Welcome To My Blog

Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Writing Prompt #38


            Technology is a wonderful thing—most of the time. Put a sparkling new gadget in a writer’s hands and the results may not be a warm and fuzzy tale describing the enlightened nature of mankind. And if you want the story to engage readers the exact opposite is the more likely result.

            Scientific journals and magazines are a good source of inspiration for this writing prompt. Find a new technology or an updated to an existing technology and think of a way it could be used for evil or misused with disastrous results. It could even be a matter of unforeseen side affects that threaten to bring ruin. Then write a story around it.

            This can also be done with recent social trends, such as car sharing, reverse brain drain, or the development of mega cities as large as some of our smaller states.

            For my example, I looked at the trend to apply smart technology to everything.

Too Smart – As the man who found a way to link all of the smart technologies together, Howard is known as the Father of the smart world. His plans to enjoy the fruits of his labors are disrupted when his own personal “Smart System” begins to have daddy issues. He must find a way to control his disgruntled child before he is forced to embrace a non-tech lifestyle in a remote region of the world.




Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Writing Prompt #37

            PROMPT 37 – VILLAINS FIRST

            While it is important to have a well-rounded set of writing skills the truth of the matter is that some elements in a story are more important to its success than others. Strong opening hooks and a killer tagline are pivotal in attracting an audience to your story, but the villain is often the deciding factor in how much they enjoy it once they immerse themselves into your tale.
            Where would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? Or Silence of the Lambs without Hannibal Lecter? This prompt is based on the premise that you can build a story around an interesting villain.
            Start with a concept for your villain. Maybe you already have one in mind that has been sitting in your character diary for years waiting to get out. If not, take a look at stories with strong villains and either alter one of them to fit your story or combine two of them to create someone completely different. Once you have a villain determine what it is they want and throw the hero in the way.
            For my example, I latched onto the idea of a villain who believes that if he kills the people that he loves they will be with him in the afterlife. So he is motivated out of a fear of being alone and wants to make sure that when he finally dies he will be surrounded by the people who really loved him. I decided to place my villain into a Romance-Horror. (Is that even a category?)

Kill the Ones You Love – After years of dating losers, Mary has finally found the perfect man. He is kind, sensitive, and funny. Her life is perfect until she discovers a link between her fiancĂ© and a serial killer who has murdered his four wives, all of his family, and a large number of his in-laws. How can she convince him to call off the wedding without making him mad enough to kill her?




Writing Prompt #36

            PROMPT 36 – HAZARD DUTY
            Novels, television, and movies are filled with stories about police, fire-fighters, soldiers, and lawyers. These seem to be the professions people consider the most dangerous or dramatic. While in some cases that might be true it doesn’t need to be for the story you are writing.
            Pick a profession and then think of a storyline that puts the character into danger or an otherwise interesting situation. The problem could be fantastic, or mysterious, or even mundane and funny. Selecting an occupation which you have worked will allow you to draw from your personal experience. In not, the story will develop out of your research about the chosen profession.

            These professions were taken from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

            - Dump Grounds Checker (Sanitary Landfill Worker)
            - Laserist (Creates laser light shows)
            - Rug Cleaner
            - TNT Line-Supervisor
            - Senior-Commisary Agent in Air Transportation

One Man’s Garbage – Working at the dump was slow, dull, and stinky. Just the way James liked it—except for the smell. The important thing about it was that his job was blissfully void of any excitement which might over-stress his weak heart. That is, until he noticed that the trucks from one specific company were entering the dump empty and leaving it full. The situation gets worse when he discovers the trucks are being driven by aliens from outer space. Now he has to convince someone in the Federal government that Earth has been invaded before he has a heart-attack or the aliens catch him?



Thursday, August 18, 2016

Writing Prompt #35

            PROMPT 35 – PLAY IT BACKWARD

            Endings are incredibly important. If an author nails the ending then readers are going to be psyched for the next book. Get it wrong and you have the chance of losing your readers. This writing prompt places the ending front and center during the story creation process.
            Start by writing a killer ending. Maybe you have one in mind, a scene that screams award-winning finale. If not, take a look at stories that ended strong. See if they give you any ideas. You can even examine stories that failed to deliver a satisfying ending. How would you end them differently? Once you have an ending, decide how the characters reach that point. In other words, write the story backward, from end to beginning.

            My killer ending ends with one word—Oops.

Manic Pressed Destiny – Dash has two problems. The first is that he enjoys life—all of it. There simply isn’t enough time to go everywhere and experience everything. That is until the personification of Destiny recruits him for a mission to save the universe. Breath-taking views, beautiful damsels in minor situations of distress, wickedly cool bad guys, and opportunities for daring adventure. Unfortunately, there’s that second problem. Dash is a total klutz.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Writing Prompt #33

            PROMPT 33 - OBSESSION

            This prompt is useful in creating character-driven stories. Select multiple characters in the story and give them conflicting obsessions. These can be characters you developed yourself or they can be based on characters out of other stories. The point of this prompt is to decide how their lives and the story would be different if they chose to follow their obsession instead of their original goal. You can even use this on story you have written that seems to lack sufficient sizzle.

            You can also give a single character conflicting obsessions and see how it plays out. Imagine how different Frankenstein’s story would be if he had an obsession for fame and fortune in addition to his passion for science.


Wright and Wrong – Kittyhawk marked the birth of aviation history and the start of a feud between the Wright brothers. Always pragmatic, Wilbur wants to establish the first aeronautical empire while Orville aims to soar high in the social circles of Europe and the United States. Their only hope of doing either depends on them working together.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Writing Prompt #31


            This is a character driven prompt. Take a few moments to visualize a character. It can be as simple as stating a stereotype like a newspaper boy or a boring banker. Then think of the worst thing that could happen to him/her. You can even take it a step further and decide on a character for the B-Story and create the worst situation that could exist between them.
            Here are a few character suggestions to work with.
            A teen-aged witch

            A star college football player

            An alien spy from another planet

            Your neighbor

            Your spouse

            Your best friend           

            My pitch for this exercise is based on an alien spy from another planet.

Star Power –Zarklo received very specific instructions for his mission on Earth. Stay out of sight and observe the humans. All that is left in the proverbial galactic space dust when he wanders onto a Hollywood movie set and is mistaken for the title character in the latest creature feature. Fame, fortune, and did we mention fame? His picture is on billboards and in advertisements across the globe. Then he receives news that his supervisor is on his way to monitor his mission progress.


Writing Prompt #30


            At the start of your writing time for the day, jot down three ideas that interest you. Then pick the one that most interests you. Close your eyes and imagine it as a movie playing inside your head. What happens? Write about what took place inside your head.
            Instead of a topic you can do this with a character. In this case, close your eyes and picture the first person that comes to mind. Describe this person and then plop him/her into a setting and see what develops.
            In either case, let the images flow on their own and write down the result in your movie/writing journal.

            My movie journal entry for this exercise is based on an image of an angel coming to my mind.

Angels and Children – Tommy is a junior angel. His eighth birthday was just around the corner when he was called back to heaven. That was a year ago. His first assignment starts when a young mother prays for her six-year-old child who is starting school the next day. Tommy must help the handicapped Patrick as he navigates the strange, new environment without friends and hiding a handicap. Quite a first assignment for a junior angel.


Writing Prompt #29


            It may sound a bit morbid, but with this prompt you’re going to get inspiration for your story from the obituaries. Look at a couple of the biographies on the obituaries page and select one that grabs your attention. Ask yourself what sort of story would a person like this be involved in. Make changes to the character as needed.  

            Sample Obituary: Following high school, Robert Pulson enlisted in the Navy, serving on a ship that patrolled the Panama Canal area. He received a B.S. degree and spent his career doing hybrid corn research in Kansas. Due to his disability he took an early retirement from Corn King Co. His retirement interests were music related.  

            The pitch for this exercise is based on the above obituary.  

Ghosts of the Corn – A Navy enlisted man and his buddies spend a week trekking through the jungles of Panama and discover a native tribe who cultivate a corn field where the dead walk the earth. When he steals several ears of corn to plant in his parent’s farm in Kansas, tribal spirits of the dead work against him, first to prevent the corn from growing and then to disrupt his studies to develop a hybrid which will grow in Kansas where his brother is buried. Robert wants is one last conversation with his brother to resolve the argument they had before his death, but the haunting may drive him insane before his research succeeds.



Writing Prompt #28


Using this prompt should result in creating stories that are more emotionally driven since they will be based on the author’s life experiences. Allow words to flow from your subconscious to the page, making a list of any nouns that are generated this way. Then let your mind associate those with mental pictures out of your past. These become the foundation for your stories.

For instance:

Airplane – climbing a plane monument in a park and nearly falling off.

Truck – my family taking a vacation in my dad’s beat up Chevy.

Lumber – working with an accident prone laborer twice my age.            

Slow Moe – Randy started his construction career as a laborer under the tutelage of Joe “Moe” Morrison. Moe suffered injury after injury, remaining a laborer even after Randy started his own construction company and hired him. Then Randy suffers a debilitating work injury and Moe offers help Randy at home until he recovers. In the wake of their strengthening friendship, Randy discovers that Moe’s mishaps weren’t funny at all.


Writing Prompt #27


This is similar to the Titles prompt in which you look at the names of books, movies, and songs to inspire you in creating an original story. The difference is that with this prompt you are creating the title yourself rather than looking at what’s already out there.
During the process of naming some of your earlier works you may have developed a list of titles that sounded great, but didn’t fit the story as well as you would have liked. This is a perfect time to trot those out and put them to use. Or maybe a great title for a story popped into your head while you were driving to work. Now you just need a story to go with it.
If inspiration hasn’t dropped the name of a story into your lap then you will have to work a bit to build one. Modify a quote, an old saying, or a verse from the Bible to make it sound snappy. Make a list of random words from the dictionary and move them around until they form some sort of cohesive line that grabs your attention. Take the first line of your favorite novel and turn it into a title.

            The pitch for this exercise is based on a title that came to me several years ago and, for whatever reason, caught my attention—The Price of Souls. 

The Price of Souls – Lona dreamed of becoming the first woman President of the United States. Then she grew up. Life in the fast lane seemed more realistic and entertaining than childhood fantasies. One party too much and Lona stands in front of the Creator. She is charged with correcting the mistakes of her life—a task that may take generations to undo the series of ill events which resulted from her actions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Writing Prompt #26


            This prompt is based on writing a story from a radically different point of view, like that of an insect, or an alien, or even a stuffed animal. Andy Griffith started his comedic career this way when he did “What it was, was football.” The subject matter can be a common, every-day item like a family vacation.  

            Here are five unique POVs. 

            Wilson from Castaway

            Moby Dick from Moby Dick   

            The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland

            The portrait in The Picture of Dorian Gray

            The brooms in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

            Based on the broom in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice I generated this pitch.  

Stick Men - Broom marvels when he is brought to life. Before he was nothing but a tool in someone else’s hands, but now he can act on his own and he has purpose. The water has to be moved and he is just the one to do it.
            Then the world goes crazy when the creator attacks him. Or perhaps it isn’t the world that has gone insane – maybe it’s just the creator. A lowly broom may have no chance against the mighty sorcerer, but that isn’t going to prevent him from fulfilling his prime directive. And anything that gets in his way will pay the price.









            As part of a challenge set by my critique group I used this method to write Red Christmas. It’s a short story about what would happen if Santa was a communist. My wife hated the story and made me write “normal” Christmas stories every year after that for the family celebration.


Writing Prompt #25


            When I was introduced to this prompt fairy-tales were used to generate ideas for new stories, but this works with any kind of story or even news items. Take your favorite fairytale/story and develop a plot from the villain’s point of view. Make the villain the good guy in your story. And you don’t have to keep the setting. Feel free to turn the big bad wolf into insurance salesman in New York City 

            Here are five villains.            

            Marie Antoinette


Nurse Ratched


            Cruella De Vil

            Based on the Nurse Ratched I generated this pitch.  

Crazy Like a Fox – With a family to feed Rachel is forced to take a job at the State Mental Hospital. She has just about adjusted to the rigorous demands of the new job when the Justice Department commits a man accused of murder. As the weeks pass by, Rachel uncovers a plot by the criminal to recruit the rest of the inmates into his own private army and declare war on the city. But no one believes her. The criminal vows to target her family first when the inmates escape. Now she has to find a way to stop the criminal mastermind and his crazy army before the killing starts. 


Writing Prompt #24


            This prompt gets personal. Drawing from your own life experiences, take the most difficult decision you ever had to make and then write a fictional story based on that choice. Obviously, this lends itself to serious pieces of fiction, but it could be turned into comedy with a poignant message.

            Based on a tough experience in my life I generated this pitch.

Seperated - John and his son have been a team since the day that Johnny was born. Life blind-sides him when his ex-wife appears one day with a court order giving her temporary custody of Johnny. The one constant in John’s life has been his son’s love and without it he wonders how he can survive the daily grind. Knowing that if he creates a scene it will only cause more trouble for Johnny, he says goodbye. In the days to come he will not only have to find a way to return Johnny home, but also adapt to life without him.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Writing Prompt #23


            This prompt has limited use. The idea is to take two sports and combine then to create a brand new sport. It works well for fantasy and science-fiction when you want to develop a society different from our own. Place the sport you created at the center of the story and develop the society which would play it.
            Keep in mind that sports movies are about more than just the sport. They provide a setting for the people who play and manage the sport, the people watching the sport, and the sponsors. That gives plenty of plot possibilities to explore.   

            Here are five sports match-ups.  

            Football and soccer

            Baseball and dodgeball

            Bowling and track

            Basketball and volleyball

            Swimming and boxing

            Based on football and soccer I generated this pitch.  

Ball - Touted as the ultimate team sport they just call it Ball. Some think of it as a mangled version of volleyball, soccer, and dodge ball. Allen just considers it awesome. He is on the fast track to becoming the first Ball player drafted out of high-school. The big teams are wooing him to sign when he is contacted by a government rep to play for the National team. But when he signs with the Nationals he finds out that it isn’t a game at all. The government is using the sport to influence the minds of the country’s citizens. Now Allen has to choose between playing along and becoming the greatest Ball player of all time or destroying the very game he loves.



Writing Prompt #22


            Good stories spring forth from strong characters. Select a fictional character or a historic figure and interview him/her. Ask them tough questions. Get to know them. At some point a plot will develop from the questions and the answers in the interview.  

            Here are five interesting people to interview.  

            Judas Iscariot

            King Tut

            Mata Hari

            Joan of Arc     

            Vincent van Gogh

            Based on an interview with Judas Iscariot I generated this pitch.  

Haunted Streets – Contrary to what the world believes Judas Iscariot is not dead—he is cursed. The immortal has wandered in search of emotional refuge. Angels taunt him. Devils follow him. Then he stumbles across the only human older than himself and a chance to redeem his mistake. 

Writing Prompt #21


             This is similar to the “What If” prompt but pulls its inspiration from your vision of a perfect world. Of course, we all know there is no such thing as a perfect world and as soon as you created one you’d have to turn right around and tear it down. This still generates scenarios and settings different from reality.  

            Here are five statements about “If I were king”

            If I were king ice cream would be the national treat

            If I were king there would be no career politicians

            If I were king conservatives, liberals, and independents would live separately

            If I were king everyone would have to spend 2 years in government service

            If I were king there would be a limit to the number of times a movie is remade

            Based on conservatives, liberals, and independents living separately I generated the following pitch.

Romeo Westside – When Romeo is dared by his friends to sneak into the neighboring town and pluck a couple of the mayor’s prized roses he never expected to run into the most beautiful girl in the world. Not only is she a conservative, but she’s the mayor’s daughter too. The two of them work against the system to discover if love can overcome politics.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Writing Prompt #20


            This prompt encourages a strong reliance on symbolism. Pick an item and make it the centerpiece of the story. Decide what it represents; freedom, rebellion, love. I don’t mean that you should have a story where the people are questing for a magic amulet. Take a look at Lord of the Flies. The conch shell holds metaphorical significance throughout the story.
            Even if readers don’t catch on to exactly what an item represents I find that by using this sort of prompt I can add an extra layer of depth to the story.  

            Here are five random items.  


            Pair of glasses

            Sports car


            A painted plate

            Based on a backpack I generated this pitch.  

World A-Whirl - When Jack’s parents start fighting over what to do with him, he decides it’s time to take off and see the world. He fills his trusty back-pack, convinces a friend of a friend to forge a fake ID for him, and then hops on a passenger ship for points unknown.
            The unfettered life agrees with Jack’s disposition – until he finds that a strange laptop has been stashed in his pack. Before he can boot it up and find out who it belongs to a trio of gun-wielding, sunglass wearing goons come after him. And just getting the laptop isn’t enough, they want him dead.
            Jack jumps ship when it docks in South America and heads for the American Embassy there, but is intercepted by hot looking chick that invites him to have a drink with her. After a flirtatious good-bye, Jack discovers that his backpack is gone, along with his fake ID. If he wants to get back home alive, he’ll have to get both of them back and deliver the computer to someone who can get him out of this jam.  

(Just as a note: my initial concept was to use the backpack as the centerpiece for the story. Once I decide what it represents, I can develop several scenes around that theme. However, the fake ID and the laptop also can be used to enrich the depth of the story.)


Writing Prompt #19


            With this prompt the author creates an unusual holiday. It can be something you are already passionate about, like camping, talking on the phone, or collecting cereal box tops. If all else fails you can take a random noun or verb and turn that into a holiday. Then use that holiday as the setting for your story.  

            Here are five made up holidays. 

            Parking Ticket Day

            Take a Swim Day

            Back to School Celebration

            Borrow Something Day

            Eat a Bug Week

            Based on Back to School Celebration I generated this pitch. 

Back-to-School Pool - After a long summer of swimming, biking, and fighting with her younger brother, Brenda is ready to head back to school. That is, until she notices the adults acting strangely. They seem a little too happy about getting the kids out of the house and rounded up in one place.
            With the help of her best friend and her annoying little brother they uncover the conspiracy of all conspiracies – a betting pool where the parents place wagers on how the children will perform during the upcoming year and throw a party for the event.

            Based on Swim Day I generated this pitch.  

Swim Day - No one considered what would happen to the inmates of Harbor Island Correctional Facility if the world stopped functioning as it always had. Now, ten years after the cataclysm, the survivors are desperate to find a way off the island. The first day of every month is Swim Day. The lucky winner of the Swim Day lottery gets a day to live as a cell block celebrity and then is cast into the waters and forced to attempt a trip to the mainland. If any have made the trip they haven’t come back to help the others.
            Stitch is drawn to make the swim. He’d been counting down until the day of his execution when everything went bad. Dying during the swim doesn’t bother him, but leaving behind the only person who ever treated him humanely does. He must do more than just survive the watery ordeal, he has to find a way to return and save his brother, the prison guard.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Writing Prompt #18

            PROMPT 18 – PH-PH-PHRASES 

            This may be the simples writing prompt in concept, but can be tricky to execute. All you do is take an old saying and find a way to turn that into a story, poem, or pitch.  

            Here are five sayings. 

            A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

            Don’t buy other people’s problems

            Look before you leap

            Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

            Happiness is a state of mind

            Based on “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” I generated this pitch.  

Trade-Day Hunt (Middle-Grade) - Trina loved the market on Trade-day. Today was no exception. Molly Burton had on her trade table the perfect doll. The only problem was that Trina didn’t have enough money. Calling upon the age-old tradition of barter, Trina agrees to locate two hard to find collectibles in trade for the doll. Very quickly, she finds out that the rest of the traders have deals of their own they need help with and soon she is in over her head with tricky requests. All of this for a doll – the perfect doll. 

            Based on “don’t buy other people’s problems” I generated this pitch. 

Space Junk - Roy Spunkmeyer wanted to be a space merchant since he was old enough to observe the stars in the sky. When an old friend of the family announces that he is ready to retire Roy jumps at the chance to buy the “slightly used” ship that Bill had been using over the last sixty years. Only after Roy spends the last of his savings, exhausted all sources of credit available to him, and convinced his parents to take out a mortgage on their home does he find out he has not only bought Bill’s business, but all of the problems that go with it. How will he, and the crusty old alien that comes with the ship, solve a cargo full of problems that were forty years in the making and do it in less than a month?


Writing Prompt #17

            PROMPT 17 – HEROIC REBIRTH 

            This is basically the Fantasy/Reality Collision prompt. The difference is where the Fantasy/Reality Collision is a fish out of water scenario the Heroic Rebirth is intended to bring the character’s personality into a new set of challenges.
            Choose someone you greatly admire (historic figures work best) and then place them into a vastly different setting. Figure out how their unique talents, skills, and personality traits would be put to prevail. Emphasize the strong characteristics of the person you’ve selected.  

            Here are five historic figures for the prompt.  

            Mother Teresa

            Groucho Marx

            George Patton

            Joan of Arc

            John Wayne

            Based on Mother Teresa I generated this pitch.  

Aliens Have Mothers Too - Becky graduated at the top of her class in Xeno studies. With the recent advances in warping technology the whole universe is open for exploration. She can hardly believe it when the governing board for Interstellar Research and Exploration assigns her to the most vital interspecies negotiation the Earth has ever participated. Until she finds out that she will be playing translator and nurse-maid to a talkative old woman without even a rudimentary education in alien affairs. What can Mamma Maude, as she insists on being called, bring to the table of interstellar diplomacy that will convince the rest of the universe to accept Earth into their community of civilized sentients.


Writing Prompt #16

            PROMPT 16 – ADVERTISING A-NO-NO 

            Commercials and product placement within movies provide the inspiration for this writing prompt. The idea is to take an advertisement on television, radio, or print medium and write a story about what would happen if the world was just as they depict it in the commercial.
            All that it requires to generate a story that’s a little more serious is turn the commercial into a sinister conspiracy. Imagine what nefarious goal, other than making money, a company might have for wanting you to purchase their product. You can even come up with your own diabolical sales campaign and sell us a product no one in their right mind would want to buy.
            A third method of using this prompt is through product placement. That’s when you see a product placed in a scene, like Pepsi in the Back to the Future films. Pick a story appropriate for the genre you’re writing and then drop that product right in the middle of the plot. Why is it there? How can it affect the characters and their interactions with one another?    

            Here are five alternate realities presented in commercials.

            Humanized candies (M&Ms) attend a hip party

            Life is one big fun-fest if you drink the right kind of beer

            Wearing clothes from this store will cause you to dance non-stop

            The car you drive defines your status in society

            The world will end if you don’t watch this week’s episode of this show


            Based on the M&M commercials I developed this pitch.  

Food for Thought - Lenny doesn’t have any friends. Unless you count his roommate Stewart; the only person in the world with less social skills than Lenny. Worse yet, he has three weeks to finish his final thesis for psychology and has no idea what to write about. Then Stewart asks Lenny to test his latest chemistry experiment – a food additive that will make people smarter. When Lenny takes the serum he doesn’t get any smarter, but now his food talks to him. Candies, vegetables, even soft drinks want to give him advice on everything from the stock market to his love life. He questions his own sanity and urges Stewart to find a way to reverse the effect until he realizes that what the foods have to say makes sense. 

            Based on beer commercials that depict a happy carefree atmosphere as long as you drink their product, I’ve developed a conspiracy to give people something to think about while they’re drinking.  

Happy Hour - Nate might be in a rut, but what a rut it is. Energy-drink his way through eight hours of complete tedium and then meet up with the gang at The Dive. As soon as that first beer hits the back of his throat everything changes. He laughs. The people around him laugh. They don’t even have to know what they’re laughing about. This is the life. And then Nate hits the jackpot; he wins a tour of the local brewery for him and five of his friends. He is half way through the tour when his alcohol-diminished sense of balance sends him tumbling down a set of stairs. Eventually, he wakes up and overhears a discussion that sends chills down his spine. The company is brewing up more than just some tasty suds, they have laced the beer with a chemical that overrides the human drive to excel thus making the country susceptible to an invasion. 

            Based on commercials on food storage I developed this pitch.

Canned Goods - While attempting to invent “Ready to inhale” dinners that a person merely breathes in to consume, Todd Frinkle stumbles upon a method of packaging good behavior. Just pop the top off a can of Consideration and breath deep and you will be amazingly gracious all day long. Fame, fortune and dreams of a Nobel Peace Prize all fade away when Todd discovers a group that plans to reverse engineer the technology so they can create a line of products that will turn people into remorseless killers. Even if he can find a way to stop them it turns out that the short cut to good behavior leads to a prolonged inability to tell right from wrong. But how can a crack-pot inventor, a couple of neighborhood kids, and a nearly blind dog going to prevent it?


Friday, March 25, 2016

Writing Prompt #15


            This prompt takes elements of the fantastic and combines them with the real world. It works with any genre, but fantasy does tend to clash the most with reality and the strength of this type of story is based on that incompatibility.
            There are two methods of generating stories with this prompt. The first is to take a fictional character and move it into a real world setting. But you can also go the other direction and take a historic figure and place them in a fantasy world.  

            Here are five fantasy and reality collisions.            

            Billy the Kid collides with Ghandi

            Dracula collides with the mafia

            Socrates collides with Barbie (the living doll)

            Wile E. Coyote collides with the Arizona Department of Transportation

            The Apollo 13 crew collides with John Carter of Mars

            For this prompt I have listed two movies using this principle.     

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Honest Abe is president by day and a vampire hunter by night. (Or so I’m guessing by the title.) Doesn’t that catch your attention? Aren’t you interested in seeing how the film makers put these two extremely different components together into a single cohesive story?

Enchanted – A fairy-tale princess is transported to the real world and falls in love with a single dad raising a daughter.

            The first example takes a real person and plops them into a fantastic setting. In the second story, a fantasy character is placed in the real world. These two films also work opposite sides of the entertainment spectrum, with Abraham Lincoln covering the horror genre and Enchanted belting out some humorous, family, musical fun.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Prompt #14

            PROMPT 14 – FOR STARTERS 

            For this prompt you are going to borrow a line and use it as the start of your story. This could be from a conversation you overheard at the store. It could be the last line of your favorite novel. Novels, movies, songs, and news articles are all great sources for starting material, but you’ll want to change the line so that it’s a real attention grabber.  

            Here is the last line from my favorite novel, Damnation Alley, by Roger Zelazny.

            But coming upon the Common, the winds still break about him, and the heavens still throw garbage.”

            Based on that line I generated a first paragraph and this elevator pitch.

Down and Out on Earth – Sam used to be an angel in heaven. Not just any angel, but the leader of the crack legion of Avenging Angels. For millennia he served faithfully. Then a week ago God cast him down to Earth. Now mortal and without his angelic powers he must find a way to stop the approaching spiritual war before it destroys mankind.

“The winds broke around him as if they feared his touch and the heavens threw garbage. Both served as constant reminders of his current status with God. Even the humans took part of this grand snubbing and crossed to the far side of the street as he approached them.”


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Writing Prompt #13

            PROMPT 13 – BABY TALK 

            Art Linkletter wisely noted that “Kids say the darndest things.” For this prompt you will need access to a talkative child, between the ages of four to ten. It works best if you can watch the children in their normal environment as they interact with one another. Sooner or later they’ll drop a gem of an idea. However, I have gained reasonable results from coming straight out and asking them what they think would make a good story.  

            When I asked my seven-year-old what he thought I should write for my next story he told me it should be about a dragon that chased people around because he wanted to be friends with them.

            While my son’s suggestion would make an excellent picture book or Middle-Grade story I decided to turn this into a serious adult offering.

Roaring Dragon – Ben has been hired to travel to the backwaters of the bayou in order to study the body of a supposed dragon. When he arrives he discovers that the remains are not from any species known on Earth and begins a search of the area for a living specimen. Deep in the swamps, his hunting party becomes the hunted when a live dragon charges into their camp. Ben flees and becomes hopelessly lost in the swamp. He is rescued by the dragon and returned to civilization. During their trek the dragon reveals that she and her companion were emissaries to Earth from another dimension and if neither of them return home the warriors of their race will invade Earth and destroy it. Ben must find a way to get the dragon safely past the party of swamp folk that are hunting her and take her to the portal to her world.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Writing Prompt #12


            The title of this prompt might give you images of Tom Clancy-ish storylines, but since conflict is at the heart of every great story it can be applied to nearly any genre. Basically, all you need to do is adjust your mindset to embrace the concept that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Take a real organization or social group and imagine what it would be like if they were a front for an evil empire. Or maybe just a front for a petty gaggle of gossipers.
            Obviously, the more innocent and noble the organization is in the real world the more effect the story becomes when you make the evil-ization (Yes, I made-up that word). seem plausible. This prompt works best for thrillers, horror, and dystopian stories, but I’m going to demonstrate how appropriate it is for comedy.
            Important note: if you don’t want to get sued you should probably change the name of the organization you plan to send through the evil-ization process.

            Here are five seemingly noble organizations.

            Boy Scouts

            Weight Watchers

            The local food bank

            National Endowment for the Arts

            Nobel Peace Prize committee

            Based on the Boy Scouts I generated this elevator pitch.

Junior Man Scouts – Anyone who thinks the battle of the sexes is merely a phrase has already lost the war. Cole finds out what it really means to “Be Prepared” when he joins the Boy Scouts. Thoughts of pleasant weekend campouts and wilderness survival training all fade from his mind when he is recruited for an organization bent on proving that boys rule and girls drool.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Writing Prompt #11


            This prompt has some limitations because it deals with holidays. This is great if you plan to write for the Hallmark Channel and not so much if you deal mainly with science-fiction or horror.
            The idea is to take a holiday and push the traditions and celebrations surrounding it to the extreme. I find it best to focus your twisted imagination on only one aspect of the holiday, like the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.
            Once you have the holiday-gone-wild concept worked out think of how it got that way and how it challenges your hero. Does your hero embrace the insanity and push the limits even farther or is he/she just trying to survive the event?

            Here are five holiday traditions.

            Turkey bowl
            The perfect Christmas tree       
            New Year resolutions
            Birthday cake
            Anniversary dinner

            Based on the annual block-wide football game I generated this elevator pitch.

The Family Bowl – One day each year determines a family’s fate until the next Thanksgiving. Life is great if your family wins the annual Family Bowl. For the rest of the year the people on your block are at your beck and call. But Josh was twelve and had only Mom and his sister, Stacy, to help him put together a grid-iron monster capable of beating the other families on the block. He needed a “Hail Mary” plan or his family would be on the bottom of the loser’s column . . . again.


Writing Prompt #10

            PROMPT 10 – DREAM GUIDE

            Many good stories start off as a dream. If you happen to remember your dreams then this can be a good source for plot ideas. In order to use this method effectively you will need to keep a pad and pencil next to your bed and train yourself to write down as many details of your dream as you can when you wake up.
            The advantage to this method is that it starts you off with a very strong image. There may also be powerful emotions that go along with the dream which you can then channel into your writing. The drawback is you will be trying to create a whole story from one, or two, scenes that might not make a lot of sense when you’re awake.

            I dreamed that I had two additional children. Boy they were a couple of cute little lads. They had names in the dream, but I didn’t follow my own advice and write them down when I woke. Based on that dream I developed this elevator pitch.

Dream Family – Danny woke up one morning to find he had two more children than he did the day before. Cute, vibrant, and loveable he bonds to them immediately. By the end of the day he wonders how his family and his life felt complete without them. But after he puts them to bed he receives a mysterious call which threatens the existence of his family—both the old and the new.

Writing Prompt #9

            PROMPT 9 – WHAT IF?

            This is similar to the stream of consciousness method of story generating. The difference is that you start with a topic and ask as many “What if” questions as you can. I love this prompt because I can do it when I am stuck in a traffic jam, waiting at the DMV, or otherwise bored. It’s especially helpful if you want to generate ideas in a specific area.
            Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and a couple of years ago I protested that the Hallmark channel introduces several new, formulaic Christmas stories each year, but does nothing for my favorite celebration. So I decided to generate ideas which could be turned into screenplays about Thanksgiving.

            Here is an example of the ideas this prompt generated.

            What if Thanksgiving had a hero like Santa, but was a talking turkey?
            What if a family was picked to have their Thanksgiving feast televised?
            What if turkeys celebrated Thanksgiving with us?
            How would our pets celebrate Thanksgiving if they could?
            What if your family tried to re-enact the first Thanksgiving?

            Based on “what if a family was picked to have their Thanksgiving televised” I generated the following story pitch.

Thanks a Lot - At its best, Marci hated Thanksgiving. People invited relatives they didn’t talk to the rest of the year to come over and stuff their mouths with turkey and stuffing all the while they fought over events that happened years before she was born. What made it bearable was that it only lasted a couple of hours. The joyous declarations of thanks were another matter altogether. Marci’s family bombarded her with greeting card sentiments all month long.
            And then it happened. Mom announced that the family had been selected to participate in Thanks A Lot; the holiday reality show that pitted families together to prove which of them were truly the most thankful family in the nation. Not only would the family take the normally shallow sentiments to new levels of sickening sweetness, but the entire nation would be tuned-in to see it.
            Marci had to find a way to survive a whole month of holiday madness and keep herself looking cool in front of the national audience.




Writing Prompt #8


            Although I haven’t tried this, I know that some authors use a stream of consciousness method to generate story ideas. For this prompt you find a spot to sit, place a pad of paper in front of you, and then write down whatever comes to mind. At some point one thought will lead to another, which will lead to another, and another. When you think you have enough ideas in front of you stop and look them over. Most of it will be a jumble of words, but a pattern should emerge that you can form into a story.

            Here are five words/concepts to start the stream of consciousness flowing.

            A doodle of a daisy
            An arrow pointing up
            Sound of a clock ticking

            Based on the sound of a ticking clock I generated the following pitch.

Clockwork War – Anthony has less than a month before he musters out of the army. Then during a routine patrol he runs across an enemy that makes a strange ticking sound when it moves. This strange mechanical army is marching towards the village where he lives. He must find a way to stop a seemingly unstoppable foe before everything he loves is destroyed.


(This was my train of thought that led to this story. Clock – clock in croc from Peter Pan - creatures/people walking with clocks in them.)


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Writing Prompt #7


            This uses a similar concept as the Hollywood Style prompt that I covered previously. The idea is to take a story and transport it to a new time and/or location. One of my Creative Writing teachers showed me this prompt and she used fairytales to generate ideas, but really it works for any sort of story; historic tales, news features, and novels.
            Once you have picked a fairytale (or any story) and decided when and where to place it you then decide how the new setting affects how the story is told. And because of that it becomes a new story. For instance, what would happen if you took Hansel and Gretel and placed them in a wild-west frontier town? Hank and Gertie might be captured by a mystic Indian medicine-man, which changes the dynamics of the story immensely while still giving you a good starting place for the plot.
            Something else you can do with this concept is change one or more of the characters in the story. What would happen if Little Red Riding Hood climbed up the beanstalk and had to contend with the Wicked Witch of the West? Moving away from fairytales, imagine Dennis the Menace taking a basket of goodies to his grandmother across town.
            If you don’t write cutesy fairytales this method can still produce useable starter material. Take the story of Sleeping Beauty and turn it into a dystopian, science-fiction nightmare. Wouldn’t that be a kick?

            I chose a classic novel, Frankenstein, for my example.

Monsters on the Midway – Based loosely on Frankenstein this novel chronicles the story of a college football coach who is obsessed with creating the perfect football team. He introduces a new method of training the players that takes them beyond their normal limits and transforms them into machines of flesh and bone. Unfortunately, this training affects their lives outside the football stadium. Seeing his mistake, the coach attempts to resign from the team, but the players have other ideas about that. The players begin a psychological terror campaign designed to keep the coach in place and continue with their inhuman training.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Movie Review - The Fifth Wave

The Fifth Wave $$$


112 Minutes
Starring: Chole Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, and Gabriella Lopez.  
Directors: J Blakeson.

Apocalyptic stories are my favorite. I imagine I have seen more movies and read more books of this sort than most folks. That being said, the trailer for this film did not excite me. I thought it looked like pretty much any other movie in this genre. And I was right. It was entertaining, but not original.

            This is how I rated The Fifth Wave.

1. Fun – The movie moved slower than what I expected from the trailer. There is less focus on burning buildings, crashing cars, and blind panic and more time spent on relationships. If I hadn’t been expecting the high-action content of most films in this genre I would have enjoyed it more. I gave The Fifth Wave a half MB.

2. Story – Take concepts from a dozen of the most popular apocalyptic movies that have been made and put them together as a single movie and you have The Fifth Wave. Scene after scene I was constantly reminded of other films. I found that virtually everything in the film has been done before in another movie. I gave The Fifth Wave a half MB for a good storyline borrowed from other sources.

3. Technical – The special effects were good, the sound track was good, the direction was good. A solid outing for all things technical in The Fifth Wave. I gave the film a full MB. 

4. Acting – I don’t expect any Oscar nominations for acting, but I felt that most of the cast did a good job in their roles. Chloe Grace Moretz was solid in the lead role, but not exceptional. I found myself rooting for her all through the film. Evan Walker (Alex Roe) was my favorite character. I gave The Fifth Wave a full MB for acting.  

By the numbers, The Fifth Wave gets 3 Movie Bucks. See it as a matinee and enjoy the slower-paced relationship film.

                        Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.