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.