From Pieces to Plot - writercize #98

I recently purchased a fantastic game for my kids, one full of wonder, intrigue, cute graphics and, every writer's favorite, unlimited story-telling opportunities.  And it's sturdy.

The game is by eeBoo, a great toy company with all sorts of creative games, and it's called Fairytale Spinner Game.  If you have girls who like to use their imaginations, buy it!  If you have boys, well, there are still ogres and foxes and kings and they just might like it too if they can get past the giant princess picture on the top of the box.

Kids and their grown up friends spin to collect a hero, a rival, a helper, a magical object, a mean of transportation, a treasure and an enchanted place.  Once they have collected all their objects, they create a story.  I love how simple pieces and objects combine to create an entire plot, so I thought I would share one combination of the pieces (minus the enchanted place - you can make that up) and see what you come up with!

writercize:  Using the six objects in the photo to the right, write a short story.  

If the photo is not clear, you will be working with: magic feather, princess, ogre, puss in boots (or other thigh-high boot-wearing cat with a feather in it's cap), hot air balloon, golden tree.  Be creative and have fun with it!

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.


Tantalizing the Taste Buds - writercize #97

First things first, a very happy one year BLOGAVERSARY to Tara over at Tara Tyler Talks, a writer with a great sense of humor and about the most loyal follower a blogger could ever ask for.  If you haven't read her stuff, head right over and say hello.  You'll laugh, you'll chuckle, you just might learn something new, and you'll be glad you checked it out.

In honor of her yearlong accomplishment blogging away, Tara has decided to host a blogfest party, full of delicious food and recipes for all to share and salivate over.  So, I decided to join in the fun.

writercize:  In honor of the food fest over at Tara's place, share your favorite appetizer or drink recipe.  Here's the kicker though, the writercize twist - it must be in your own words.

Click "read more" for a delicious adults-only frozen beverage dreamed up by the writercizer.  Kiddos and the under 21 crowd - I'll throw in a yummy spread so you can try something too.  ;)


Psyche Up Your City - writercize #96

Hey writercizers -  I'm back from vaca and ready to write, write, write!  And read!  Thanks for sticking around through the summer despite diminished posts.  Hope you all had fabulous visits and vacations, some good reading material and a lot of relaxation.

I've been visiting my hometown of Portland, Oregon, and while I was there I noticed a lot of local advertising directed straight at Portlanders.  It was simple, direct, and read like a bumper sticker.  A local brewery says, "Pints Up Portland!"  A forestry non-profit writes, "Plant It Portland!"  And of course cars can be found all over town sporting the omnipresent "Keep Portland Wierd."

These direct advertising slogans work because it feels like it someone is speaking directly to you and your city's vibe.  Plus, the alliteration is memorable and fun!  Today you'll tap into your city to send a message to its residents.

writercize:  Choose a cause and write a "bumper sticker" slogan for your city.  

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response on energy conservation in LA and literacy in Redondo Beach.


Rhyming Couplets - writercize #95

A couplet is a small slice of poetry involving two lines with similar rhythm that rhyme.  In wikipedia simple terms: "a pair of lines of meter in poetry."  Although the rhyming element is not required in modern couplets, it is common.

Tonight I invite you to hone in on your rhyming skills and write a couple of couplets.  

writing exercise:  Write couplet(s) incorporating the following five words:
  • sweet
  • love
  • blue
  • kiss
  • side
You do not need to rhyme with the given words, but there must be rhyming and you must use these words.  You can use all the words in one couplet, or a series of related or unrelated couplets.  Romance, humor, non-fiction - you choose the mood!

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response of an electronic-age love note.


Misheard Cannibals - writercize #94

This weekend I went with my sister and her fiance to breakfast at Bakery Bar in Portland.  The website and reviews looked pretty amazing, so we wanted to see if it was worth scheduling a time for cake tasting, but sadly the service just didn't deliver and we will not be taking wedding cake business their way.  

However, that's another story for another time.  

The whole point is, while we were sitting there waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting some more for the coffee and subsequent food to arrive at our table (two hours later), there was plenty of time to look around and watch the hipsters, bridge pedal bicyclists, animal lovers and "Keep Portland wierd" crowd that had congregated for Sunday brunch.  

While I observed that one guy sitting on the stairs wierded me out a little because he was wearing the simple metal frame glasses of the 80's that scream serial killer to me, my sister's fiance' was watching our waiter pet a dog (ewww) who was sitting in the same vicinity as my serial killer look-alike (who I am almost certain is a perfectly nice man with, umm, interesting taste in eyeglasses). 

He remarked, "This city is definitely full of animal lovers."

I heard, in my own killer world over the buzz of the crowd, "This city is definitely full of cannibal lovers."

Yeah, pretty different meaning.  So, it got me thinking all about what we mishear and may or may not care to ask what the person really wants to say.  Sometimes we know what we've heard is wrong, but it makes it so much more interesting than that which was really said.  I feel like this weekend was one of those times.

writing exercise:  Think of a time when you misheard something, or someone misheard you, and use the mistaken sentence as the impetus for your story.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about a cannibal-loving city.  I have to admit I'm a little frightened by the direction it took, so if you don't do well with cannibals, consider yourself warned.


Headliners - writercize #93

I once watched an interview with film writer and director Woody Allen in which he shared the inspiration for the storyline in several of his films.  

Although his style is clearly influenced by live theater and Greek mythology, he said that the stories themselves are often results of his elaborate imagination doing its work with a newspaper headline that grabs him.  He said that he will cut out headlines that are bizarre or intriguing and drop them in a drawer.  When it is time to think about writing his next film, he will open the drawer, pull one out and see what creative direction it takes him in. 

I think this is a great tool to keep handy in a writer’s back pocket – an assembly of newspaper and magazine headlines at the ready when the muse does not choose to share her gift of gab.  Personally, I especially love stories that are statistic-based (they always make me wary), local “feel-good” and historical news, slanted commentary and events so bizarre you can’t possibly make them up. 

During a road trip with a friend several years ago, we picked up the paper in every small town we stopped in to eat or fill up on gas and we had a blast learning the local news.  We got to know about the crime beat, local heroes and events.  One story that sticks out in my mind was a survey, presumably by that local paper, showing that 80% of women admitted to throwing a shoe at their husband during an argument.  Neither the sample size of the survey nor the questions were revealed, but that news item kept us talking for a good hour, and it’s stuck in my mind for a full decade!

writing exercise:  Pick up a current newspaper (or troll the internet news) and search for good headlines that could inspire at a later date.  Clip them out and/or make a list of the best.  If you would, please share the headline and the newspaper source as your writercize comment!  Don't worry about the story itself, or whether you agree with the statement - look for something that could inspire a story or phrase one day.

Click “read more’ for writercizer sample response.


Where Are The Rings? - writercize #92

I'm feeling ready to be back from a bit of a drought with the Group Blogging Experience - aka GBE2, managed by the fabulous, witty, talented Elizabeth Grace - at least for the immediate future.  

Summer hit me hard with blogging; I had no idea how much thinking ... and relaxing ... and refreshing ... and energizing ... I was getting in the 20 minute drive to preschool twice a week.  My deepest apologies to those whose blogs I have been lax about visiting; I shall return to you in the fall, and in the meantime, I really, truly do appreciate your comments and visits to my page!

Ok, so all that touchy stuff out of the way, this week the GBE2 prompt is a photo, and I'm a big fan of image-inspired writing.  Get ready for your photographic muse, thinking outside the box and a little short fiction!

writing exercise:  See the lovely photo of rings to the right.  Now, imagine where those rings might be.  Write a scene, poem or short story about it.

Click "read more" for writercizer sample response about two brothers and some missing rings.


Listen In - writercize #91

I’ve written before about the sheer pleasure of writers to people-watch and construct the lives of strangers, but this writercize takes people watching one step further, right past the nosey line.  It’s listening in to tidbits of conversations from those around you, gathering random bits of information from strangers as they sit nearby at a restaurant or take a walk outside. 

It could be the pair of girlfriends out for a run while you sit on the bench to tie your shoe, the guys out to celebrate a victory game at the tavern, friends chatting over a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, the couple in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. 

Although those being eavesdropped on may disagree, it’s a great way for writers to pick up on realistic dialogue and understand the psyche of a wide variety of characters.   People will sometimes share quite a bit – I once overheard an entire first date conversation between two middle-aged people who shopped at Costco.  They discussed at length how they would separate items out of the package and have to freeze portions so that the food wouldn’t spoil before they’d have time to eat it all alone.  The entire conversation oozed loneliness; it was a declaration of why they so desperately sought companionship, even that of a blind date who otherwise had nothing in common.  Good stuff.

I’ve heard juicy details about fights with roommates, nasty anecdotes about bugs and rodents that really just shouldn’t be shared anywhere near anything edible, women bemoaning their boyfriends, people being snarky about friends who have just departed or are soon to arrive, snuggly talks of amore, political debates. 

All of this is good because it is what we as humans think about and worry about on a daily basis, and while a good story focuses on the bigger events and conflicts scattered about, the insertion of true-to-life dialogue will give the reader someone to relate to.

writing exercise:  Listen in to a snippet of dialogue the next time you are out.  Use a sentence or two from the exchange to inspire your own creative conversation.  If you are terribly uncomfortable listening in, or if you do not have the opportunity to do so, turn on the TV and tune into a reality show or sitcom and grab a line of dialogue from that.

Click “read more” for writercizer sample response.


Spiderwords - writercize #90

Spiderwords is a twist on my Next Word game. 

In this version, I give you a word, and you find eight words that relate in some way.  The rules are flexible.  The eight new words could be words evoked by the given word, illustrious words to describe the original, writers, artists or masterpieces you associate with the word, antonyms or synonyms.  You could even choose to find out how to say the word in eight different languages!

The result would be similar to the new visual thesaurus online that looks like a web, or a spider, or an airline destination map, depending on how many relationships there are between words and what the user clicks on.  (If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look – it’s pretty cool, although I wouldn’t say it completely trumps the original thesaurus in the dust as others have claimed.)

Here’s an example of spiderwords:

Original word: “spider”
Eight related words:  arachnophobia, octoped (yes, this is a made-up word), black, fast, fear, spiderweb, bite, woods

The illustration would look something like the sample on the right. 

writing exercise:  For each of the following words, note eight related words.  You may choose to explain the relationship to the original, or allow reader to guess.
  • dust
  • fork
  • mattress
  • mirror
  • yellow

Click “read more” for writercizer sample response.

Writercizer sample response:

Original word: “dust”
Eight related words:  mite, sweep, allergen, rag, desert, rose, beige, Arizona

Original word: “fork”
Eight related words:  spoon, road, Frost, left, eat, feed, proverb, decision

Original word: “mattress”
Eight related words:  princess, pea, queen, twin, bed, sleep, comforter, night

Original word: “mirror”
Eight related words:  vanity, luck, reflection, salon, image, emulate, cracked, bathroom

Original word: “yellow”
Eight related words:  jacket, sun, jaundice, lemon, dilettante, yolk, age, primary


Colorful Feelings - writercize #89

Ever heard a person say they were green with envy, or feeling lonely and blue, or so angry they were seeing red? Over the years, for whatever reason, we have married colors to emotions and they have become ordinary vernacular.

Today I will challenge you to discover a new colorful emotion with a very simple exercise I picked up from Nutschell over at thewritingnut.com at a writing workshop. Hopefully one or two phrases will stick with you and inspire a poem or dialogue in a story! I was a big fan of crimson jealousy when I first tried the exercise and have a feeling I'll be using it somewhere.

writing exercise: Make a list of five colors - the fancier the better (i.e. Burgundy in lieu of red). I will offer a slight twist and allow patterns such as polka-dotted as an acceptable alternative. Now make a list of five abstract ideas or emotions such as hope, prayer, frustration. Once you have both lists match each color with each abstraction. You will have a new list of 25 concepts to play with in your writing!

Read on for writercizer sample response. (writing this on an iPad so do not have full functionality to offer read more option as usual)

colors: lavender, paisley, teal, maroon, ivory