Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: November, 2012

Nerdy Prompts for Week 4

Here are the writing prompts that I posted on NaNoWordSprints for the past week. I’ll probably have a summary post up at the end of the week including links to previous prompt posts and the prompts for the final sprint sessions.

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November 21, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Fairy Tale Motifs and the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification System
(The ATU number is the word count challenge, the fairy tale motifs are word prompts.)

  • 425 – the search for the lost husband (13 min)
  • 461 – three hairs from the devil’s beard (15 min)
  • 1116 – attempt at burning (30 min)
  • 545 – the cat castle (15 min)
  • 507 – the monster’s bride (15 min)
  • 222 – war of birds and quadrupeds (5 min)
  • 720 – my mother slew me; my father ate me (20 min)
  • 553 – the raven helper (15 min)

November 22, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
The Fifth Element

  • The most hated man in the universe. (10 min)
  • Your character gets a message. (15 min)
  • One character finds out everything about another character. His dreams, his desires, his most intimates of intimates. (30 min)
  • Include a perfect replica of an old opera house! But for some reason, no one cares! (30 min)
  • A character has just obtained a coveted multi-pass. (15 min)
  • There’s a ball of fire, 1,200 miles in diameter heading straight for Earth. (20 min)
  • Empty. The opposite of full. (20 min)

November 23, 9:00pm-12:30am (UTC -7)
Sir David and the Plot Bunnies: A NaNoWordSprints interactive fiction (A David Attenborough/Jurassic Park/Interactive Fiction Mashup)

  • Write about the destruction of important documents. (15 min)
  • Write about a daredevil. (15 min)
  • Write about a chase. (15 min)
  • Write about beach bunnies. (20 min)
  • Write about protests. (25 min)
  • Write about an epic fight/battle. (15 min)
  • Write about how to kill time. (7 min)
  • Write about strange idols. (25 min)

November 24, 11:00am-12:00pm (UTC -7)
QI (A Series)

  • A chameleon changes colour depending on its mood, temperature and emotions like fear (forfeit: background). (10 min)
  • Add in a completely ridiculous cure. (20 min)
  • Add an object which has many varieties. (15 min)

November 24, 1:00pm-2:00pm (UTC -7)
QI (B Series)

  • Add a location that is famous for something that we would probably think of as completely mundane. (10 min)
  • One of your characters wears something green. But unlike Warhol, he doesn’t attend his own funeral! (20 min)
  • For some reason, one of your characters suddenly develops a need to repeat everything that everyone else says! (13 min)

November 24, 5:00pm-9:00pm (UTC -7)
QI (C Series)

  • Have a character seemingly miraculously walk on “liquid”. (10 min)
  • Add opera. Bonus: Have a character break a wine glass using only the power of their voice. (20 min)
  • Add a rare breed of chicken. Bonus: Someone accidentally kills it. (30 min)
  • Your characters encounter wailing spirits. Bonus: They’re wailing about the dead chicken. (10 min)
  • Add an “only survivor”. (15 min)
  • Your characters start arguing over naming something. (30 min)
  • Include a businessman, a tie, something related to Croatia, or all three! (15 min)
  • Include an animal or person with an unusual ability. (20 min)
  • Coconuts are involved. Forfeit (Bonus): So are cuttlefish (which are completely different from octopuses). (30 min)

November 25, 10:30am-12:00pm (UTC -7)
The Dark is Rising

  • iron for the birthday (10 min)
  • bronze carried long (20 min)
  • wood from the burning (15 min)
  • stone out of song; bonus: include a lyric from a song you’re currently listening to (23 min)

November 25, 7:30pm-10:30pm (UTC -7)
What Really Caused the Fall of Rome: An Epic Chess Game Between Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat (A Roman festival/LOLcat/The Immortal Game Mashup)

  • Include a moving stream which disappears underground, cat toys, or pawns. (10 min)
  • Include something about harvests, grains, cereal, bishops, and/or the word “diabolical”. (15 min)
  • Include something related to trees, lightning, and/or knights. (20 min)
  • Include sheep, herding, and/or things going wrong. (30 min)
  • Include a large family gathering, banquets, gifts, and/or sacrifices. (10 min)
  • Include drinking, merriment, pies, and/or rooks. (30 min)
  • Include hills, a queen, and/or cheeseburgers. (5 min)
  • Include something relating to horses, chariots, and/or poor losers. (8 min)

November 26, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
The Prompt Catalog

  • Prompt Item No. 741009 Teleportation Biscuits – Oh so trans-dimensionally delicious made by physicist-cook A. McSnootypants. (15 min)
  • Prompt Item No. 42429100 Electric Cheese Hamper with Bonus Fondue Fork – For all your stinky cheese needs! (20 min)
  • Prompt Item No. 3240142 Desperation Abbey Fruitcake – baked by hipster monks at a monastery in the Cleveland warehouse district. (30 min)
  • Prompt Item No. 11552969 Golden Goose Grain Sack Stocking – Crafted from grain sacks stolen from a witch named Baba Yaga. (15 min)
  • Prompt Item No. 721963 Panini Spatula of Doom – Has a wide platform to help serve those special sandwiches to your arch nemesis. (20 min)

November 27, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  • Include a desolate/abandoned location. (12 min)
  • Introduce a new character with a name opposite of what he is. (20 min)
  • Your characters devise a scheme for something. (30 min)
  • Your character makes an escape out of a difficult situation when something unexpected happens! (5 min)
  • Two characters know two separate pieces of information and they must work together if they are to realize their goal. (15 min)
  • Your characters get a letter. Bonus: It is from the villain. Double bonus: Include the letter’s contents in your novel. (30 min)
  • Blow something up. (5 min)
  • Include a Mexican standoff, i.e. a confrontation among three opponents. (15 min)

Nerdy Prompts for Week 3

For the curious (or for those who want to crib some prompts without making up any of their own), here are the writing prompts that I posted on NaNoWordSprints for the past week:

* * *

November 15, 7:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Your characters are scared by something unexpected lurking just outside. (15 min)
  • Give one of your characters a superstitious saying that he/she says every time something doesn’t go their way. (30 min)
  • Someone gets a new pair of shoes. But those shoes don’t turn out as advertised… (10 min)
  • Have someone carry something or someone because doing otherwise will cause some kind of problem. (15 min)
  • Somebody gets accidentally covered in something (goo, toilet paper, melted cheese…be creative!) (18 min)
  • Your character whistles or plays an instrument and something unexpected happens. (25 min)
  • Something is spilled. But it foreshadows something unpleasant. (15 min)
  • One character gets so mad at another that he curses them. The curse could even be one big monologue. (20 min)
  • Someone scowls. But it actually means something positive is happening. (15 min)
  • Include a full bottle of vodka in your story somewhere. Bonus points: One of your characters drinks it. (10 min)
  • Your characters find something useful in the kitchen. (25 min)
  • One of your characters has some strange luck and he/she spends some time searching their house for what could be causing it. (20 min)

November 16, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Small Monsters in Love (microbes and romance novel clichés mashup)

  • Include a vampire. It could literally be a vampire or something used metaphorically. (15 min)
  • Add twins. Or at least a duplicate of something that wasn’t there before. (10 min)
  • Play with a character’s memory. (30 min)
  • Your character is balancing between two things. Your character could even be having a long internal debate about this. (15 min)
  • Include a baby, preganancy, or birth. It doesn’t have to be literal. (20 min)
  • Add gossip. And salacious rumors which all the characters like passing around. Bonus points: It’s like the game Telephone. Every time someone retells it, something changes.(20 min)
  • Someone or something tries to meddle in your characters’ lives. (5 min)
  • Include pirates or sharp objects. Bonus points: You manage to include both. (15 min)

November 17, 2:30pm-3:30pm (UTC -7)
Tea Descriptions

  • Include the words “sweet”, “refreshing”, and “juicy”. (10 min)
  • Include the words “warming”, “brightness”, and “sunlight”. (20 min)
  • Include the words “watermelon”, “floral”, and “honey”. Bonus points: Add in the xylophone. (15 min)

November 17, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Terrible Pony Afflictions

  • Include a shiny, distracting object. Make it 20% cooler (i.e. bonus): The distracting object is dessert. (10 min)
  • To galvanize your characters into action, add the Worst Possible Thing. Make it 20% cooler: Hoof-to-hoof combat is involved. (15 min)
  • Add something stressful. Make it 20% cooler: Add a growing dragon. (30 min)
  • Something breaks. Make it 20% cooler: That something is a character’s favorite pair of black-tinted shades. (10 min)
  • Have your characters do a job or task which involve lots of repetitive work. Make it 20% cooler: They’re all wearing cowboy hats. (20 min)
  • Somepony gets a feeling that it might be a bad idea to get out of the house. Make it 20% cooler: The feeling is not unfounded. Scary things lurk outside. (15 min)
  • Your characters are forced to multi-task. Make it 20% cooler: One of those tasks involve spinning plates. (30 min)

November 18, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -7)
History Dates
(The year is the word count challenge, the concepts related to the year are word prompts.)

  • 462 – “indiction”, “statue of Zeus”, “schism” (15 min)
  • 658 – “chariot”, “compass”, “mechanical” (20 min)
  • 1214 – “vassals”, “melee”, “Low Countries” (30 min)
  • 250 – “stone burial chambers”, “moats”, “chieftain” (5 min)
  • 726 – “chalk”, “gate”, “icon” (18 min)

November 19, 9:30pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Your character must perform a task that someone asks of them. (25 min)
  • Add an invention of some sort. It can be as elaborate as an airship or as simple as a paperclip. (10 min)
  • Include a premonition of death. (30 min)
  • Include one of (or all of) the elements: wood, stone, glass, metal. (15 min)
  • Transform an object from one size to another. (10 min)
  • Include something about mirrors, glass, and/or reflections. (15 min)

November 20, 9:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Headwear/Fast Food/Creepy Fictional Grimoires Mashup

  • “balaclava”, “burger”, “The Book of Eibon” (15 min)
  • “kerchief”, “kebab”, “The King in Yellow” (20 min)
  • “crown”, “chicken nuggets”, “Cultes des Ghoules” (10 min)
  • “nightcap”, “nachos”, “Necronomicon” (15 min)
  • “pork pie hat”, “pizza”, “Pnakotic Manuscripts” (25 min)
  • “Muir cap”, “milkshake”, and “Mysteries of the Worm” (10 min)
  • “deerstalker”, “donuts”, “Dhol Chants” (15 min)
  • “turban”, “tacos”, “Tarsioid Psalms” (20 min)

Nerdy Prompts for Week 2

Without further ado, here are the writing prompts that I posted on NaNoWordSprints for the past week:

* * *

November 8, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
The Big Bang Theory

  • One of your characters finds a plasma grenade. (10 min)
  • Include pancake batter. Bonus points: the batter is in an unconventional container. (20 min)
  • Somebody says, “Give me back my lima beans!” Bonus points: roller skating is involved. (20 min)
  • Include a camp trunk in your next sprint. Bonus points: There’s a dead cat inside. (15 min)
  • Include bongos. Bonus points: Include someone walking down the stairs while playing the bongos. (18 min)

November 9, 9:00pm-10:30pm (UTC -7)
Genre Clichés Mashup

  • (slice of life/saga/comedy): “orange juice”, “Viking voyage”, “anvils” (15 min)
  • (sci-fi/crime/historical): “spaceship”, “courtroom”, “Napoleon” Bonus: throw in a mysterious amulet (15 min)
  • (horror/superhero/mystery): “serial killer”, “x-ray vision”, “sleepy village” (20 min)
  • (cyberpunk/wuxia/chick lit): “hacker”, “temple”, “Manolo Blahnik shoes” (13 min)

November 11, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Academic History Journals

  • Digital Medievalist: Include music of some sort in your story. Someone could be singing or playing an instrument. Or it could even be the radio. (15 min)
  • The Heroic Age: Include a celestial portent (comet, meteor, supernova, etc.) that freaks out your characters when they gaze into the sky. (10 min)
  • Public History Review: Your characters visit a port or waterfront district. If they are landlocked, have them come across a ship in a bottle. (30 min)
  • Nordic Journal of African Studies: You character encounters something in another language that he/she needs to decipher. (10 min)
  • Mirator: Add something seemingly inconsequential that will have more importance later on in your story. Bonus: Bury this seemingly inconsequential thing inside a huge list of other inconsequential things that really are inconsequential. (15 min)
  • Journal of Modern Turkish Studies: Your characters use something unusual as a means to pay or barter for something. Bonus: Have your characters go on a shopping spree. (30 min)
  • Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies: Have something appear from nowhere. Bonus: It is a building. Double bonus: Your character is hallucinating it all. (15 min)
  • 19: Describe a room (or setting of your choice) in elaborate and claustrophobic detail. (10 min)
  • Delaware Review of Latin American Studies: Your characters go into an unfamiliar setting and are immediately recognized (or mistaken) as tourists. (20 min)
  • Anistoriton: Your characters discover something in their setting that makes them even more agitated and “rowdy”. (18 min)

November 12, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)

  • Have someone mistake the gender of one of your other characters. (13 min)
  • Describe the flaws of your protagonist. Or have one of your protagonist’s weaknesses trip them up. (15 min)
  • Have someone crash an event. It could be a date, a party, a business meeting, or even Scotland Yard! (30 min)
  • A character ends up in an important place with no pants. (15 min)
  • Describe a rather startling sound that your characters suddenly hear. What are their reactions? (10 min)
  • Frighten your characters! It could be something mundane or monstrous like hound on the moors. (20 min)
  • Your character hides something. (5 min)
  • The antagonist throws something unexpected in your protagonist’s path. (20 min)

November 13, 6:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Deli Meats (via @quaint28)

  • In Turkish, the word pastrami is “pastirma” which means “pressed meat.” Prompt: Include something “pressing” that is stressing out your character, i.e. a pressing engagement, a pressing problem, etc. (20 min)
  • Svið, or singed sheep’s head, is used in Icelandic head cheese. Sometimes it’s cured in lactic acid–also found in sour milk. Prompt: Your character remembers a particularly “sour memory” which influences his/her subsequent actions. (20 min)
  • Dendeng is a thinly sliced dried meat, similar to jerky, from Indonesia. Not surprisingly, it was originally made as travel food. Prompt: As your character travels from one point to another, she discovers something in her pocket or bag. Bonus points: It’s food. (8 min)

November 13, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
NaNoWriMo/Vegas/Mythical Creature Mashup

  • Mr. Ian Woon, slot machine, minotaur. Bonus: There is a maze made entirely of slot machines. (13 min)
  • Trebuchet, showgirls, Bigfoot. Bonus: It’s Bigfoot who’s auditioning to be a showgirl. (17 min)
  • Viking helmet, performing tigers, salmon of wisdom. Bonus: A running man is wearing the Viking helmet. (29 min)
  • Traveling shovel of death, Elvis, jackalope. Bonus: Elvis sings the Carmina Burana with a traveling college a capella group. (14 min)
  • Writing totem, wedding chapel, werewolf. Bonus: Somebody gets to eat cake. (16 min)
  • Halo, buffet, firebird. Bonus: The buffet is serving golden apples. (30 min)
  • Duck, limo, basilisk. Bonus: Include tacky tiki drinks. (15 min)

Still Blogging, Apparently

I remembered today that it is this blog’s anniversary. Eleven years. And it’s been through a number of incarnations. I don’t blog as often as I used to as I’m mostly on Twitter now, but this space is still useful, especially if I find that I have something longer to say.

Reflecting on how technology has changed, it will no doubt change again a decade from now. Whether or not this blog still exists then, who knows. But I suppose I’ll still be blathering into the aether (whether it’s the internet or something else) to no one in particular.

Nerdy Prompts for Week 1

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m part of the NaNoWordSprints team this year. Basically sprint leaders set up times and provide prompts for NaNoWriMo participants on Twitter. It’s really fun to see people get a lot done on their novels with these motivational exercises.

In order not to repeat myself with prompts, I consciously decided to do prompt themes each time I am on shift. For those of you who have missed my prompts, here’s the list of the ones I used for the past week. (And if you want to suggest a prompt theme, please do so! I’m always looking for suggestions.)

* * *

October 31, 8:30pm-10:30pm (UTC -7)
The Sensory Challenges

  • Add sensory details (15 min)
  • Include a visually striking kite (20 min)
  • Include a loud noise (20 min)
  • The smell of food (27 min)

November 1, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Real Genius

  • Write about a skating rink. Bonus points if the skating rink is a converted dorm hallway. (15 min)
  • Your characters discover a guy living in a closet. Bonus points: Closet leads to an underground funicular railway. (20 min)
  • Somebody wins the sweepstakes. Bonus points: They win a year’s supply of Frito-Lay products. (10 min)
  • Include a laser. Bonus points: They’re involved in a tanning contest. (15 min)
  • Include popcorn. Bonus points: Use popcorn to willfully destroy property. (20 min)

November 2, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Tom Selleck

  • Your characters are trying to grow facial hair exactly like Tom’s mustache. (15 min)
  • Three male characters discover a baby! What do they do? (They’ve never changed a diaper before!) (20 min)
  • Your characters go to an interesting locale! Bonus points: They bump into a detective from Hawaii. (30 min)
  • Include a painting. Bonus points: It’s of Tom Selleck. His eyes are always watching you. Or: Include something else super creepy! (18 min)

November 3, 9:00pm-10:30pm (UTC -7)
The Westing Game

  • Include something that is named the opposite of what it is/does. (12 min)
  • Just as the characters in the book got odd clues in envelopes, add a clue in your story! (Or maybe it’s just a red herring.) (25 min)
  • Include a character with a bad name. (10 min)
  • Include each of the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) in some form or fashion. (13 min)

November 4, 2:00pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)

  • Bacon, lettuce, and tomato (15 min)
  • Live, long, and prosper (10 min)
  • Blood, sweat, and tears (18 min)

November 5, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Grizzly Bears

  • Your characters hear a growl behind them. (10 min)
  • Self-defense. You can interpret that in whatever way you like, whether physical, psychological or something else! (30 min)
  • Have a character do something that is unexpected and possibly dangerous. (15 min)
  • Since grizzlies also live far north, include something cold. (10 min)
  • A character discovers a gray hair. (15 min)
  • Include claws or anything to do with scratches. (20 min)
  • Include someone doing the Grizzly Bear dance either inadvertently or on purpose. (lightning round, 3 x 5 min)

November 6, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Doctor Who

  • Include the number 11 in your story. (10 min)
  • Include a tool (like the sonic screwdriver) that seems to do everything. (20 min)
  • Include a fancy article of clothing. (15 min)
  • Include someone or something that always comes back no matter what you do to it. (30 min)
  • Include a colorful scarf, like the one the fourth Doctor wears! (10 min)
  • Your antagonist/villain is stymied by something simple. (15 min)
  • Play with time. You can use time travel, flashbacks, deja vu, blacking out & missing time–be creative! (30 min)

* * *

I have no idea how I’m going to top the Doctor Who theme which was apparently very popular. Maybe I’ll do Sherlock Holmes and My Little Pony next week…

First Couple Days of Progress

Ah, National Novel Writing Month. Where would the year be without it? After over a decade of participating, it would be weird if I didn’t do it. It’s on par with Christmas. No, wait. It’s bigger than Christmas. I definitely do not spend this much time prepping for Santa Claus season.

I am currently very much behind, despite my participation in the official NaNoWriMo word sprints feed over on Twitter. However, I will say that I’m slowly catching up. This, I feel, is par the course for me. I start out slowly and build up steam throughout the month. And because of this, I’m not stressed about my novel. At the moment.

This year, I’m also doing something a little different in regards to technology. I’m trying to write the novel entirely on a netbook using Word Pad which has no word count function. Supposedly, this will give me less chance of distraction. But this says nothing about the people around me.

And as for that…this was the first time I’ve gotten so mad I physically wanted to deck a guy. At this morning’s write-in, in which I was the sole participant, there was some old guy at the next table being foul-mouthed, racist, and playing loud obnoxious talk radio over the cafe’s soft rock background music. Some other guy, fortunately, called him on it, but I just had to leave before I did something I regretted. I am normally a laid back person and while there are things that annoy me, they just provoke brief irritation before I let it roll off my back.

But this…no. I have no tolerance for intolerance.

Anyways, enough of the ranting…

* * *

For the curious, here’s the opening paragraph of Nine at Night, a biopunk western:

The train disgorged the mail-order brides who fluttered into the station like a flock of nervous pastel-colored doves. Nine Lily Rendell hung back a few paces. She looked no different than the others in her light blue-gray traveling frock, matching hat, and purse. But it wasn’t an ordinary purse. It contained a Colt single action .45 with several bullets loaded in the chamber. One of those bullets was intended for her would-be husband.