Categories
Authorship Fiction Nonfiction Writing

5 Simple Sources for Content

Not sure what your next screenplay or book should be about? The five ideas can help your figure it out.


Variations on a Theme

One of the easiest ways to come up with an idea for your next piece is to borrow the core of another one and make it your own. This could be a classic tale like Jack and the Beanstalk or Snow White or something a little more modern like The Hunger Games or The Notebook. Choose a film or book that you like and break it down into its central components. What would its premise be? What would its slim, basic, or detailed outline look like?

Once you have all the pieces dissected, start swapping things out. For example, instead of a galaxy far, far away from Earth, make the setting an island far, far away from the United States. Instead of a human man reliving the same day over and over again, make the setup a country reliving the same atrocity over and over again. This method of switching out key components of the story or content and then writing it in your own style can help you create your next new piece. This is the process described in comparative statements made when people are pitching manuscripts and screenplays to acquisitions editors and film producers: “It’s like [insert bestseller / or blockbuster] meets [insert bestseller / blockbuster]”.

You are taking the same theme (the damsel in distress saved by a prince, the underdog overthrowing a tyrant, the financial glutton falling into poverty, etc.) and creating a variation of it that’s all your own.

No Longer Unsolved Mysteries

Watching a news report about an unsolved crime is another great place to find a new source of ideas. Take it upon yourself to speculate on what happened to the little girl whose body was found ten miles from her home in the middle of a school day. Give us the play-by-play for how a man who appears to have been caught red-handed is actually innocent of extortion. Sniff out all those cases that just don’t seem to make sense and have confounded local detectives and federal agents alike.

The Problem (and The Solution)

Especially useful for self-help and documentaries, consider some of the biggest problems in the world right now and what some solutions are. Do you have a stellar method for organizing the mountain of syllabuses that students are emailed at the beginning of each semester? Do you know the perfect way to explain to people why we see the sky as blue during the day instead of green, yellow, or some other color? Do you know that one secret that people need to understand about personal finance that will increase their net worth by 40% within the next three years? Even if you don’t have answers to these questions, if you know there is an answer (and that answer is one that people are desperately searching for) turn your research skills into your next literary venture. Put all the research together and give the people what they want!

The Mirror

Tell your own story, with a dash of creative license thrown in! Many people don’t write their autobiography or memoir because they have been fortunate enough not to experience any major, life-changing challenges. They haven’t had most of their limbs amputated, they haven’t survived civil war, they haven’t been to prison, they haven’t battled severe mental illness. In their minds, there is nothing about their lives worth reading, let alone writing about. If this is how you feel, that’s okay! First of all, it’s awesome that you don’t have some major drama or trauma going on for someone to be interested in reading. That just means you got lucky to have a life less stressful and painful than most people’s.

But you can always jazz it up (figuratively, of course) by exploring something that’s never happened to you and what your reaction would be to it. Never punched your supervisor in the face while he was man-splaining something? Write that scene! What happens next? How do you handle the consequences? Most important of all—was it worth it? Why? What did that moment teach you about your alter-ego?

Answering questions like this means you’ll start building a plot in no time, all by using all the experiences you already have available to you.

The Vision

We’ve all got fancy ideas about a paradise, the perfect spouse, or the best job in the world. In order to turn that vision of wonder into a book or screenplay that someone wants to read or make, we just need to add some conflict and resolve it. What’s the catch to living in this paradise? What one flaw does this near-perfect spouse have or how does their perfection harm you or those around you? The best job in the world really would be so if it weren’t for the fact that…what? And is that downside worth quitting or not?


If you’re like many people who love to write but don’t always have a steady stream of new ideas, these can at the very least help get your creative synapses firing so you can start dreaming up your next big project. Have some other ideas for new ideas? Share with your fellow members in the comments!

Categories
Authorship Nonfiction Writing

5 Best Books On Writing SFF


Writing speculative fiction is a little bit different than writing an essay or a romance. For starters, you have to create multiple major world or character elements from scratch. Fortunately, there are plenty of books on writing genres like science fiction and fantasy out there to help you. Here are some of the best of 2020.

On Writing by Stephen King


Stephen King’s writing book is a memoir-reference hybrid and contains some fantastic words of wisdom for writers. King’s success means he must be doing something right, so who better to teach you how to write horror (or anything else for that matter)? You are bound to pick up some gems reading On Writing. Anything by Stephen King is an excellent read for screenwriters as well because his books translate so well to movies and TV.

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror


Containing all your favorite SFF authors, Now Write’s fifth volume is a compendium of SFF
writing prompts and exercises. There is endless fodder for your imagination and lots of advice
on how to do things like build worlds from scratch and create riveting characters. You can use this book as a jumping-off point for your writing sessions each day.

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Philip Athans


Philip Athans’ book covers all areas of fantasy and science fiction, and it even includes an
original story by R. A. Salvatore, a famous author in the fantasy genre. Reading a story by one of the masters, alongside excellent advice, is the best way to learn how to write well. Philip Athans is an editor at Wizards of the Coast, the company behind Dungeons and Dragons, so he has a lot of experience in both the genre and the industry.

Putting the Science in Fiction by Dan Koboldt


Dan Koboldt’s book is a treasury of in-depth articles written by scientists who are also writers. The book includes things like ant sociology and takes a look at how to apply this to a science fiction story. The best science fiction doesn’t shy away from real science, and Dan Koboldt’s book (and associated blog) will show you how to do this too.

Get Started in Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Adam Roberts


The Teach Yourself series produces excellent guides for everything you can imagine, and their
writing books are no exception. Get Started covers all aspects of the SFF genre, including
children’s books and young adult fiction.

Reading books like the ones listed here has several benefits:


● You can take advice from successful, popular authors
● They usually include exercises or prompts that can help spark new ideas
● If you’re new to the genre, books like these can help you navigate the genre-specific writing
challenges
● You’ll pick up a lot of general writing advice that you can apply anywhere in your career

If you’re interested in writing SFF or horror, any one of these books is a great place to start.
They are also fantastic sources of guidance and inspiration for the more experienced SFF writer.

Categories
Fiction Writing Writing Contest

3rd Place 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won the third place prize in the 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest!

“So, What Happened Next?” by Kavita Srinivasan of South San Francisco, California


The sun shone bright, and the wind caressed soft that autumn morning in 2010. Water danced in the canals of the river Kaveri. Birds chattered in the wilderness next door. And the bullock-carts tip-tapped through the bright green fields all around.

I was on India’s oldest and toughest marathon trail for the first time — to support my partner in his debut 26-mile run. A few minutes after the whistle blew, he disappeared in the huddle. I had never been to a marathon before. So I lingered around the start line for sometime. Then, clueless about what to do, I strolled into the trail.

Everyone there was either a runner, pacer, or a volunteer. I was a visitor. So that Nikon D50 around my neck helped answer unasked questions. Techies of India’s silicon valley had common likes and dislikes. Most of them enjoyed photography and running, and showed a disregard for high fashion.

I was in a semi-sports attire that day, had a camera on me, and wore glasses like what Moss wore in The IT Crowd. I looked the part. Runners waved and smiled at me. And almost as an instinct, I held up the camera to click pictures.

The pseudo-cult of the technologists of the world fascinated me as an outsider.

What’s the deal with techies and running? Why do they all sign up to jog for forty kilometers? Why would you go the distance for anything less than the Olympics?

My mind sparked with questions, right when my heart began to take in the beauty all around. The lush green fields and endless blue skies painted the backdrop. The singing streams and the whistling teals formed the chorus. And the performance band of the day, filled with an army of runners, marched in and out in its own rhythm. Soaked in nature’s symphony, hours flew by.

It’s when I saw people run the other way, toward me, that I realized the race was in its final moments. The scene was different now. Heavy breaths quietened the youthful vitality at the start of the race. Slow and immobile steps took over the rhythmic march. And confident roars had faded out into painful cries. The support crew motorbikes rumbled out of the woods, one after another. In their backseat, each carried a runner who had either dropped out or passed out on the trail.

“Where, where is he?”

As my eyes searched for my partner, I noticed someone on the narrow bridge in front.

They were by the railing on the left, their blood-red tshirt drenched in sweat. Their limp hands rested over the fence, their head hung loose between the arms. And their knees wobbled inside the flesh of the legs, as they struggled to stand upright.

“Almost there, almost there!”

“Good job, keep going” “Come on!”

The runners cheered as they passed, to little avail.

Worried, I walked toward the bridge. As I approached the panting runner, someone in a green shirt ran in front of me.

They stopped on the bridge, bent down, put an arm around the frail body, and brought the runner up. At the railing, I lined up about two feet away from the duo. The two looked out into the water and like friends on a scenic outing, began to talk.

“I love this trail so much man,” The green shirt guy said. “Did I tell you I decided to marry my wife here?” “Wha..wha..t?” The red shirt guy said.

Out of breath, his voice was feeble.

“Yeah! I was about to sign up for a full marathon. And I had never run more than two miles in my life.”

The red shirt guy straightened up a bit.

“My girlfriend, she begged me to do the half marathon instead.”

“I was like, ‘woman! Are you questioning what I can do?’ Somehow she convinced me, and I was so glad she did. Because even at the start line, I was like ‘13 miles, ha, this is going to be a cakewalk.”

The other person raised his eyebrows.

“And..and I was on fire at first. Seconds after we started together, I left my girlfriend and many others far behind. I was like, yeah baby, I’m gonna crush the miles. Until something hit me at the fifth mile — an invisible force. I could neither move nor stop….” “Aah, I know that feeling, man,” The man in red said.

His voice was clearer now.

“People swooshed past me, crushing my ego. I felt frustrated, angry, confused, helpless

— all at once. And then, she found me.”

As he spoke, the man stretched his arms, exercised his hips, and jogged in place. And like a reflection, the other guy followed every move.

“She jogged next to me, told me I was doing well, and asked me to go slow, as I took baby steps,”

As he said that, the green shirt guy turned around, and hopped out of the bridge. The man in the red shirt swerved.

“Hey, but did you finish the race?” The other guy looked back and waved.

“I’ll tell you, come!”

Almost a corpse a few moments ago, the man in red picked up his steps and ran. It was like they had never stopped. I went the other way into the trail, to look for my partner.

He, my partner, may or may not finish the race, I thought. Yet that broken, battered guy in red will make it to the finish line.

He had a story to chase. He had a storyteller to follow.

Categories
Fiction Psychological Writing Writing Contest

2nd Place 2020 ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won the second place prize in the 2020 Writerwerx ‘Slight Short Story’ contest!

“The Nobodies” by Nicole March of St. Augustine, Florida


I just wanted to be noticed. Just….noticed. I don’t need congratulations, a pat on the back or anything grandiose. Just acknowledged that I’m here, that I exist, and that I’ve done something.

That was all I wanted. I wanted to be good, do the right thing, and make all the right moves. But nothing I’ve done works. I wanted a life that meant something to me, but it doesn’t. It just exists. I am a boat floating away on a river that just continues to turn. It just continues to go nowhere. I try to make any and all the connections, get out of my shell to try and meet people and network, but no one wants to know me past 10 min in. Why? All my family are gone now, and I can’t seem to make friends or even get a date. What’s so bad about me? I’m trying and no one will meet me halfway.

Everyday I’m at this job I feel my life draining away. Nothing I’ve done gets me out of this hellhole and I can’t afford to quit. I don’t want to lose my home, I don’t have a friends couch to crash on. I’ve looked every which way I can and again nothing… No responses. The small amount of interviews I got…nothing. I thought I had done well and yet here I am back in….nothing. I just exist.

I can’t escape….

He was there on a Tuesday, the “New Boss”. Embarrassingly young, full of no life experience and the thought process he was better than everyone else. He could do things “better”. The job should have been mine and everyone around me knew it. He knew it too, my stats were better than everyone else’s, and I am a woman to boot, yet try as I might no one acknowledged me. What….am…I…doing….wrong.

I stare at this computer and drift away in thought. Every day here I feel my heart race and my brain feels like it’s on fire. Something is constantly knocking on a door in the back of my mind but I can’t find the key. Sometimes the knocking is deafening. This place continues to kill me, and I can’t escape its grasp. I feel like I am suffocating slowly, as if the air in my lungs doesn’t care for my existence as well.

Again I became the good girl, did everything I could to make our team work together. My team liked me, they thought I deserved better, but unfortunately they cant help me at all. All I got was “I’m Sorry”, “It shouldn’t be like this”, “You deserve better”

I deserve….what? I’m not even sure now. Hope is fading. After the afternoon meeting, “He” asked me to stay behind.

“Let’s have a chat” he said. I saw him clench and unclench his jaw and I felt my heart race again. The knocking also started anew.

“We need to talk about how things have been around here” he said.

“You don’t seem to be interested in all the changes going on here, the positive direction the company wants for all of us”

I knew he was talking but it was getting harder to hear him.

“We really need team players, and while you are very good at your job you seem to march to the beat of your own drum” he said.

“What….how am I” I could only respond in stifled sounds, I could hear my own voice sound strangled.

“Consider this the first of our conversations as we try to get you to join us on the same…”

I didn’t feel the heavy metal in my hand until after it happened. I swung the hole puncher out and forward in an arc. It hit him in the cheek bone with a crunch that threw his body backwards.

His eyes widened and a WUH sound was all he could make.

I saw the wound grow across his cheekbone, the youthful skin swelling, the darkening of his eye. The eyes were opening and shutting in shock as he tried to raise his hands in defense.

A strange feeling emerged inside me. Rage.

I gripped it again and swung downward aiming for the bridge of the nose. 12 yrs of martial arts made me a stronger than average woman, but not that strong. I felt a stab of pain in my shoulder, as I watched the blood spurt out of his face arching and hitting my clothes. His nose was twisted to one side swelling and spilling blood. His right eye was swollen shut now.

Another swing, I aimed for his mouth with no particular reason at all. All he could do was sputter sounds. His body sagged, ready to fall off the office chair. I thought I saw fragments of teeth fall to the floor.

He collapsed on the ground and I stepped back surveying the scene. He was struggling to breath, the blood was getting in the way. I squatted closer, and his left eye the only one open, showed nothing but fear. I was taking his youth away and I was happy. The hole puncher was getting slippery and I brushed it off in my shirt. A raise of an arm, and again I brought it down on his temple, again on the remnants of the nose, and then once more. He wasn’t moving now. The floor became a sea of blood. He never even made that much of a sound the entire time.

Shockingly no one was running in, no screams of horror. It was quiet.

I stood and stepped back. I grabbed my purse and shut off the light. I peeked out the door and saw no one. So, I locked up like I did everyday. I got in my car and just drove with the windows down, I wasn’t going to go home now. Then it came suddenly the sound of silence. And I was happy once more.

Categories
Fiction Psychological Writing Contest

1st Place 2020 ‘Slight Short Story’ Contest Winner

Read the story that won our 2020 Slight Short Story Contest!

Paris 

By Ishan Davis of Charlotte, North Carolina

A crash from below brings him to consciousness. 

His bedroom, now washed with light from the open window, feels like a safe haven from the confines of his dreams. He wouldn’t call them nightmares, as that was too strong of a word. Not quite scary, but unsettling. They were bursts of strange thoughts—deformed memories, eerie voyages to places he had never been—all pushed out from some dark corner of his sleeping imagination. 

He was thankful for the loud strangers below, the life raft that pulled him to the surface of reality every morning. Their voices are unusually loud today, most likely the neighbors that had moved in a couple weeks ago. Exchange students, he guessed. He could never decipher what made its way up through the window, but he knows it must be English. Of course it is. 

It seems like that is all you ever hear now. 

He unwraps himself from the covers, feet meeting the floor as he sits on the edge of the bed. His glazed eyes find the nightstand. A scribbled note is left there, ripped from one of his lingering journals, he imagines. 

‘Meeting friends. 

Be back tonight, Munchkin.’ 

He scoffs. Of course she would settle on the worst nickname, he thinks. A part of him wonders if they were too old for this, nicknames and notes. But she isn’t asking for much. He could let her have this. 

The floor isn’t as cool as it usually is. It’s warm for October. The stale air in the apartment nears unbearable. He looks at the window, frowning. The latch is shut. He is so sure that it was open when he awoke just moments ago. He walks over, stretching his limbs as he takes in the scene below. It was the same morning shuffle as always: Unbothered old women walk through tour groups on tight sidewalks. A fit of snapping cameras. The clanking of silverware at a café across the way. The exchange students that were just happy to be there. 

He unlatches the window and in a couple of steps, he’s in the kitchen. A cup of coffee sits on the counter. Smoke wafts up to the ceiling, reeking of a fresh roast. It’s a pale brown color, café au lait, his favorite. The oven beeps, and the sudden smell of chicken meets his nose. The oven timer is at zero. Lunch is ready. 

He blinks several times, but the coffee remains, and the beeping never ceases. 

Nearly tripping over himself, he backpedals into the bedroom where his phone rests on the nightstand. The note is nowhere to be found. His attention snaps to the bed. It has been neatly made, sheets unwrinkled and pillows flat. 

His chest constricts, holding in every panicked breath that threatens to escape. His hands shake violently as he dials the first number that comes to mind. 

“Yes?” she answers. 

“I feel like I’m losing it.” He rubs his face, desperate for touch as she was not there to do it herself.

“What do you mean?” she asks.  

“Ever since we went to the Seine last week. Do you remember? For our anniversary picnic? I’ve been having these dreams. And time…time doesn’t make sense. I can’t explain it…I just—”

“Seine?” We never went to the Seine.” She snorts, amused. 

A beat of silence. 

“What?” 

“Munchkin, you can’t stand the Seine.” 

“Well yes,” he breathes, “I do. I hate it. But we still went because you wanted to.” 

“You really believe you would do that for me?” 

“It was our anniversary—” 

“So, you think you’ve found love in this city? Cliché, even for you.” 

“I love you! You know that. What are you on about?” 

“You could love no one but yourself. You know that.” 

The voice is jarring—deep, slicing—and not hers. He searches his memory before realizing it is his own. 

His heart plunges to his stomach when he pulls back the phone and finds his hand empty. The phone is still across the room, on the nightstand next to his bed. The room seems to tilt, bending into itself as the walls close in. The air is stale again, stifling. He slowly spares another look out the window and is greeted by the darkness of night.