Conjure the Nouns

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I leave you now at the bottom of your own stair, at half after midnight, with a pad, a pen, and a list to be made. Conjure the nouns, alert the secret self, taste the darkness. Your own Thing stands waiting way up there in the attic shadows.
If you speak softly, and write any old word that wants to jump out of your nerves onto the page… your Thing at the top of the stairs in your own private night… May well come down.

Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury

In his book, Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury goes into detail about his method of list-making as a means of creative thinking. I’ve talked about this technique before, but I don’t think it can be talked about too much. Today, I’ll talk about what it’s like, in practice, to use this method, at least what it’s like for me.

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Clark Writes Fantasy Flash Fiction Contest Fall 2017 Winners

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The winners of the Clark Writes Fall 2017 Fantasy Flash Fiction Contest have been announced. I’m mentioning this not just because I’ve won 2nd place (although, huzzah!), but because the stories chosen all have merit, and you should read them. Please, if you have a moment, head on over and leave a comment.

The Christmas Song Book Tag

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This tag comes from Thrice Read, originated by meowitsmegan. And, J.W. Martin, tag you’re it!

1. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”: Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.

Mr. Dark AKA the Illustrated Man, from Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I had such a vision of him, thanks to Bradbury’s prose, of the veritable menagerie of monsters inked into his skin. In my imagination, he looks a bit like John Waters, albeit more wiry, and with a more sinister countenance.

2. “All I Want for Christmas is You”: Which book do you most hope to see under your Christmas tree?

No one buys me books. I don’t blame them. I usually read so many, that it’s hard to know what books to buy me. But if they did, I would hope someone would buy me The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman. I’ve not gotten around to reading the first installment in his new series, even though it came out October 19th. In reality, I’ll probably just wait until my new Audible credits roll in and buy it myself.

3. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”: Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.

Carrie White. A reminder that, when people believe in themselves, it does not always work out to the good.

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: a) Which character do you think would be on the top of the naughty list? b) Which character do you think would be at the top of the nice list?

Naughty: Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I love a principled villain, especially when those principles take them to extremes.

Nice: Mrs. Cormaci from the Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins. She is the most genuinely nice person that leaps to mind at the moment, someone who truly helps a family when their need is most desperate. She is, somehow, very believable. I feel as though I’ve known a Mrs. Cormaci, or simply wished I had.

5. “Frosty the Snowman”: Which book just melts your heart.

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman. The ending…

6. “Feliz Navidad”: Choose a book that takes place in a country other than your own.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

7. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Which holiday themed book do you use to spread the Christmas joy?

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

8. “Sleigh Ride”: Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with (doesn’t have to be a love interest!)

Death from The Sandman comics. She is perhaps the perkiest depiction of the personification of death that I have ever read, and I bet she’d be fun at a Christmas party. She’s also been around, for like, ever, and probably has a bunch of cool stories.

9. “Baby it’s Cold Outside”: Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to warm yourself up in the cold?

Burning books… seriously? Ouch. Honestly, the book burning scenes from the Fahrenheit 451 movie adaptation make me a little queasy. I suppose it’d be cheating to ask for a crate of Chick Tracts? Heck, even those are good for a laugh.

10. “Do you hear what I hear”: Which book do you think everyone should read?

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney.

I added a question. I’m not sorry.

11. “Father Christmas” by the Kinks: Which book was just mean, i.e. it made you ask the author “Why are you making me read this?” even though you couldn’t put it down?

Horns by Joe Hill.

The Ray Bradbury Challenge: 52 Short Stories

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Happy December, everyone. It’s about time to start thinking about 2018. Now, I am no big believer in resolutions, but I am a huge believer in personal challenges. Inspired by Matt Cutts’s Ted Talk, as well as the concept of Bullet Journaling, and of course NaNoWriMo, I’ve outlined my workflow in chunks of 30 day challenges for some time now. It works, I promise. Simply trying something new for 30 days, win, lose, or draw; it’ll change your life (let’s forget, for the time being, that almost everything that happens to you, big or small, changes your life in some way, shall we?)

But this post is about a bigger idea, and it’s also an opportunity for me to mention a blog I enjoy: The Ray Bradbury Challenge. The challenge is simple: write one short story a week for 52 weeks. Bradbury promises, they can’t all be bad. In fact, he challenges us to write 52 bad short stories.

I did mention there was a year coming up, in which there are 52 weeks you might elect to use toward the Bradbury Challenge. There are much worse ways of spending the 52 weeks that are in 2018. You could, for example, binge watch 52 series on Netflix. If you instead elect to write 52 short stories, I would genuinely love to hear about it.

Writer’s Tag

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I got tagged by J.W. Martin. I accept this challenge, for great justice!

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

I write speculative fiction almost exclusively. Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy are the only genres I tend to care much about. My stories tend to have elements of cosmic horror, or faery tale logic. I like to ask existential questions, like “What is identity?” or “Can humans exist in ways other than they currently do?” with my fiction.

The theme varies depending on the genesis of the idea. I tend to start with a nice, chewy story and work it over until a theme emerges, rather than starting from theme and working outward. Common threads I’ve noticed are death, memory, love (lost, spurned, or blossoming), family, and legacy.

But I really never know what I’m going to write, or what’s going to come out of me, until the pen hits the paper.

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Fate Aspects in Creative Writing: Fleshing out your Plot

This is a continuation of my previous post concerning using Fate Aspects to flesh out characters. This week we’re gonna talk about using Aspects to figure out what’s going on in your plot. The purpose of Aspects is to serve as keywords that point you to the core idea of a character, scene, plot, or situation. As previously explained, they are punchy phrases like Daredevil WWII Pilot or Never Back Down From A Good Fight.

More appropriate to this week’s discussion, where we’ll talk about using them to describe the story as a whole, you may consider Aspects like The Town that Time Forgot or The Sword of Damocles. These might describe themes or threats within your story that will unfold over the course of writing.

What follows is a very basic introduction to how to use Aspects to define elements of your story. There are some resources down at the bottom of this article if you’d like to take it further. The ideas are not really complicated as they may seem, but they’re beyond the scope of a single blog article.

Spoiler Alert: This article contains very mild spoilers for Stranger Things 2 and Stephen King’s It, used to illustrate some of my points. Read no further if that sort of thing upsets you. And seriously, go watch Stranger Things.

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Fate Aspects in Creative Writing: Fleshing Out Your Characters

It’s NaNoWriMo, and I want to talk about how Fate Aspects can help you flesh out your characters and plan your stories. I know there’s a huge temptation to fall down on one side or the other of Team Pantser, and Team Plotter, but whether you identify as an outliner, or as a discovery writer, Aspects are a unique tool to get a handle on your story and characters. For the Pantsers in the audience, like myself, it can be one way to outline without spoiling the thrill of discovery for yourself. Today I’ll talk about how to use Aspects to flesh out characters. I’ll talk about using Aspects to flesh out your plot in a future post.

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