here, have a horrible pun

The fan wore a rather provocative t-shirt, in big bold lettering the t-shirt spelled out some rather unsavory things. When people approached the fan, they read the t-shirt and naturally most were offended by what they saw. Why was there a t-shirt on a ceiling fan and how did they fit it over the blades?

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another daily exercise example

EXERCISE ONE.

Look up a photograph or a painting and think about what you can see in it and write down the first five words that come to mind. Turn those into a sentence, then turn that sentence into a paragraph summarizing a story.

image

Cafe. Coffee. Poster. Infographic. Brown.

In a small cafe, a woman tries to decide what coffee she wants by reading an infographic poster.

In a small cafe, a woman meets with a new friend and tries to stall for time while she decides on what coffee she wants. She wants to impress them with her coffee knowledge but doesn’t know the kinds of coffee. She looks up an infographic poster on her phone and tries to be unsurprised when she orders the wrong thing and gets an unfamiliarly brown mud like beverage that wasn’t on the poster. Little does she know, her friend is the one who made that poster.

EXERCISE FOUR.

Pick any location that comes to mind and write down for each sense; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, three sensations you would experience there.

Beach.

Sight: Sand, sunbathers and the ocean.

Sound: Waves, seagulls fighting over food and the motors of not too distant traffic.

Smell: Sulphur from the city, salt spray and suntan lotion.

Taste: Salt water, iced tea and suntan lotion.

Touch: Cold ocean water, hot beach sand and radiation seeping into my skin.

Daily Exercise examples.

EXERCISE ONE.

Look up a photograph or a painting and think about what you can see in it and write down the first five words that come to mind. Turn those into a sentence, then turn that sentence into a paragraph summarizing a story.

Untitled

Blue. White. Rocks. Coast. Ocean.

The blue rock coast rests upon a white ocean.

There is a coast formed out of blue rocks that rest upon a white ocean, it is here that the prophecy states an old god will return. This draws cultists to the strange landscape, and amongst them there is a prophet who shall usher in the old god’s return. He was just a pilgrim when he first witnessed the coast, but upon drowning himself in the white ocean he emerges as something more – he has seen the return with his own eyes and no longer wishes to be part of the end of all things.

EXERCISE TWO.

Pick a word at random, write it down and then write down every word you can think that relates to it. Then take as many of those words as you can and group them together, relating them to a different word. Do this for every word at least once.

Code.

Spy.
Cryptograph.
Password.
Safe.
Sign.
Symbol.
Name.
PIN.
Word.
Secret.
Club.
Rules.

Spy, Cryptograph, Password, Secret, Name. (Espionage)
Safe, PIN, Password, Sign. (Bank)
Sign, Sign, Rules. (Contract)
Club, Symbol, Secret, Rules, Name, Sign, Word. (Society)

EXERCISE THREE.

Take any two random objects and write a sentence where one is the subject of the sentence and the other is the object of the sentence. Then expand that sentence into a paragraph summarizing a story.

 

Tablets. Lighter.

Tablets make the lighter, lighter.

She takes the tablets to make the lighter, lighter. Not because it is heavy, but because the moment she finds herself in, is heavy. She sets fire to the candles, not just to make them burn but so that the cake is splattered with wax and her awkward feelings over being stuck at a birthday are clear to everyone. She’d do anything to escape social interactions with her family… anything – if only things we’re so… heavy.

EXERCISE FOUR.

Pick any location that comes to mind and write down for each sense; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, three sensations you would experience there.

Garden.

Sight- yellow flowers, green trees and people picnicking.

Sound- flies, bird songs and people talking.

Smell- the perfume of flowers, a coming rainstorm and tea.

Taste- tea and biscuits, the perfume of flowers and a cigarette.

Touch- a companion’s skin, the warmth of the sun, the gentle summer breeze.

EXERCISE FIVE.

Take any sentence, or write a new one, and write that sentence in the present, past and future tense for first, second and third person perspectives.

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

The quick brown fox will jump over the lazy dog.

You, the quick brown fox, jumped over the lazy dog.

You jump over the lazy dog.

You will jump over the lazy dog.

I, the quick brown fox, jumped over the lazy dog.

I jump over the lazy dog.

I will jump over the lazy dog.

a hopefully helpful piece about mental health and writing practices

Writer’s block is a disposition, not a physical barricade to your progress.

It is a mental restriction that has crept onto you and stymied your creativity and your focus.

To avoid it you need to maintain good mental health – things that you need to learn to do in life to avoid depression, anxiety and keep a handle on stress. Writer’s block is just a profession oriented term for a very common psychological impediment we all develop. An impediment caused by depression, stress or anxiety.

Let me just point out at this point, I am not a professional on the matter of psychology – I am just sharing the knowledge gained through years of being a professional writer and a sufferer of chronic depression and anxiety.

The key to success in any field is focus, but focus causes stress if not handled correctly. When stress becomes too much, we begin to suffer for it. If we fail to achieve success we develop anxiety and depression. Anxiety because we have expectations of what will happen and depression because we do not accomplish what we believe we need to accomplish.

Stress and depression can be managed by performing basic self-maintenance activities; pleasurable activities and achievement activities.

Both work by activating serotonin in the brain – the happiness hormone. Pleasurable activities such as hobbies, playing video games, watching movies, talking with friends, etc, are by their nature serotonin activators. Achievement activities activate serotonin by giving you a sense of accomplishment, things such as cooking, cleaning, writing, exercise, etc, alleviate the stress you might suffer from when failing to achieve what it is you are currently working on.

To truly maintain your mental health, you should schedule these activities. Make a point to schedule these things, set how long, maintain that schedule. It will give you a routine which is not only important to keeping your focus on what is ultimately an insanely long task by the standards of the human mind – we’re evolved to think about the present and plan for a season or two in advance, not for years at a time.

Make an effort to plan your day, it helps immensely.

But, what do you do in the short-term? What you should be doing daily regardless. Writing is not something you can pick up and be good at. It is like any trained skill. You will need to learn, you will need to flex your creativity and expand your mind.

You will need to read, but you should do that for reasons other than to learn how to write. Learning to write by reading is like learning to speak English by watching pornography. You can do it, but it isn’t a healthy way of doing it because it is contextual, it is not made for the purpose of teaching you but for the enjoyment of the viewer.

Exercise.

You need to exercise. You know how to write a sentence, you know how to read a sentence, and I am assuming you know how to turn that into a story. It is something we are innately made to do, we tell stories. The distinction between being good at it and being bad at it is your ability to generate ideas and use words to shape meaning. If you miss days, sure, but it will make your job so much easier if you try to do them every single day.

Every day you should try to do at least one exercises from the following.

Exercise one – look up a photograph or a painting and think about what you can see in it and write down the first five words that come to mind. Turn those into a sentence, then turn that sentence into a paragraph summarizing a story.

Exercise two – pick a word at random, write it down and then write down every word you can think that relates to it. Then take as many of those words as you can and group them together, relating them to a different word. Do this for every word at least once.

Exercise three – take any two random objects and write a sentence where one is the subject of the sentence and the other is the object of the sentence. Then expand that sentence into a paragraph summarizing a story.

Exercise four – Pick any location that comes to mind and write down for each sense; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, three sensations you would experience there.

Exercise five – take any sentence, or write a new one, and write that sentence in the present, past and future tense for first, second and third person perspectives.

All of these exercises are devised to make you think about how to write various things, how to generate an idea or how to think about an idea. Do not worry about quality, just try to do them daily before you write.

Brainstorming itself is a topic worthy of discussion, as are time management techniques. Those will have to come later. And sorry if this one came off a bit preachy. You can do alright for yourself if you don’t follow any of the above, but you will pretty assuredly be putting yourself through a lot of unnecessary pain.

Above all, avoid stressing yourself too much. Too much stress, we colloquially call burn-out, and once you learn to deal with that you’ll be a much happier, healthier individual overall, not just in your writing life.

Toxicity

Toxicity doesn’t get resolved by telling people to not be toxic, telling people they are evil/wrong or by telling the community they are just a few rotten apples.

None of those attempts to understand that toxic individuals are toxic for a reason.

When a company establishes a fandom around the idea of tribalism and/or nationalism, and tries to use these to establish an identity around that – I am a fan of X – they breed toxicity.

When someone messes with that identity people get hurt, frustrated, angry and sometimes violent because it is perceived as betrayal, intrusion from outsiders and sometimes like an erasure of the person’s identity.

It is hard to imagine the emotional devastation until you feel it yourself. It is more than just disappointment, it is earth shattering, it is cataclysmic, it attacks your very being and thus distorts your view of yourself and the world around you.

And here is the thing, it is not a few people who are overindulgent in a fandom – it is everyone. We all experience it from something. Or rather we all have the ability to experience it and react to it in a way that is over the top and violent. There is always something you would have thoughts of murder for and the issue of harrassment doesn’t come from people who are horrible, wicked people. It comes from the people who cannot stop themselves, people who need to express their anger, frustration, violence, and who have no healthy ways to vent it.

People lacking in social circles, people who have been routinely told their opinions don’t matter, people who have trouble expressing themselves to those they do know.

These aren’t failed people, they are people who know it is wrong but are emotional. These are the majority of what is called “the toxic fanbase”.

You’re not morally superior to them, you are them. The distinction between them and you is that your toxicity manifests itself in socially acceptable ways. You complain to friends, you have your opinions reinforced by others, you vent your emotions on forums or to other fans.

And you need to understand above all that while the people who harrass others are doing the wrong thing, it is not a moral failing but a social failing. If they are surrounded by people with similar dispositions they become trolls and fascists, they become bigger problems because a group of likeminded individuals reinforces an opinion and gives justification for criminality.

You don’t have to personally talk to them, just understand why it is they become like they are. Understand how to avoid becoming one yourself. Understand that this is what companies want, the harrassment is just a side effect of playing you against one another. It is an unconcious desire to make you into tribes so you consume more products.

Instead of screaming at each other, allow them into the conversation. Even if it is painful at first, even if it is excruciating, just having the chance to talk makes everyone less likely to go and threaten eldesth on someone else.

You don’t have to like them, but when you burn bridges you can’t expect them not to blame you when they have trouble crossing the river.

an aside about scene listing

Aside? Maybe more a ramble… anyway,

SCENE LISTING!

I should explain how to do them and use them.

It’s pretty simple really, but a lot of the other guides on them use weird shit like word counts… you don’t need to know how many words you’re actually doing unless you’re aiming for an arbitrary number. Like if you’re writing a thriller or for nanowrimo or something.

So, the idea is essentially, you have a grid of as many rows as needed and five columns. The columns are marked from left to right; scene, tagline, summary, purpose and theme.

It’s good to use a spreadsheet for this and I’ll provide a template to use if you’d like.

Scene is the scene number – it is important because you don’t have to write the scenes in order and if you need to change them it is as easy as changing the number. Basic spreadsheet functions like “sort by A->Z” make this super easy to rearrange as well, so it’s handy – as it is when we discuss writing habits and time management later.

Tagline is an idea we have, the reasoning I say you should have this is because we don’t think in full orderly sentences but rather vague concepts that grow into organised thoughts and patterns. We can often come with a neat idea, but then tangling with it to make it fit into the story immediately can be hard. Yeah, you’ll do that, but it might not immediately work and discarding it isn’t always great. Instead writing it down as a tagline allows you to then later be reminded of it and write that into your story in a way that otherwise would be detached and easy to forget or seem impossible to relate. An example of a tagline is like. “she finds a lost phone”, it doesn’t have to be amazing, it just has to be shorthand for an idea so you can come back to it or expand on it.

Summary is a short summary of the scene, one or two sentences about the action happening in the scene.

Purpose is the reason the scene is in the story. This can be filled out much much later, but it exists so that you can establish the reasoning for having the scene – is it important or is it filler, does it establish something you need or can it be cut out or made to have a purpose? Not all scenes need to be dripping with purpose but they do need to serve a purpose in the greater narrative.

Theme is the connection the scene has to other parts of the story. The themes of the narrative that are present. It doesn’t have to be in depth and you can fill this column out much, much later as well. Say I have a tree in my book, the theme is that the tree is important – for every scene I plan on linking to that tree, it is part of the theme of “tree”. So that’s what I write, basically.

Anyway, here is the template I promised.

self-critique

Blue was fairly well received, Red however was not.

I’m wondering what the cause for that is. Maybe it’s the audience, maybe I didn’t sell the feeling of my story well. Maybe it is not as relatable and thus people are not inclined to be interested.

Maybe it is too short, or maybe it is too wordy. Maybe it says too little, or gives too little pay off. Maybe no-one read it, maybe it was the time or the day, or maybe it was my presentation of it.

Maybe it was a bad story and my biases keep me from seeing that reality.

Maybe I was grand-standing, maybe I was preachy. Maybe I touched on topics the common mind doesn’t understand, or maybe I was too simplistic on my take. Maybe I was arrogant, maybe I belittled them. Maybe my story was too grandiose an ideal for me to write, maybe I am a bad writer.

Maybe it was too political, because people refuse to listen to reality. Maybe it was too demeaning, because reality is hard to stomach. Maybe it was incoherent, I do like to ramble like a politician who reads a book and feels the need to explain their misunderstanding of it. Maybe I lack focus, after I wrote about maintaining focus – wouldn’t that be ironic. Or maybe I was funny once, maybe that is why they liked me then. Maybe I cater to the wrong crowds, maybe they only want one thing and not all things I can do.

Maybe I am unoriginal, ununique, unspecial. Maybe I am an unperson, wouldn’t that be nice. Maybe no-one wants anything from anyone, but what they want.

Maybe.

Have a little faith that what you did is not your worst.

Blue.

We came here through the mud and muck in search of something far more precious than gold. In our group of four only I knew of the value of the treasures we were seeking. Shimmering blue, the growths of time-lost tumours erupted from husks of what were once men and beast. The sky shifted, a dim light of all colours of the rainbow, almost maddening how they changed.

Ruined fields, crumbling towers, they hung in the air as though the world rejected them. Shards of the blue light grow crystalline from the ground and were swallowed by the sun. None of that poisoned light came from the skies, it seeped from all things.

We ascended stairs, stepped from great heights and spanned chasms. Twisted beings of non-euclidean nightmare emerge from the poison and mud, from the darkness spread by ancient evils hiding within the light itself.

Greater evils I have seen, but each of these bears upon their twisted forms the treasures I desire. As we fell them their corpses twist once more into that solidified poisonous light, a mockery of what they had once been – nothing more than crystalised blood rejected by the toxic earth.

I reach down to examine, the warmth of them cuts through the aching cold left by the rain and mud. My fingers barely graze them before they burst and the light contained within them showers us, flashes of unlived memories cascade through my mind.

I see myself standing at a hearth, the dying embers of a fire, poison in my lungs. I see myself sitting and drinking, the dying embers of a fire, poison on my lips. I see myself laying to rest at night, the dying embers of a fire, my blood pouring from my throat.

It disappears in an instant, my hand burning hot but only for a moment. Unlived memories swirl in my mind, heavy cuts sting my flesh. Our healer tends to me as I turn my attention away from the faint glow that had been a corpse and go back to the task of killing. I have heard tales that this poisonous light bends time, and all I need is a handful of it so that I can change what I have done.

A small respite from the muck of unplowed fields, the rains have lessened on the road here – where ever we can call here. Before me, a staircase leading to a door held in air by unknown dark magics. There is no roof to the room we have reached, but the wind and rain does not exist here for whatever light-forged reasoning. Instead we huddle around a shattered hearth, a fireplace that ignites with no need for wood or fire. It has the others unsettled, but my mind still flashes with those dark futures yet to come. With the glistening blue tucked into the satchel of the doctor.

I share with them my ale, it will be a long journey into the darkness yet and I plan to have them at my back instead of bawling like children. No, I have greater designs, greater needs. I raise my cup before memories cascade again. I look to my companions, each of them thinks nothing of it until I hesitate. They know… but how could they? I can think of only one time I left my ale unattended… I was not thinking. I cast my gaze to the foreigner, they glance back at me. I had shared such a brief moment of intimacy with them, were they truly plotting my demise even then? Even now I feel them thinking of the blue glow seeping from the doctor’s satchel.

I place down my ale, watch the blue flames of the fire-pit burning. For a time I am content, the others tell stories, the nerves crackling in their voices. One of them is glad to be free of their nightmares, the others are glad for the food. I do not eat. Gnawing, my stomach rebels against my senses. I did not carry the food – that had been the doctor’s task. So content with the baggage of her own profession I did not think to challenge it. She stands, I watch carefully, there is something in her clutches. She is going to tend to the fires.

“I will do that doctor, do not strain yourself,” I spring to my feet, the rubble reaching around my toes to hinder me. She does not argue. Perhaps she knows I do not have her poisons, nor her immunities…

“Tell me doctor, those crystals that can be seen everywhere, do they mean something to you?”

The doctor is silent for a moment, contemplating her words carefully. I know the secret, I know she knows it too. I feel her planning.

“No, they will require study, but they seem to be the cause of all of this corruption.”

She knows, I know she knows, the light told her. The memories that flooded my mind in the glow of the light. The others must have felt them. They know my thoughts, and now I know theirs.

I glance at the priestess, their hand no longer scratching in their diary. An exile, a woman with as much need for that time-bending light as myself. Her face is grim, a slight blush to her cheeks as she reads what she has written, and as she realises I behold her. Caught red handed. The glistening ink of their silver pen leaks over the pages and they do not even realise… caught up in thoughts of murder.

I am standing before a hearth, the dying embers of a fire at my back.

I turn my eyes down to the blue hidden away in the doctor’s satchel and grip the shaft of my polearm, a mad grin crossing my lips.

Red.

Glowering, red. All things cast in that delectable colour. My veins burn hunger, a fire in the pit of ky empty stomach. No matter how much I feed I starve. Skin sheening with a sickly sweat, cast in red light that washes over the dim courtyard. Barely able to see my feet I stumble forward. Blood inside me itching as it devours itself.

Broke stones, my toes scrape against them, my fingers clutch at vines dripping with red water. My parched tongue recoils at the unnatural taste, my lips curl around it and suck it down.

The delectable colour fills my stomach, but it isn’t enough. My spine crawls as I am pulled forward by my body, my mind slowly slipping, the ache taking over. Thirst so deep that I move on my own, broken fingernails scratching at the stones marked with ancient blood.

Deeper I slink, barely able to stand. Deeper I slink, hands and knees crawling. The thick air, heavy with insects and haze from the dim murky water that forms around my wrists. I drag myself to my feet, the warm water unsettles me but I see the gleam of brighter light, the louder buzzing.

Mosquitos, flies, gnats, all are drawn to what I need. The dead bodies of another party of unfortunates. Their broken forms face down in the brackish water before a crumbling fountain filled with thick red soup. My heart screams, the hunger has consumed it and it squeals in agony. A tense beat, my hands tremble and the blood red light… I feel sick, my hands scoop up a cup and I raise it to my lips.

Amidst the static of the buzzing, the insects gnawing on my dulled skin, a splash.

My mind wanders to the bodies. My stomach growls and groans, and lurches at my sickening desires. I bear my teeth and turn back to the claret running through my fingers. A splash, louder. It lacks the subtlety, my eyes turn but I cannot help but stay motionless with my lips drenched in that blood red.

They had been killed of course, by some foul abomination that still lurked these halls.

I swallow down the red. That is all that matters now.