Tag Archives: fantasy

Writing: PlotStorming.com

After learning about PlotStorming.com at Con on the Cob, I decided to give the creative writing community a shot and signed up for a free account.

PlotStorming is, at its heart, a Simple Machines Forum (much like the one installed here at KJToo.com) where users can talk about various aspects of creative writing, bounce ideas off one another, submit works for critique, and even have special, private forums created for the purpose of collaborating on writing projects.

One of the cool things the moderators do is post a short creative writing prompt every day. The site generally leans toward the fantasy genre, so the prompts tend to involve a variety of fantasy elements. They’re short (usually just a few sentences) snippets designed to give the imagination a little kick-start and PlotStormers can post the results of that creative boost.

Here’s the prompt from 13 November 2007:

The first tongues of lightning lashed out from the front of the roiling cloud bank and the shields glowed indigo-azure in response. Brahm smiled. “It’ll hold.”

Cain couldn’t move his gaze from the artificial twilight as it spread with the storm until it engulfed the whole city. “I’d hold my tongue, Brahm. We haven’t seen the brunt of his wrath yet – we are dealing with a god.”

The prompt worked exactly as intended, and yesterday I sat down for about 30 minutes and wrote this:

Brahm looked at his younger brother. “Aye,” he acknowledged, nodding, “a god, indeed. But just the one this time.”

“The prophecy-” Cain began, but his brother interrupted.

“The prophecy was written ten thousand years ago,” Brahm said, “in a long-dead language. It’s been translated and re-translated so many times that its original meaning is as dead as the prophet who wrote it.”

Brahm started across the square, the cobblestones beneath his boots glowing faintly purple in the light of the shield high above. “Besides,” he continued, “you and I both know that prophecy is less about divination than it is about interpretation.”

Cain frowned, falling into step beside his elder sibling. “That’s no excuse for over-confidence,” he said. “It’s been nearly a hundred years since the Siege of the Ancients; the shield-weavers are-”

Brahm interrupted again. “-old men, yes. I know, I know.”

The brothers paused as they came to the monument at the center of the square, both men dropping to one knee in reverence to the Mother. Cain pressed his palms together and touched the sides of his index fingers to his forehead, nose and chin; a warmth radiated outward from the center of his chest as the Mother heard his silent prayer. For the space of three breaths he knelt in silence, his eyes closed, the feeling of apprehension banished–at least for the moment–by the Mother’s blessing.

Brahm and Cain rose as one, then continued across the square. The Mother’s calming influence receded as the men moved away from the monument, though the soothing warmth remained, as it would for at least an hour. Cain looked up again as a bolt of lightning cut a brilliant, jagged scar across the darkened sky and the shield glowed brighter. The thunder that followed should have been nearly deafening, but it was barely audible, most of its energy absorbed by the magical shield and channelled to the twelve shield-weavers. The more the storm raged, the stronger the shield became, but Cain was only too aware of the terrible price the weavers paid, their bodies ravaged by the mystical forces. If even one of them should die…

“They’ll be fine,” Brahm said, breaking the silence and seeming to read Cain’s thoughts. He reached his destination and pounded three times on the heavy wooden door.

Cain suddenly realized where they were. “This is-” he started.

“Yes,” Brahm said grimly. “I am confident that Alden and the other weavers can maintain the shield, but never mistake confidence for ill-preparedness, little brother. Should the shield fail, should the god breach our defenses, we will have no recourse but to fight.”

The heavy door swung inward, opening to a dimly lit room and a towering, bearded man whose naked, broad chest was criss-crossed with pale scars and whose left arm ended in a smooth stump just above the elbow. Recognition shone in his dark eyes and a cruel smile played across his lips.

“And if we must fight,” Brahm continued, “we would be foolish not to have a god-slayer fighting beside us.”

Now, I have no idea where this story is going. The whole exercise sprang from the last few words of the prompt: “we are dealing with a god.” My first reaction was “just one?” and I ran with that.

From there, my approach was simple: have the two men walk across the square and introduce a couple of interesting things along the way (the Mother, the power of prayer, the shield-weavers and finally, the god-slayer). I wasn’t thinking about backstory, I was thinking about cool; I figured if I got really interested in the story I could come up with the history later.

I’ve never really written fantasy, but I can see where it might be cool to continue. On the other hand, I’ve gotten in trouble with the “make it up as you go along” approach in the past (the very recent past).

I think I’ll do another couple of prompts over the next few days, because I can definitely see how the doors to creativity could be opened. Will anything come of it? I don’t know. I do have a bit of a penchant for not completing stories.

Bookstuff: Wild Cards and A Song of Ice and Fire

Once upon a time, I was a member of the Science-Fiction Book ClubActually, it’s at least thrice upon a time, as I seem to re-join every six or seven years for some reason.
and I forgot to promptly return the “Selection of the Month” cardThis happened more than once, and I have several books on my shelf because of it. One other that I can recall off the top of my head is Marrow by Robert Reed, which I’ve not read. Yet.. As a result, one of the books I received was George R.R. Martin‘s A Storm of Swords. I probably would have sent the book back, but I’m a huge fan of a series of books that Martin edited back in the 1980’s called Wild Cards.

The Wild Cards series is a sort of alternative history of Earth, one that diverges from our own history slightly after World War II. The key event is the release of an alien virus into the atmosphere; a virus that radically alters a significant portion of the population of first New York City and eventually much of the world. Those affected by the Wild Card virus gain super-human abilities (Aces), become hideously deformed (Jokers), or die immediately (referred to as “drawing the Black Queen”).

Wild Cards is a collaborative universe, with stories written by George R.R. Martin, Walter Jon Williams (Dread Empire’s Fall), Melinda M. Snodgrass and Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber), to name a few. The authors each created several characters that inhabited the Wild Cards universe, from Doctor Tachyon, the alien who brought the virus to Earth to Father Squid, the Joker priest, to Jack Braun, the Ace known as The Golden Boy (and later The Judas Ace).

Wild Cards: Death Draws Five

The series spans seventeen volumes, but I only have the first thirteen. There was also a four-issue limited series comic book published by Marvel’s Epic imprint, which I own in its entirety, and a GURPS supplement, which I do not. Though I thought the comic book was a merely mediocre, I absolutely loved the novels. I’ve re-read most of them at least twice, and went through all thirteen volumes I own last year. The most recent installment, Death Draws Five was published just last month. Volumes fourteen through sixteen have proven to be somewhat difficult to find, but I’d certainly like to complete the set eventually.

A Storm of Swords is the third volume of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Since I’d enjoyed Martin’s collaborative work in the Wild Cards series so much, I thought I’d give his solo stuff a shot. Rather than jumping into the middle of the series, I went out and picked up a copy of the first volume, A Game of Thrones. I read the first few chapters and then something new and shiny caught my eye, so I set it aside. The novel (which weighs in at 800+ pages) sat on my shelf for several years, until I was looking for something to take to the hospital when it was time for Kyle to make his debut. In the week Laura and I spent running back and forth to the Cleveland Clinic, I managed to read about a quarter of A Game of Thrones, quickly learning that the point where I’d stopped reading years ago was the chapter immediately before the plot took a very interesting turn.Should you happen to be reading/have read A Game of Thrones, I am referring to an event involving a young lad who likes to climb things.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire puts the “epic” in “epic fantasy.” In the first volume, Martin is setting the pieces on the board, but it is very clear that the game is already well underway, and has been for quite some time. It’s a big game, too. Each chapter focuses on one character, and eight characters share the spotlight in A Game of Thrones. Six of the characters are from a single family, the seventh is a dwarf who is at one turn admirable and at another replusive, and the eighth isn’t even on the same continent as the others. All of these characters are involved in a “game of thrones,” attempting to prevent one faction or another from siezing control of the Seven Kingdoms, plotting to take the throne themselves, or even simply watching helplessly as the game is played out around them.

I finished A Game of Thrones just yesterday, and I’m itching to run out and buy the second volume, A Clash of Kings. The fourth volume, A Feast for Crows was released last year, but at about eight hundred pages per installment—not to mention dozens of other unread books on my shelves—I’ve got plenty of reading to keep me occupied until it is released as a paperback. Of course, between volumes two and four is A Storm of Swords, which I already own in hardcover and will probably purchase in paperback just to make the reading experience a little more enjoyable. I should keep that in mind the next time I’m tempted to join The Science Fiction Book Club again.