Daily Writing Tip 28 of 100, Letter From A Place You’ve Never Been

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Letter From A Place You’ve Never Been

Source – Writing Without The Muse by Beth Baruch Joselow

Imagine yourself on a journey to a place you have never visited before. It’s striking! There are so many _________ . And the quality of the ____________ is amazing! You’ve never seen anything that looked like the ___________ . This is a place to write home about. Write a letter to someone you like, telling her all about your surroundings.

I used to collect odd postcards. I’d write fictional messages on the back and send them in the mail to people I didn’t know chosen at random from phone books (this was before the Internet). Simple, cryptic messages.

The sea here is a green the color of the ferns in Aunt Penelope’s (you remember her, I’m sure, Ha!) side garden. Matilda and I sit all day and talk about the handball championships and drink fruity concoctions that Juan brings us on a little tray.

Really wish you were here, though things might be awkward between you and Matilda, because… well, you know.

Love and Sweetest Memories, Sally

Maybe I should try this again? Nobody sends postcards any more – when is the last time you received one, a real one, in the mail?

Sounds like fun – but I haven’t bought a stamp in years.

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Japan Breeding Army of Godzillas!

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
—-Oscar Wilde
Strip for Violence

Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover - this has nothing to do with the rest of the entry.

One of my favorite writing techniques is what I call “Bad Poetry.”
It is what it sounds like. Write some bad poetry – and then see if you can use it as a basis for prose. Most of the time, you can’t. But every now and then it works.
It works because of the fact that it forces you to abandon your inner editor in the initial creative, first draft part of the process. After all, you are writing bad poetry… the badder the better.
It works for me in particular because bad poetry is the only kind of poetry I write.
Another, related source of inspiration is a collection of stupid tabloid headlines. Examples of a few from this web site:
  • DRUNKS FALL OFF ROOF AFTER BARTENDER DECLARES DRINKS ARE ON THE HOUSE!
  • FIRED ARCHITECT BURNS HIS BRIDGES
  • THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART IS NOT THROUGH HIS STOMACH! SURGEON’S LICENSE REVOKED
  • Cat found with hoard of over 200 TONGUES! (What’s the matter? Cat got your …)
  • MAN POSES AS CPR DUMMY FOR WOMEN’S TRAINING CLASS
  • CAVE PAINTINGS REVEAL EXISTENCE OF PREHISTORIC INSURANCE SALESMAN!
  • EXORCISM CURES MONSTROUS ZIT!
  • GENEROUS KIDS SHIP THEIR UNEATEN PEAS TO STARVING CHILDREN IN APPALACHIA
  • I WAS ATTACKED BY MONGOLIAN DEATHWORM!
  • MAN CAN SEE ONE SECOND INTO FUTURE
  • HONESTY FALLS TO THIRD AS ‘BEST POLICY’
  • STUDY FINDS MOST STUDIES ARE STUPID
It's Only a Rabbit

Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!

COWARDLY MATADOR ONLY FIGHTS RABBITS

  • GUY DIALS PHONE # ON TOILET WALL — & FINDS HIS MISSING MOM!
  • PIZZA WAS SERVED AT THE LAST SUPPER . . . and the pies were delivered
  • SPANISH ARMADA WAS SUNK BY UFOs
  • BLUES SINGER SUES SHRINK FOR MAKING HIM FEEL BETTER
  • AREA 51 IS REALLY STRIP CLUB FOR BIGWIGS
  • THE MOON IS HATCHING . . . and whatever’s coming out has big teeth, NASA says!
  • Couple sells everything to clone their dying cat
  • Hole in ozone layer is sucking world’s penguins into space, say scientists!
  • TERROR TOADS INVADING AMERICA’S TOILETS!
  • CONCRETE ENEMAS A BAD IDEA, DOCS WARN
  • GOTCHA! JEWELER INVENTS WEDDING RING THAT CHANGES COLOR IF YOU CHEAT!
  • MAN FALLS OFF ROOF – MOUNTING LUCKY HORSESHOES
  • WOMAN, 79, DIES IN MEATLOAF EXPLOSION!
  • HAGGIS HORROR!
  • ATTACKS BY GIANT SQUIDS SKYROCKET
  • HAITI SELLING OF ZOMBIES BUY ONE GET ONE FREE!
  • 7 CONGRESSMAN ARE ZOMBIES! (that can’t be right… only Seven?)
  • BELGIUM DESTROYED BY ROGUE ASTEROID & NO ONE NOTICES!
  • PEOPLE BLINDED BY ECLIPSE CAN SEE THE FUTURE!
  • JUST SAY NO TO AARDVARK MEAT
  • ALIEN SITCOMS ARE WORSE THAN OURS!
  • GIANT SPACE SPIDERS WILL SAVE THE EARTH! Webs can deflect killer asteroids, says NASA
  • My daughter is pregnant by her invisible friend!
  • HOUSEWIFE EXPERIENCES HALF-RAPTURE . . . & gets stuck in the dining room ceiling!
  • MULTIPLE PERSONALITY MAN CHARGED TRIPLE ROOM RATE!
  • RESEARCHER CALCULATES A SNOWBALL’S CHANCE IN HELL TO BE .000000000134%
  • MICROSCOPIC SPACE ALIENS INFESTING CARPETS
  • UFO ALIENS ABDUCTED MY CAT! Now frisky Felix is home safe — and has a gift of ESP, says amazed owner
  • WIFE USED HUBBY’S TOOTHBRUSH – TO CLEAN THE COMMODE!
I learned this technique at a poetry writing seminar years ago. We all pulled  little slips of paper with these headlines written on them from a box the teacher passed around.
My paper said, “Japan Breeding Army of Godzillas!” We were given twenty minues to write something. I wrote:

34. JAPAN BREEDING ARMY OF GODZILLAS!

The water boils
off the coast
as the men in Rubber
lizard suits
wash ashore and creep
up the slopes of Mount Fuji

They eat tender bamboo and strings
of seaweed
and their ragged
backbones glow with special
blue electricity

At sunset they dance
to ominous trumpet music
stomping in unison
and sing their monster song

And then they sleep
their giant growling snores
echo back across the ocean
like cinema earthquakes

One Hundred Short Story Basic Ideas

George Polti put the number at 36. He insisted that there are exactly thirty-six dramatic situations.

1. Supplication (in which the Supplicant must beg something from Power in authority)
2. Deliverance
3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance
4. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
5. Pursuit
6. Disaster
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty of Misfortune
8. Revolt
9. Daring Enterprise
10. Abduction
11. The Enigma (temptation or a riddle)
12. Obtaining
13. Enmity of Kinsmen
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen
15. Murderous Adultery
16. Madness
17. Fatal Imprudence
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love (example: discovery that one has married one’s mother, sister, etc.)
19. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
20. Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal
21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred
22. All Sacrificed for Passion
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
24. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
25. Adultery
26. Crimes of Love
27. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
28. Obstacles to Love
29. An Enemy Loved
30. Ambition
31. Conflict with a God
32. Mistaken Jealousy
33. Erroneous Judgement
34. Remorse
35. Recovery of a Lost One
36. Loss of Loved Ones.

Foster-Harris said there are three – “Happy Ending” – “Unhappy Ending” – and the “Literary Plot”

Jessamyn West listed out seven.

[wo]man vs. nature
[wo]man vs. [wo]man
[wo]man vs. the environment
[wo]man vs. machines/technology
[wo]man vs. the supernatural
[wo]man vs. self
[wo]man vs. god/religion

Ronald Tobias says there are twenty master plots.

Quest
Adventure
Pursuit
Rescue
Escape
Revenge
The Riddle
Rivalry
Underdog
Temptation
Metamorphosis
Transformation
Maturation
Love
Forbidden Love
Sacrifice
Discovery
Wretched Excess
Ascension
Descension.

As for me, these are interesting ideas and a great starting point to come up with inspiration, but not really practical when the deadline is looming and the mind is empty and the panic is rising.

So, in my “Spare Time” I have started to make a list of short story ideas or plots or basic structures or prompts or whatever. I decided to come up with a number first instead of doing the list first and then counting. Makes more sense to me.

I picked a nice round number – one hundred. So, in my notebook(s) that I carry around, every now and then I’ll think of a new one, write it down and give it a number. I’m only up to sixteen so far, so I better get crackin.’

1 Revenge Story – must have downtrodden victim taking revenge on the person/people responsible for keeping him down.

2 Love Triangle – Requires a somewhat passive follower – yet very desirable- character has to choose between 2 pursuers.

3 Someone isn’t what they seem. On the surface a benevolent character turns out to be a monster underneath.

4 Wakes up to the man. Someone, probably a youth, realizes the hopeless, soul-crushing nature of existence – rebels. Successful or not.

5 Unreliable Narrator. – First person narration point of view. As the story progresses the reader realizes the narrator is lying and is not the beneficent person they portray (and believe themselves).

6 Revenge Story 2 – Someone done wrong but NOT downtrodden, takes revenge on a victim that does not expect it.

7 You might be done with the past, but the past isn’t done with you. A long-ago incident – secret- comes back to haunt a person in a secure well-established position.

8 Petty Crime Goes Bad – Someone steals something (notebook? Laptop? Phone? IPOD? Digital storage card or thumb drive?) and it turns out to have something unspeakably evil and dangerous associated with it.

9 (related to #8) Ordinary Object contains evil. Gift? Bought at thrift stop? Item has power but also terrible danger.

10 Fractured Fairy Tales – Take an obscure (or well known) fairy tale and set it in modern day. Kick things up a notch.

11 Rosebud – Filthy Rich self-made man – his fortune can’t cure a hurt left over from his childhood or he can’t rescue a loved one – or both.

12 Memories of Childhood nightmares. – fear of atomic attack, making noise, or other mostly irrational fear – maybe it comes true (just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you).

13 An ordinary dystopia – A terribly ordinary day is told in all of its horror.

14 Requiem for a Dream – The hero’s constant struggle for a goal, for fulfillment, is turned by a fatal flaw – dreams turn to nightmares. The core sin is that of blindness to one’s true nature – and/or ignorance of one’s love’s true needs.

15 Mediocre athlete – a person aids a naturally gifted person – that is a fraud. The mediocre person ends up relaxing and winning himself.

16 – Expert helps downtrodden – an elite unexpectedly sacrifices a bit of his own success to aid someone not as elevated.

Sixteen down, eighty four to go. Leave a comment if you have any ideas, that would be cool.

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17  Blast From the Past – A person meets someone that was a key influence in their distant past.

18 Mysterious Pest From Beyond – a hellish parasite arrives from an unknown location and attaches to the protagonist

19 Monkey’s Paw – Dream comes true, turns into a nightmare (similar to #14 – but different tone)

20 The Opposite Of Doomed Love – What if Romeo and Juliet said to each other, “I love you but this isn’t going to work out, what with the family and all.” What tragedy would ensue.

21 Military in Need – Opponents on the battlefield are thrown in with each other and must cooperate to survive.

22 What we were and have forgotten – The world from a child’s point of view. We don’t remember the fear.