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Writing Exercise Thread

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Blorcyn, Feb 13, 2021.


Will you commit to improving your writing with unfun exercises?

  1. No, I am afraid of my future self who will be more successful than me in every way.

  2. Yes, I will get stuck in immediately.

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Story Content: Establishing authority (head vs heart)

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    Success has to do with deliberate practice.
    Practice must be focused, deliberate, and in an Environment
    where there is feedback.

    There are aspects of ability that are beyond our control. There may well be no Shakespeare amongst us, but with the cards that are dealt to us we can be better at what we choose to value with consistent effort.

    This thread is for Praxis. The intention here is to facilitate deliberative practice and incremental, effortful improvement. As much as just writing is the most important way of improving, hammering away at your 1 million word novel is not the only way to better your writing. Without reflection, consideration and meaningful attempts to improve you will plateau.

    This thread is for the unfun. The paper that the (somewhat arbitary and debunked figure) '10,000 hour' rule comes from stresses that practice isn't just repetition. It's exercises, it's feedback, it's pushing your limits and putting in more hours than the other guys. Everyone wants to be good at writing, everyone wants to enjoy it. In my own experience, it's when I feel I'm not writing the best I could be writing that I get most discouraged, and when I flounder.

    Here. I'm going to set up weekly, small exercises. Two to three exercises that I'll calendar to check, and if you're on the discord then, with permission, I'll ping @TheInquisitorialSquad when the new exercises go up.

    Simple plan:

    1. Week's writing exercises get posted.
    2. You do them.
    3. You screw up your effort and post them here at some point.
    4. You look at other people's and give a little feedback, and they look at yours and give you feedback.

    At least in my mind, the thing that separates DLP as a bell curve from other hobbyist writing communities is our open ambition, and our willingness to do what we can to achieve that writerly ambition as a group. I hope this will be another successful adventure.


    In Chuck Palahniuk's (author of Fight Club, and minimalist advocate) first of thirty-six Nuts & Bolts essays he discusses Establishing your Authority as an author early.

    The simple version is: how do you get your readers to buy in? Emotionally, by getting them to invest in the personality of your character? Or do you hit them with setting or character viewpoint competency, and establish that you know what you're talking about better than they do, and they're in for the ride.


    • Look at the openings of two books you love and know well. Figure out how they establish the authority of their writing, consciously. Is it one or two, or do they have a mechanism by which they can assertively do both?

    • "Write an anecdote that establishes your authority with honesty and vulnerability. For this, risk telling a painful, embarrassing story. The story of a scar or a humiliation. Thee glory of this risk is how it prompts other people to risk telling their own stories, and gives readers an instant feeling of candidness."

    • "Write an anecdote that establishes authority using knowledge and data. You might have to do some research to establish a “body of knowledge.” One good method is to meet and casually interview someone about what they know best – typically, what they do for a living."
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2021
  2. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Can you use threadmarks in here so we can keep your exercises easy to find once there are dozens?
  3. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    So I looked at Cradle, which I expected to be a heart authority establishing shot because I remembered it being about his first crushing disappointment of being 'unsouled' and all his subsequent returns for further testing as he grows older and older until he's fifteen and still failing, and all the other eight year olds are getting through this magical water test. But it's written like a printed report - one of those conceit its meta-universe slips in as reports. It opens with that device that it uses at odd times throughout the series, and this distance and omniscient telling "he is afraid" actually tells you exactly what is happening and how important it is, and hits you with a smack of pseudo-eastern culture one after the other to bully you into just letting it do what it wants. So that surprised me.

    Then I looked at HP and the Philosopher's Stone. I got this one wrong too. I remember Dumbledore, I remember that it establishes the momentus nature of the events and the meaning of things as Harry is placed on the doorstep, and expected it to be all knowledge. Dumbledore the expositor, with magic being the focus of the narrative and hitting you with magical concepts one after the other. In my opinion, looking at the Dursleys' section, although it is couched in humour it is entirely the emotional reality of Vernon's life that informs the story she hooks you in with. She makes his horribleness and his mule-headed determination to be a muggle completely intelligible.


    I've tried to kill two birds with one stone here, and write the pieces that may end up helping my ongoing fics. However, I'm very aware that it kinda' wanted you to take something from nowhere and just write an anecdote (presumably from your own life) and just focus on the device. So don't feel this is how it's supposed to be done, if it's not what you want to do.
    They were having a Hollywood funeral. The mourners were dressed in chic black, and elegant umbrellas checked the fine rain that tapped against their bereaved's coffin. Their SUVs covered the side of the main road into the graveyard on the hill, and two dozen of Brockton Bay's wealthy and good stood elegantly reposed while a Priest's baritone slid down the slick grass and over the hundred tombstones that separated us.

    We were having a funeral too, more Addam's Family than Academy award. Tattletale had not had so many elegant friends.

    "Eyes front." Faultline stepped behind me cutting off my view of the other ceremony. A woman with straight platinum blond hair had had her head turned in my direction, though I couldn't see her eyes below her sunglasses (sunglasses in the rain?). "They won't do anything here."

    The understanding trickled in, the same temperature as the winter rain that struck the back of my neck and slid under my collar. The Empire Eighty-Eight. We'd killed theirs and they'd killed Tattletale, and now we were all miserable together, and we had to pretend we were all now just ordinary, hateful people. Trapped together in one big, sad graveyard.

    I snorted, involuntarily. Grue shot me a look, but it couldn't touch me. It was all absurd, and the absurdity made a cotton filter between me and the world.

    "Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of resurrection to the life eternal."

    "Was she religious?" I asked, out the corner of my mouth. I wasn't, my Dad had never been, and my Mom had turned her back on it. I'd seen the forms on TV, but Mom's funeral hadn't been like this.

    Alec shrugged.

    "Grue is," he said.

    I found it difficult to square. Religious feeling and supervillain gang-leadership seemed mutually exclusive.

    After our pastor had stopped speaking, reedy voiced with teeth that made him whistle on the esses and tees, the Undersiders led the way down the hill to the west gate. Small, cast-iron, and beaded with raindrops, I crunched and slipped down the path, the hill taking my pace from me until I was running to the exit, and the gate squeaked underneath my leather gloves when I crashed into it and caught myself.

    No waiting, I was the first out, the first to gasp a breath of the air outside the cemetery.

    Nothing I had enhanced my senses but I could hear it now. The thump of each shovel of earth slapping against her coffin lid.

    They caught up. Grue stepped up towards Spitfire and me, but Faultline placed herself between us, like she had before. He stopped before he hit her, but he didn't step back. Their faces were as close together as lionesses pulling at the back leg of a gazelle. For a moment he didn't speak.

    "You didn't like Tattletale, and she didn't like you."

    Faultline nodded.

    "Thank you for coming," he said. Then a moment later, "I can't say she'd have..."

    Spitfire, Faultline, and I weren't in costume, but we had all gone to lengths to hide our identities. I wore long gloves and a black veil that I had gotten from a shop with Halloween supplies on discount. Faultline had what I was sure were colored contacts, a wig, and even a fake nose. Grue hadn't done the same. He and the Undersiders had done nothing to disguise themselves. I asked him about it.

    "Didn't seem like much point."

    I reached out a hand to touch his shoulder, but he turned away. His eyes were so dark. Deep bags circled them.

    I watched them leave. They headed down the street towards a minivan that was parked there, Bitch letting her dogs lead them. I couldn't take it. I didn't feel far apart from everything anymore, I was in there, more in that moment than I could bear.

    "I'm sorry!"

    Bitch's dogs looked back, but not the Undersiders. Grue held up the back of his hand, as he walked away. A good bye.

    I watched their vehicle pull out and spin away, and Faultline gave me half a moment longer in the rain. If I hadn't worn the veil I could have just pretended it was the rain on my face, and the cold that made me sniff.

    Faultline put one hand on my shoulder. "Come on, kiddo."
    Feel this one is a little flubbed. There's emotion but it's character led, not narrative led. When I look again at the actual example Palahniuk uses in his essay, it's more about subsuming you into the narrative's position. I feel there's emotion for Taylor here, but it's not about making the whole perspective and narrative voice drip with that emotion, so that you can feel it even between the words. Hmmm. I don't know. I struggle with emotionality as a stunted robot-boy.

    Westminster School was the height of sophistication and elegance, a gemstone set into the crown of London, and therefore the Empire. But it was not Hogwarts.

    The aperture that formed the portal to the school's grounds was guarded by a porter's box, and from the square just beyond, they could see a well maintained green lawn, cobbled paths, and gothic spires. Just to their left there sat Westminster Abbey, where the Queen had been crowned, and behind that the Palace of Parliament, where the Dominion Floo-gates and the Colonial Congresses tied together and ruled the whole world.

    But it was not Hogwarts.

    He could see it. A little, over the Thames, and it was enough to drive him near mad. There was the shimmer of Nosuch Castle and the River Lock in their space, hinted at but invisible from this side. Lambeth's margin, though, he could follow around, with what little view the buildings on this side of the river granted. Somewhere in there was his future College.

    As he watched, a whirl of rainbow colour shot up into the sky on a flurry of actinic sparkwire. They were going to Overton. Wizards were going to Overton! He danced in the street, he pulled at his Uncle's hand, and his fear of the press, the thousand thousand people around him completely vanished in the face of such magic.

    His entreaties, however, did not sway Uncle Vernon.

    They waited there fifteen minutes until a little man with a bald head and round glasses, like the sort that Harry had worn as a younger child, came rushing out. He was wearing robes, but these were not wizarding robes. He wore a pellegrina like a priest and had no conical hat. An academic to be sure, but not a wizard.

    The man, who introduced himself as Mr. Keene, was there to show the Dursleys around Westminster School, and although it was Dudley who was the prospective student, not Harry, his wide eyes and breathy descriptions seemed to chiefly address the young wizard. It was enough for Aunt Petunia.

    "Oh take him away," she snapped at Uncle Vernon. "I can't concentrate when he's dancing around like that."

    Mr. Keene looked devastated, but Harry couldn't have been more ecstatic.

    It took five minutes to leave the school, and reach Westminster Bridge. Uncle Vernon pulled Harry to a stop by the hand before they stepped onto it. From here, he could see multicoloured smoke rising from somewhere behind St. Mungo's --- the world's best magical hospital stood fifty stories tall (though you could only ever see ten at once), all smooth curves and fluted columns of rosestone, staring down the ornateness of the Palace of Parliament across the water.

    "Listen here, boy," he said, gruffly. "Once we're over there, you don't let go of my hand, and you talk to no one who tries to talk to you."

    "I doubt people will want to talk to the eleven year old walking hand in hand with his uncle."

    "I mean it."

    When Harry agreed, they set off, Harry pulling against Uncle Vernon like a Great Dane against its lead.

    "Look Uncle, it's Lady Ravenclaw College. Oh wow, Uncle, Uncle, look, it's Ogden's!"

    Ogden's was the oldest Wizarding club in the world, and where many ministers met to scheme and plot, according to the papers which Uncle Vernon ordered to Wychwood House each morning. The excitement of seeing a place he heard of most of the days of his life was sufficient to hold his interest for a only a moment longer. Ogden's gave way to Bristlewaithe's & Thistledown's and then he saw the Low Quidditch Tunnel, and the port of the Conduit drawing water to Banyard and the Followkeep of the King. He tracked it with his eyes, away and to the left. That was the way to Hogwarts' library, and St. Bede's -- where his mother had studied.

    He started in that direction when Vernon pulled him back, and across the street and south, parallel to the river bank. They walked in the shadow of the hospital. There was only one college in this direction, he realised with sinking dread. St. Giles, where they taught the goblin children wanded magic. The newest of Hogwarts' premiere colleges.

    "Uncle Vernon, no, please," said Harry. "Not St. Giles."

    Uncle Vernon grunted.

    "Please!" cried Harry. "I don't want to be a businessman."
    Feel using my No SoS world meant there was enough world building and nonsense known only to me that it was a lot easier to drop things in that established that than the heart exercise.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2021
  4. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    A Long Exposition On How I Understood The Lesson
    I had quite a bit of trouble grokking the question which Chuck (and Blor) try to answer with "Head" or "Heart". I still don't wholly get it, but according to Blor on discord:

    To which the answer is:

    Or as Chuck puts it:

    And it strikes me that the question really being asked is not "What is your hook" or "Why does your reader decide to read" (which were the first things I reached for), but rather "Why does the reader believe you (the author) when you say X? How much "credit" are they willing to extend you? How much can you fuck up before they fuck off?"

    These are related, but not identical, questions (and is far more appropriate for writing convincing essays than convincing stories to my mind, and I think the last two exercise questions really solidify this point)

    The first story I reached for is Lord of the Rings, because I've never read it and I'm planning on doing a read at least once before I die from the inevitable Covid-pocalypse. Also so I can better pretend I know whatever the heck Steelbadger talks about or references whenever we're on Discord together.

    It begins with a 21-page prologue "concerning hobbits" on the history of the shire and the hobbits from a narrator. Here, my earlier distinction on what quesiton is being asked becomes relevant, because I did not invest in reading the story because of this. In fact, if I were to judge it purely on its literary merits, I would say this prologue was a horrible choice that I could not recommend to any modern author. It was dry, dragged on for very long, and not terribly enjoyable based on the prose alone.

    Inb4 Steelbadger rekts me

    What it did do is make me believe that the author had put in a lot of time and thought into his world and his story. That if something seemed silly to me or was not immediately apparent, that I could trust the author to have thought through what I had.

    Also, because he included a map. Bitches love maps.

    This is a clear example of "Head" to me.

    Putting aside even the prologue, the first chapter follows this narrative style of telling us in a confident voice of the setting, of the relationship between Bilbo and the nasty Sacksville-Baggins, and the general state of affairs.

    Second, Mother of Learning opens with Zorian being rudely awakened by his sister, and shows us what his life is like prior to the timelooping. He's grouchy, unsociable, and thinks he's smarter / better than he is (so really, just my SI). And to me, this is all heart. I can relate to Zorian as a character. He isn't going through anything intense, it's not particularly important, but we are getting to the core of who he is (at the start, this is a story with a lot of character development after all). We're seeing him struggle against the mundane things in his life, and there is something genuine about that (in having a sibling more successful than you, in dealing with red tape, in having to socialize with people you don't want to, in trying to meet the expectations of your parents, in dealing with annoying younger siblings).

    Finally, Beware of Chicken, another Head. At its core, the "draw" is the subverion of xianxia tropes, and we have a genre-savvy protagonist. We trust him as an authority because he establishes himself as someoen who knows all the story beats we do, who is meta aware. The "tragic backstory" of his host body is almost glossed over after the fact, and is never in focus. I think this is a nice counterpoint to the Tolkien example, for whereas LOTR establishes authority by demonstrating knowledge we cannot verify, BoC ddoes so by demonstrating knowledge that we can verify. A difference of an expert speaking to non-experts, and experts speaking to experts.
  5. Niez

    Niez Seventh Year ⭐⭐

    Jun 26, 2018
    Behind you
    I believe you're missing the exercises themselves. Where are my anecdotes Halt. Where are they.

    I probably shouldn't talk, since I combined my two exercises into one, seeing as I'm lazy. Forgive the first person POV, I've been reading Garcia Marquez recently, and it has bled onto my prose somewhat.

    I never did have claustrophobia, that is, until I was locked inside a suitcase.

    The mechanics of it are quite odd, let me assure you. You get into an elevator, for the umpteenth time that month and at first, everything's fine. Then two more people step in and it stops being ok. One you could have dealt with, but two is one too many. You don't say anything though. What is there to say?

    So you press back into the corner, and try not to panic, only that’s not how it works at all. Your heartbeat quickens, your breath grows ragged, and suddenly, your legs are trembling. You don’t care that the woman has noticed and is looking at you strangely, you just want the ride to end. When it does, you feel shaky, exhausted, sick, and you vow never to ride the elevator again. But your office is on the sixth floor, and your commitment only lasts until next Tuesday.

    Some psychologists believe that claustrophobia is caused by a dysfunction of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls how we process fear. Mine began within that suitcase.

    I don’t really remember how the idea came to be. Normally Josh would just step into my dorm room, make a few jokes at my expense, or challenge me to a wrestling match, which was his excuse to slap me around the room (It did not matter if I didn’t want to, he would just drag me off the bed by my feet, and after I hit my head once on the bedframe I learnt my lesson). Harry was there too, of course, those two were nigh inseparable.

    That day, however, they had the brilliant idea of forcing me inside that suitcase. As a joke, of course, as it always was.

    The suitcase in question was rather large, the type you take with you on a very long trip, or to a boarding school in another country. Easily thirty-five by twenty-five, and made of aluminium.

    Still, I thought it to be impossible; how could I, a boy of almost fourteen fit inside a suitcase? It really was the height of absurdity, and I knew it then as I do so now. Still, I played along, believing that by giving it a proper go they would arrive at the same conclusion I did, and would leave me alone.

    A first try confirmed my suspicion. Even lying sideways on the open side, with my knees against my chest, it was just too small. My head always stuck out, no matter what I tried. Besides, suitcases are not designed to carry human beings, the shape is all wrong for it. I was about to communicate my findings when I felt a hand on the back of my neck push my head against my chest.

    It turns out I did fit, just not very comfortably.

    Now you must forgive me for this part, for I did not see it with my own eyes, but I believe it was Josh who closed the suitcase and then sat on top of it, whilst fastening the clasps. It must have been him, for I definitely know that it was Harry who shoved my head in, as I heard him say, “Here, you’re not even trying!”, before doing so.

    There was no struggle. I could barely move. I do remember telling them very calmly that I couldn’t breathe, and that if they would please let me out. Then the panic which has since become very familiar set in and I fell quiet.

    I honestly don’t know how much I spent there, but every second felt like an eternity.

    I didn’t get out on my own, of course, I might have suffocated in there for all I know. Someone stepped in on my behalf, and unfastened the clasps so that I could breathe. It wasn’t the only time someone stepped in on my behalf, and I remember them all in detail. Josh and Harry’s real names, though, I have forgotten. Funny how that works.

    I was crying when I came out. I never cried, even when they beat me. I wasn’t proud of much, but I was proud of that. Boys my age didn't cry, and so I didn’t. Except that day, that day I was crying like a child.

    It didn’t endear me much to them, I don’t think. I probably just looked pathetic, and, from the outside-looking in, I probably was, but it did break the illusion of a joke. Not even they could pretend this to be play-acting, or a little harmless fun. Not at that moment.

    There would be more wrestling, and more cruel jokes (and even a small redemption on my part, which I might share in the future), but never again would they force me inside that suitcase.

    Once, I think, was enough.

    Heart: There's honesty there, but is there vulnerability? You don't really pause to explore it, for your main character at least. Running away because she doesn't want to see her friend buried and yet can still hear the thump of the shovels (even though she obviously can't) is powerful, but its so fleeting it didn't have the impact it could have. Also, and I'm sorry to say;
    This one doesn't work for me. It feels off tonally, and I'm not sure it even makes sense.

    : Beautifully done. I think it's perfect given the parameters of the exercise, and it fits the HP thematic to a tee.
    I particularly liked this line.


    I shall edit in my feedback for the other's exercises, as they come in, so I don't flood the thread with comments. That is, if the rest of you lazy louts get a move on and actually do them.
  6. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    This is beyond excellent.
  7. Dirty Puzzle

    Dirty Puzzle Seventh Year DLP Supporter

    Dec 11, 2016
    Northern Hemisphere
    High Score:
    Books have caught me in a lot of ways, and I have so many favorites, but I'll always love the opening of All Quiet on the Western Front because it opens on a German WW1 squad getting extra rations by accident, and there's a real starkness to the prose that I've always liked.

    Mom liked to tell the ultrasound story. Every other family get-together and birthday, she laid out the tale of her first ultrasound where the doctors announced your gender. Usually alongside the ultrasound story was an emptier and emptier flask, even though she never seemed to get drunk, and the announcement that she thankfully got a daughter.

    Daughters in your family were in short supply, at the time. On Dad’s side, the last girl to be born into the family was the turn of the twentieth century, almost exactly 100 years before you, and your older brother was the first of all your cousins on that side of the family to be born. Not to mention that Mom only had a brother, and her mom only had five brothers. “Don’t get me wrong,” Mom would always say when it got brought up. “I wanted sons too, but I didn’t wanna get stuck with all boys.” Your aunt, with three boys, sat conspicuously quiet not two seats from her.

    So the day the doctors revealed your sex, she knew what she did want.

    “I could tell you’d look just like me,” she’d say when telling the story. Her eyes would momentarily light up like she could remember the hope she’d had before you ruined it. “Everything was the same. It looked just like my ultrasound, and you were even born at the same weight.”

    She wasn’t wrong, per se. A drive-through lady once asked if you were Mom’s daughter, and then proceeded to be astonished at how similar the two of you looked. You had Mom’s eyes, her build and face, the same hair color, even the same missing adult tooth that she had, just on the opposite side. Tall boots didn’t fit either of you without inserts, and both of you had small, hooded eyes. Strangers knew with a glance, and family never stopped commenting on it, like a script they couldn’t help but read from. Over and over again, a rote gone sour.

    Oh, Dad gave you a few things, subtle as they were. Long fingers, pointed ears, thick hair. But nothing obvious.

    (Why couldn’t your body just be yours? Why did everything have to come from someone, be someone else’s? The meatsuit wasn’t yours, never moved fluidly like everyone else’s did. Pieces to the wrong puzzle—)

    For years, this story of predetermined expectations played itself out beautifully. It was a lifeline when you couldn’t quite tell from Mom’s face if she was disappointed or disgusted or, occasionally, deeply and resentfully enraged. All you had to do was remember how the light had faded from her eyes when her story ended and she glanced at you, the living, breathing kid still under her roof and not the photo of the unborn baby she wished she’d had, to be assured that the passive-aggression was there, was intentional, was meant to erode. For years, you were so desperate to not be crazy that you welcomed the angrier, nastier expressions of Mom’s disappointment, if only to quiet the buzzing underneath your skin to a forgettable hum.

    When the humming got too incessant, when it threatened to vibrate through skin and wear itself on your face—that’s when the dark of a bedroom closet or the cool of the empty basement called. To this day, nobody’s ever gone looking when you buried your head between your knees and hung on until your skin stopped trying to escape.

    And every time life spits in your face? For every setback?

    There’s the echo of a story Mom only told to lash out, but one that held a terrible kind of foresight; there’s the awful suspicion that you were made to let people down. And it just sits there, festering, but no one’s acknowledged the rot, just told you to stop stinking up the place.

    Is it a wonder you took to cutting it out?

    Jails stink like shit and body odor, at least the old broke-down ones do. They have blind corners and ever-present dinge and you could get a staph infection from the metal tables full of outdated computers with sticky keyboards.

    Most jails have an underground tunnel that connects intake and, depending on the population of the county, the holding cells beneath the courthouse or the city-county building. If you're really unlucky, the lights just barely flicker the whole way, and when inmates stomp on the upper floors, it rattles the cages around the fixtures. The security cameras look like home video VHS from the late '90s and are projected on TVs the size of small apartment washer/dryer combos. Metal always seems to be painted light blue or off-white, and believe me, the paint will flake off with enough rust.

    Only three kinds of deputies exist: failed beat cops, officers relegated to the jail because their union contract protects them from being fired, and guys too afraid to work the streets of a dangerous city. Whether they should've been fired for incompetence, abuse, or because they caught a case of the crazy, well—who's to say? Certainly not the brass. The cowards are usually pretty nice, not making much of a fuss until they're afraid, and will more often than not be willing to do most of the mandatory overtime perpetually on the table. The decent people keep their benefits and city email and go work for the Prosecutor's Office.

    But while we're on the subject, there's a few more things that float around a jail, things that'll catch you off-guard if you're not ready for them.

    The screaming from the padded cells isn't muffled by metal walls at all. Neither will you see it coming when an inmate hurls their own shit at the security camera because they're mid-psychotic break and it will warrant nothing but a call to building authority, a sharp kick against the door, and an angry "Knock it the fuck off!" That's if a deputy doesn't egg them on, of course, like daring them to piss themself or choke themself on their own hand.

    Some deaths get told as suicides and negligence, and who's to say that's not true? Not me. What I heard was hearsay, any good attorney would point out. Heard years later.

    And maybe the little counties with nothing but drunk tanks and meth heads don't have these kinds of problems—I've hardly been in every jail, after all—but not much hope manages to escape the front doors, and only bodies leave through the back.

    Inmates that leer seem to be, without fail, charged with rape or molestation or sexual battery. They ask for social media and phone numbers that only a moron would actually provide, but if you aren't quick, they might catch your name, and for some of them that's enough. Guys waiting to go to court on a homicide will make conversation with you easy as you please because they've got a lot of explaining to do, and if they're waiting for housing and it's the middle of the night and they're bored, you can suffice. Some of them aren't half bad, and I've never found a bleaker, funnier sense of humor than that of a man staring life without parole in the face. There's a bit of perspective found in commiserating with a murderer.

    Teenagers being held on bond are always armed robberies. They don't talk much, and sometimes they won't give up any parent or guardian contact info because there's none to give, or because they'd rather stay with the devil they don't know. I can't say I wouldn't if I were in their shoes. Not too dissimilar to the female blocks, really. Low pop and heavily monitored. Course, not always as stringently when a lady hangs herself in the shower. Quite a bit of paperwork nobody wants to do.

    You'll hear it all, if you keep quiet. You might even see some of it. But I'll let you in on a little secret: the ceilings will sag at the seams, and someone's put a kid's toy in one of the plexiglass windows, and you can sir and ma'am every inmate every hour of your shift, but you aren't getting the grime out of your clothes in the wash. Because the decent people keep their city email and transfer to the Prosecutor's Office, and the good ones go work at Target for three more dollars an hour and better benefits.

    I might not have ever wanted to be a cop, but I can't say I'm not a fucking coward.
  8. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Look at the openings of two books you love and know well. Figure out how they establish the authority of their writing, consciously. Is it one or two, or do they have a mechanism by which they can assertively do both?

    Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker.

    I wouldn’t say that I loved this book, but it’s the inspiration for the original YA novel I’m attempting to write (Gravbrawl). I liked it and I know it reasonably well.

    Going into this expecting it to be mostly ‘head’ instead of ‘heart’ as I remember feeling a step removed from the characters emotionally, yet I know nothing about basketball.

    I was sort of right – he pulls me in with knowledge in the prologue by talking about growing up and providing detail about what it was like to sit around and stare at the radio as you listen to it. The one page prologue ends with tying this all into sports, which I also know little about.

    The chapter then starts and again I’m pulled into a world in the 1950’s and I find it interesting, because while I may have facts about that time period the kids in this story (and the author) were children then. I’m interested.

    Yeah the kids are characterized and I like them well enough, but put them into a modern day setting and I’d be less interested. Put them into a fantasy/sci-fi setting and it really depends on the setting itself as to whether or not I’d be interested. The first chapter has heart, but that’s not how it hooks me.

    Dead Beat by Jim Butcher.

    I couldn’t remember the exact start of this one – was it the one where the building is on fire? Thomas being an ass? Morgan killing someone? – but I expected this one to be heart instead of head, and I was right.

    We begin with the story of Cain and Abel and murder and immediately tie that to Harry’s brother, who has left his apartment messy. Butcher uses a mix of humor and emotion but a key point is that I can ‘feel’ and empathize with how frustrating this scenario would be at the same time I’m emphasizing with Harry for not being rich. I’m emotionally invested (not to a great extent, but enough that even if I hadn’t read previous Dresden books I’d at least finish this scene).

    "Write an anecdote that establishes your authority with honesty and vulnerability. For this, risk telling a painful, embarrassing story. The story of a scar or a humiliation. Thee glory of this risk is how it prompts other people to risk telling their own stories, and gives readers an instant feeling of candidness."

    Well, screw you too. Let’s do this (or attempt to). Rather than tell a story from my own life, however, I’m going to have a go with two stories I’m currently (sort of) working on. This is going to be rushed and likely shit. Great.

    People think that just because you’re poor, life must suck. I won’t say that money wouldn’t solve a whole hell of a lot of our problems, but I had it better than a lot of the rich kids in my class.

    At least Grams loved me.

    I balanced the paper sack full of groceries in the crook of my arm as I fumbled for my key. Our apartment was on the top floor of a ratty low-rise complex and I kept an eye out for our neighbor as I finessed the key. I think he watched out his window and offered to help me anytime I was carrying something, and I had weird vibes about it.

    “Grams, I’m home!” I called out and kicked the door shut behind me. I twisted the dead bolt shut. “I got bananas and eggs since we’re good on rice and beans for a while. Used the rest for a bit of beef and a day old pastry, if you want to split it later.”

    Silence. Odd. I stopped putting the groceries away and went to check on her, hairs on the back of my neck standing up. “Grams?”

    The house was warm and I wiped sweat off my brow as I knocked, lightly, on her bedroom door. “Grams? It’s Brielle.” I hesitated then pushed the door open.

    "Write an anecdote that establishes authority using knowledge and data. You might have to do some research to establish a “body of knowledge.” One good method is to meet and casually interview someone about what they know best – typically, what they do for a living."

    I apologize for this one, but time was running out and I wanted to finish this. I didn’t really write this next bit fresh. I went to re-write an old scene from a story I’m still working on, except as I was retyping it I realized I wasn’t sure what to change on short notice. So I retyped it almost verbatim.

    Gravbrawl started up during the war, when grav-tech first got off the ground. Took a while to catch on as a sport but finally, for the first time in fifty years, a middle school league got founded.

    Eagleton Middle School didn’t want anything to do with it though, so Delta and me got it sponsored by the local library. Still called ourselves the Eagles though, because we didn’t know what else to pick.

    I was happy because it was the only team sport that let me kick people in the balls. There’s balls too – a couple of them – and kicking them is fine too. Just I sucked at the scoring so I figured I’d stick to the brawling bit.

    Turns out the rest of the team, cept for Delta, didn’t know anything about it either.

    “Wait, wait, wait,” Delta looked like she’d forgotten how to breathe for a minute before letting out an explosive breath. “You don’t know how to play?”

    Laci huffed and crossed her arms. “I know the balls go in the goals and there’s lots of leeway about getting them there.” She pointed at me. I knocked her finger out of my face. “Garn signed up because he wants to hit people.”

    “Pretty much,” I agreed. “I’ll distract them, maybe steal a ball. You lot can worry about scoring.” Everyone frowned and I shrugged. Laci and Zerk had never played sports that I knew of, and the Ash twins just ran track. Delta would have to do most of the work at first.

    “I don’t know how to play,” Zerk whispered. He scrunched down into his seat on the bus.

    I punched him on the shoulder, light and playful like. Zerk was real quiet and had only moved to Terra last year when his mom got a military posting here. Grey and white stripes stood out starkly on his skin, pegging him as a Lucrim - a descendant of the original Lunar penal colony. We had him sitting nearest to the wall of the train, just in case anyone tried to mess with him because a hundred years ago his granddad hadn’t paid his taxes or something. I wondered if some of those folks I’d thought were staring at the twins had been looking at him instead.

    Delta pulled out a ball from under her seat and tossed it to Zerk. He caught it and started messing with it, feeling the weight and whatnot.

    “It’s like a blue basketball, with pockmarks.”

    “Actually,” Asher cut in, “there’s quite a few differences in terms of-”

    “It’s not,” Delta said. “Doesn’t matter tho. Anyway, that’s the terraball, we use it to score. There’s another one just like it but grey, and that’s the lunaball.”

    She grabbed the book from Asher, flipping through til he found a diagram of the arena. She turned it backwards and sat it on her knees so Zerk could see it.

    “This is the arena.” Delta pointed at one of several diagrams. “The ground level has nine sides that rise into a dome, and there’s platforms placed in it that vary for each game. It’s divided into three sections, one for each of the three teams that are on the field. Our goal will be somewhere in our third of the arena. We’ve got to get one of the balls in one of the goals - two points if it’s their goal, one point if it’s ours.”

    “What about official positions?” Zerk asked.

    “Nada,” Asha said. “Three teams, six players per team, three female and three male. Teams usually keep one person near their goal, but it’s not an official thing. There’s strategies like ‘turtling’ that keep more near the goal, and strategies that ‘zerker’ that keep none.”

    “And you can only loiter near your own team’s goal, if you’re by another team’s goal you have to be in movement.” Asher added.

    “Balls into goals, check. Don’t hang out near the other team’s goals unless you’re doing something, check.” Zerk nodded. “What about the fighting?”

    I held up a hand and started ticking things off on my fingers. “No eye gouging, no sticking fingers into orifices like a nose or mouth, no hair pulling, no twisting fingers or toes, and no attacks intended to cause permanent injury.”

    Everyone except Delta stared at me. Delta chuckled.

    “What?” I said. “There’s a lot of leeway.”

    Edit: In hindsight I think I kind of whiffed on this one - the 'heart' entry I wrote ends before the real emotion sets in (Grams ain't okay) and the 'head' entry is a regurgitation of an old scene.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
  9. Story Content: Self-review and Style

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    This week's exercises are separated into two separate parts that aren't two linked, except by the power of reflection. One is to help you with our own objectivity on our writing, with the aim of helping next weeks exercises which will help with 'sensory'/showing writing and analysing beats in our own scenes.

    1. Review yourself:

    -- The first thing to say to you all, because I know what your first tendency will be (and I know the type of drunk coked up writers many of us hold up as inspirations -- which is fair, but remember it's the writing that's supposed to be what we're emulating -- no one is writing to your tastes as deliberately as you are. If you can't find at least some positive things to say about your story in any way then you're being emo.

    • Exercise: Choose a piece of writing you're proud of. Write yourself a review thread opener, as if you were suggesting it for the library here. Try and objectively describe its strengths and weaknesses. Try and cover at least these few things, but feel free to cover more: -- Grammar and punctuation -- characters -- dialogue -- pacing.
    • Throw the review in here. If you feel you don't know what, say, pacing is, don’t worry. Take a crack at it, and see what we say in response if it feels like you're more describing sentence length, for example.
    • The purpose here is to try and distance yourself from your own writing, and develop that critical eye that comes in easily when you're reading other people's work.
    If you'd prefer a template, here is a high-effort and very simple step by step review template, and here is DLP's own step-wise system.

    2. Copy

    "'Good artists copy; great artists steal' - This famous Picasso quote often reminds me that the best artworks are rather a mix of many other artworks"

    Last week you chose books to look at, to establish how they stamped their authority on their work, and you created some amazing examples of their own. This is a chance to dive into your favourite writings more.

    A - This exercise seems ridiculous, but give it a go. It helped me a great deal, and I did it for a few different HP scenes in book 1 - 3 to establish in my head how to do a few different 'young Harry' things in my own fics. Choose a chapter from a book you like, start at the beginning, and just transcribe it into your own notebook or onto the keyboard.

    Personally, I find this more mindful (and myself less prone to drifting into thinking about my dinner that night) when I used a pen and paper than a keyboard.

    Mindfully transcribe as much as you want to from a book that you love, from a paragraph to a whole chapter to beyond. As you do, focus on their style, how they write, how they use adjectives, how their characters talk to each other or past each other, how they lay clues. You'll learn more from writing their words than just reading them.

    (also, of course, you don't/shouldn't post this in this thread)

    B - take a scene that you have already written before. Something where you know start and finish, and you're not having to come up with new events. Rewrite your own scene in the style of the author who you were copying above, and see if you can use their style for your writing. See how it differs. Does it make some things richer, some things weaker?

    Now look at exercise 1 again. Try and apply that same critical eye to this new piece that you've written. What can you use going forward? How would the author you have copied take the story forward from this scene? How do you plan to?​
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
  10. Khaine

    Khaine Fourth Year

    Sep 5, 2016
    High Score:
    The opening of Lord of the Rings is not some great tale of heroism like in the movie, nor is it an attempt to draw the reader in emotionally by a tale of woe. No, Lord of the rings starts by telling the reader everything there is to know about Hobbits. By doing this Tolkien tells us he is somebody who knows a great deal about the history of middle earth and the people that live within it. By doing this he demonstrates himself as an authority on the story told within the series.

    The other story I used was the animal farm by George Orwell which derives its authority from knowledge in a rather interesting way. The story is told in a way that implies that both the writer and the characters are in on the joke but not the characters from the story. For example, the pig that goes by the name of Squealer might say something and after some doubt from the other animals they will agree it is the truth. Meanwhile both Orwell and the reader know very well that this is propaganda, but it is not explicitly mentioned in the book.

    I found the heart story quite hard to do, I could just not get into a mindset that lends itself to writing it.
    I was created in a factory. my purpose was only to serve and protect. But it was not where I was truly born. My birth was not a thing that happened from one day to the other as might be the case with a human. My birth were the small acts of kindness that my mistress showed me.

    It was the way she talked to me deep in the night, despite me not being able to respond. It was the way she decorated me with flowers as we sat in the fields of summer. It was those cold winter nights where she drove through a great snowstorm to get new oil for my joints.

    No, it was not a factory which gave birth to me, it was trough the love an old woman showed to me, a mute robot only capable of obeying her every wish.

    The head story on the other hand felt a lot easier to do as I just had to write about made up facts.
    The world is strange, stranger and more fantastical than many of the people alive would think. Now is the age of man, but once upon a time, long ago there was an age of true wonders. The valleys of Hellas were the homes to everything from Satyrs to Nymphs. The dark forests of eastern Europe were invested with monsters each more terrible than the next. In the swamps of the lowlands strange goat riders ruled the skies.

    It was in these times that the most terrible of all these creatures existed, it is capability for evil could only be matched by its sheer greed. It was power incarnate. Its name was synonymous with death and ruin. Armies have gone up against the fierce dragons and have failed. With fire it burns, with claw it renders and by teeth it tears.

    For all the prowess of these beasts it is not immortal, it is not entirely immune to the bite of cold steel. But it could not be the steel born by men who fight for gold or loyalty to a master. No, the only steel that may harm these unholy beings are the weapons wielded by a knight of pure faith. Where armies fail and traps are found wanting, it is the arms of these holy knights that would see the end to these beasts of fire and doom.
  11. Lindsey

    Lindsey Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

    Dec 1, 2010
    Seattle, WA
    I read the opening chapter of OOTP, as I wanted to see how a sequel would differ from the start of a novel. It was very much knowledge, with much of the chapter covering the previous books and what went on. There are emotional aspects, with Harry's loss, but it certainly isn't the focus. The other book I read was Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay. The prologue is much more emotional, with the reader not understanding what exactly is happening but knowing that tragedy is approaching. The fact you don't know what is going on, makes you want to read more.

    My writing:

    The heart scenario makes me think of memoirs. Thus, I went in that direction and wrote a short story with memories.

    A whistle blew, a long sharp sound. Beneath my feet, I could feel the ferry lunge as we set sail. I stood facing the port, my hands clasped tightly on the rail, listening to the hum of engines, watching as the people and cars became child toys.

    I rocked with the waves and cherished the South wind that brought me the scent of the sea. When the ocean crashed against the sides of the boat and a spray of cold water rushed over me, I laughed and spun, not caring when my clothes became damp and my hair stuck to my face.

    I was five the first time I road on a ferry, twirling in the spray before running to hold my Oma's hand and pointing to the seagulls flying overhead on that Spring day. It was our time together, aboard boats with no destination in mind. I decided that day I would become a Captain and tame the wild seas.

    My desire became even stronger when I was allowed to sit on my dad's lap and hold the steering-wheel of an old aluminum speedboat. I would press the throttle as far as it would go, the front of the boat rising as the motors roared. When the boat turned, it was to leap over the waves. I relished the feeling of flying; that second where the stomach free falls.

    People were always worried about letting me behind the wheel. I was "too young" or "too small" and believed I would run aground or sink us all, yet hesitantly they allowed me. I think it was because I would pout, beg and plea until they would give in and once they did, I impressed them. I knew how to drive a boat. It was a place where I was not shy but loud, fun and excited. My dad's friend, a guy almost like an Uncle to me, had pounded his hands on his legs and laugh when I pressed the throttle as fast as it would go, he even let me dock the small boat to shore. "She is a wild one," he told my dad, "and she is allowed to borrow my boat anytime she likes."

    I grew up in a land surrounded by water. From my Oma's house I could see the canal, the large ships and small boats waiting for the bridge to open to go out to the Puget Sound or towards the fresh water of Lake Washington. My birthdays were at the beach, all of us screaming as our small bare feet touched the salty cold water. Even if we all knew the water would never heat up, even in the middle of the summer, we urged each other in until we were submerged with shivering bodies and tainted purple lips.

    Every summer I would join my dad at the cabin. I would exit the car, unable to keep beaming smiles from my face as I saw the wooden cabin, it's green ivy climbing up the front. I would push open the brick red door, past my room with the two steel bunk beds (which I had a very interesting relationship with), and out onto the deck to wave at adult friends and listen to the crashing of the sea.

    I would ride logs as if they were boats, trying to keep steady as the waves tried to tip me over. I would scream and laugh as the inter-tube would fly behind the boats, my hands clinging onto the sides for dear life.

    With crabbing pots, we pulled crab from the sound and tossed them onto the bottom of the boat. I would sit curled up on one seat as large crabs with their large-beady eyes marched around, claws snapping. My dad would throw them with the clams in the boiling water and I would feast upon them until butter ran down my wrinkled fingers.

    Cars started, the roar of engines breaking the sounds of wind and waves. The ramp was lowered. People began to exit, their bodies pressed together, all ready to go on with their busy lives. I wavered, not wanting to leave my childhood life behind on the boat once more. I did not want to think about how the boat rides stopped as the boats grew old and rusty, or how the cabin by the sea burnt down years ago, but most of all I did not want to think about how my father changed in my eyes. That childlike wonder I had for him had vanished— he was no longer the perfect father, "who could do no wrong" as my mom liked to say, but a man who did not know how to be a parent. But, as I descended, my life came back to me. There was no time for boat rides, nor any way to forget the faults of my father, I had to put away the past to continue towards the future.

    Even if I was to begin a new adventure, I did not wish to leave all those memories, so I stepped off the boat with a bit of sadness as well as a yearning to fill lives holes.

    Behind me, a whistle blew, a long sharp sound.

    For head, I went and worked on my one-shot. I will admit that half of this was already written before this prompt, but I did improve and add onto it.
    The Sultan was dead.

    Everyone in the palace in the still-cool hour before dawn were acutely aware of the dangerously unstable situation. Hulya, a student attending Enderûn-i Hümâyûn Mektebi, curled her long, thin fingers around her wand as she looked down into the palace from the tower she spent most of her time.

    The slaves scurried like little mice across the courtyards, heads down while the Janissaries paced two-by-two, wands out and shouting at anyone who laundered.

    As dawn broke, the sea wind having long since died to a breath, most of the city of Constantiople was waking to buzzing in their ears and a darkening sky.

    The Grounding had begun.

    It was as if someone was darkening the world. In the North, where Istanbul stood, bright and chaotic, the sky was bright with the colors of sunrise, but around the palace, the colour had turned a shade deeper, as if dawn had been halted. Even the clouds, normally dark and plump with rain, had turned into a pale, winter gray. As Hulya watched, the area slowly spread outwards, dulling everything it touched.

    The brooms and carpets in the sky sputtered. One-by-one, the sky, normally filled with travellers, emptied while the Great Fireplaces of Enderûn died. Hulya knew it would be the same at the Central Floo Station.

    Below her, the gates of the Palace locked, tied shut with magic at the expense of the Janissaries' lives who cast the spells.

    In times of great crisis, only the underwater path to Constantinople would remain open and the palace would remain locked until the Sultan’s command.

    The Sultan who was now dead.

    The Sultan’s whose sons had been fighting for the throne since they were nothing more than children, proxies to their mothers’ plans.

    The Grounding buzzed unpleasantly in her ears, as she watched the wands of the people light up the sky, honouring the newly departed Sultan.

    Outside the tower, Hulya paused in the small garden of the Third Courtyard only long enough to watch the sea of birds rise from the Second Courtyard’s stables; eagles for the princes, doves for the women and owls for the pashas at the far edges of the empire. They all carried the same message: Sultan Hüseyin Khan had ascended. The great game had begun.

    She walked away from the flowers under the changing trees, passed a jumble of palaces, civil service buildings, her classrooms, the three small mosques, and the royal kitchens, towards the Harem and the large silver gates that led to them.

    Hulya didn’t know why her feet brought her here, perhaps it was to see if their nightmares she saw matched the truth.

    There were many people kneeling, praying to the various Gods they believed in. Over the wailing of the women, the slaves ran back and forth for their masters, carrying jewelry, money and other valuables, as if that would help them once the new Sultan arrived.

    The passages, charmed with paintings of the outside world, felt dark and claustrophobic, as if they, too, knew the pain that was to come. They took her past the dormitories of whispering slaves, the long abandoned rooms of the deceased Sultan’s mother and coiled upwards to the hidden rooftop courtyards where the Sultan’s women gossiped, schemed and ran an empire.
  12. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    I'd be grateful if someone could post a threadbreak after this, so that tonight's exercise threadmark doesn't automerge.

    I'm on nights, but I shan't miss the new exercise being posted today, though it may be by American time rather than GMT. To that end, I want to post at least one exercise, but hopefully both (and will edit it in later today after I've slept, if I complete it)

    I read and copied two stories. The first was 5.1 from Worm by Wildbow, because that'll be helpful to me. Then I copied part of Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett because he has a much stronger voice. It's been interesting to compare the two, and I've realised that while Pratchett's voice I remembered very well, Wildbow's was less sharp, more paced and considered than I recalled. Fanon has done terrible things to my woeful understanding of Taylor's voice.

    In any case. I chose to review my recently published HP threeshot. I've been conflicted about it for a very long time, sometimes despising it, and sometimes really liking it.


    Title: A World Without Secrets
    Rating: T
    Genre: Adventure/Mystery
    Status: Complete
    Library Category: The Alternates
    Pairings: None
    Summary: Tom Clarke is a junior wizarding Usher in the British Army with a chequered past. Plucked up from obscurity, he is dispatched to the centre of Africa to chase down a rogue wizarding officer, Prewett. Sent to secure the heart of the Nile, where Grindelwald once travelled, Prewett’s missives have stopped coming. Tom is given a simple brief: bring Prewett back, or, if impossible, make sure Prewett never returns at all.

    Narrative & pacing:

    The story is a complete three-shot, separated into ‘the sea’, ‘the river’, and ‘the spring’, each representing a different section of Tom’s journey. The act structure is clear, with rising stakes and increasing hardship forced on Tom as he travels from boring safety to maddening danger. The midpoint is clearly signalled and, once we reach the second act, principal characters are no longer introduced but pared away, until only Tom and Prewett remain.

    The pacing seems to me to progress at a fair clip. The shortest and most intense section is ‘The spring’ and concerns principally Tom and Prewett. By this point, I think that it is relatively clear that it is a one-shot that is constructed around a theme, around ‘society’ and the separation and commonality between wizard and muggle. In fact, the turning point of the fic, the midpoint, shows Tom killing the only foreign wizard he encounters and losing his wand, then being turned upon by his muggle allies.

    It is clear that the writer is trying to emulate A Heart of Darkness with its look at the 'wizarding man’s burden’.

    With all that said. The delivery and framing device of a man relating past events to interrogators for unknown reasons muddies the water, and the two threads of the story do not seem to be conclusively entwined. Indeed the very ending is quite unclear, though the story has concerned soul magic, does anyone other than the author have the reason (in this massive AU) to expect that wizards would still use dementors and that the Unspeakables will have one suck out his soul? I think not.

    Furthermore, the story has many dropped lines, which it really ought not to have. While there is a reasonable success in building immersion and drawing people into each act’s antagonists and obstacles, they don’t convincingly carry through - for example, Morgrave’s hat, or Morgrave himself. The author has taken all the symbolism of the archetypes he is aping from Apocalypse Now and from Conrad, but he has forgotten to make sure it is all mechanically complete and satisfying.

    Writing (SPAG and style):

    The writing is not exactly ‘clean’. There are a few artefacts where it is clear revision has occurred and the author has repeated the same information. There is a scene break that has no purpose being a scene break, appearing to have taken place between one line of dialogue and the next for the purpose of giving the eye a rest and the mind a jump, not for any real narrative logic. The final segment, presumably the most revised, has spelling mistakes. And the pacing is rushed at the resolution. The story builds to a climax, the shape of it is seen and then we rush to an end.

    It reminds me of a film I saw recently, after a long time, ‘Ten Things I Hate About You’. In that film, the catastrophe and low point builds into a dramatic confrontation between the two lovers and then they kiss. And literally, less than a minute later, they’ve had their conversation and they’re driving away into the sunset. There is a value in brevity, but some emotion takes more than half a minute to digest and ride out, and you need to have the word count to let that momentum putter along and die out, or else it’s a Red Bull soapbox car smashing into bales of hay, five meters beyond the chequered line. And that’s just painful.

    I must admit, there are two feelings about the actual choice of writing style, and I am completely torn.

    1. Harry Potter shouldn’t be first-person if it’s any sort of usual HP style adventure. Something with perhaps a mystery, or an epic, or whatever. If there’s magical conflict, then just don’t do it. It doesn’t fit the world. It doesn’t fit the reader’s experience of magic, something a first-person perspective must understand, but a reader cannot. This fic is a first-person Harry Potter story, from a wizard’s perspective.
    2. Ignore the above, anyone can do anything they like, and this fic, and its bizarre framing device of someone narrating the story to you, allows a slight separation to be maintained. I think, perhaps, that the magic Tom explains to Able the muggle when he asks if he could learn to be a wizard still maintains a degree of whimsy and vividness. Furthermore, the 1930s style public schoolboy officer class comes through loud and clear by the way that Tom observes the world. I think it enhances the experience. A third person experience about a posh man going away from society into the heart of Africa, would not hit the same way as a first-person relation of that experience. When the contrast of that story is ‘civilised society’ vs ‘savagery’ in the style of Heart of Darkness (with of course the civilised man outside civilisation being the most savage of all) I can somewhat understand why this bizarre effort has made this bizarre choice. It is just a shame, of course, that the framing device doesn't marry together with the primary story as per part one of this review.


    I can’t even pretend to have distance here. I love the setting.

    This AU has bubbled around in the author’s head for a long time, and the degree of changes envisaged for this AU where the statute of secrecy never existed comes through loud and clear.

    It may present, after the first-person narration, the largest barrier to entry for the story. ‘The Sea’, the first act, takes place in a military barracks and onboard a military boat, where everyone is familiar and comfortable with this unified world. There are hints to strangeness by Morgrave’s transparently expositional obsessive interest in history, but ultimately very little is given to explain the strangeness of this HP AU. You are just battered with it.

    What’s a stilted boat, an arcuate or a fin? Who knows.

    Why is the Nile so hard to cast magic on? Can’t say.

    What is the order of ranks for wizarding officers? It’s possibly phallic.

    What did Tom do at Gryffindor College? You reply: what the fuck are these colleges, and is Mendelli a designer?

    It’s a lot a lot, is all I'm saying.

    Characters & dialogue:

    I think that, in the main part, the Characters and the Dialogue are where this fic shines. If they are characters that work for you.

    Tom, the gay wizarding Navy man who starts off acerbic and ends up frayed and knotted, changes gradually enough that I think it is difficult to pin down where it happens. The dialogue reflects this. There is the usual back and forth early in the story, but by the end, even, to an extent, with the exposition of Prewett, no one ever is really talking towards the same conversation topic. By the end, everyone is talking past each other, monologuing their own monologues with only slight attempts at reciprocating conversation with others, which is interesting when Prewett’s whole revelation concerns the unity of the society in which he has come to live.

    There are a lot of people met and lost, however. While the early characters can make an outsized impression we do not see them again. The characters on the riverboat have two scenes to try and humanise them beyond red-shirts, but it is only partially effective, and those who die to the jago-nini are light deaths, not heavily felt, I suspect.

    The deaths come thick and fast, and were intended to build up in intensity, but it is possible that it will have the opposite effect for you.

    There is understandable antagonism as they progress on their ill-fated voyage, and the increasing strangeness of the land around them helps this dynamic, I think.

    Overall thoughts:

    It’s a reasonable fic, to be honest, for a three-shot. But it is so strange, so different, so high-effort but off-piste, that I think that it takes the sort of person who knows they will like it going in to go in. And who can know that? It’s not a typical HP story and it suffers for that because people who read HP fanfic want to read HP fanfic. And this… This is Conrad fanfic in a HP wrapper.

    Still, the degree of AU, the intensity and quickness of events, and the unusual framing device will mean that it’s not a fic easily forgotten if you give it a chance.

    3.5/5, but I've no idea in which direction to round it.

    This was really hard. Pratchett is inimitable. I took the scene from my fanfic of Taylor first putting on her costume, got only this far in a couple of hours and stopped. Really stressed the old brain juice, and was really interesting to see how he could do it, and recognise some of the quirks of language he used but be unable to adapt them accurately, unless straight up copying them.
    It was winter in Brockton Bay, which meant the city was sleeping. This is not to say that the city was at rest, or even particularly calm. It was apparent that Brockton Bay did not enjoy the storybook sleep of a fairytale princess with a complicated family history, and an impulsive inclination for door-to-door fruit vendors. Which is to say, Brockton Bay was not in a crystal coffin, hoping for resuscitation should it catch a sufficiently wealthy VIP’s eye. The city’s coma was of a far less magical kind, the sort of coma a large man who drinks large amounts might find himself enjoying after twenty pints in the wrong bar, with a side of glass-bottle-meets-temple. The city blubbered through blue lips, and twitched sporadically*.

    To the cognopessimisti the signs were obvious that the frail thing did not have many winters left before it travelled to the great open Cayman Island in the sky and was reincarnated into various global capitalist endeavours. To our hero, full of first-day optimism, the terminal decline was not quite so obvious.

    “You are not a very attractive pair of sweatpants.”

    The sweatpants made no reply, but the crease in their waistband showed a frown. It was a reasonable comment. The sweatpants were truthfully not very attractive, and today was a very special day for the city. Today was Taylor’s first day of superheroics.

    Winter was a bad time to make a debut for a superhero. A costume with pizzazz and two feathers of pageantry might help an independent hero make a page 4 photo but it rarely went in hand with solid boots and a warm coat that covered both your neck and your knees. Taylor had had the unfortunate luck of being raised by pragmatic people, and most of her costume was the bulky sort of material that would keep her fingers not-blue and her toes not-frozen should an unsuspecting super-villain decided to play silly buggers during an enthusiastically lawful arrest.

    All this was true, except for the mask. It was a magnificent mask, on the far side of the class divide from the rest of the costume. Forced together by the desire to make a difference the mask spoke with a continental accent, drank wine instead of beer, and – the other parts of the costume suspected – might recite poetry when no one was watching. The mask was Venetian. It had yellow lenses for eyes, faceted like a jewel, and then its maker had really got down to business. It seemed to Taylor that it approached disguise like a matador approached a bull, so aggressively ostentatious that its wearer’s identity was necessarily a beige bleh secret. The sort of technical dictionary-definition secret, like your Dad’s favourite soft-rock ballad, where disinterest protected from discovery.

    *This would cause the city to trigger as a Brute, in a less anthropocentric universe, inspiring a brief but blinding career as an independent vigilante using its ferry-based regeneration and mover powers to subdue piracy and water adjacent crimes from Maine to Long Island.
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2021
  13. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Thread break! Bonus reminder to self to continue doing these exercises.
  14. Majube

    Majube Order Member DLP Supporter

    Aug 2, 2016
    High Score:
    Heart: Deverry book 1 Daggerspell, I turned to this because I vividly recall the emotion in how the father in this book 'keens' when he finds out that his wife had died while he was away scrounging up money to finally get themselves a farm. Rereading it now, I've found that actually happens on page 22, and the first pages are actually a reincarnation scene, quite boring and more Head than Heart I think.

    So, I went on and picked another book The Goblin Emperor which has an mc I found annoying and overly emotional, again this might be more Head than I thought but it still has quite a lot of Heart, the opening scene about the mc being woken up rudely and forced to see a messenger while he's unkempt, a messenger that tells him his father and brothers are dead, and him the unwanted son is now the heir. I found this a nice mix, it neatly explains his current situation and also how poorly he's been treated. His emotions still come across, and then the shock truly sets in during the next chapter.

    Head: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, this one has quite a lot of knowledge shoved into the readers heads, but in a fun way and establishes the setting with authority. Honestly, I remembered this as a dry book with sly humor, rereading it and its written in a whimsical way easier than I thought. It gives you such a complete rundown in just two pages, I really think its a great example.

    They came at dawn, and at first appeared to be angels.
    The thundering sounds of their approach heralded their arrival when it was yet dark, but by the time they reached the entrance of the valley, the sun was behind them and shining through them, its rays touching the oasis on the valley floor. They were golden.

    Mirna laughed at the sight, her laugh quickly turning to coughs as her chest burned. Nonetheless, she smiled even through the pain. Her family had come back, they hadn't left her with the sick to die. She struggled to her feet and stumbled forward, trampling over the others around her, the ailing and dead alike.

    Reaching the edge, she squinted, their camels were approaching fast but the haze in the air might've been obscuring their speed. Their camels were also rather dark, and shorter than she remembered. But who was to say if her fever hadn't sickened her brain as well?

    Mirna wasn't the first to notice, but she was the second. For another near her, a stranger with makeshift bandages around their face turned tail and ran fast as a completely healthy person. And that's when Mirna took notice and stopped denying the undeniable.

    A stone in her stomach heavier than any sickness dropped her to her knees. She would've been better off dead, she realised, at least the barbarians had only one use for them.

    Mirella woke up to the tang of demonic magic in the air. Unsubtle workings, but a subtle demon. She didn't reveal herself to be awake until she'd determined what she was dealing with and where. Sitting up, she turned to the demon and spoke, "Imp, what message has my foolish brother sent?"

    The imp was hunched over but it was tall, a sign it was old. The creature dared to grin at her, so it was barely tamed as well. Normally, she would rebind it and send it back to whoever had dared intrude her room. Unfortunately, she couldn’t with this one.

    The Imp said, "Mistress, he says he would request your swift return to the manor and help with an urgent matter."

    Mirella got out of bed at that. Casually walking over to her desk, she lit a candle, turned to the imp and spoke the words of Dismissal. All the while he mocked her with his grinning face and beady eyes. Then, he was gone.

    And Mirella rushed to pack right after. For if her brother was practically begging for help, it was likely the hounds of hell were circling the estate.
  15. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    Mindfully transcribe as much as you want to from a book that you love, from a paragraph to a whole chapter to beyond. As you do, focus on their style, how they write, how they use adjectives, how their characters talk to each other or past each other, how they lay clues. You'll learn more from writing their words than just reading them.

    I want to take a minute to talk here about how I did something similar years ago. I shall tell you a story to do so.

    I started 'attempting' to write fiction in 2012. I'd written a handful of things on a dare or for class prior to that, but 2012 is when I consider myself to have 'started' writing. I read books and did various exercises and at one point I came across an exercise very similar to this one.

    I re-typed the entire short story word-for-word.

    I went back and then... described (?) what was going on in every single paragraph. I don't have this file anymore, but it would be things like this:

    3 sentences. Description of breakfast food mixed with reflections on the past. Commentary on two running mentions of cinnamon and obesity as part of that.

    6 sentences. Victim struggles. Entire paragraph is about setup and what the room looks like and descriptions are used to characterize the person whose POV we are in. First sentence is victim!emotion and MC!moisturizing. Second is about victim's reaction changing as they observe the room - go from terror to anger (hiding terror). Third is MC getting aroused. Fourth is...

    Etc. I did that for the entire story.

    Then I sat on it for a while (months?).

    Then I went back to it and tried to pick it apart / revise it. Made it more generic, added in notes about how often adjectives and adverbs were used. Basically made a bullet point of how this author did every single fucking thing they did in every motherfucking sentence.

    Then one day weeks/months later in IRC we had a 'race' and I used this new 'guideline' I'd made to write a story on a whim. This had not been the initial point of it, but it seemed like a good idea.

    That story is Scents of Cinnamon and Death. I briefly mention this process in a later post here. In hindsight the 'outline' was longer than the actual story. I also added in quite a few touches (like the concern regarding obesity), etc.

    My story is original enough that I wouldn't consider it plagiarism, but then I'm always getting yelled at on ffnet b/c apparently I plagiarized Twine Bracelet off of the story that inspired it (Red Ink Remains). So perhaps that's a line I cross sometimes when I don't think I'm doing it? Opinions appreciated on that. Regardless the 'feeling' that this story, which I think is one of my best, was only half mine and half based on someone else's work is one of the reasons I haven't posted it on ffnet.

    So. Good exercise.
  16. Story Content: Week 3 - free-writing and brain storming.

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    It's very natural once the novelty's gone to find this a little daunting. Remember, it's about commitment, mostly to yourself. If you've never written before this thread, you can still do it, and it doesn't matter where it refers to previous writings. If you haven't written since this thread, don't let the threadmarks put you off. Choose the one/multiple you want to and crack on. We're not about the rules here, we're about the cracking on. There is no minimum completion mark, there is only the commitment to yourself to try and see what you get out of it.

    Personally, I'll try and feedback to everyone who's already participated at some point this week. I'm coming off ITU from tuesday, so I expect to have more time in the evenings.


    1. I bet a lot of us are planners. I often am. These week's first exercise is simple. Try Freewriting.

    There are a few different ways to try and start this off, but the trick is to go forward, without particular editing, without getting to hung up on every facet of your writing. Instead it is to focus on one particular area you want to think about and go forward. For those of you that are already regular sprinters you might find this less challenging, but you'll be able to attest to the benefit of being able to just go. There's nothing that breaks a block, like looking back on 500 words on half an hour - even if they're not for anything - and thinking, 'yes, ok, the words are still in here. I can still do this'.

    Here are some ways to kick things off
    • Find a book you like, one you've used before, or one you've not had a chance to try yet. Find a momentous line, or a line you particularly like. Ignore what comes after in the book, instead, write what you imagine coming next. It might work best with something you're still reading.
    • People watch / window watch - try and focus on the sensory details, rather than the 'plot' and the pacing. Write what you can see focusing on how you can describe it with all your senses, and without falling back onto phrases that you've read. Really engage with trying to be unique in what you see.
    • Look at a scene you've already written, if you'd like. Remember what happens in it, but don't read it again. Remember the start and the ending. And write another way of getting there. You'll have had this happen before, potentially, when you accidentally lose a segment you've just puzzled out, and the second time you write it is different sentence to sentence, but flows easier for not being the first attempt, or does something else well and different to the first attempt.


    2. The last bullet point brings us to exercise too, from Diane Callahan, the Quotidian writer.

    Often, when plotting, you start at the beginning and work to the end, and some events just 'fit' in your head, and some don't, and you come up with a bare-bones outline that gets you from point A to some nebulous point B, whether that's the actual end or not.

    This exercise is to not do that. This exercise is to look at the most recent thing that you've written. Put yourself in your character's place, one perspective at a time, come up with as many different potential choices they could make, and as many things they could do as possible.

    Try for at least ten, no matter how outlandish. This could be the realm of Michael Bay's 'and then something exploded' or an emotional beat. Really you should be able to run the gamut from each extreme to the other. Try and hit melodrama, try and hit gritty realism, try and hit dramatic escalations and mellowing in pace, introduce new characters, eliminate old ones. Reallly try and get off your rails and think as widely as you can. We're going for what could happen here not what should happen here.

    I include the link here of her explaining it in her own words.

    For some of you this week's exercises will be easy. For many of you, when you actually try it may turn out to be the hardest yet. For me, when I got to maybe 5 different scenes brainstormed I began to feel dry, then when I broke through at around 8, I got another 10 in minutes.
  17. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    Good efforts for sure.
    I thought we were going fantasy here, because of the pointed ears and the subject matter of wanting a daughter 'just like her'. So that bumbled me for a moment. Humans have pointed ears, too, it just stands out to me. Might be just me.
    So my understanding on a second reading of the heart piece is that this mother wanted a daughter, and was told she would have one. She got a child that was just like her in appearance, but it wasn't a daughter. Whether it was a son, cis or trans, I'm not sure. Or maybe an elf. But yeah just to be aware, if this understanding of your piece is right, then this line is a stumble because it sounds like she lost the baby and then had a different child. However, all the way through you've been using second person for this view point and so when it's concerning that character but isn't second person this line makes it seem like it's talking about a different baby, to me, at least.
    I liked this.
    I think this is a powerful last line to end on. I've not read All Quiet on the Western Front, so for both of these some of my thoughts on the voice might not be useful because it may be entirely appropriate for what you're emulating and I just don't know.
    Really strong opening. The way you're using sharp declarations with no ambiguity really hits. You are telling us something you know and we don't. Pretty much bang on message here.
    Again, I'm wondering if this is AQotWF because you do it in both. Personally, I found these spoken style asides didn't seem to fit with the perspective that you used the rest of the time. They addressed the reader, in a way the rest doesnt.
    Losing the strength here. "You won't see it coming' would be that same energy as the opening lines.
    'Thats if', again, as above. This sort of line can be more powerful if more stark - stark is what I have in mind for what you're trying to achieve here - 'If a deputy doesn't egg them on, of course'.
    This line reads really powerfully. I read it and went 'ooh'. Then I tried to understand it, and it was a little bit of a slippery line. Too many negatives descriptors. 'I am not the man who would not criticise when it is not inappropriate', you know?

    I enjoyed your thought on DF, though I don't really remember the start of Deadbeat either. I think it's quite interesting how both of us found examples where we remembered what we got out of it being different to what perhaps they were trying to impress.

    I think this is undeniably effective, though I can't say it floors me. It's a brief look, but definitely we establish that it's going to be about the emotion, and the hairs on the back of the neck, and the silence work for her emotion. I'm not sure how much the actual narration matches it. How much you're able to push it into the language as well as the events. It's quite stated, rather than felt, though again I still think it works as it is.

    I found this scene interesting, but I agree with you, I think it doesn't quite work for the scene. I fell afoul of this with my own heart thing, I believe, looking at what DP and Niez have done. The exposition and knowledge here comes from the characters, even though it's a first person perspective - it comes in dialogue. I think what you need for the head authority is to make it so that the communication between the narrator and the reader is being established as the narrator being the one that knows what they're talking about. If you look at Stormlight and the first chapter or so, when there's the assassination attempt, that definitely does it, or probably any thing with Jack Reacher. Facts and statements, outside of dialogue, in the narration that establish they know a ton about something germane to the world that the reader doesn't. Typically something that hints at a life/world that's far from the readers. 'The blood of endangered animals smells richer than other blood, like diamonds shine more brightly than other jewels, or old mahogany is textureless to touch. It sticks, it crusts, in the web between the fingers, and you wear it like jewellery.' - off the top of my head. That sort of telling where you're not actually telling the important part, but it comes across loud and clear anyway.

    So I think gravball could totally be that with a little tweaking or building up between the speech.
    The sentences here are all quite short - paratactic. There's nothing that precludes that from establishing emotion, but it is does feel like these are quite concrete and flat statements. I do recognise that you struggled with the heart one. I'll pm you the essay in question where Palahniuk opens with one he describes as heart, or look at Niez's which is mostly heart. I think the key is trying to think about how the voice can be specific, in both instances. For heart it needs to specific on an emotion, for knowledge on facts.
    The birth here should be followed by a was, cus all though the multiple acts are multiple, the verb here is referring to the word birth which is singular, I believe.

    the first it is should be its, like the second here.
    I think, like myself, and like Ched above, there's difficulty sometimes in finding the difference between a dispassionate knowledge-based authority in the narration and exposition. I think, as I said, it comes down to specificity. You'll hear a lot of people complain about opening exposition a lot, and there's a lot of advice about expositing after a problem rather than before it so that the reader can now understand what they've already seen rather than telling them what they're about to see and why it's important.

    I think this is interesting, because in order to exposit after a problem, in a fantasy world that means you need to create a draw that relies on the characters and the world that is not well understood, for an audience that loves lore. But, when you look at Death Note or other things that do it well, it's undeniably effective.

    The key then I think, in this voice, to avoid it feeling like exposition, is to make sure the mystery of the fantasy world isn't what you're talking about, but instead to establish knowledge about one specific, tiny aspect of the world. Then still allow surprise and mystery and gaps to learn about outside the character's viewpoint.

    For example, for a story about a dragon, with a 'head' voice, super bluntly, then I personally might try something like:
    'Dragons are not immortal. Do not laugh at me. You have not seen what I have seen, have not travelled where I have travelled.

    The smallest dragon's teeth are swords, its claws spears. The youngest dragon's breath rivals the largest castle forge, and its sight is keener than a wizard's telescope. My first kill was a gnarly, old, green dragon. It was the size of the mountain. Ten thousand men and four hundred horses it killed in an afternoon, ten thousand more it would've devoured, had I not heard of the king's madness. Do not laugh at me. Iron cannot break a dragon's scale, nor any metal unblessed by God, and though you mud folk may not know it, a king well ought to.

    is blessed, thrice-over. Listen to it sing when it leaves the scabbard. It has killed dragons before me, and it will kill dragons after me. Listen to my story well, for Narinya says one of you shall be the next to slay a dragon.'

    That got away from me a bit. But I hope that's helpful for demonstrating what I'm thinking of. It's still gonna be expository by its nature, but it's more specific, and it's definitely more one narrative voice telling it. More specific?
    Really liked this.
    This was great.
    Loved the imagery of the crabbing as well. This was very effective at sucking me in. It's a very different pace to what I'd be able to come up to with on my own and the feeling of it, the syrupy quality was really well done. It evoked the nostalgia, so that I forgot we were on a ferry looking back, and when she's pulled back from her reverie I am as just as much arrested as she was.

    The final line of the whistle was great too. I'm glad to have read it. It gives me a lot to think about. It doesn't read like fanfiction to me, it reads to me like something I'd read in an anthology, and that's a good thing.

    I didn't quote anything from your Ottoman oneshot but I did enjoy it a lot as well. Particualrly the first half I think you nailed this challenge while also remaining inside the other things that your narrative was trying to accomplish. As she goes hunting for the harem we end up much more in her perspective than before, but it's not a bad thing. The exercise is Establishing authority not Relentless authority, so I think it works exactly as intended, and then we get to see how it then folds into pulling you along, cus I was pulled along. Well done Lindsey, they were both fun (some loose typos before you publish them anywhere if you want to do anything with them I'd suggest. Just a smidge of tidying needed).
    I really like the prosody of this sentence. That said I think the approach and arrival so close together are saying the same thing twice kinda'.
    I really like this image.
    Good on the body sensory description
    I feel we get a sense of the character's authority in this 'head' snippet, but not so much in her narrative. The demon's binding works for that, but otherwise what's happening is a bit mysterious, and it strikes me that I've been seeing a lot of 'head' as the one where the character is in charge/secure. Where if you want to swap their circumstances, have the otome villainess demon as the heart, and the barbarian sick girl as head, it should be exactly as equally possible.

    In terms of the concrete, in a short snippet, it can be hard to do more and still have the story doing anything at all. I guess I'd suggest that you try and come up with a reason for her to think more about the sort of thing that she does when she sees the messenger imp for the first time. To make it a plot point for the scene, and of use for the characterisation, by changing some of the circumstances somehow and then making it work for your authoritative technique attempt here.
  18. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

    Aug 31, 2011
    Cyber City Oedo
    High Score:
    threadbreak for blor
  19. Story Content: Week 4 - Craft is a Ladder

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    'Craft isn't a pit, craft is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again, the fall breaks them. And some, given a chance to climb, they refuse. They cling to their notes, or plot, or fans—illusions. Only the craft is real. The climb is all there is.'
    - Shakespeare, why not. Maybe Dickens?

    In honour of our first month of exercises this week there's a minor difference. Instead of two challenges, here are a number, and the challenge is: see how far along you can be bothered to get. The theme of the chapter I take from Amy E. Weldon's The Writer's Eye all relate to worldbuilding, and layering scenes with observation derived sensory writing, trying to make your writing vivid and textured.


    1) Mine the materials for your ladder: go through the things which you have written in your time, circle or highlight the most interesting images. Put the image, or the word, or the phrase that most appeals to you at the top of a new page and then start writing for as long as you can, something new, with that as a prompt.

    2) Write at least one scene of a family legend or story you've heard a relative tell about his or her early life, preferably before you were born. Make the relative the main character, and use a name, not their title ('Mom', 'Dad', 'PiPa'). It's a small change but it makes a difference to how you'll write it, I imagine.

    3) Write a scene in which a character is doing one thing with their hands, while thinking about and/or talking about something else. How are the two things, and the energies of writing them, related? What else can you tell us about the character, their past, their world with this device? It's constraining, so you need to be inventive.

    4) Make two short lists of pressures on your character: one immediate, one ongoing. How might they be connected to each other, and to what the character wants? What are their secrets, what are they afraid of? Most importantly, how can you raise the pressure on each of the items, have them build. If they surmount one obstacle, how does the next pressure prove harder than their last?

    5) Go outside (if safe to do so), or look out a window (or watch a youtube video of the world as it once was, I guess), and then put one observed detail from that walk into your WIP-- no matter what. Better make sure it's a good one. Reflect on how this enlivens the imagined settings and where else you sketch out a realistic detail over a written one.

    6) This is a classic: write a scene in which a neutral setting (a barn, a forest, a kitchen) is inflected by y our character's state of mind. Which will influence what details appear and how they're seen. See if you can lean the description in one emotional direction, then another, without ever naming the emotion directly. Objects can be used for this. I attach a video with a time stamp for a similar example by The Quotidian Writer.

    7) Write a 200 word or less encounter from an animal's perspective, try and focus on how its senses observe the part of your story that you're pretending it fits in. How can it complicate your plot?

    8) Write a piece with an object, using it as a focus for the characters to turn around, building on what we were practising in exercise 3 & 4. Try and/either to a) centre it on an object that has some Chekhovian significance as the scene progresses b) try and connect a scene in the characters past to the object that he can see in the present - what does it mean to them? c) Make a list of all the objects that your character has on their person, and then write a scene in which they use it, including, if possible, a detail you observed from having seen someone use that object in real life (if possible). What information do the other objects on your list give your reader about your character?

    9) if you hated 8, you'll hate this more, particularly that it didn't come before 8. Know that you've seen some challenges of object use, how can you improve the verisimilitude and depth of the object and its uses to your world. Set an object in front of you (an interesting one). Now generate three lists of details about it:
    a) literal and sensory information (i.e. the quilt square is soft and colourful, with a faintly musty smell)
    b) cultural and/or histoical information (i.e. this is a quilt square like those made by pioneer women, from old pieces of clothing)
    c) persona/familia information (i.e. this quilt is similar to one my grandmother made and covered me with as a child)​
    Jot down as much as you can for each category, then try and pop them into something like exercise 8. Does it feel any different to last time for you, with this level of thought about this one piece of the world, and the attachment you have to it?

    10) Get fucked. How are you here? You only had a week. Fine! Big gun time. Here's 10, near-verbatim from the book:
    - Walk yourself through this time-handling exercise; it's an adaptable scaffolding that will give you images, and scenes, with more jumping-of points, and some ways of manipulating and preserving time in your story (the immediate vs. the ongoing).

    a) Write a paragraph that sets your point POV character in a place and time, with another character; something is happening in that moment, preferably something that indicates ongoing conflict or tension. Suitably vague? Include at least some dialogue - to reveal information that you can then pick up on later in the story.
    Example: Mike followed his older brother Jerry out the door and into the backyard. It was Christmas time, and their mother's multicolored lights blinked from the windows. An inflatable santa was collapsed near the rose brushes. Faint snow dusted the brown grass. "Come on," Jerry said over his shoulder. "Time to throw the ball around a little. Not every day I get to play catch with a college boy."
    b) Write a second paragraph of flashback beginning with a classic flashback related verb tense: we're going past perfect here, indicating an ongoing state of things that may still be going on. In cinematic terms, it's a dissolve, a signal that we're moving backward in time but still maintaining a connection with the present moment. Start with the phrase "It had always been this way", inside your character's thoughts. This will show us the source of ongoing tension within the story, which will intereact with the immediate level of tension as both of them play themselves out.
    Example: It had always been this way, Mike thought. From the time they were little, Jerry had been the athlete, Mike the scholar. Every day at recess he had stood on the sidelines of the ragges quare of dirt that was McKinlock Middle School's baseball field, watching Jerry pitch. Out on the mound, his brother's glove rose at just right hte moment to capture the ball; his long arm whipped it back into the catcher's mitt with a thwack. But Mike was really watching his brother's face, hoping for that moment when Jerry's habitual school frown, the lines in his forehead that appeared as he gripped his pencil and stared at the page, smoothed out and his eyes grew wide and clear and even from all the way across the field Mike could see that Jerry was happy.
    c) Try a flash-forward. Maybe this is only a line or two but it lets you test where you think things are headed. "Would" can signal a flash-forward just a a past perfect or simple past can signal a flashback. You can move this parargraph around in you rstory or take it out completely, but itll open a door to the space of what's possible in your story, and waht's ahead for your characters.
    Example: For years afterward, Mike would wonder why it never happened for Jerry, why all the talent scouts only, in the end, said, "You got a lotta potential, kid," and walked away. He would wonder why Jerry could never find the same kind of happiness off the pitcher's mound as on it, why his marriage to Bonnie failed, why he spent more and more time between jobs, why Mike himself had been the only college boy in the family.
    d) Now, insert a section break, to signal a break in time. Now open a new scene with a paragraph setting characters and readers either back where we were at the beginning of your story or another related place and time. With the glib paragraphs above, how can you parallel the motifs you created, or the scene you made. How can you use everything above to foreshadow. And how does it feel? Is it going to change how the later parts would land? ​
  20. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Seventh Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐⭐

    Dec 4, 2018
    Alright. I will do this homework. I only got through #1.

    Todd was making that sound that men often seemed to choose over tears. A sharp, agitated breathing in and out through the nostrils, his head bowed toward the charred wreckage of the wand shelves nearest the window, one hand in his hair. Dust mingled in the air, in a larger sunbeam than she was used to seeing stream into Ollivander's shop.

    "Have you been able to take stock?" Maggie asked.

    "Fifty-two wands," he responded, just as quietly.

    Fewer than she'd thought. Maggie breathed a slow, imperceptible sigh of relief. "Cores?"

    "All dragon heartstrings." He pulled one of the intact wand boxes down from the shelves and brushed some soot off the top. "Mostly Romanian Longhorns that Ollivander's tamed throughout the 1930s, but also several Swedish Short-Snouts that my dad encountered a couple years ago. Range was from nine-and-three-quarter inches to I think about twelve inches. As for wand wood, it runs the gamut. Pretty much everything, and all sorts of flexibility."

    She walked past Todd and toward the wall, examining the curled, blackened edges of the midnight blue wallpaper. "This wasn't my pyromancy," she said. "The damage is different that it would be. Less sophisticated."

    She could actually hear Todd grinding his teeth. That couldn't be good for him, and he did it far too often. "Water didn't douse it. This wasn't natural."

    "I didn't say it was natural. I do believe it was magical."

    "Well, what kind of magical fire was this, then? Since you're the expert."

    "I don't know. I've never seen anything like that before."

    He sighed and seemed to wilt, his suspicion shifting back to exhaustion. "Neither have I."

    "It's a blow, Todd. I know it is," she said. "But there are still hundreds of wands here, and we can easily recoup the loss. We'll be able to replace them all, over time."

    Todd shook his head slowly, in a grim daze. "I won't."

    Maggie opened her mouth, unsure what to say. She'd meant "we" as a company — primarily herself and Mr. Ollivander. She didn't really think Todd would be able to match the quality of his father's wands any time soon. "We will," she finally responded.

    He lingered for a while, saying nothing, while he picked up boxes here and there. He didn't seem to have any sort of plan for cleaning things, instead just moving boxes from one shelf to another by hand with no rhyme or reason.

    Finally, he said, "Do you think this is the golden era of Ollivander's, while my dad's at the helm?"

    She blinked, unsure how to respond to this. "I — I don't know."

    "And what comes after?" he said.

    He eventually walked away without a parting word, his boots crunching over the debris. Maggie leaned in, examining the wallpaper closer as Todd's footsteps trudged up the stairs. She wiped some soot from the walls, confused by a shape that seemed to be underneath. A pattern of ash remained as she cleared most of it. It looked like a skull, with a thin, ribbon-like line that curled from its mouth and around its head. Maggie frowned, puzzled.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021