Writing Prompt: Bad Moon Rising

Writing Prompt: Bad Moon Rising

original photo by Hoàng Duy Lê

“I see a bad moon a-rising. I see trouble on the way.”

If you don’t know this song, give it a listen, absorb the lyrics, set the mood in your mind.

Now, what does the bad moon look like? What does it mean? Is it a prediction or a curse? Is it only in effect that night while the moon is out, or does it reach far beyond?

Go forth and write! And feel free to put links to work birthed from this prompt in the comments below.


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A Rose By Any Other Name – Or Without One?

Nameless Roses: Tips for writing fiction which keeps a character's name secret. More Writing advice from Vision Writers Group

original photo by Lukas Roberston on Unsplash

‘A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet’ the bard once said, but would a rose without a name?

Have you ever read a short story or the start of a book where the protagonist or POV character isn’t named? Sometimes it’s the writer holding back the information for a dramatic reveal, or sometimes its a stylistic choice, like calling a character ‘The Gunslinger’ rather than using his name(though arguably that example could be considered a name of sorts if consistantly used as a replacement for a name). Done well or paired with the right reveal it can be impactful. But done not quite so well…

The reason the majority of stories give you the main character’s name as soon as possible (often in the first line) is to give you a connection to the character. Knowing someone’s name is more intimate than not, as countless film and television depictions of one night stands makes evident.

Also, if other characters are observing our unnamed rose and also thinking of them without a name it can create a disconnect not just between the two characters, but between the reader and the observing character, particularly if the observer really should know the observed’s name. In fact this is something that can irritate readers enough to make them rage quit your book.

So, what to do if you want to experiment with a story that hides the protagonist’s name? First make sure the reason for doing so is solid. Is the reveal you’re withholding this information back for awesome and/or mind-blowing enough that all will be forgiven? Is the style cool and/or intriguing enough that no one will care the name is omitted? Think about if  the events exciting enough and your prose strong enough that people will be pulled through the story regardless of the distraction of the missing name.

If you think you can tick all those boxes, write the story, polish it and submit it to your writers’ group or some beta readers. They’ll tell you if they find the story good enough to pull it off, or if they think it might be a misfire.

One last thing to consider if thinking of writing such a story is if the mystery of the unspoken name might cause a distraction from other facets of your story, overshadowing them. What is the more exciting concept for you, that other facet, or the nameless rose?

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Writing Prompt: Inheritance

photo credit Ken Mayer

To some it can be a boon, to others a tool used to control their every move, to others a surprise.

There’s the classic horror storyline of a lawyer bearing news of an unexpected inheritance, but to receive it you must spend the night in a Gothic mansion first.

There’s the fantasy staple of the royal family birthmark which later reveals the orphan as a long lost ruler. Can you come up with a new twist on these tropes, or something completely different?

What story can you create with ‘inheritance’? Feel free to post links to your story in the comments below.

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September Meeting Details 2017

To avoid clashing with Fathers’ Day we have shifted the meeting day for September from Sunday 3rd September to Saturday 2nd September. Since our usual meeting room is not available at this time we have also changed the location to the Coffee Club on Park Road at Milton.

The September meeting details are as follows:
Date: Saturday 2nd September 2017
Time: 11am-2pm
Location: The Coffee Club, 9/32 Park Rd, Milton, Qld

Please note we will be capping submissions for critique to 3 this month, and advise if having your work critiqued where the general public may overhear to refrain this month and submit for the October meeting instead.

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Giving Your Reader Setting Up Front

‘Tavern Interior’ by Cornelis Pietersz Bega

One of the greatest pleasures and direst pains of being a speculative fiction writer is the world building. There is far too much advice on world building to fit in a single concise article, so for now I’m going to touch only on a problem that occurred in a submission last month, then again in another this month.

There is the convenient and well-used template of the medieval European setting for fantasy. It’s so commonly used that readers are quite familiar with it. It is this familiarity which can cause the problem we’re addressing today.

So, the story starts in a stable or a tavern. As a reader, your mind has probably immediately coloured in the medieval European setting. The problem is, stables exist in Victorian settings, Edwardian settings, heck I can drive down the road from my house here in 2017 and get to a stable in 5 minutes. I can get to a tavern in even less time (yes, it actually calls itself a tavern).

But as a reader many of us are so used to stables and taverns as medieval European based fantasy staples, that’s what we think of first. And if you don’t dissuade the reader from that initial assumption fast, they’re going to be sharply thrown from the story when your character cracks out a tin of baked beans for dinner twenty pages later.

So what can you do to help make that setting clear as early as possible? Well, first ask ‘do I need to make my opening scene in the stable/tavern?’. Could you set it in a Victorian drawing room complete with furniture iconic to the era, or a dressing room filled with era-specific clothes?

What if the story NEEDS the opening scene to be in the stable or tavern? Consider placing something era-distinctive there to set it apart. You could put a bicycle against a wall. It could even be a penny farthing if that’s your era. In the tavern, could someone complain the food tastes tinned, not farm fresh?

What if your story is medieval, but not European? Same ideas. Are those camels in the stables, not horses, or – if you’re going for something yet more distant from the norm – magically-bridled hell hounds?

Give your reader something early on to help establish that yours isn’t a stock-standard setting. Ground them, or at least let them know from the start that this really is a different world so they can look forward to seeing what tropes you’re going to flip, what surprises you have in store for them.

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Writing Prompt: Opening and Ending Lines

Take one of the lines below for your opening line, another for your closing line, and fill in the blanks between.

For an extra challenge (or if free choice has not provided you with inspiration) use the random number generator.

  1. The zepplins flashed amongst the clouds
  2. The glitter of the gems on her necklace caught his eye
  3. Her silken red hair fanned across the starched white pillow
  4. They didn’t care for the land, they only cared for the gold
  5. The moss on the lee side of the rock was an omen only she could decipher
  6. The only witness was the mouse peering from its hole in the wall
  7. Each cough my daughter made tore at my heart
  8. The poison gleamed purple on the floor
  9. Bright eyes watched from the shadows
  10. The wind tore at their hair relentlessly
  11. I couldn’t decide what was worse, the smell or the pain
  12. The town was evacuated

I’d love to hear if this inspires you. You can even link to where ever you publish the work in the links below for us to check out

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The Unlikeable Ones

photo by Fabrizio Russo

Have you ever received that feedback before?

“I just didn’t like your protagonist,” says your critiquer.

Sometimes it’s as simple as using a ‘save the cat’ moment to fix, but what about when your POV character that received the feedback is supposed to be unlikeable or has a job or mission that the story NEEDS them to have but most people will dislike (for example the torturer, Sand Dan Glokta from Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series)? That’s a tougher problem.

One of our members has a series they’ve long cherished, but keeps butting their head against this problem. One of our other members went so far as to take thorough notes on the first chapter featuring the aforementioned character, Glokta, to show how a writer can make an unlikeable character likeable. A lot of the techniques involve making the character relatable to the reader.

Some techniques you can use are:

  • establish a weakness, something that people can sympathise with or empathise with
  • put them in a situation where they are harmed or powerless
  • establish their situation in a way that shows why they must do the unlikeable thing, show it isn’t through their own cruelty but because they have no other choice, are being bribed, blackmailed or coerced(perhaps even doing so to protect someone they love)
  • give them someone they love or cherish who the reader can truly like. If that person loves them back, great this shows the character is loveable by someone ‘good’, if they don’t you could frame it as an unrequited love which creates more sympathy because we’ve ALL been there
  • give them admirable qualities or traits such as intelligence and humor (dark humor can be particularly effective with certain characters)
  • put them in frustrating situations most readers can empathise with eg/ a boss demands an impossible job and expects positive results, or a boss chewing them out over something beyond their control, or even something small like interruptions repeatedly stymying them just an instant before they reach a goal(no matter how big or small)
  • show they are not infallible
  • let them react to bad things happening with bravery and/or wit so we can admire them and wish we had their courage/humor
  • if they do something bad to someone, can you dehumanise that person(the victim)? A good example of this is Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter, a serial killer who kills people who get away with crimes. The first victim the reader sees him murder is actually a paedophile who has gotten away with multiple crimes

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but a damn good start. Is there anything you can think of? is there a special trick you like to use yourself?

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Writing Prompt: Wrongly Accused

We’ve all seen it before. We all fear it: being wrongly accused.

In movies like The Fugitive we’ve seen it play out.

What you need:

  • Protagonist: The Accused
  • Antagonist 1: The Accuser
  • Antagonist 2: The Actual Criminal (optional, sometimes both antagonists are one and the same)

What has your protagonist been accused of? Can you make it a worst case scenario for them, or escalate a smaller accusation to trap them in a WCS?

Don’t forget the interplay of relationships. Was your protagonist once close to either of the antagonists? Was it this accusation that split them or an earlier problem? Is Antagonist 1 the only person who could possibly save the protagonist if they could just manage to think outside the box?

I’d love to see these in speculative stories. You’re welcome to include links to any story born from this prompt in the comment section.

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Writing Prompt: Tongue Twisters To Life

Take a tongue twister and bring it to life.

For example: She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
Who is she? Why does she sell seashells right where people could grab them for themselves if they wanted to? Maybe the shells have a secret…

Pick any tongue twister you like but pull it apart and make it a coherent story.



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Keep On Keeping On

There weren’t many stories up for critiquing at the bittersweet table of judgment this month. This means there wasn’t a huge amount of feedback to become the meeting takeaway. The coup de grace is that the best bit of advice given this month was something for my own work, and – since it is something I’m struggling with I can’t really do a post for you all explaining the nuances of something that I myself need to buckle down and do some extra research on.

And that’s what I think is an important takeaway for all of us: we are all of us still learning. Even the person who you rely on advice is still learning about something. Never rest on your laurels. Keep striving. Always work to be even better. And don’t let the fact you don’t know everything stop you from keeping on writing.

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