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Writing exercises

So yesterday I picked up an app called “iDeas for writing”, (that’s how they capitalize it) and I’ve been playing with it from time to time all weekend. The concept is simple, it has several random generators for characters and story prompts, and then some exercises to stretch yourself with these tools.

I spent some time with it and a tablet of paper, and wrote a page inspired by a “first sentence” the app provided. Because I’m me, this short bit of creative writing required a nap to recover from.

So, here’s what I wrote.

The pirate thought about her again. She had been on his mind more than usual lately, singing in his dreams the way she used to sing in the kitchen.

He couldn’t really remember any of the songs she used to sing, but he could still hear her voice as clearly as his own.

He knew she would not be proud of the decisions he had made. But neither would she condemn him for them. He was sure about that.

The pirate shivered and tried to clear his head. She always came to mind right before a raid, since the very first one, but her memory haunted him more lately. He thought he knew why, too.

In the beginning there was little choice for him, trapped as he was between crime and starvation. He had done what was needed to survive. But things had changed since then.

His ill-gotten gains had built up to a tidy sum. It wasn’t the vast fortunes hoarded by pirates of legend, but it was enough. It was time.

Time for one last heist.

Time to retire.

That’s it. More a teaser than a story, but it was fun to make. I like the ambiguity of it, we know so little yet it still tells a story.

So there’s my ultra-short fiction for today. Maybe I’ll have more next weekend, who knows.
Next up, book reviews!

NaNoWriMo update, and Chapter 2

I got off to a strong start on National Novel Writing Month, but that didn’t last. I got stuck trying to figure out what to do next, and wound up spinning my wheels a lot. I’m trying to adopt a philosophy of “I’ll fix it in the second draft!” but it’s not coming easily.

I don’t know what my wordcount is right now, but I’m sure that I’m far behind. It may already be too much for me to get to 50,000. And that’s okay, I’m going to keep working on it anyway. For all my whining about this project, I’ve gotten more actual story written than I have for the space opera setting I’ve been planning for over a year and a half now!

Chapter 2 could be subtitled “In which there is much pointless talking, and very little happens.” Neither me nor my characters knew what to do next, so I wound up writing dialogue as they flailed around trying to figure out what to do. There are a few good moments, but mostly it’s just boring.

NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. I’m trying to remember that. When I’m done, if I hate it, I’ll fix it in the second draft!

I honestly hadn’t planned to post any more of this, but since I’ve had multiple people ask me when I’m posting the next chapter I may as well. This means, of course, that you have only yourselves to blame. Read on if you dare!

(Or, go back to Chapter 1)

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NaNoWriMo update, and Chapter 1

So here we are, near the end of Day Two of NaNoWriMo. I’ve been setting my word count goals at 2,000 words per day, on the theory that this gives me some leeway for when I inevitably screw up.

Right now my word count is just over 5,000. I’m feeling pretty good about that, and taking the rest of the night off to watch classic (or at least old) horror movies with popcorn & beer. I’m going to post the first chapter of my incredibly rough draft here for your reading… er…. for your reading.

I haven’t really found my tone for this book yet. And that’s okay, NaNoWriMo is about quantity, not quality. So far it’s looking like a sort of fanfic crossover between Discworld and the Dresden Files. I’ve had a lot of fun dreaming up the world these characters live in. This chapter is going to be under the same Creative Commons license all my blog posts are, which means you can share it as long as you take no money, give me credit, and link back here.

This is a real adventure for me. I never learned to write a proper outline, you see, so while I have a few ideas for how things might turn out, I’m really making this up as I go. With only a few exceptions I honestly don’t know what’s foreshadowing and what’s a red herring or just flavor filler.

I don’t know how long I can keep going before I paint myself into a corner, but I have a few ideas for escaping if I get stuck, including radically changing the genre of the book if things get desperate.

Without further ado, here’s the first chapter of my as-yet-unnamed novel. (The footnote might be a little awkward, sorry about that.)

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An Old Memory

The sound was indistinct and seemed far away, the best interpretation she could think of was many children singing. She walked through the nursery, smiling down at the sleeping infant in the crib, and opened the window a crack.

The chilly October breeze made her shiver a little, but she couldn’t make out any new details about the sound. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye caught her attention but by the time she looked it was gone. She found herself staring at the gibbous moon, with an impression that she’d seen something fly in front of its face.

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The Mime’s Nightmare

Walking down the street, lost in thought. A shock of pain as his nose hits an unseen wall.

Taken aback, he notices the silence. All is quiet to him now, in the heart of a bustling metropolis.

He feels the smooth surface of the invisible wall, trying to find the edge. Instead he finds a corner, and then another.

Trapped on a crowded sidewalk, in an invisible box. The city’s pedestrians continue past him, deftly stepping aside.

He pounds on the walls and screams, but the people take no notice. They go about their business as if unaware of their surroundings.

He tries to lift, to shake, to rock, but the unseen prison will not move. The people ignore him, he is just another obstacle in the sidewalk.

He looks at the city, and it does not look back. He sees secrets, unexpected beauty and hidden ugliness, but he cannot share them.

With a sinking heart he realizes that they’re all in boxes, unseen personal prisons for each individual. While he cannot see the box that traps him, the crowd cannot see anything else.

The Kiss

She sat in the wheelchair and waited, doubts gnawing at her. She wasn’t sure what to expect, he would arrive any minute and see her in the chair for the first time. She’d been dreading this day as the growing weakness in her legs made walking an increasingly limited resource, finally she could no longer pretend. Even though she’d warned him that this day was coming, quiet fears whispered to her. “Can I still be sexy?”

She was so lost in her thoughts she didn’t hear the door open, and suddenly there he was, closing the door behind him. Their eyes locked and for an instant she thought she saw sadness flicker across his face before he smiled. He stepped forward and knelt before the chair. Looking at his face this close, she was certain that a little sadness tinged his smile, and that made her hesitate. Torn between reaching for him and pulling away, she parted her lips a little. As though taking it as a signal, he leaned forward and kissed her.

Time stopped for a breathless instant and she sat completely still, her eyes closed, her mind focused on the warmth & pressure of his lips. Then she lifted her arms to embrace him and inhaled deeply, smelling soap and aftershave. Suddenly aware of his hands on her back she leaned into him, the kiss growing more intense as she ran fingers up his neck and into his hair. The tips of their tongues touched as his hands slid down her body, curling fingers around her hips and pulling her to him, pressing as much of their bodies against each other as possible. Her legs wrapped around him, holding him with all the strength they could muster. Her fingers contracted, grabbed one handful of shirt and another of hair, and she felt his breath hitch in a tiny shudder as his arms lifted to enfold her.

After what seemed like a long time, the intensity started to wane and they began to relax. Gradually they disentangled themselves and looked into each other’s eyes. She started to say something just as he did, and they both laughed. Her fears at ease, she smiled and pulled him forward for a second kiss.


Long ago in the time of fantasy, far away across the sea, a village was being terrorized by a dragon. It burned crops and houses, ate sheep and cattle, and even killed people. The village was very poor, but they knew this dragon would soon be the end of them, so they put together as much money as they could and offered it as a reward to anyone who could kill the dragon.

News didn’t spread as quickly back then, so mostly the only people who heard about the reward were those who passed by the village on their journey. One knight heard about the dragon, and decided a monster like that was too dangerous for him to deal with. Another knight heard the story but thought the reward was too small to be worth his time. And so the village suffered. Read the rest of this entry

Take good care of your tools

This is for Daily Post topic #277, which was to write a story ending with the relevent sentence.

Cold water washed quietly over the floor, shocking the dazed man lying in the wreckage back into motion. The air smelled of wet stone, oil and grease, and smoke with just a hint of ozone. The soft humming of the high voltage transformers was occasionally drowned out by the crackle of a Jacob’s Ladder, or the mewing of a cat. As the man groaned and sat up, his vision gradually cleared enough for him to peer through the haze at his surroundings.

The lab was a shambles. Nearly a third of the various machines and instruments had suffered some sort of significant damage. The Van de Graaff generator was a total loss, the glass tubes & beakers of mysterious colored liquids would need to be swept up and disposed with a dustpan and mop, the big water tank was leaking badly enough to put the piranhas in serious jeopardy, and the machine that goes “ping!” had pinged its last. No sensible person would dare use the elevating thunderstorm platform until all the rails had been thoroughly inspected, and there were probably books knocked off the cunningly built swinging bookshelf that disguised the outer door.

Worse than the damage and mess, though, was that the experiment had been set back months at least, and all for nothing. The only change in the cat at all was that its fur had turned bright pink. Having learned his lesson, it was the last time Dr. Jiggybones would let the crossbeams get out of skew on the treadle.

Challenge 2: RIP Me

March 15, 2105

Part-time celebrity and laissez-faire dictator Leo Tarvi was killed in his home this afternoon in an unlikely accident involving massage oil, a French bra with excellent elastic, and really good false teeth. Although no further details have yet been released, he is said to have “died with a smile on his face.” Read the rest of this entry

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