Hello readers,
I'm back on topic for the study of humor in stories from various genres. My goal in this series of articles is to prompt you to examine how and why the stories you read are funny. To analyze how the humor works so you can better incorporate levity in your own writing to a degree that suits your needs.

We started out with a high-level look at an author who wrote for the sole purpose of being humorous- Erma Bombeck. It was her job to make mundane observations of her commonplace life and turn them into something hilarious. Her humor appeals because there are relatable truths within the hilarity, even if you were not a housewife during the Seventies.

Our next author was Christiana Ellis. Her stories are also written solely to be funny, but instead of anecdotes based on real life Christiana chooses fantasy settings and characters. The tales she writes are madcap and playfully raucous.

Then we moved on to a writer who uses humor, but it is not his end goal. Jim Butcher writes fantasy fiction that balances levity and action in a way that can make you laugh out loud, but it is really just a distraction for a sucker punch that will have you flipping pages and praying that there's still a pulse.

The novel up for discussion today is similar in its use of humor. The Martian by Andy Weir is about an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars.

At its core, the story is some seriously hard science related in a fictional setting. The character of Mark Watney is a botanist and mechanical engineer. And of course, he's an astronaut whose space mission went about as wrong as it could go while leaving him alive.

The Martian is the ultimate survival story. Though, instead of foraging for nuts and grubs on a deserted island -- he's on Mars. He can't breathe the air, there is no flora or fauna, and no ships to signal with a really large bonfire.

There is also no rum.

He has to figure out how to survive with the stuff NASA sent to Mars for various missions. The writer, Andy Weir, is a scientist. All of the math, physics, chemistry, and botany factored into the story is real. All of the space program data is real.

Aside from an initial thought of, "Wow, how's this guy gonna survive?" you might be thinking it would be a dull read. But it's not.

Can you guess why?

Because it's funny. It's not a constant riot of laughter, but the interjection of humor at key points bonds the reader to the character and his plight. It cuts through the hard science and gives Mark Watney a facet of personality that anyone can relate to. And a reason to keep reading.

Mark's an upbeat guy. He's stranded on another planet and may end up starving to death, but he takes each problem in bite-size pieces and cusses around them like a good-natured sailor. Indeed, the story opens with the line: "I'm pretty much f**ked." Watney is a master of the f-bomb.

While working out how to scavenge parts and stretch his resources, he irreverently muses on the entertainment tastes of his former crew, making his own manure, and all of the various ways he will likely die on Mars. About 70% of the book is told from Watney's point of view via a series of log entries. Unfortunately, if I share too many of the funny quotes from the book with you, it could ruin the suspense, but here's one of my favorite laughs:
"I've fallen into a routine. Every morning I wake up at dawn. First thing I do is check oxygen and CO2 level. Then I have a protein bar, and one cup of water. I brush my teeth using as little water as possible and shave with an electric razor.
The rover has no toilet. We were expected to use our suits' reclamation systems for that, but they aren't designed to hold 20 days worth of output. My morning piss goes into a resealable plastic box. When I open it, the rover reeks like a truck stop men's room. I could take it outside and let boil off, but I worked hard to make that water. The last thing I'm going to do is waste it. I'll feed it to the water reclaimer in the Hab.
Even more precious is my manure. It's critical to the potato farm and I'm the only source on Mars. Fortunately, when you spend a lot of time in space, you learn how to s**t in a bag. And if you think things are bad after opening the piss box...imagine the smell after I drop anchor."

That snuck up on you, didn't it? Yes, it's gross, but it goes with the story. Survival ain't always pretty.

Overall, The Martian is a wonderful story and I plan to look for more books by Andy Weir. I recommend it to you as not just a thought provoking tale with roller-coaster spikes and drops, but also as a great example of how writing with humor can make a difference. Without it, this book might only have appealed to a small niche of science nerds, the levity allowed Mark Watney to shine and cross barriers into a more mainstream audience.

Because nothing beats a funny astronaut.

Talk funny to me.


Reminder time -
Voting ends today. Don't neglect your right to vote or cheat yourself out of a good read. Our writers did a fine job this month.

There is a sign-up post for the week three topic. Get your name in before the list is locked down, tomorrow.

Saturday night is your last chance to submit a story (or two) for week two. The topic is "Doll's Eyes" and any form of writing 200 words or less is welcome.

Add a desiccated digit to RicoChey's exquisite corpse. Read an installment of Kathy's interview with Gentle-wordsmith Robert Okaji. Check out the info skyllairae shared on getting published. (She knows this stuff, you should see her CV.) And stay tuned for another article tomorrow on Brigit's Flame.
As you all know by now, I went to Supercon this past weekend. Despite the crowds and spending eight hours on my feet, I really enjoyed it. I brought cash with me in case there was something in the vendor area I couldn't live without, and as it turns out there was.


I had expected booths from the comic books stores around town, collectibles dealers, and a wide variety of visual artists showing off their prowess rendering chesty barbarian women with tiny waists. I didn't expect the authors.

The first full aisle we walked down there was a writer set up with such gorgeous artwork on display for her book that I had to stop to find out what the book was about.

Here's a tip guys, if you want to be sure I'll buy something - put a tree on it. If you surround that tree in a high-res soap bubble of color, I'll probably buy two. (Cover photo by Richard J. Heeks)

We were early to the convention which was great because we got to spend some time milling about without the crowds. Had we seen Rachel E. Kelly and her booth a few hours later, she might not have had the free time to talk with me.

Let's talk about the book first. Per the author, The Colorworld Series is about a young woman who can sense emotions when she touches people. She's also broke (author's word). Trying to make a little extra cash, she signs up for an experimental allergy study that attempts to use energy as a form of treatment [gamma rays anyone?], only to come out it with the ability to kill people by touch. It's any kind of skin contact that will do the trick - no intent required - so she's understandably upset. Book one is a quest to find out how to stop it, why it happened, and if the whos responsible intended it all along. Along the way she meets fellow Specials who were made so by the same unknown entity.

I bought book one. I would have bought all three volumes she had with her, but I had brought the small backpack and I had a full day of Contastic amusements to get through. Not a problem though, Rachel gave me a coupon for free shipping if I make my next purchase through her website instead of Amazon or B&N.

Book one is about 350 pages and I'm only a chapter in, but so far I like the writing style and the characters. Her writing is matter-of-fact, good dialog, and so far the character is very real world.

Since I had her all to myself, I asked Rachel a bit about her writing and herself as a writer. She started writing the first book in the series in 2009. She's a stay at home mom and had three kids when she started the project. I marveled at the presumed lack of free time with a family that size and she admitted that she often wrote late at night; staying up 'til four in the morning if the idea she was writing through compelled her. Rachel E. Kelly is self-published and has invested in not one but four editors to make sure the finished product is perfect.

She markets her work by taking it on the road. Rachel, hubby, and their four children travel the Con circuit in an RV shilling the books. This really amazed me. Another thing that impressed me about this thrice-published author was the Kickstarter project she initiated to bring artwork into her novels. They hit their $20k target and she showed me samples of the new books with full-color inserts drawn by a variety of graphic artists.

Here are some other links related to Rachel E. Kelly and her writing - Goodreads and Wizardworld

Her advice to me at the close of our conversation was this -
"If you want to finish the book you are writing, pick a date and tell everyone you know when it will be done by." The theory being that you have to finish because you've committed yourself publicly. I'm really glad that kind of positive thinking worked for her. She had good energy and reminded me of other go-getter woman I have had the good fortune to encounter. Imagine the efficiency this one woman has to exact in order to write, be a mom, be a wife, publish her own books, organize the artists for her second run of press with art, and travel the country in an RV to have two booths at all the conventions. She's my hero.

I want all of you to pick a project you love, one that you know you can finish - that deserves to be finished. Then choose a completion date and share it with everyone you know on facebook, tumblr, wordpress, livejournal, at work, in the family newsletter, that aunt who spends all of her time spreading the family gossip, and anyone who lives in your house - even the animals. Commit yourself publicly, because I really want to see you hit that target.

We could call it the Kelly Date. Is that too fan girl? Considering I haven't finished reading the books, I'm more a fan of what she accomplished, so don't think me too pathetic.

I bought a few more books at Supercon, but Rachel E. Kelly is the only author I got to spend quality time talking to. I'll tell you about the rest of my adventures at Supercon next week and then we'll get back to Writing Humor.


Be sure to sign up to write with us for July week one. A few people have pre-signed up for weeks two through four as well by simply stating their intent on the initial sign-up post. We are totally cool with that :) Check back in the wee hours of Sunday morning for the official Week One prompt. The whole month will be inspired by "All the small things" since July is a month-o-minis. I'm also considering giving away prizes for each week.

We also have a reading list and voting poll floating around out there that requires your attention. Shane is our votes leader at the moment, but we have until quarter to midnight tomorrow to unseat him (if required). As I say often, go hit up your friends who like to read - encourage them to check out the full list and vote for those what deserve it.

Be sure to weigh in on some of our other articles this week. RicoChey was talking about a different kind of color in your story world and Kathy wants to discuss how your reading tastes might skew your editing choices. Both articles are worth your time.

Did you know the 5-word story game has a legitimate origin? Well, I did not. According to Wikipedia, the exercise to which we are accustomed is grandfathered by a game called “The Exquisite Corpse“. The article describes it as “a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. “The adjective noun adverb verb the adjective noun”, as in “The green duck sweetly sang the dreadful dirge”) or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Today’s rules are as follows: Contribute five words, or until you have used two adjectives, whichever comes first. (And yes, we are going to have many arguments about what constitutes an adjective, and the intellectual debate will be fiery and fun.) I’ll kick off.

“A bleeding moon rose above the barbed wire…”

The Lost & Found June contest is still going for those of you who signed up, and those of you watching can still play along with weekly word games (here’s a recent treat) and support your fellows as the month unfolds.

Last night’s Google Hangouts Flamestorming session was a success — feel free to share links to your results in the comments, and be on the lookout for the next scheduled event!

We all have that one person in life who inspires us in a very particular way. Or maybe we have one person for each way we need to be inspired. Regardless of how many inspirational people I've been blessed with, there is one who stands out as being my inspiration to become funny.

My Aunt Phyllis is one of the funniest people I have ever known. The way she tells a story gets me laughing long before she even approaches the punch line.
The telling involves:
Dramatic body language.
Exaggerated facial expressions.
Conspiratorially murmured back story and internal dialog.
Closing words delivered with a loud cackle or guffaw once she sees that she's got you hooked.

I could spend hours with my aunt and never get bored or run out of things to say. She's also a really good cook.

Back when I was young, I got to spend a lot of time with Aunt Phyllis (or Ant P as I usually refer to her on cards and emails) and since I was (by her own statement) one of the few people who laughed at her jokes she made sure to tell them all to me.

In the early Eighties, Ant P gave me a book to read just before my family's summer road trip. She passed it on because it made her laugh until she cried. Ant P assumed it would have a similar result on me. The book was Erma Bombeck's "If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, What Am I Doing In The Pits?"

I loved it and went on to read the handful of others that were published.

Erma Bombeck was a humorist writer with a number of Ohio newspapers throughout her early career. Around 1964 she hit on a subject that propelled her column "At Wit's End" out of her small local paper into national newspaper syndication. By 1967 she was traveling the country giving lectures and radio interviews, and Double Day had compiled some of her articles into a book that shared the same name as her column.

What writing gold was it that Mrs. Bombeck discovered? Hyperbole, coincidence, and the relatable situations seen daily by a mother and a housewife. She made the mundane hilarious. With insight into a husband's snoring, a child's inability to put his clothes away, an entire household's ignorance of the empty toilet paper roll, and the dangers of gift shops in Europe - she helped a nation laugh at themselves and appreciate their own families a little more.

Here are some examples I found typed out on the internet, but if you happen upon one of her books it in the library or used bookstore (or on Kindle), pick it up. If you have a day where life is trying, reading a few pages of Erma Bombeck's take on things should give you a reason to smile.

First, a few one-liners Goodreads users have shared -
“Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.”

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

“My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”

“Sometimes I can't figure designers out. It's as if they flunked human anatomy.”

“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.”


These are a bit longer -

Read more... )

Read more... )


Let's talk today about early influences in our reading. It could be humor,  mysteries...anything - what did you read in your youth that stuck with you and helped form the writer you are today? Also, talk to me about how you incorporate humor into your writing. What's your style?


Brigit's Flame reminders:

We have an ongoing contest for June, the topic is Lost & Found and while it's not due until the end of the month, you should be working on it now.

Kathy shared a quick writing game with us yesterday - go check it out.

Flamestorming is happening on June 14th. Make a note on your calendar to join us in Google Hangouts for writing sprints and community bonding.

Hello my friendly Flames,
Let’s talk about humor. Do you write funny?
I had a couple of free hours at work the other day, so I slipped into sneak-a-peek-at-the-internet mode (thank you Samsung). I was looking for advice on a completely different topic when I stumbled across an article labeled: “15 tactics for writing humor”. I had to read it because I like to be funny, but I have trouble syncing my humor with my intent.

For example -
When leaving a job interview the other day, I found myself in the elevator lobby with a young man wearing a backpack sporting the company logo. He was also sipping from a large plastic cup with the logo and holding a paper gift bag in company colors with the three letter acronym emblazoned on the side. I’m not one for small talk, but I’d just left a very chatty meeting I was nervous about. Before I’d really considered my no talking to strangers Suburb Girl rule, my mouth started up and I found myself awkwardly saying,
“Soooo you got all the swag…”
Young man sips something like lemonade, then looks up at me with a question in his eyebrow. I sort of flap my hand around to draw a vague circle around his logo-ed stuff. He shifts his shoulder to look at his backpack in the elevator door reflection.
“I’m leaving the company,” he says. “Today is my last day.”

“Was the backpack not big enough?” I ask with a silly smirk.
Quite obviously, it was a joke. Yet he seemed annoyed like I was prying and explained, “I found a better position.”

This is just one example of me trying to be funny and slamming face-long into the glass.

So what I want to know is, are there really only 15 tactics? Because I need way more help than that. I’m thinking a full battle plan with that involves a map and those wooden carvings that represent troops.

What first made me lean in and really connect with the above article was the author’s statement that he disagreed with the notion that humor cannot be taught/learned. I’ve always thought that the assumption of native talent was logical because some people are funny and some aren’t. Realistically though, most of the unfunny people I’ve met did not even want to be funny. So maybe there is hope for those of us are willing to work for it.
Here are the fifteen tactics from the article in handy bullet points:

  1. Overstatements and Exaggerations

  2. The Understatement

  3. Playing Off a Sense of History and/or Predictability

    1. On-going Jokes

  4. Relatability

  5. Presentation

    1. Emphasis

    2. Don’t Laugh at Your Own Jokes

  6. Fish Out of Water

  7. Beating Around the Bush

  8. Stating the Obvious

  9. Over-complication and Over-simplification

  10. Miscommunication

  11. Defying Expectations

  12. Thoughts vs. Words

  13. Awkward and Reactionary

    1. Gutter Humor

  14. Stereotypes

  15. Stupidity Humor

There are tons of examples (with links to visuals) in the article from pop culture and the author conveyed his points well, so I won’t rewrite the article. But pulling solely from the resource of the TV show “Arrested Development” I’d like to pick some laugh out loud moments and tie them to their bullet point.

My sense of humor is not typical. I adore the dry British humor and I find stupid humor personally embarrassing. I stay away from exploiters of it like: Ben Stiller, Will Farrell, Adam Sandler. That said, all three of these guys have one or two films in their body of work that I enjoy. Jason Bateman, on the other hand, rarely makes a movie I don’t like. This is how I got sucked into watching “Arrested Development” and evangelizing it like I’d just discovered comedy.

In the very first episode, the family matriarch (an aged, boozy, narcissist who strikes me as the dark mirror version of Nancy Reagan) points out a group of protesters on a party boat near the family’s yacht.
“Just look at those homosexuals. Everything they do is soooo dramatic. It makes me want to set myself on fire!” - That one is a combo of 1 and 14 with a little 5a thrown in.
Her daughter is standing next to her and makes a shocked face over the spoken prejudice, then she points out one of the protesters (dressed like a pirate) and muses that she thinks she has that same shirt. Her mother - ever the caustic wonder - snarks, “It looks better on him.” Mother Bluth makes a face that says she is definitely keeping score and just gave herself a point. Then sips her drink. This speaks to 3/3a, but it’s part-way through the first episode so you can only suspect. The last tidbit of humor the writers squeezed from this scene is that the daughter’s husband is on the party boat of protesters. He joined the group due to a miscommunication (10) and, also due to a miscommunication, he is the only one dressed like a pirate. It is indeed his wife’s shirt.

The whole scene played out in 30 seconds - with a bit of set up throughout the 30 minute episode for the husband falling in with the protesters. To some this might be offensive, but the writers aren’t against homosexuality, they have one character whose tiny mind is exaggerated. She looks down on everyone with equal measure, including her own family.

As a humor bonus, I’ve included this seven-minute video of visual comedy tactics for film that I find really interesting. Edgar Wright (no relation) is a British director I’ve admired for a while. He and his cohorts (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) make excellent comedy together.

[vimeo 96558506 w=500 h=281]

Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

*in case that embedded link doesn't work right, here's another - https://vimeo.com/tonyzhou/edgarwright

Talk to me about your favorite expressions of comedy. What gets you laughing? What kind of humor is a struggle for you? Is there a line or scene in one of your stories that you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favorite comedic writer? Do they write storied fiction or ironic commentaries on life? There are so many things we could talk about under this umbrella, maybe we’ll cover a few specific works in future chatter posts.

There is a sign-up sheet for June writing. Don’t miss out.

The reading list has been up since Tuesday. There are a few more days to cast your vote.
Read. Comment. Vote.

Our next flamestorming session in Google Hangouts is scheduled for June 14th. Join us for the storm.
Well, here we are, Wednesday. The last week of May. Exciting, no?

The deadline for the May contest was yesterday and I would like to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of everyone in this community. Thank you so much for your participation and support. I know we all can’t wait to read the fruits of all your hard work and dedication to writing.

For today’s chatter. I would like you to consider the words of poet Carolyn Forche. I was fortunate enough to remember to schedule a reading she gave in Conway, Arkansas, earlier this year, into my calendar. I almost didn’t go; my car had a flat tire and was running on the spare. But I’m glad I went because, as she read, she offered this piece of advice: get to the end.

The way I write, I do not think of where the end will be, what will happen, what message I want to leave my reader with. Today I encourage you to talk about your process of ending and how you crafted the end of your month-long journey here.

If you did not participate in this month’s challenge, please join the conversation and tell us how you decided to end something, anything.

#govoteflames for your favorite May story/poetry collection now! The posts are up and the writers have spoken! #goread and support your fellow Flames and be sure to share your thoughts on the awesome work everyone has done this month.

Then #gosignup for the June contest now!
Good morning, Flames!
There are just five days until pencils down on our musings on reality.
I would ask you today if you've ever had occasion to alter actual events in your memory to reconstruct reality, but if you had you wouldn't know...

If I could do a survey, I wonder what percent of people would insist that there is one reality - one fixed set of known data about the universe - and all those who do not see it as THEY do must be mentally deranged. Probably close to 100% right? Unless we queried some crazy people. 0_o
Philip K. Dick wasn't just an author who imagined alternate realities for his characters and the future of humanity. Outside of his fiction, he suffered from the persistent belief that the reality accepted by the common man was a version given to us by external forces that wanted to control mankind. He would regularly vacillate between the forces keeping us ignorant so that we would work to attain awareness and those same forces being motivated by the power derived by our obliviousness. PKD alternately attributed the signal he had tapped into - revealing true reality - to divine powers, alien beings, and government agencies.

He just didn't know.

And he spent years trying to work it out. Eight thousand words later, he was no closer to an answer than Einstein came in his quest for a unifying theory of everything. (To which we now know the answer is 42. Sorry Al.)

PKD pushed this new information on everyone he knew well enough to pen a letter to, and made new friends with anyone who would listen. He believed that the books he'd written prior to his first true revelation - when the signal first broke through - came from pieces of that same signal he had unwittingly intercepted throughout his past. Then he began to use his own works of fiction as foundation material for his study of reality. What he wanted more than anything was to be heard and validated. PKD's quest for answers was lonely, infuriating, depressing, and manic. Even the people who listened and nodded (instead of shaking their heads in denial) were on the outside looking in. Other than the rare blurt that it was all a result of having taken too many psychotropics in prior years, he never stopped believing in the signal and the message.

RicoChey asked at the beginning of the month if it was possible that the creative mind is actually a sign of mental illness. If you use PKD as the yardstick, then maybe we writers are all on the precipice of madness.

Have you ever met a person who can swiftly convince themselves of little adjustments to their reality. I don't mean they lie convincingly to you, they lie to themselves and the next moment it becomes their truth.
I was once in a relationship with a man who had this ability. It could be a scary thing to witness. The first time I realized that he wasn't just a stubborn liar - the first time it dawned on me that he believed his own lies completely - I was at a loss on how to handle it and it made me question every anecdote of his life he'd shared. It was never about the big stuff, but there were plenty of little things to make a case for delusional behavior.

Would you tell them that they are wrong? How do you make a case with the proof of your senses against another who is just as convinced their senses reported something different? How long until you start to wonder if they're right and you're deluded? Without a live camera feed recording every shared moment, you can't. In my preferred genre of writing, it makes for an interesting character. But in the real world it makes for a terrible relationship.

Talk to me about your experiences colliding with another's reality.

Then #gowrite while there is still time.
There are only six writing days left until the May contest ends!
Get your submissions in no later than 04:00 EDT on 5/26 in order to have your story included in the voting. That's 4 am for those not oriented to a 24 hour clock.

The prompt (which you should have started writing for well before now) is "What is Reality?"

We've had some writing sprints along the way. If you're having trouble with your inspiration, read through them to see if something sparks.

Sprint #1
Sprint #2
Sprint #3
Sprint #4
Good morning, Flames!

Let’s take a break from reality, or at least talking about it, to discuss the future.

Being a science fiction fan, my brand of escapism comes with much speculation about the future and what we might find there. There are examples throughout the Sci-fi world of how things authors imagined fifty years ago are real objects or machines in use today. Is it a case of chance, inspiration, or foresight?

A few years ago I was listening to an audio version of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury when I came across a piece of his speculation that completely jived with modern fact. His main protag’s wife spent all of her time engaged with the people in their dining room wall - family, friends, and even took part in a game show. Ray Bradbury described facebook (and wall screen TVs) in 1953! This still blows my mind. He was wrong about Mars (to the best of our knowledge), and he was wrong about books being outlawed (mostly), but he imagined that the television would take over our lives and somehow incorporate real-time interaction with other people hundreds of miles away. To me that’s pretty cool.

PKD did not do so well in his speculation. I find it humorous as I read through his stories that he can imagine a world populated with robots for all of the mundane day-to-day functions. They have attitude and some sense of personality (always bad) - sneering at people as they demand their payments of nickels and dimes. He refers to them as homeostatic machines, but I’m not sure what he was envisioning when he labeled them because the definition of homeostatic doesn’t really fit.

He also imagines people traveling around Earth in ships and rockets and colonizing moons as far out as Saturn, but secretaries still use typewriters and all of the data of mankind is saved on stacks and stacks of tapes. I’m certainly not criticising the imagination of a man who came up with a plot so densely twisted in on itself that a perfect clone, designed to be a weapon, didn’t even know he was the weapon or even not the actual man until it was too late. And even then he wanted to be a good human, sacrificing himself to save humanity. Or a plot wherein a man is so haunted by his nightmares and confusion he goes to a service to have his memory wiped and replaced with something happy, only to discover that his true memories had already been replaced and he wasn’t the man he thought he was. I guess we all have our strengths.

Robert Heinlein imagined the future would see data storage that would allow the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of ream of paper to be stored on a microchip the size of your fingernail, then he filled a character’s hollow prosthetic leg with them. He predicted the Micro SD card you have in your smart phone right now, and he did it in 1985. (Somewhat less ‘dun-dun’ than Ray Bradbury in 1953...I expected that date to be further back because his characters speak like they are from the Forties.)

Honestly, the plot and the characters are the most important pieces of a story. The rest is just backdrop. And if you consider the effort required to layer a truly memorable plot that catches your reader unawares (without cheating), the props and setting are definitely places a writer might save some brainpower. We certainly don’t want to see them sacrifice good characters and dialog to make their spaceship really imaginative and filled with crazy innovations.

Talk to me today about speculative props and circumstances in your favorite novels. Do you have evidence that any of your authors were visionaries? What about predictions of political changes or exploration?
When you write longer fiction, how much emphasis do you put on the backdrop? How important is it to you when you read or write? Not to leave our poets out, have you ever considered poking at the future in your verse? Do you know of any published poets who have?


I hope you are hard at work on writing about What is Reality?, #gowrite.

Stay tuned for a new sprint coming Friday evening. Hopefully you found the weekend sprints useful, check them out here and here. We will have a flamestorming session this weekend (Sunday), possibly on Google Hangouts. Check back with us on Friday evening for more details.


We want you! to be a Beta reader. Support your writing community by reading and sharing your thoughts with our writers.
Good morning, Flames.

It is the last day of April - one of those minor endings within the year. It does not mark the end of anything significant, or draw you to the door of a notable beginning. Could you write an epilogue for April?

Our last piece of writing for April will be an epilogue - the ending to our various plays or stories which wraps them up in boxes and string for the reader's shelf. When Shakespeare wrote epilogues it was a grand affair. The epilogue to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that RicoChey shared in the week four write-up is one of my favorites. He styled them in such a way that he drew the audience into those last few moments of fantasy, as though they controlled whether the characters could end their story in the final scene or would pressed into further service at the whim of the crowd (or fellow dreamers).
In the last few lines The Tempest's epilogue he wrote:
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Send the month of April a bardic farewell. Pen a few lines below to wrap up the month and send it off properly before May turns up with her sunshine, flowers, and celebrations.

I send you this mostly unrelated song, because I thought of it while I was typing and it's a fav of mine - though she does say, "I'm the last splash." in the first stanza. It's been a wet April.

What reminders do we have today?
It's the last day to share a poem for APAD. Kiss a poet today.

You should be writing and RicoChey wants to hear the Epilogue to your three act April story.

There is a sign-up going on for May's month-long 5k words or less story - the theme for which will be shared on Sunday, May 3rd. You only have until Saturday night to reserve your spot.

We've all got those Real Life obligations that too often pull us away from our passion projects. I don't know about y'all, but I feel rather useless some days upon realizing just how many reading opportunities can be missed in a single day. More importantly, in my opinion, are the opportunities missed to encourage a fellow writer.

Sadly, it's impossible for each of us to reach out to someone who might need our encouragement the most at a specific hour, on a specific day. Nonetheless, I would like to call upon every follower of the Flame, newcomer and veteran alike, to encourage a certain writer today -- yourself!

Regardless of what stage you've achieved in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, regardless if your end goals have yet become clear, please know that all of your fellow writers get it. We understand the need to write, and we understand the persistence of that need even with all the world and all those Real Life obligations seem to conspire and shout all at once "You Can't Do This!". Just keep writing.

And, whether you have shared your writing here or not (yet), I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the consideration of submitting your work to at least one of the many online and/or print venues that are practically begging for new writers! Take a chance. Give yourself the chance to become accustomed to that rush of pleasure that comes with a nod of acknowledgment from people who appreciate all the obstacles before someone with a passion for putting words to the page!

There are probably thousands of published writers and photographers out in the world today who can say they got their first acceptance from Russell Streur's The Camel Saloon. Five of my earliest works are there, and I can't help but adore Russell and his passion for sharing art.

The Blue Hour Magazine accepts up to three poems, or one short story via email submissions. Read their guidelines for full instructions on submitting essays as well. There is no reading fee, and no cash award; even so, there are readers waiting, and you can follow The Blue Hour on WordPress!

Rattle not only publishes and pays for poetry and essay, the magazine also provides a daily email to those readers who wish to follow newly accepted works. My Poetry for the 21st Century email from Rattle is usually the first thing I read every morning.

These are just a few of the venues readily accessible ON THE INTERNET that has open submissions almost all year round. Check them out!

Personally, I've got my eye on Rattle. I'm very interested in submitting there, particularly now that I have received notification that my collection of poetry and creative nonfiction did not win the contest I submitted it to in February. Yes, I got a rejection letter this morning -- it was quite lovely and came with notes from the judges. I will be receiving a certificate for reaching the quarter finals, though! Somehow, I don't feel rejected at all.

Today, consider the floor open to discussion about your latest writing goals and what fears (or celebratory announcements) you might have concerning submitting to public venues. Let's talk about writing! Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions for open submissions for us to peruse, please feel free to leave a link in comments.

Congratulations to you all for continuing to write, and, for taking a chance on yourself (at least once) to submit your work. Send it out into the world and let others read! #gowrite, y'all.


Be sure to show some love to our participants in the Week Three contest! Read. Comment. Vote. LOVE.

Even though you haven't submitted an entry all month long, our Just For Fun contest is open to you! Check out RicoChey's last prompt for April, and consider your options for Epilogue.

National Poetry Month is almost over. Don't fret! You can still share your poetry prowess with us by posting to our very own A Poem A Day feature.
Good morning, Flamefolk!
I want to talk to you today about something on the internet that I found strange. Something strange...on the internet...try not to be shocked.

I've been spending a fair amount of time on Youtube these days. I'm trying to improve my skills with this über doodling fad called Zentangle®. It seems like everyone who has ever picked up a pen to do it has made a video about it. Sometimes it's just a person drawing with music laid over the recording. Sometimes it's a person giving instructions as they draw. Typically I mute the vid and just watch what they're doing.

So the other day, the mute was off when I came across a video of someone drawing a particular tangle who whispered the whole way through it. I thought maybe she had lost her voice. Out of pure nosiness, I clicked on one of her other videos and found myself in a very uncomfortable place watching this young woman recording her vlog in a whisper and making flirty eyes at the camera. She was describing her upcoming wedding and the stress of planning it, in what struck me as a coy whisper.

All of the videos on her channel were labeled ASMR and by intentionally clicking a non-doodling post, I suddenly had a list of ASMR video suggestions made by tons of other vloggers. "What is ASMR?" I wondered. Do these people have severe asthma and can't talk above a whisper? Is it a society of people offended by loud talkers? Do they share some big secret of which I am not yet privy? I had to know, so I asked my buddy Google.

Wiki chimed in with the answer. "Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is a neologism for a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli." Whispering is one of the many triggers of this response.

Well, I like pleasurable tingling sensations, so I figured I'd dig a little deeper. I went back to Youtube and looked for a different Vlogger. This one had a binaural mic, so if you are wearing headphones you can experience the sound on each side of your head independently (which was always super cool when Pink Floyd did it). She whispered, shook a shaving cream can then smooshed some on her ear mics, dropped gelcaps into a wooden bowl...

I got through about ten minutes of this next video - skipping around and fast forwarding some - until I just couldn't take it anymore. The whispering, the hand gestures, her face so close to the camera and all of the facial language that seemed designed to be alluring and sensual. It was far too intimate. Like I was eavesdropping on some long distance Skype foreplay - but not in a happy voyeuristic way.

This thing is supposed to be relaxing, but I have yet to watch a video that doesn't make me completely uncomfortable. And I'm evidently not the only one. An article I read about the controversial phenomenon of ASMR reiterated multiple times that it is a non-sexual sensation and that it is not associated with sexual arousal. Me thinks they doth reiterate too much. No, I don't think the intent of the vlog caster is to provide sexual stimulation, but if they have to underline the point so much I'm not the only one who feels smarmy watching it.

In preparing for our conversation today, I found a Reddit thread that shares many videos from ASMR connoisseurs with the triggers provided by the video in brackets. Talk to me about how they make you feel.

The whole discovery got me thinking about those tingling sensations and my own triggers. There is frisson style tingling that is on the border of painful for me. I get that from scratching across a finely grooved surface. Like old LP's when people drag the needle across, or thighs rubbing together in parachute pants. Probably the worst for me is when a guitarist drags his pick up or down the finely coiled metal strings. This reaction (and my complete lack of understanding of music) is the reason I will never play the Cello. (I actually just got a tingle merely thinking about the sound.)

But are there good tingles to be had from sounds? Circling back to Pink Floyd, I remember as a teen feeling a sense near euphoria listening to certain parts of Dark Side of the Moon with headphones on. As an adult, I've felt the same listening to some tracks by Portishead & Massive Attack. There are certain songs in the bodies of work for Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachlan, and even Alanis Morissette that when they hit a certain note I get tingles up the back of my head. And then there are the random things I come across that trigger an emotion that is neither always happy or sad, but make me cry and get choked up. It's just a feeling of intensity that is almost always brought on by empathy whether it is for strangers reported about on the news or characters in a movie. It can be embarrassing at times.

How do you relate to ASMR style triggers and the videos attempting to connect that community? What would your triggers be? There is more to the phenom than just sounds, would you have a stronger chance of reaction from tactile experiences or scents?
Let's chat about this today.

Don't miss Act III - it's due on Sunday.

Have you read Acts I & II? Check out our reading lists here and here to share some comment love.

APAD is nearing a close. Read the poems and add your own. Bardi and Kathy have shared some true gems in there.
This chatter is brought to you by the color of my favorite coffee mug, the letter C, and copious amounts of caffeinated coffee. Coffee makes writers smile. Do I have your attention? Good. We’re going to play a writing game.

And by ‘we’ I mean every single follower of Brigit’s Flame (I know who you are). If you do not participate in this game, I will be forced to keep a mental list of demerits against you. I may even stop inviting you to write in my writing games. No one wants that, really.

I am going to introduce several lines of Shakespearean verse, you will translate the stanza of your choice (1, 2, 3, or 4). When rewriting this stanza, feel free to do so in the spirit of whatever culturally-specific vernacular, or literary fashion you like, or, in your own voice as if applying it to personal memoir. #gowrite

1. What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!
(Horatio; Hamlet Act 1, Scene 1)

2. And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine: and of the truth herein
This present object made probation.
(Horatio; Hamlet Act 1, Scene 1)

3.Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro.
He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the
figure of a lamb the feats of a lion: he hath indeed better bettered
expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.
(Messenger; Much Ado About Nothing Act 1, Scene 1)

4. Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
(Romeo and Juliet, Prologue)
Good dawning to thee, Friends!

Yes, I am still on the Shakespeare kick. The man is like black, he goes with everything.

How many of you out there hate editing your work? How many of you end up rewriting instead of fixing here and there? We all know it's a necessary evil of the writing process, and even if I had an editor, I'd still prefer to use my words (and eyes and brain) to alter a story than have someone else do it for me.

As a person who dreams of publication one day (and hopes the word self does not proceed it). I know the only way I'm going to make it happen is to take the stories I've written and make them as close to perfect as I can manage. For some that's sacrificing chapters and playing with the order a bit. For others, like my favorite work-in-progress “Adrift”, it means treating what I have written in the past as a wire-frame or skeleton and trying to reshape a story around it that comes from a more experienced voice and a goal-oriented structure in the story-telling.

It’s a huge pain, a timesink, a distraction from writing NEW things - but it must be done.

Sometimes I wonder about the big name authors and how perfect their work was when it first left the pen, ribbon, or cursor. Would we want to see the pile of discarded pages lying around Margaret Atwood’s feet? Would we love her any less if we saw that level of human experience on her office floor instead before it made it into her stories? Do the crumpled pages in Stephen King’s wastebasket bleed? Do Neil Gaiman’s strikes-through delete words from our dreaming?

As I was clicking through Shakespeare’s sonnets to pull some inspiration for today’s chatter, I came across an example of Shakespeare editing his work. I found a resource to his entire collected work here and I am hoping what I found is not an error of the people who compiled the site.
Sonnet 153 or (CLIII)
Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,
But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire--my mistress' eyes.

As far as sonnets go, it’s fairly straightforward - cupid fell asleep, some sworn to Diana virgin nymphs decide to do away with ardor and thought, we’ll just put this arrow out in some water. But the arrow turned the water into a hot spring. Men discover the healing properties of the springs and flock there for vigor. But water cannot heal a man who is weakened by his lover’s presence. Through her (or him) Cupid’s fire is renewed.

Now read this:
Sonnet 154 (CLIV)
The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd;
And so the general of hot desire
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm'd.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,
Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.

The numbering suggests that this was the second version. To me it looks like he used more poetic words, but obscured the overall meaning some. Cupid is unnamed and the Maid of Dian is expanded upon. The place lost some of it’s geographic description, but the last two lines of 154 have a much stronger impact and show that back and forth play on words Shakespeare liked to do.

So next time you have to pick apart your poem or story or essay, consider that even Shakespeare - after having writ more than 100 sonnets - still had to chuck his parchment ball into the fire and start again.

Have you ever come across an interview piece about a favorite author or filmmaker and discovered that their original story actually went a completely different way before it was offered up to the public? Tell us about them that we might better commune with the Spirit of Revision. (I almost typed Revicious - I’m keeping that one.)

What are you building for Act II? It's due on Sunday. Be the Bard you've always wanted to be and #gowrite

Another brick in the steps to Bardishness - APAD. We are halfway through the month of April go be a poet now and share it with us. It's a known fact that quoting poetry improves your posture - added benefit.

What's that you say? You want to write 10k words or more in the month of April? And you want to do it from a virtual tent? Well go join the campers over at Camp NaNoWriMo - there are fourteen days left in their spring event. Get your words out.
Since it is reminder day, I thought I would be fitting to stir up some old memories.
I apologize in advance to the people of other nationalities and generations who cannot relate to my memory.

Back when I was a kid there was a TV show I used to watch with my parents every week. Most of the spoken humor I was too young to get, but the characters would get themselves into exaggerated situations that were almost slapstick in nature and that I could understand completely.

That show, a spin-off of "Happy Days", was "Laverne & Shirley".

At the kick-off of the title music, the two main characters would link arms, do this little crouch-bob dance and say, "Schlemiel. Schlimazel. Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!". Being a child, I would sing along and do the dance. In fact, I was so obsessed with the sounds of the words schlemiel and schlimazel I would often blurt them out for no reason - at any time of day, in any social setting. Of course back then, most people identified the words with the show immediately. But no one ever told me they had a meaning.

Today, thanks to the magic of #wordoftheday and dictionary_reference. com I was brought back to that childhood memory and have something explained that I had stopped questioning long ago.
schlemiel [shluh-meel] noun, slang.
An awkward and unlucky person for whom things never turn out right.

schlimazel [shli-mah-zuh l] noun, slang.
An inept, bungling person who suffers from unremitting bad luck.

What are you building for Act II? Be the Bard you've always wanted to be and #gowrite

Another brick in the steps to Bardishness - APAD. We are exactly halfway through the month of April go be a poet now and share it with us. It's a known fact that quoting poetry improves your posture - added benefit.

Did you read what our Flames wrote for Act I? Today is your last chance to show your appreciation for their work through votes. #govoteflames and share a little #commentlove
(Be sure to check out Willa the Wisp's story in Act I - she's a true Flame.)

What's that you say? You want to write 10k words or more in the month of April? And you want to do it from a virtual tent? Well go join the campers over at Camp NaNoWriMo - there are two weeks left in their spring event. Get your words out.

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II, scene I (1599)

Ah, even in the most grim and frightening of situations -- such as staring down a venomous toad -- we may just find beauty and wonder. We may indeed meet ourselves in the midst of a journey. We may find good, even within ourselves.

When I was in my thirties I used to have a recurring dream. In that dream, I would wake up snuggled in my adolescent bed, in the little house on Magnolia Street where I did my Freshman year homework; where I first experienced bouts of insomnia and spent the long quiet hours alone filling notebooks with poems and lengthy love letters to fictional characters. Each time I woke there with full awareness, fully prepared to change history, ready willing and able to keep a significant portion of my life from hurdling through hell in a hand basket.

Each time the dream ended the same -- following some amazing feat of bending the past to my will, of finally achieving familial stability and heading steadfastly toward all the goals that got swept away by poverty and fear and terrible choices, a single thought would seep through and shatter my revelry ... I would think of my husband. I would think of him and suddenly miss him so intensely, suddenly fear that my actions had irrevocably changed our paths. A smothering dread pushed me out of that dream every single time. I would wake up in the midst of a full panic attack that was always instantly cured when I realized he was right beside me, sleeping peacefully.

Intelligent as I am, it took a long time to understand the meaning of that dream.

It would be a lie to say that because I ended up with the guy, my  life could be described as perfect. Adversity? Baby, please.

Adversity was a three-times-a-day meal for about a decade. And a half. And guess what? I have found books in running brooks and sermons in stones ... not because I ended up with the guy, but because I finally made peace with that little insomniac that filled notebooks with poems and love letters to fictional characters. She finally forgave me for not fixing everything, and I finally embraced the fact that everything's not supposed to be fixed.

These life experiences, these adversities, these soul-opening dreams, led me to compiling and completing my first book. So, it all worked out. *winks*

Considering our writing mission for Act II how will your character(s) deal with adversity? How will they bear up in the face of that all too real side-effect of humanness? What are some of your favorite stories, or memories, about the inevitability of 'meeting oneself'?

Read, comment, and vote! The reading list and voting poll for Act I awaits your attention.

Seriously, let's come together and rack up some love and attention for those who dared to share their talents in this week's competition. It takes a lot, even for the most confident extrovert, to share something so personal as their writing. Show some support.

Celebrate National Poetry Month with us by posting your contribution to A Poem A Day. April will eventually become May and who knows what'll happen then. Poetry could die without your help.

Want to write a chatter sometime and regale us with your writing tips or worries? Fire an email at us at brigitsflame@gmail.com
Good Flames, what cheer?

Our writing theme this month was born of Shakespeare and I have a strong desire to chatter in Iambic pentameter. Worry not, I shall refrain.

Over the centuries, there has been much ado made about Shakespeare and his reputation. Some people insist he was not educated enough to have written his plays. They even accuse him of stealing the work of other playwrights. Others will tell you he had some level of familiarity with seven languages and a vocabulary bigger than his eventual fame.

I choose Team Shakespeare. We all know that a formal education is not an indication of intelligence or ability. Being so gifted with words, then he was likely an excellent listener. For someone with the right mind, listening and observing is a kind of hands-on education in itself.

What I have always loved about Shakespeare is the way he plays with words. The sounds they make were just as important to him as the meanings. And if they has more than one meaning - woohoo - those went straight into his bag of tricks to be thrown down like an Ace in the middle of a poker final.

Did you know, that Shakespeare's word play actually created new words that are still a part of our speech today? About 1700 of them, scholars have counted. I found this article yesterday that has a cool grid linking Shakespeare's word to the first play it ever showed up in. He did for language what we still do today, he re-purposed nouns into verbs into adjectives and combined multiple words into a single one. In fact, if Shakespeare hadn't demonstrated that our language was so flexible in this way, we might still be executing a search for a person's published, public references on the internet -instead of just googling them.

Shakespeare was the Bard with googliness.

What's your take on Shakespeare? Have you read his work? Studied his sonnets? Can you quote him on the fly? How many of his plays have you (knowingly) seen on stage or in film adaptations.

I've had the good fortune to see "The Tempest" and "Much Ado About Nothing" acted on stage (in person) and I try to watch all of the film adaptations that follow the plays verbatim. My favorite of all his plays is "Titus Andronicus", but I'm morbid like that, Yo. "Much Ado About Nothing" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" follow on the favorites list.

Talk to me about The Bard today.


There's still time to get your act together - April's week one prompt is waiting for you.

APAD - soul food - write it while it's hot.

Camp NaNoWriMo - 21 days left. Don't miss it.


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