Saturday, June 29, 2013

What If...exercises in story exploration

Writers try all kinds of crazy stuff to get the creative juices flowing. Long walks on the beach, dangerous and exciting new adventures like rock climbing, snowboarding, volcano dipping...

I haven't worked up to that yet. For the last month I've been reading from my TBR pile (more on that later), listening to some audiobooks and brainstorming plots. I picked up my old copy of What If writing exercises for writers, and chose a random exercise. (The updated version of this book by Bernays and Painter is available but the old one is awesome.)

The author suggested creating a flash card type of system with index cards. It goes like this.

With one set of cards you mark a vocation on each. I chose pink for the vocations. On another, orange, this is tougher, you place specific actions like 'running in a marathon' or ' driving a bus'. I went one step further to make myself explore more options.  On one card I put, driving ________, driving a car, driving a motorcycle, so that based on the circumstances of when I pull the card I could fill it in even with 'driving him crazy'. (The authors say try not to be too mundane or too melodramatic.)

Next you ask yourself a question - "Why did char from Card A do Card B? The idea is you pull a vocation and an action, until you like the combination. Think of the scene that comes to mind as the last scene of the story. Now what possibilities leading up to that point does this exercise create in setting, behavior, and conflict?

When I was taking the Holly Lisle course on Thinking Sideways she had us do a bubble type of brainstorming divided into maps for - things I fear, things I'm drawn to, things I love, etc. This exercise works for each writer as uniquely as that one did simply because the ideas are based on your own story ideas and life experiences. So my cards won't look anything like any of my readers' cards.

What detailed actions and vocations come to mind for you?

Also, I was encouraged last year by one of my friends, Bill Kirton, to try flash fiction, those incredibly short pieces of work that require a concise use of all the elements of story in less than 1000 words. (Some sites require even less.)

I submitted my first flash fiction for the Christmas Noir post over the holidays. The story, entitled, the Right to Bear Arms written under my pen name, Skye Chase, will be on the blog Do Some Damage in the next couple days.  It's a bit different than my usual...

What have you been doing to keep the momentum going during the holidays?