Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Writing excuses season 10 master class Ep 4

Episode 4 Q&A on ideas

There was no homework for episode 3… I swear there wasn’t.
But for episode 4 it is: Audition five different characters for one of your story ideas.

Change the sex, age, jobs, ethnicity, or have different levels of experience.
Find some way that they can fit in your story.

Hmmm… I am going to choose the role of the detective in the widow time travel case.

1. older and experienced man of colour

All I can think of is the movie se7en, or Lethal Weapon, so my older, world weary detective is Morgan Freeman - he’s an older man of colour, well read, and he has weeks before he retires. But he trusts his instincts and this case has him smelling a rat. He is open to ideas of time travel because he has always had a cheap scifi paperback in the pocket of his trench coat. As a result of his reading, he has absorbed a few rules of science and quantum mechanics. He has Internet friends at university labs that he chats to online and can ask ‘hypothetical’ questions.
So… he actually believes the widow and knows that her husband's murder can’t be written up as solved, but he wants to travel through time. Maybe it’s on his bucket list?
Does his time trip change the case somehow? Does he solve the case and then retire in the past? Or the future? Does the widow want the time machine? Or would she give it away?

2. young and inexperienced

And female? Such a massive chip on her shoulder to prove that she is as good as the other detectives, but they have deliberately given her the freaky weird, rich guy case thinking that it will be too difficult and destroy her, or that she will bring down a legal case against the department from the widow, or have Internal Affairs all up in her business, or that she will fail so badly she will go back to uniform. They will take any of these options. And they have made themselves scarce to leave her to her fate.
She, on the other hand, more than needs to solve it. She HAS to solve it. Her own self-worth is pegged to this case. It’s a rookie mistake but she’s a rookie. She gets emotional about the kids and the widow, gets protective of the widow against the insurance company, angry with the widow’s lover; gah this girl’s got issues… lol.
How does that spin it when the case looks like being unsolvable? Is there a way she can get a result? If so, how? Does her emotions help solve the case?
Who is her partner? Are they on sick leave or something that leaves her alone all the time. Who is the murderer? And what is their motive?

3. male, geeky, young CSI dude

He’s not supposed to investigate the case but just try and stop him when those weird lab results come in. He keeps going out to the house to redo tests. He feels sorry for the kids / widow, and pushes the investigation. Does the tests the detectives haven’t even ordered. Generally gets too involved in the case. 
Sticks his hacker nose into bank account records. Checks up on the widow’s lover.
Or does he start with the odd blood tests from the victim? He can’t get it to add up - the rare illness, the symptoms/residue (whatever time travel does to your blood) and the way he was murdered. He may discover that the kids are not the victim’s children and when the widow tells him she was encouraged to find other fathers for them, he gets dragged into it.
Does he invent some techie machine that reads temporal residue or chromatic particles or whatever (makes it out of cast off lab equipment) and it goes crazy at the house. He finds and identifies the time travel device himself.
Maybe he has anxiety issues similar to the victim’s fear of the dark?

4. shady antique dealer

Imagine if a crooked antique dealer got hold of a time machine? You like Hepplewhite chairs? I can get a set of eight for you … but it will cost.
No, wait - that’s a whole new story.

5. MacGyver /Jim Rockford detective

Or Michael Weston of Burn Notice for the modern viewers.
He’s a rule breaker detective, never does his filing or types up his own reports. He flirts with the widow, cuts corners, knows all the shady types but has a heart of gold and takes the hopeless cases and solves them in his own way. Has legion of people he has helped before who can assist. They follow the lover and the insurance investigator.
He hates guns.
Make him a different ethnicity; Spanish or Italian or North African. Maybe he has family connections that he uses all the time, too.
What MacGyver would do with a time machine is another whole novel as well… bwahaha.

But the big issue is working out the why and whodunit of the murder, before I go crazy on the detective options. Or, do I do a Christie and have several options, any of whom could be the murderer and decide at the last minute.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Personal update

I am not so good with New Year resolutions. I usually don’t make any and then there is nothing to break. *grins* But I am trying to get a handle on my own self-doubt, or the anxiety troll that lives inside my head and tells me I'm rubbish. I really want to get some major works out this year.
I have followed an artist, Melissa Dinwiddie, who aims to help all creative types. One of her ideas was to look at why you have this troll and what it is aiming to do. She suggested writing a letter to it from an outside perspective. Sounds odd, I know, but what I realised when I was doing this, is that my anxiety troll is just worried about me. It is so worried about me that it is trying to stop me sticking my head out in case I get kicked … again.
My troll is Marvin, Nemo’s father, who never wanted anything to happen to his son.
Imagine, for a second, a life where nothing happens to you?
Ugh… boring, eh?
This morning I read a blog post from Chuck Wendig. ARTING HARD LIKE AN ARTFUL MOTHERF***ER: 25 WAYS TO BE A BAD-ASS MAKER WHO MAKES BAD-ASS STUFF. Chuck shouts… a lot. He tags his blog as NSFL= not safe for life…
Rule 1 of this manifesto was:
Repeat After Me: “F*** It, I’m Doing It Anyway”
Huh… okay.
Rule 2 was: learn to care less.
It makes sense; I know it makes sense. Chuck also suggests not getting so upset about bad reviews; look at what they are actually saying.
I also followed another writer and authorprenuer this month, Nick Stephenson. I had seen him on a couple of podcasts and video interviews. He has great advice about selling books and marketing.
All these people want to help writers and creatives, and they all give things away. Melissa makes her art shareable, Nick’s first book is perma-free on Amazon and he will give you the second book if you sign up on his website, and Chuck gives great advice all the time. I recently bought a bundle of all seven of his writing advice ebooks directly from him for a small amount of money.
Watching one of Nick’s videos, I was on the Kobo page following what he was doing. And when the video had finished I remembered that some of my short stories are on Kobo through the Smashwords site. I hadn't looked them up in ages.
Alejandro & Maela has 11 reviews. It averages four stars.
I sat there and I blinked and then I took a deep breath and read some of the lower rated reviews. And they all pretty much mark it down, not because they hate it, or it was badly produced, but because there wasn’t enough of it.
Yes, people marked down my short story because it was… well… short. So to follow chuck’s advice, my negative reviews are saying that they wanted more.
Terrible minds

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Magic city of vane

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Picture Source: 

The city of Vane. He had been told it was a city of magic but he had misunderstood. Or perhaps it was just outside of his experience; he had never been to a place like this before. He stood on an external balcony of one of the higher buildings. And here height was determined by actual elevation of the building, not the number of levels in a building.
But one floated above all the others. It wasn’t as large or as fancy as some of the others. It intrigued him. They had literally separated their floating platform from the rest of the city. It hovered so far above the rest of the city that it resembled a water lily, striking out of the pond altogether to a new plane. Was it arrogance? Or did they have some other reason?
“You ready?” his host asked.
He looked at the man, dressed in an elaborate cloak with a matching high collar that covered all of his neck. Under the gown he was naked to the waist, the latest fashion, his legs in close fitted leggings and boots to just below the knee. It looked like an outfit for a horseman but such things didn’t exist in this world. Nor did the concept of physical work; at least for the upper ranks. Their powers relieved them from doing physical work. He was surprised that his host, Brax, had a body as muscular as he did.
Looking with his deeper vision, his ribbed abdomen was now flat and the chest more sunken. Ah. Brax used magic for glamour. Brax must be powerful to have the excess mana to waste, or narcissistic enough not to care. He had worked for his muscles.
“Which family owns that building?” he asked, as he pointed at the highest floating island.
A flash of irritation crossed his face, before Brax cleared his throat. “That sad little habitation belongs to the Hockets although there are only two remaining.”
When Kayseri did not reply, he continued, “Look at it... no domes, no glass or spires... just sad little conical roofs like we used to build centuries ago... they should be forced to update it.”
“It doesn’t fit with the rest of the city.” He huffed out a breath and folded his cloak over his chest. He acted as if it was personally insulting. “It’s a relic.”
So rank was also demonstrated by the decoration of your home? Perhaps they did not have the funds, or would not waste the mana. Or perhaps they just didn’t like to associate with everyone else?
“I quite like it,” Kayseri said.
“You would.” He spun with enough force to make the cloak hem flare. “We have a meeting.”
Kayseri tried to keep track of the route they took to the central dome but it was too complicated. they waited at the back of a crowd of people until the meeting reached a point where matters not listed on the agenda could be raised. Brax had to introduce his distant cousin; he should not be in the city without permission.
Kayseri was ordered forward to stand in front of a rank of senior mages.
“Who’s this?” an ancient man asked.
“Kayseri of the Kudal clan,” he introduced himself.
“Is there a problem, Lord Hocket?” the chair asked.
A croaky chuckle. “He’s here... I told you he was coming.”
This statement caused a major ruckus.
As everybody talked over the top of each other and made it impossible to hear whatever the old man was saying, a young woman stepped forward and stood right in front of him.
He tilted his head to scan her. She was magically powerful; it radiated from her if you knew how to see it.
She didn’t greet him. She didn’t speak. She didn’t shake his hand. She flung her arms around his neck as if he was a long lost lover and she kissed him full on the lips. The reaction from his body was immediate.
He kissed her back and it felt familiar although he did not know how it could. They had never met. His arms wound around her back and held her flush against him.
His mana flared and it set off a similar reaction in her. Waves of magic streamed off them both.
When his head drew back they were both breathing heavily.
“Aphenia Hocket,” she said.
“Hello.” He almost crooned it.
“Can I call you Kay?” She pressed her groin into his and he bowed her back to push it further against him.
She laughed. “Kayseri it is, then.”
“Who, or what am I?” he asked her.
“You are my life partner.”
“I gathered that.” Plenty of women had been in his life but none had sparked that mana reaction before. And Lord Hocket had clearly had some kind of premonition; a rare magic indeed.
“And you are our saviour,” she added.
“I’m too selfish to be a saviour.”
“To put it another way, your appearance will herald a new era of magic.” She brushed some hair back from his forehead.
“One where people don’t waste mana on better abs?” he whispered. It had the added bonus of placing his lips near her neck so he kissed it.
She let out a delighted laugh. “Exactly.”
He decided her laugh was its own kind of magic. He looked up to realise the entire room had fallen silent and was watching them.
As he glanced across the crowd, they all sank to the floor in a low bow. Brax was one of the last to do so. He would remember that.

He was very glad that he had taken notice of the persistent dream telling him to go to the city of Vane. Things were about to get very interesting.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The village

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

The man approached the small town. He was tired and needed a room for the night and he assumed the town would provide one.
But when he got to the centre of town (marked by a circular garden with a sign post in the centre of it) he noticed something very unusual. The sign had been raked  by an animal with four claws. A very tall animal. One that could both reach the sign, mark it and do it with such control that it didn't knock it over.
And then, after that, it had torn the door off one house. And left it in the centre of the path. The house on the right fared no better. It sported an enormous hole in the roof and a broken window. The front door was open or missing as well, and he saw that it was actually a shop; not a home.
He stuck his head inside. “Hello?”
An older man, looking harried and stressed, stood up from a crouch. He held a dustpan and broom in his hand. He made the kind of small groan that someone with back trouble makes when they stand up.
“Sorry,” the stranger apologised. “I was just looking for a room for the night.”
“Do you mind sleeping on the floor?”
“I’ll pay you to sleep here.”
“Pay me?” he queried.
“Why not? You look like a strong young man.”
A roof over his head, and coin in his pocket? He was thinking about it and in the meantime, the man spoke again, “I’m so tired. And I’m too old for this.”
“And your back hurts.”
He got an odd look for that.
“You’ll do it?” the shopkeeper checked.
“Throw in a plate of that stew I can smell and I’ll do it.”
“Done.” The shopkeeper handed him the dustpan and broom.
By the time he had finished making sure the floor was glass free, dinner was on the table. He ate with gusto but he was going to earn it. It was a brave man who kept watch against whatever it was that had attacked the town and had claws that large.
Turning all the lights out, the owner headed off to his own room out the back and his impromptu guard bedded down on the floor. Pity the shopkeeper didn’t see him; he turned around three times before he curled up in a neat bundle and went to sleep. His hearing was good enough to notice an intruder.
But there wouldn’t be one, he was thinking that this had worked so well, he might be able to milk it for a few days and then try it in the next town.

Monday, 19 January 2015

How many times am I going to dig you out of this grave?

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

Be sure to tag writeworld in your block!
“How many times am I going to dig you out of this grave?” he asked.
“It’s not the same grave,” she argued as she brushed soil from her shoulders.
“It is. Or close enough to it. Maybe they all look the same from your side.” He reached down a hand for her to grab.
“Who’s idea was this scam, anyway?” She paused. “Oh... yeah.”
“It’s a good scam. You are already dead so it’s not as if you have to die again.”
He brushed some soil from her cheek.
“Thanks. I think.” She was dead; undead. She had been for a very long time. “He didn’t have to stab me. That hurt.”
“Strangling is so much cleaner, too.”
She had ‘died’ a half dozen times so far. ”Let’s go scare my latest murderer to death.”
“I love this part,” he said. “And then you show up and claim his estate.”
She grabbed his arm. “Wait up... the same grave! Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He looked affronted that she would doubt him.
“How could he know?”
“Oh.” And then as he understood, “Ooh. The only way he would know is if he helped Barnaby bury a body here before.” He had been one of her previous husbands.
“Exactly. If this was the same grave Barnaby chose.”
He gave her a look. “He’s the only one who wasn’t there when you went back.”
“Yeah. I reckon we need to find him.”
He nodded. “I reckon he and Jones knew each other.” He touched her face again. “Did he suggest Ben to you somehow?” The guy who had just murdered her.
“I don’t remember how I got Ben’s name.”
“We can ask him,” he suggested.
“And then kill him.”
“Sounds like a plan.”

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Cute cat

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

Picture Source: 
“Cute cat you’ve got there,” said the delivery guy as he carried her box of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen.
“It’s not my cat.”
“Really?” He glanced at the window and back at the girl.
“That’s next door’s window and next door’s cat.”
“Oh. I see. The apartments go around the corner.”
“You must see a lot of your neighbour.”
“Oddly, I don’t.”
“I reckon it has adopted you.”
She glared at the cat and showed the man back to the door.
Bustling around, putting it all away, the cat kept watching her. “No,” she told it. “You can’t come over.”
It’s eyes seemed to get bigger.
“I said, NO. How would I even fetch you?”
“I don’t even know your owner,” she protested. “I met him once at the mail box... Cain? I think.” He was in his mid thirties and she often saw him as he headed out to run..
More staring.
She shut the curtains so she didn't have to see it.
Later when she was making coffee, she noticed the lights were still on in the apartment. She peered through the curtain and could see the cat. It was now stalking back and forth in front of the window, meowing plaintively The owner had a blind, but it wasn't shut. And the light was still on. That was odd.
She tried to peer into the apartment and the cat saw her. If she had to describe how it looked, she would have said desperate.
“All right,” she said.
Putting on her dressing gown, she went over to the front door of the neighbour's apartment. No answer when she rang but she could hear the cat; it sounded quite frantic now.
“Mr Cain?” she shouted through the door.
Still no answer. She tried the handle. She rationalized that she would just make sure the cat had food and water, and then she’d leave.
She found him on the sofa. He tried to talk and couldn’t.
Before she had even thought about it, she had phoned emergency and asked for an ambulance. “I think he’s had a heart attack.”
That phrase made them move very quickly. She gave them all the details.
She let them in; scooped up the cat so it didn’t run and watched them work on him, and then load him into an ambulance.
“You are a clever cat,” she told it before taking it back to her apartment.
After a couple of days she went to visit him at the hospital. “Thank you,” he said.
“It was your cat.”
“Is that his name?”
He nodded.
“Are you going to be all right?” she asked.
“It was a heart attack. I just felt really tired and drained. Couldn’t even get up to feed the cat.”
“It’s probably the jogging,” she quipped.
He gave her a rueful smile. “They said it was lucky I was as fit as I was or it might have been fatal.”
“You should have gone to the doctor.”
“I did. He told me to come back in a few days and then I was too exhausted to do it..”
She winced.
“How did you guess that’s what it was?”
“I read some pamphlet the other day when I was waiting for something. Heart attacks can be more than just a shooting pain in the left arm.”
“Thank you.”
“And Thursby.” She smiled at him. “I'll look after him until you can get home.”

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Monster raid

A picture says a thousand words. Write them.
Mission: Write a #story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a critique about this picture. Write something about this picture.
Be sure to tag #writeworld in your block!

The pirate town of Lobo de Mar was a place of sanctuary. They all needed to fence their goods, sell items off, buy supplies, and then spend their hard earned coin on women and drink. And of course, some coin on repairs, new sails and supplies. It only worked if everyone kept the peace.
And everyone did.
Until... there was a new guy. He was brash, arrogant, and too sure of his abilities given his age. Most pirates learned the hardest way. His crew were equally young and inexperienced. But he had a few lucky breaks and once he had some prizes, a few other crew members with greater experience came on board and they helped him get greater prizes.
So his recklessness made him attack an old Danish ship. and he took something he should not have, a small carved emblem of a cephalopod. He was young and he didn’t believe in ancient sea creatures.
When he threw the bag of stolen jewellery onto the fence’s table, the fence sorted through it chatting as he did so. Then he stopped talking.
“What?” Young Mitch asked.
“Oh no, son. You should not have taken this.” He held up the emblem.
He looked momentarily unnerved. “Pfft. You don’t believe that rubbish, do you?”
“How long have you held this?”
He shrugged. “I dunno... a week... maybe ten days.”
“You fool. Why can you not listen to your elders?”
“Because they are stupid old men full of the ridiculous stories of the past.”
The fence’s house was built close to the quay front. It was about four storeys tall with a large storeroom at the back. Close to the harbour and the dock was convenient for ships, not so good for bad weather. But the harbour was protected from most weather events that was why the pirates used it.
The fence threw the emblem in his face. “Get rid of it!”
“Get on a quick ship and get out of here as fast as you can.”
Mitch looked flummoxed and then he laughed. “You don’t believe that-”
The alarm bells went off before he finished the sentence.
The fence ran to the window and looked out. Nothing was there yet, but it was coming. He spun to face the pirate captain. “You have killed us all.”
Mitch paled.
“The kraken,” whispered the fence.
“No! It doesn’t exist.”
“It does.”
Mitch looked at the emblem in his hand, and then he threw it at the other man. “Take it!”
“It’s already here. You idiot. Didn’t anyone tell you not to steal that?”
“One of the old guys - but he didn’t make any sense!”
“You just didn’t believe him.”
Some of the cannier pirates were abandoning the town for the ships but they were running out of time. The freak wave crested in the harbour entrance where the water started to shallow out. Others were running for the higher ground. Out of range.
Reaching out of the water, the gigantic tentacle wrapped around the first ship. It dipped but bobbed back up before the tentacle slithered further around it and then started to tighten. The woodwork groaned, almost screamed as the ship was compressed and then torn apart. Shards of wood exploded out; tearing through the sides of other ships, or striking into the buildings around the docks.
“It c-can’t be,” said Mitch. “The kraken is a myth.”
The enormous body lifted out of the water as three of its tentacles reached past the ships and towards the watchtower.
Mitch grabbed the emblem and ran. He ran towards the creature.
If the fence was right, then this attracted it, or controlled it. He was hoping it was the latter. He had brought it here and he was responsible for all the damage and the deaths it caused.
Not that he even knew how to control it, but he had to try. They were all dead if he didn’t.
Shoving through hysterical people, he tried to get closer to the water. He clenched his fingers around the emblem and he shouted, “Stop!” It couldn’t hear him but it seemed to turn towards him.
Maybe it only understood Danish? But the word for stop was close enough in both languages.
It stopped.
He almost didn’t believe it. He pointed back out the harbour entrance. “Forlade!” (leave)
It didn’t want to. It gripped tighter to the ship it was wound around, snapping it in half.
“Ikke. Forlade. Vente.” (no. leave. wait.)
It went. But the damage it left behind was immense.
People looked at him in horror. They were frightened of him.
He smiled.
It was not a pretty smile.