December 26, 2011
There’s a new short story contest up at the Straight Dope board, and I decided that this time, I was going to put some more thought into outlining it, not just start writing the first idea I thought of when I got the prompt.
That wasn’t particularly easy. I had a notion what I wanted to do when I started, mostly because of the picture, which had a clock and a bell hanging from a chain, (which immediately made me think of time travel or time manipulation,) but when I tried to apply what I’d learned in Kansas and from other workshops and classes over the past year, I kept ending up on storylines that were missing conflict, or a good antagonist, or something else important like that.
And time was somewhat running out – the contest rules specify that you have sixty hours from when you collect the prompt – I sent in my email yesterday morning before leaving for Christmas with the family, (hoping that I’d be able to mull over ideas in the back of my mind,) and so I need to have my finished story in by tomorrow night.
This evening, though, after I printed off some handouts from Julie Czerneda’s site, things suddenly started to fall into place. I ended up writing nearly 1800 words in an hour and a bit, some of which will have to get cut to finish the outline in under 2000 words, but it’s a great start, and I think that I’ll keep the entire first draft without cuts to refer to later. I’d been mulling over the idea of enclosed spaces where time runs slower or faster than normal, and then got an idea about one possible application of ‘fast time bottles’ that really got things moving.
Here’s the outline that I’ve been working off. Note that ‘sequel’ is a technical term that I learned from James Gunn in the Kansas workshop – it’s not a seperate work of fiction, but a kind of scene that’s less active and conflict-driven than the usual kind, but serves to bridge between proper scenes.
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February 17, 2011
Well, let’s see. I’ve been working on helping somebody get a game of ‘Haggle’ started over on the Straight Dope Message Board. Haggle online is fun, but it sucks away a lot of time, either when you’re playing or when you’re moderating. Luckily, this time, I’m just helping to moderate.
The way it works is like this. First, the moderator comes up with a set of scoring/trading counters, usually themed, and rules about how they’re scored. For instance, you might start with playing cards, and have rules that start with all spades are worth one point, hearts two, and so on. Then you could have a special bonus rule that says that getting two or more jacks is worth 10 per jack, and another that warns that if you have more than five clubs, they’re only worth a single point all together.
Each player starts with a kit of trading counters, and a few of the rules. Play is conducted a little like the stock exchange – everybody starts making trade offers, and if you like an offer, you can accept it. If you don’t like the offer well enough, you can make a counteroffer.
The basic points of offers are either trading in the counters, or trading information about the scoring rules. The counters are limited to what players had at the start, but information tends to grow, because once you’ve seen a rule you can’t unsee it – though you might see a rule that specifically contradicts and overrules the first rule, if the moderator is mean enough. (All rule sets should be clear and unambiguous when the full set is revealed, though.)
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December 25, 2010
Well, Christmas festivities are over. Thanks to my family for the candy and the gift cards.
Time to buckle down on writing/critiquing/editing, and even though I really have enough other things on my list, I’m going to participate in the third Straight Dope Message Board writing contest. I’ve really enjoyed participating in it each time before, and last time I basically got my Nanowrimo idea from the short fiction contest, so that certainly recommends trying again.
A few things about the format are similar – every writer gets the same three prompt words and a photo that they have to include in the finished story, and a time limit. On account of holiday schedules, they’re trying a new wrinkle in which not every participant has to fit into the same writing window – you send an email to a particular mailbox to signal that you’re ready to begin, and get an autoreply with your prompts. You then have two and a half days, (or 60 hours) to complete your entry and email it in.
To take best advantage of my available free time for the holidays, I’ll probably start around 8am tomorrow, so that I’ll have until 8pm on Tuesday, the evening before I go back to work. And I actually have a little secret weapon of a plot notion that I *might* work in, if it looks like it’ll fit with the prompt.
It’s nice to get a chance to go with little unplanned side treks like this in my writing when other commitments allow. The first SDMB contest, I ended up coming up with something that wasn’t exactly fanfic but somewhat close – it was a little spy story that was a spoof of the TV show ‘Chuck’, with Chuck’s character painted as a completely incompetent secret agent, and his long-suffering brother-in-law constantly covering for him. Last time, I ventured a bit further into original territory, coming up with a storyline of an angel on a mission who fell in love with a human girl and ran away with her, which got tweaked somewhat as the basis of “The Angel’s Charlie.”
I can’t wait to see where the paths less traveled take me this time.