Saturday, March 10, 2012

The true worth of silly stuff

This blog is the joint product of a writers group. Which probably leads you, the reader, to ask: What does a writers group do? Good question.
If you ask members of 50 different writers groups what their group does for them, you’ll probably get more than 50 answers. I base this prediction in part on the knowledge that people differ in what they want from such a group, and in part on my own inability to give the same answer as to what our group does twice in a row.
I enjoy the somewhat free-form aspects of our writers group meetings and our twin focus on encouraging each other and doing 3-5 minute writing exercises. I’d never done these before I joined this group. If you haven’t, all I can say is, it’s kinda the writer’s version of speed-dating, but way more fun. 
For instance, one week one of the prompts had us incorporating the following list of random words into a story: acolyte, tiddlywinks, pickles, galaxy, is, razor. Here’s what I came up with:
Here we sit on the razor edge of the galaxy, where time is slowed by the speed of our rotation, playing tiddlywinks with data chips for the treat of winning one of the few remaining pickles from ships' stores.
Who knew how delightful a pickle could be after months of vitamin drinks, yeast-protein and various processed starches? We, the acolytes of the religion of galactic exploration, had outrun our supply lines in our enthusiasm for discovery. Which might not have mattered except that the Frangle drive broke down.

Or the week we played around with writing prompts about endings. The first was to write the end of a dialog. So I did this to the closing lines of Hamlet

"We need to get a script together NOW for our next project, you know," said Tim. 
"Yeah, " said Harry, "but the three kings theme has been done to death, and so has the play within a play format." 
"True," said Tim. "Even Star Trek did that one, with Shakespearean actors putting on their play on the Enterprise as subtext for the plot." 
"OK," said Rafe, "so, how about a classic murder mystery?" 
"BO-ring," said Tim. 
"Maybe an overthrow of government with romantic overtones," said Harry. 
"Oh, yeah, set in space," said Tim. 
"Umm, isn't that Star Wars?" 
"Don't be a killjoy, Rafe," said Harry. 
Tim chimed in. "We could have the protagonist die at the end." 
"Hmm," said Rafe, “I guess I could work with that. But no little talking teddy bears." 
Harry grinned. "How about rainbow pastel ponies?" 
"Now cracks a noble heart," said Rafe 
"Good night sweet prince," caroled Tim. 
Harry joined in. "... and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." 
Rafe raised his notebook and cracked Harry over the head. 
Harry ducked and yelped, "Why does the drum come hither?"
But the followup prompt that week was to write about the end of everything, which really ups the ante.

Everything the priests told us was wrong. The poets came much closer with their talk of destruction by fire and ice, but that's only because anything this ... universal ... fits poetry better than plain prose. And fiction seems more plausible than the entropic death of the universe. 
Well, the universe may have millenia or even eons left before that time but our corner of it will come to an end soon enough. The larger star of this binary system, about which this planet orbits, shows daily greater instabilities, surface and subsurface. 
So tonight, the interstellar research institute sends this message out, both broadcast and engraved on the inner skin of a rocket. I'm not sure why, but someone might find it.
These things crack me up, but more than that, I look back on them amazed that they came out of my brain. Turns out, having to write something on a totally random subject can produce unprecedented subjects & styles. The other amazing thing is how completely different each writer's speed-writing efforts can be. As we read them aloud around the table, we run the gamut from mystery and suspense through scifi/fantasy, humor and romance to bad puns. Maybe some week we'll gather a sampling of just how different the writing-prompt products of different writers can be and post them here.

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