Friday, January 31, 2014

1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen's prompt based books are useful and inspiring resources for writers. This one is no different.

1,000 Character Writing Prompts: Villains, Heroes and Hams for Scripts, Stories and More shares prompts to help you create characters, with chapters including 'Characters Inside and Outside the Law' and 'Non-human Characters'.

In the introduction to the book, Cohen claims that 'the real trick of telling stories is to create a set of memorable characters' and it's certainly hard to argue with that. The ay to use the book is to browse it until you find the character type you want and then try the prompts. Alternatively, you can use it as a more general resource and just try out all the characters!

The prompts are quite detailed so that you have quite a lot of information to use as you create your characters, examples include:

She looked through the crosshairs of the sniper rifle and everything was set up perfectly. She had a pang of loneliness for a second. It was difficult sometimes, traveling around the world alone. Killing and then disappearing without a trace. Her parents never asked her where she'd gotten the money for their swanky retirement home, then again, she didn't stick around long enough to hear the answer. She could have told them she kills bad people for a living, but of course, that would be a lie. What does the future look like for this master assassin?

Your family is what you'd call accepting but conservative. When your aunt came out to everyone during the holiday season, it caused a major shockwave. After all, your parents started a church that tended to exclude homosexuals from joining, but they also felt that it would be a sin to exclude family from their lives. Whenever she brings her partner to family functions, explaining the situation to the kids is always a tenuous and hilarious situation. Your aunt has always been the one to turn to in a situation that your right-wing parents just wouldn't understand. While she tends to talk more often than she listens, it seems like most of the things she says have major value. When did she decide to come out and what is her day-to-day life like with her partner?

During most of his life he hadn't been able to pursue his passions due to a job with long hours and a family with many mouths to feed. Now that his children and grandchildren could take care of themselves, he decided to take up acting in his twilight years. His local community theater was often lacking when it came to elderly actors, and they welcomed him with open arms. Before he knew it, he felt more alive than he had in decades, and that was before the positive reviews in the paper. He always knew he had it in him and was glad to discover his talent before it was over. What are some of the roles he played and what made him such an adept actor?

While she had a feeling that she wasn't going anywhere while she did it, it just plain felt good to run on that wheel. It was something about the wind going through her fur that exhilarated her. She knew that her owners would laugh at her when she started going full speed but there was nothing in the world that made her feel better. Afterwards, she would always down nearly half her water bottle and her owners would marvel at her thirst. She tired herself out so much from the run, she usually went right to sleep. What is it about her running that gives her such an emotional boost and what would she do if her roommate was on the wheel for too long?


Once again, Cohen has come up with an inspiring resource for anyone who needs characters for their stories and novels! (Though there is a serious omission in the lack of a prompt for a pet rabbit).

Thanks Story Cartel for my free download of this book

Bryan shares more ideas on his Build Creative Writing Ideas website and you can follow him on Twitter @bryancohenbooks.

I've previously reviewed two of Bryan's other books, you can read the reviews by following the links below:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Strange Fire

Did I mouth the words of the songs
as we danced drunkenly dazed 
by your fireplace? 
Tell me I didn’t 
So I don’t need to say 
I didn’t mean the words of the songs 
I mouthed as we danced drunkenly, 
dazed by your fire as I was. 

Did you sing along? 
Out of habit or feeling? 
What is the music revealing? 

I sit here and sing the words of the songs 
I may or may not have been singing 
with you or to you. 

Every word is for you.

Previously published in Poetry Scotland

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Stone Voices by Neal Ascherson

Subtitled The search for Scotland, this is a voyage into the historical Scottish psyche. The stones of the title refer to the geology of Scotland, the ancient standing stones erected by ancient Scots and most of all to the Stone of Destiny, used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland then the monarchs of England. In 1996 the Stone was returned to Scotland in a symbolic gesture.

Stone Voices outlines the history of Scottish cultural identity from ancient times to 2002 when the book was written. Rather too much is written about the Bus Tour for Devolution which the author participated in during the 1997 Referendum campaign. Otherwise this is a fascinating and insightful exploration of Scotland, her geology, archeology, myths, legends, history, cultural attitudes and relationship with the world. Ascherson covers both internal relationships such as the divide between Highland and Lowland Scotland and external relationships including the extensive and successful Scottish settlements in Poland during the early seventeenth century.

Recommended reading as we draw ever closer to a new referendum on the future of Scotland.

Stone Voices by Neal Ascherson published by Hill and Wang (Macmillan). 

And if you're really keen on being well informed on the forthcoming referendum, you may wish to read the White Paper on Scottish Independence.