Dieselpunk

With George R. R. Martin, we talked a lot about world building and genre-blending. What better send off than Twit Publishing’s call for Dieselpunk submissions?

“What is Dieselpunk? Dieselpunk is a re-imagining of the diesel-era (the post-World War I era to the early 1950s). It’s gangsters, bootleggers, swing, Mexican revolutionaries, Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde, U-Boats, the Depression, the end of the Wild West, Bolshevik agents, greasers, zeppelins, jazz, art-deco, roadsters, hobos (anything that fits into this era of time along with cross-genres), and the Red Scare. It is the beginning of mechanization of the military and the beginning of the mechanization of the factory.”

Come on, how fun is that? Mobsters and wizards, bootleg potions… the list goes on. This weekend, I challenge you to step up to Twit Publishing’s challenge. The deadline is April 30th, so you’d better get started today.

Happy Writing!

Character Twist

In honor of George R. R. Martin’s complicated characters, this week’s writing prompt is all about character twist. One of the my favorite characters that I love to hate is Jamie Lannister. He starts off as a total creeper and then you see a few more things that really make your skin crawl. I mean, total ick factor, people. But, then, Martin reveals the real motivation for the killing that earned Jamie the nickname Kingslayer and it turns out that Jamie has one or two redeeming qualities after all. Martin likes to muddy the waters, and it makes for fabulous reading. “Good” characters do bad things and “Bad” characters do good things.

This weekend, you should try to do the same. Take a character you’ve created, either one of your heroes, or one of your villains. Next, you’re going to write a scene where your character does something that contradicts that archetype. Your hero betrays a friend. Your villain performs an act of self-sacrifice for the benefit of an innocent. Or, whatever else you can think of that would be suitable.

Keep in mind, that the trickiest part of this kind of exercise is writing it convincingly. It’s not going to do you any good unless your reader believes the act is sincere and authentic to that character. Dig deep on this one.

Happy Writing!

Ready, Set, Leap

This week’s Saturday pages is all about figurative language and taking leaps. I’m also going to offer you different levels to try your hand at – depending on whether you a lighter writing exercise or if you’re game for some heavier lifting. The most important thing about today’s exercise is that you shut up your inner critic and just write. Embrace the process. Hesitations are bad for big leaps.

One writer who ties in with Neil Gaiman is Terry Pratchett. Pratchett’s on the mentor docket, so stay tuned, we’ll be talking more about him later this year. I mention Pratchett in this post because I’m reminded of a comparison he made in one of his books which I have remembered, literally, for years. Because, when you write that Lord Vetinari, the city’s ruling official, is like “a carnivorous flamingo,” that’s memorable.

So, go get your jumping shoes on and let’s do this.

Level 1
Pick something to describe. It can be a person, an object, a feeling, or anything else you might be tempted to tack an adverb to. Feel free to use something in a piece you’re working on, or take a look around the room you’re in right now and do a little “eenie, meanie, minie, mo”.

Take out a blank page. Number it 1-20. Stretch your writing (or typing) fingers and, as fast as you can, write 20 metaphors and/or similes about your subject. Aim for the far-fetched, the odd, the unusual. Don’t over think it. Don’t pause. Keep your fingers moving.

Once you’ve written 20, take a look at your list. Find the comparisons that you’ve seen before and cross them off. Likewise, take off any that are too literal, too easy. Next, cross off the ones that fall flat. What are you left with? The most awesome comparisons you’ve ever written about that apple.

Level 2
Now that you’ve got your list narrowed down to your best material, pick the comparison that seems the most far-fetched. Flip to a new page and write your comparison at the top. Your job is to take your oddball comparison and turn it into an extended metaphor. Now that you have something like, “Life is like a box of pickled sardines,” at the top of your page, you’re going to write a paragraph that really fleshes your comparison out.

Think of every possible point of intersection between the two things you’re comparing and write those down. If you were Terry Pratchett, you’d be describing how a carnivorous flamingo walks, how it sounds, how it looks at you with pink, beady eyes that see right into your soul. Like Level 1, the key here is write fast and write a lot. That thought that just flashed through your mind that made you think, “No, that’s too silly to write down”? Write it down.

Once you’ve filled as much of the page as you can, take a breath and look over what you’ve done. Right now, you probably have one of your most original descriptions. How cool is that?

Level 3
Now I challenge you to take your figurative language leap and build a short story, or maybe a poem, around it.

Happy writing!

Saturday Pages

“Somewhere in the night, someone was writing.” ~Neil Gaiman, Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire

Today I bring you the first of a new feature on the blog. From now on, we’re going to be giving you a writing prompt or exercise each Saturday. I hope you’ll take a bit of time to stretch your writing muscles and play along. If you have a blog of your own, and post your Saturday pages there, please let us know by leaving a link in the comments. We’d love to check it out!

Without further ado, I present you with a line from a story called Closing Time which you can find in Fragile Things, a collection of stories and poems by Gaiman.

“I should have run then. My heart was pounding in my chest. But the devil was in me, and instead of running I looked at the three big boys at the bottom of the path, and I simply said, ‘Or are you scared?'”

This is the start of your next story. Now, go write.