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, Flamefolk!

Pencils down was called a few short hours ago and we have six hearty submissions to read and comment on. Let's see how our writers wielded the prompt for "What is Reality?"

Be sure to welcome our newest writer Shane Bell. He's a personal friend of mine from the real world and has been writing as a hobby for decades.

Your reading list:

Title: Connections
Author: ayumidah
Word Count: 3,103
Warnings: None

Title: I am Ilya, we have met, perhaps?
Author: bluegerl
Word Count: 1,850
Warnings: None

Title: The Saga of the Song Drifter
Author: Cedar Wolfsinger
Word Count: 4,533
Warnings: Car wreck/medically induced coma/rehab

Title: REALITY: A Poetry Collection
Author: Kathy/darlinleo
Word Count:1,060
Warnings: Weird little poems

Title: Untitled
Author: hwango
Word Count: 2,373
Warnings: mild language, violence, child death, and misfortune. Not my usual sunshine and whimsy.

Title: Aether Geist
Author: Shane Bell
Word Count: 4,868
Warnings: adult situations, references to drug use, sexual references, profanity.

The polls close by 11:45pm on Saturday, May 30 (EDT).
There can be only one winner, but we won't limit the number of votes allotted.

Remember when you are voting to consider how well the writer has met the criteria given.

Be sure to spread some comment love, let your fellow writers know they are appreciated. If it's an off-site blog and you have trouble with commenting, feel free to share your comments here and we'll pass them along. In fact, I encourage you to share some [constructive] public thoughts below with the community. Let's talk about what we read, together.

We love it when our Embers write, but we also need the community to come together and read what's being submitted. Even if you didn't have time to write this week, please take a few minutes to read and encourage your friends to read as well. Share our fire!

#govoteflames and don't forget the #commentlove

Voting Poll

Good morning! For those of us in the States, today is observed as Memorial Day, a 24-hour block once a year that we are meant to pause and show respect and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country's military. Understandably, not all people have clear feelings about military service, so today's chatter is not about service in general. It's about the difficulty of grasping something one has not experienced.

Appropriately, this month's theme is reality, and the question of its nature. Because every perception of reality is different, it is a dangerously fluid concept. The good news about that is, one hundred people could write about the same subject and we'd get one hundred very unique glimpses into the world. Some would even be so far a deviation from our own understanding that we may be forced to question our own perceptions altogether. I open up with the topic of military service simply because, even though I was raised by ex-military parents, I have never served and I know myself well enough to say I never will. It isn't a lack of patriotism, it's more a matter of knowing exactly how capable one's self is of accomplishing certain tasks. I was not built for service, so I know confidently that I will never serve. Because of that, I will never have the hands-on experience needed to truly understand what it means to be a soldier.

For me, not being able to experience something does not always mean I can't or won't write about it. Surely those of us who've written science fiction do not expect readers to believe we've flown in starships or had tea with alien life. I write about werewolves. I don't expect you to believe I've met any. But that's the double edge on imagination, isn't it? With the one blade, one can imagine into existence any and every world and situation possible. Yet, we turn the blade over and discover the opposite edge is a bit duller than we'd hoped, and we know it is from lack of use and care. The imagination can take us many places, but there are some experiences (like those of enlistment, as exampled above) that cannot be replicated without having lived it, or without a very intense course of research.

How do you approach topics you know you do not fully understand? How are you able to lend reality to a life you've never lived?

Remember to delve into your own answers to the question, What Is Reality?

Some sprints are available for your reading pleasure, as well as an archive of the sprint efforts thus far. Will you join us?

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 weekend, all? I hope so. I spent part of my Sunday sprinting on Google Hangouts with Tami, Cedar, and Kathy. This month’s contest will play host to a few different sprint events for those of you who need the exercise, or just thrive on prompt writing. Conveniently enough, it’s prompt writing I’d like to discuss.

Here at the Flame, we’re more than familiar with the idea of prompts and topics. We literally live off of them. Over the years, we’ve seen the gamut of prompt possibilities, ranging from open-ended one word prompts like “fire” and “fate”, to the challenge to begin all entries with a particular phrase. The Mod Hydra continues to strive to deliver the best variety we can provide, aiming to target each and every member of our diverse writing family.

I, personally, am easily prompted. I’ve learned this about myself over my years here at the Flame, both as a player and an administrator. The first prompt for which I ever wrote was “reap” back in 2009. My first mini-contest was a personalized four-part prompt provided to me by random selection: “cattle prod, dungeon, deus ex machina, written as a mystery”. It is worth noting that we also had a limit of 3k words, that mine reached 2,998, and I chose to be complete buffoon and add “the end”. I won. ;-) And my favorite “begin your entry with this sentence” prompt? “There it goes…” I didn’t win, but the entries were so diverse, it truly proved the myriad potential of even the most specific prompt.

I think the prompts to which we respond well say a lot about us as writers. Those of us who respond best to one word at a time need freedom and room to move. Those of us who thrive on selective challenges like the aforementioned mini-contest are thirsty for challenge and creative adversity. Those of us who can pull something from nothing regardless of topic? Well, I guess we’re just the floozies of the writing c0mmunity.

By what brand of prompt are you most easily inspired? Do you need to roam wild, unbound by bullet points and specifics, or do you need to be pushed to find a way to put a square peg through a round hole? What sort of insight to gain into yourself, as a writer, when you consider this question?

Click here to learn more about May’s prompt, and refer to paragraph one for links to information on sprints and more about Google+ Hangouts, a free service for all GMail users.

As promised, I bring you another writing sprint.

Interview your favorite character in the story

Ask them the following questions:

1. Does it take much to get you angry? Or - What would frost you enough to start a fight with someone?
2. What is your first thought when you see a rainbow?
3. Do you enjoy a good mystery?
4. Name something you would really like, but would never buy for yourself.
5. You are standing at a fork in the road. If you turn left the road leads home. What is waiting for you down that other road? Will you turn left or right? 

These questions are intended to help you consider your character from a perspective outside of the story. However, if they suit the story or plot - go with it. If you missed the sprints last weekend, you can find them here and here.

Use only as directed:

This game is open to the whole community, not just those who signed up to write for May's theme. For those who are working on their month-long story, the content of your resulting sprint DOES NOT need to be included in your final story. It is an exercise for you, not a requirement.

If you want to share what you wrote in the sprint, paste a link in the comments below. Sharing is also not required.

If you write something today and want to share it with us we'll read it, and share some #commentlove as the reader sees fit. There is no voting for this exercise.

Typically a sprint would be timed, but since we are scattered across time zones and have work and families to attend to the only limitation I will give you is this - the time to share your sprint results with us will end Sunday night at midnight (wherever you are).

Our flamestorming session is tentatively set for Sunday around 4pm EDT for a few hours. We will be using Google Hangouts.

You can find us at the address below, send us an email anytime Sunday and we will add you to our Hangouts Contacts. If you are protective of your gMail address or do not have one, consider setting up a free gMail account to use strictly for flamestorming in privacy. You must have a gmail or Google + account to use Hangouts.

Brigit's Flame - flamestorming.tng@gmail.com

It's simple to use, just open gMail or Google + and choose Hangouts. I will include you on the initial group message and you can join at your leisure.

#lightAfire under your muse
Happy writing.
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! Did everyone enjoy the sprint this weekend? I was otherwise engaged, unfortunately, but I am looking forward to being able to participate in another. So, let’s talk about sprints.

Where I come from (NaNoWriMo Land), a sprint is a pre-arranged span of time during which a group of writers joins to write furiously until the clock runs out, and then they compare notes and horror stories about word choice and panics over whether to use a colon or a semi-colon and really who even knows? Sprints can be hell. Really, they’re probably one of the Seven Circles. You’re just always caught in a sprint with no access to a Thesaurus so you just stare blankly at one sentence for the rest of eternity. Ouch.

I have a love/hate relationship with writing sprints. On the one hand, it’s easy enough to use a quick fifteen-minute window to test out a scene you’ve had churning in your head. On the other hand, if you’ve come unprepared, it becomes a uniquely trivial pursuit. I’ve found myself, on more than one occasion, filling the remaining time by very literally typing whatever comes into my head. The end result is typically terrifying and completely off-topic. I come into the sprint writing about soldiers in a foxhole and by the end they’ve adopted a gorilla and they’re bickering over whether to dress it in “people clothes”. It harkens me back to the days when my classmates would occupy the middle portions of ten-page essay reports by copying and pasting song lyrics and famous speeches into the body of the paper just to fill space. Their theory was, “The teacher doesn’t read them all the way through anyway.” I never tried that. I preferred borderline delirious rambling.

Are you a natural sprinter, or do your prefer the low-pressure marathon?


The May contest is a unique departure from our familiar form, and can be perused here for those of you who need reminding, or who would like to watch the fun.

The current sprint is up and accessible — come play!

In honor of Mother's Day your second writing sprint prompt is -

If your birth month falls during January through June your prompt is:

Your protagonist's mother

If your birth month falls during July through December your prompt is:

Your antagonist's mother

Tell us a story about her. Have a conversation with her. Interview her outside the courthouse. Pull the character's file out of their therapists cabinet and describe what it reveals. How has she influenced them? Perhaps she died when they were young and new leaving only an absence to build a shape around. However you see her - however your character sees her we want to know.

Use only as directed:

This game is open to the whole community, not just those who signed up to write for May's theme. For those who are working on their month-long story, the sprints are meant to help you explore your characters, settings, plot, and other components. The content of your resulting sprint DOES NOT need to be included in your final story. It is an exercise for you, not a requirement.

If you want to share what you wrote in the sprint, paste a link in the comments below. Sharing is also not required.

If you write something today and want to share it with us we'll read it, and share some #commentlove as the reader sees fit. There is no voting for this exercise.

Typically a sprint would be timed, but since we are scattered across time zones and have work and families to attend to the only limitation I will give you is this - the time to share your sprint results with us will end Monday night at midnight (wherever you are).

The first writing sprint shared yesterday is still open until midnight tonight. Go check it out if you missed it.

There will be another sprint on Friday. Our flamestorming session is tentatively set for next Sunday around 4pm EDT.

#gospark your muse and hug your mothers if you've got 'em.
Happy writing.
As promised, here is your first writing sprint prompt -

If your name (username or rl name) begins with a letter A-L your prompt is:

Hypnotic State

If your name begins with a letter M-Z your prompt is:

Vision Quest

Tell us what you character sees and experiences. How do they feel about it, before? During? After? What memories or demons float to the surface? Why or how do they find themselves in this situation?

Before you go, let me explain the exercise.

This game is open to the whole community, not just those who signed up to write for May's theme. For those who are working on their month-long story, the sprints are meant to help you explore your characters, settings, plot, and other components. The content of your resulting sprint DOES NOT need to be included in your final story. It is an exercise for you, not a requirement.

If you want to share what you wrote in the sprint, paste a link in the comments below. This is also not required.

If you write something today and want to share it with us we'll read it, and share some #commentlove as the reader sees fit. There is no voting for this exercise.

Typically a sprint would be timed, but since we are scattered across time zones and have work and families to attend to the only limitation I will give you is this - the time to share your sprint results with us will end Sunday night at midnight (wherever you are).

There will be another sprint tomorrow.

#gospark your muse
Happy writing.

This month, we plunge deep into the concept of reality, and what it means to each of us. So many factors in an individual can influence their perception of reality. We know this much to be true, but how much of it do we truly understand? A notorious BLUE AND BLACK dress (dang it) recently tore the internet to shreds, proving rather frustratingly that a literal reality can be influenced by light, angle, and the actual shape of one’s eye. If something literal and physical can be so fluid, can potential does the figurative hold?

The concept of reality actually haunts me. I don’t know if it’s mental illness or disability or if it’s just me, but there are frequent moments in which I question whether I am on the same page as the rest of the world. This month, I will be using these jarring experiences to create my vision of the prompt. I will parlay my phantoms into something I feel safe to share with others, and hopefully it will be relatable enough to quell my concerns that I am alone. (Now imagine how silly I’m gonna look if I don’t finish?)

In one thing, I know I am not alone. I am joined by hundreds of thousands of other writers who must wonder, at least on occasion, if a mental defect or simple difference is what makes them what they are, as an artist. The track record for mental illness is impressive through the ages of famous artists. We don’t all cut off our ears, but that doesn’t mean we’re hiding our demons as well as we think we are. Mental and spiritual disturbance shape our realities, and our realities shape our work. Unfortunately, there is no escaping this.

Even if you consider yourself completely mentally sound, how do you think the opposite affects talent? Would you argue that mental disease, defect, or glitch enhances the creative edge, or hinders it? Can there be brilliance without madness?

Keep an eye out for the Epilogue reading list, and click here to learn more about the May prompt!

When I read a book, peruse art in a gallery, or go in search of new music I'm looking for something I've never experienced before. With visual art I'm hoping the artist will show me vistas that I cannot see without the filter of his imagination. The same holds true with writing - perhaps even more so because I will carry the story in my memory long after all of the paintings have faded into squares against a white wall.

For this reason, I seek out stories that are diverse in genre and style - clinging to those that are surreal, haunting and as far afield as the author can take me. One author whose imagination feeds me those dream-time delicacies is Philip K. Dick.

PKD's books and stories have been around since the sixties, the author himself dying in 1982. Though not as publicly acclaimed as other authors in his genre (in his lifetime), at least eleven of his short stories and novels have been adapted for the screen. Blade Runner for example, a cult classic on screen, was the adaptation of PKD's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This is one of the more famous conversions, but you might recognize several on the list. Then there are other works that do not give him story credit, but have distinct PKD themes. Just recently, I was reading his story "Second Variety" and realized that the premise had been recycled in the fresh Battlestar Galactica reboot. It deals with robots that build better versions of themselves in order to walk among humans undetected - becoming more efficient soldiers by blending in and appealing to our more compassionate natures.

Among the many complex and imaginative threads that have kept science fiction connoisseurs happy for decades, PKD left behind a legacy of fictional paranoia, governmental conspiracy, over-reaching surveillance, and thuggish police forces. In addition to these prickly topics, there was another theme prevalent in his fiction writing and later in the personal papers and letters that came to be called his Exegesis - what is reality?

Much like time, there are aspects of reality that are more relative than fixed. The most obvious examples can be found with people who suffer mental illness, sustain brain damage, or use drugs. In these instances, reality pivots and flops based on the presence or absence of chemicals in their system. But you don't need these extremes to experience an altered reality, consider grief and love and how they can act to modify your choices and perception.

PKD believed at one point (for at some point he believed in everything, then nothing) that all living beings were part of reality and all non-living things were malleable parts in the structure around us, but it was not until our perception labeled the thing that it actually took shape. Therefore what appeared as a table to you, could appear as a bench to someone who does not share your perception of the reality around you.

It sounds crazy, but consider how a child can see the potential in sticks as swords, cocked fingers as guns, and cardboard boxes as ships. Or how a writer can overhear a snippet of conversation about mundane life and find in it, paths to danger or new worlds. Think also of how something as simple as darkness can turn a cheerful room into a threatening place of shadows and voids.

For the month of May, let's explore reality together. Your characters need not be limited to the confines of a science fiction story in order to question the signal and poke around in the noise for answers. Consider reality, how it reveals itself, and how a new perspective might alter it for your protagonist. Surprise us, or help us see the Truth.
Find your own take on -

What is reality?

...then share it with us.

Now for the rules and dates and whatnot -
Your story or collection of poetry should not exceed 5,000 words. I know that's more than we usually encourage, but this is one theme for the whole month so a larger word count makes sense. The deadline to submit a public link to your story in the form below is Tuesday, May 26th at 04:00 EDT (4 am). The submission form is programmed to not accept entries after that time, so do not count on human sleep patterns to give you an extra couple of hours. Anyway, I'll start pulling together the submissions around 5 am that day to get the reading list out to you before I go to work. Voting will be open from 5/26 to 5/30. The writing submitted must be yours and should be written for this contest. Please do not submit earlier work simply edited to fit the theme. This rule is for you. Challenge yourself to write something new today. Give yourself time to polish and refine the piece before submitting. With all of the contest reading to do, there will not be time for JFF entries. Each writer only has one writing slot - make it count.

Who can play -
Following are the 12 writers signed up for the May challenge:
bluegerl, Kathy/darlinleo, Missflyer,
Shane Bell, Cedarwolfsinger, Alethessa,
FAWatson, RicoChey, Hwango,
Ayumidah, Urb_banal,
And I swear somewhere I saw bardiphouka sign-up, but I can't find it now. Did I dream it? Maybe it was a sign that he should just write with us anyway.

If I missed your name, please throw something at me so I can fix the list.

Please submit your story info in this format in the survey below -
Word Count:

*Please note author should be the name you want to publicly share your story under, regardless of journal/blog name or familiar user ID.
Submission Link
There are two things you've got to do today -
1. Sign-up for the May contest. The teaser is here, put your name in the comments of that post to write with us. So far we have about ten writers' names on the list. Add yours today or be one of our Beta readers this month.

2. You have until 11:45pm EDT Sunday night to write your Epilogue. For April's contestants, this means wrapping up the stories you've been working on all month. For anyone else who feels like writing an Epilogue just for fun - the same deadline applies. Submit here.

I'll see you in the morning with the May Theme.
Fellow Flamearians and those of writerly ilk!

May is coming upon us like a wildfire. It is time to commit to a worthy project.
For example, you could sign up to write with us in May. You know you want to -- make it happen.

In the wake of our Shakespeare-inspired April contest, we have decided to take things one step further in May and make the month-long contest a month long.
Confused? Excellent. We're about to shake things up.

Beginning May 3rd you will be given a theme and as much inspiration as we can squeeze into one of these little boxes. Your due date for submitting your story or poetry collection will be 5/26 by 04:00 (4am) EDT. The cap will be 5,000 words, and we are accepting only original, new work written for this project. No dusting off the slush pile or pulling out those lit mag winners. Challenge yourself to write big! Show us your chops! The reading list and poll will go up on the morning of 5/26 and you will have until 5/30 to vote. Winners will be announced on 5/31.

We will be hosting activities throughout the month to help keep you on your goal. We will offer word sprint challenges; an internet write-in that harkens back to our flamestorming days; and periodic queries into your work-in-progress to keep you writing all month instead of a 12 hour crunch in the wee hours of the 25th. (We are all writers here, we know about that procrastination factor.)

Two more things you should know -

You MUST sign up in the comments below in order to submit your completed work on 5/26. Sign up deadline is Saturday, May 2nd by midnight EDT.

No JFF (Just For Fun) entries are allowed. Only one submission per writer.

Wait, no! There is one more thing that I almost forgot.
If you sign up now...the winner will not just be mentioned in our Hall of Flame, but will be given the option of having their winning submission published on our new Highlights Page. (We'll work on the name, I suspect it will be fiery).

Keep an eye on us. The theme goes up on Sunday, May 3rd. I will give you a hint to the theme, but remember it is only a hint meant to whet the appetite.

"My voice for the voiceless."

***For those of you who are new to the Flame, all work submitted belongs to the author alone. At Brigit's Flame, submissions to be voted on by the community are links back to the author's own journal or blog, they are not published on our site except in special circumstances of which you will be made aware and to which you may say no.

About Us

brigitsflame: (Default)
Brigit's Flame - a writing community
RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Powered by Dreamwidth Studios

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags