be their salvation.

    You blow to the west. A thousand miles away rain clouds begin to form.

    ***

    You take one last walk upon the earth while there is still hard ground. It has been raining for weeks, and there are few places left. The water is filled with carcasses, too many to be eaten by the predators lurking beneath the surface. The few places that are yet to be covered with water are filled with animals. There too are the last of the sons of men. Seeing them grieves your heart, but the thought of what they did to your creation grieves you still more.

    ***

    Your spirit hovers above the waters. You go to the highest point on the earth, knowing that when it is covered, the flood is complete. When you arrive, you notice a strange light. You look closer --- the light is emanating from a horse. Yet this horse is like none you created; it is pure white, with shining eyes and a mane that glitters as silver. From its forehead rises a single horn of many colours, twisted like the tooth of a narwhal.

    You are curious. You created all in this universe. Who --- or what --- is this? You alight on the water near the fantastic creature.

    ``Greetings!'' you say.

    ``Greetings,'' the creature replies, sounding a little nervous.

    You're not sure how to proceed. You are master of creation, Lord of all there is. You are not used to anything you haven't made. Indeed, nothing exists without your express permission.

    ``Can I help you?'', you ask

    ``No, I'm fine.''

    ``Well let me know if there's anything I can do.'' This is decidedly odd.

    ``There is one thing. Can you tell me when the rain will stop?''

    ``In a few days.''

    ``Oh, that could be a problem. I can't really swim that well.''

    ``Oh. Umm...'' You trail off into silence. You've never been lost for words before. ``Where are you from?''

    ``Oh, around.''

    ``I see. Near here?''

    ``Probably. I don't like to be stuck to one place for too long, if you know what I mean.''

    You don't, which is another new experience. You are the root of all meaning. ``I've got to be honest. I know pretty well everything that goes on around here, and I intimately know every creature that has ever called this planet home. Yet I don't recognise you. What are you?''

    ``I'm a unicorn.''

    ``I see. Why don't I know you?'' The unicorn's face tightens, then releases in a flood of tears.

    ``I'm sorry! I've done it again, haven't I?'' You feel sorry for the poor animal, but you can't help but become more exasperated.

    ``What have you done? Oh come on, pull yourself together!''

    ``My mum always told me how special we unicorns are. How the other animals would envy our shiny coats and magical horns. We have to keep a very low profile in order to survive.''

    ``So?''

    ``Well, I was never that good at it! As a foal I wanted to be invited to parties and sleepovers. I always had friends, even outside unicorn-kind. And now you've found me!''

    ``But I've never even heard of your species! And I'm God!''

    ``Well you've heard of us now. I've let my whole species down!''

    ``Your whole species?'' You don't want to tell him.

    ``I take it, then, you haven't seem any other unicorns around?'' he asks. You presume it's a he. You've never had to figure things out before.

    ``Well, no. I spent a lot of time looking for different species, and you're the first of your kind I've come across. You realise that this is the last dry --- well, least soggy --- place on earth?''

    ``Really? You mean...' He seems to be realising the seriousness of his plight.

    ``There was hope, a few weeks ago. An Ark was built, to rescue representatives of each species, but now it's sealed. Even if I could get you on to it, it's not much use to your species without a mate.''

    The unicorn's face falls. It is a pitiful sight. ``I see.''

    ``Well, that's it then,'' says the unicorn with resignation. ``I'm going to die, and unicorn-kind with me.''

    ``I'm sorry.''

    ``No, please don't look at me. This is rather embarrassing, to be quite honest. If we hadn't been so paranoid we'd be on that Ark.''

    ``Please---''

    ``No. Can you do one thing for me?''

    ``What is it?''

    ``When I die, take my horn. As a reminder that we lived.''

    ``I promise.'' The horn looks beautiful, and appears to be flexible but strong. It would make a good bow. You would be proud to show it off, even if you don't remember inventing it.

    ``Goodbye.'' The unicorn moves, plunging into the whelming billow.

    ***

    The demands of justice have been satisfied. You look to the west, and blow once again.
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    Heradel
    Bill Peters, EP Assistant
    Hipparch
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    Posts: 2938


    Part-Time Psychopomp.


    « Reply #13 on: April 23, 2008, 12:07:39 AM »

    Didn't have time to draft, so here's it raw. Decided to just keep it to one of the suggestions, though I was tempted to call the man in the black suit "the man from UNICORN". 446 words. 

    ———

    “I assure you, it is quite humane,” said the man in a black suit.

    You are not assured. You are, in fact, quite panicked.

    “The body is completely undamaged by the process, seventy four point three percent of bodies construct a completely new consciousness within a year.”

    You say that you like the consciousness you have very much, thank you.

    The man in the black suit laughs soullessly, “like the one you have… whoo boy, I haven’t heard that one in years. You’re funny, that’s what you are. Now listen, every atom that you got right now is going to be there, and it’s not like we’re killing you or something. Your body will create a new consciousness and with just a little training you’ll be back on your way out into society, without any of those silly little ideas in your head about ‘free speech’ and ‘the rights of man’.” The air quotes he puts around ‘free speech’ and ‘the rights of man’ enrage you, but you are strapped quite firmly onto the operating table.

    You struggle against your bonds and begin yelling that you won’t be there in a year, that the sum is greater than the whole of it’s parts.

    “Now you listen to me — I am being perfectly reasonable here. We aren’t taking out back and shooting you, we aren’t waterboarding you, we aren’t even throwing you in a cell for the rest of you life. You’re being quite unreasonable. A quick directed pulse of energy, a few months in bed, and you’ll be as good as new — better even. Now, number eight, please hold still. We don’t want to damage your body, just your mind, and you need to be awake so we’re sure it’s all gone. If you aren’t still, you’ll damage your body.”

    You struggle. You convulse and shout, you even manage to snap one of the restraints, but a team of orderlies is upon you before you’ve even realized you’ve done it, and you are held down. Long pieces of tape are wrapped around you, and when your forehead is at last secured to the table the man in the black suit returns.

    “Now number eight, that wasn’t pleasant, was it?”

    A bit in your mount prevents you from answering, but the scream you unleash is quite loud.

    He sighs as you remain screaming, stilled in your bondage.

    The man pulls an machine down from the ceiling on a telescoping arm. He places it against your forehead, and as you watch him begin to depress the lever on the side of the machine, you use all your strength in one last great convulsion. His eyes widen as you—
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    Heradel
    Bill Peters, EP Assistant
    Hipparch
    ******
    Posts: 2938


    Part-Time Psychopomp.


    « Reply #14 on: April 24, 2008, 07:00:09 PM »

    Cammo — My only real problem is that it seems like the unicorn would have a bigger reaction. I mean, it's God in front of him, unless God's rolling a 20 on a Accept Divine Will throw I'd think the unicorn would put up a bigger ruckus.

    The God also feels a bit more like Artemis or another one of the Greek pantheon than Yahweh, though it's obviously the Noah story. Maybe it's just because I've been deep in Greek Lit, or the bow reference, but something about the interaction seems more Greek than Judeo-Christian. But that's just me, and a pretty subjective bit.

    I did like it though, and you certainly got everything in there.
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    CammoBlammo
    Matross
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    Posts: 199



    « Reply #15 on: April 24, 2008, 10:38:11 PM »

    Cammo — My only real problem is that it seems like the unicorn would have a bigger reaction. I mean, it's God in front of him, unless God's rolling a 20 on a Accept Divine Will throw I'd think the unicorn would put up a bigger ruckus.

    Very true. This wasn't such a problem in my original version of the story. That's why you don't do major rewrites 5 minutes before submitting!

    The God also feels a bit more like Artemis or another one of the Greek pantheon than Yahweh, though it's obviously the Noah story. Maybe it's just because I've been deep in Greek Lit, or the bow reference, but something about the interaction seems more Greek than Judeo-Christian. But that's just me, and a pretty subjective bit.

    God (specifically, Yahweh*) is quite anthropomorphic in the first 11 chapters of Genesis. He takes walks in the Garden of Eden, he looks for Adam and Eve and so on. The bow reference is a bit of back story to Genesis 9:11-17 where God (interestingly enough, Elohim, not Yahweh) blesses Noah after he emerges from the Ark:

    Quote from: Genesis 9:11-17, NRSV
    I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

    God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

    God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

    To me, the way God is portrayed here is an important clue that this passage needs to be interpreted very differently to the other parts of the Bible, in which God is more, well, Judeo-Christian. (Of course, if there were unicorns in the story...!)

    Thanks for the feedback. I might have a crack at rewriting it. What's the generally accepted method for resubmitting work around here? Post again? Edit the original post?

    --Footnotes
    *The book of Genesis is generally** regarded as a pastiche of traditions sewn together in the form we have it now some time 500 years or so before Jesus. Those traditions seem to have used different names for God, so they can be distinguished from one another.

    **More 'conservative' Christians (and Jews, and probably Muslims) would disagree.
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    Heradel
    Bill Peters, EP Assistant
    Hipparch
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    Posts: 2938


    Part-Time Psychopomp.


    « Reply #16 on: April 24, 2008, 10:59:51 PM »

    I'd do a new post, or append it at the bottom of the original. Overwriting the original means that if someone comes looking through later they won't have the full context of the thread. It's better to be nondestructive.

    It's been a while since I've read Genesis, I'm only vaguely remembering Yahweh in those chapters so considering I've been reading the Orestia my brain defaulted to the Greeks.
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    Roney
    Lochage
    *****
    Posts: 418



    « Reply #17 on: April 30, 2008, 04:53:24 PM »

    You don't, which is another new experience. You are the root of all meaning. ``I've got to be honest. I know pretty well everything that goes on around here, and I intimately know every creature that has ever called this planet home. Yet I don't recognise you. What are you?''

    My preference is for God to have a recognizably Godlike voice or be cheekily postmodern in his idiom.  To me this story falls into colloquial, between the stools of "biblical" and "txt".  It's your call on the voice, of course.

    Quote
    The unicorn's face tightens, then releases in a flood of tears.

    This doesn't work for me.  I can imagine the tightening but the latter part is overwrought.

    Quote
    , but you can't help but become more exasperated.

    "exasperated" doesn't work as a word for God's attitude for me.  It really pulled me out of the story.  God should be beyond this kind of pettiness.

    I loved the rest.  The synthesis of three disparate ideas was very skilfully done.
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    Planish
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    Fun will now commence.


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    « Reply #18 on: July 17, 2008, 03:47:46 AM »


    To get the ball rolling:
    • An embarrassing encounter with a unicorn
    • An execution, told in the second person
    • First Contact (the transcript)

    Hmm, are we allowed to combine all three?  Grin

    Ya know, if you drop the one horn, I think I saw the movie of something like that way back in the '70s.
    See http://youtube.com/watch?v=tAVYYe87b9w (1 min 30 sec)
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