Tuesday 26 March 2013

Notes in the Margins

The astute amongst you may have noticed that the side bar menu has expanded...

This is kind of an experiment. And, because I apparently don't like to make life easy, it's two experiments at the same time. Alpha and Rise.

They are serials of a kind, growing, ongoing, at approximately one part a week. Each part is about one hundred words, and written using the weekly words from the Prediction. Just to take the challenge up that extra notch... ;)

I'm going to digress for a moment to talk about the Prediction...

There is an ancient tome, once in the possession of horror writer Lily Childs, if any could be said to truly possess it. Where she came upon it she will not talk of. In time she freed herself from its grasp in the only way it will allow, by finding a willing victim. So it found a new host in a young man named Phil Ambler, and though he had the tome for but a short while he was forever changed by it. In turn, he passed it on to an American, Colleen Foley, perhaps hoping the wide expanse of the Atlantic would wash some of its horror from his hands...

Each week the tome coughs up three words, and those that accept its challenge must create a story in a hundred words or less, using the three words. Something of the tome's nature creates a definite leaning towards horror, but other genres are acceptable. And in this way we satiate the tome, and keep its darkness from consuming the world.

Something like that, anyway. Seriously though, it's fun. My fellow cultists writers are a friendly bunch and all are welcome to join. Colleen picks a winner and runners up each week, but the best thing about it is the wide range of stories that come out of the same three words.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, Alpha and Rise. Fuelled by the Prediction's three words, which makes it harder than usual, because instead of finding a story to fit the three words, I have to fit the three words into an ongoing story. Sometimes this works more successfully, more smoothly, than others, but the prediction is good for keeping the momentum going. As a weekly challenge it makes me keep adding to the stories week by week.

So Alpha is a superhero story, and Rise is something like steampunk. They are first drafts, unpolished, and mostly unedited. In some ways they are the skeletons of what I hope to flesh out into something more meaty, more substantial. Think of it as watching me plot the stories, a peek at an early part of the process.

So the pacing may waver, it may dwell on a scene for a few parts before moving suddenly elsewhere. All those transitions that can be handled so nicely in a larger piece are not always so easy in hundred word sequential segments.

Plot is a very interesting part to the experiment. When I first conceived of Alpha, I knew straight away a few plot twists down the line, some I think are maybe obvious, some less so. And the problem I'm having is creating some kind of momentum at the beginning, something to carry Alpha towards the future tragedy that Jigsaw has predicted. So while I like a lot of the parts I've written for Alpha, it's not going anywhere in a hurry.

Rise, on the other hand, is off to a much better start. Because the story begins with the character thrown out of her comfort zone into a world she is familiar with only from her window, she is straight into the action. When I conceived of a larger story for Olivia it was more about a personal journey for her, and her discovery of her world.

So, in a way, Alpha is trying to find some way of arriving at my inspiration and ideas for the story, but Rise started out in the heat of the idea. Whether this means that when I approach endings, some time in the future, Alpha will then pick up the pace and Rise will struggle more... I don't know. That's all part of the experiment!

For now, please read what is there and let me know what you think. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you enjoy it enough to come back for more. =)


You can also hear me talking a lot of nonsense and a little about writing, as a guest on the latest Bros and Cons podcast. =)
Available on libsyn (which should work in your browser just fine) or iTunes. It's Episode 18.


  1. As a fellow Predictioneer I can vouch for both the fun and the challenge. As a compulsive serialiser I think you may have made things harder for yourself in having a pre-conceived plot in mind for Alpha. But you are right in saying that reading the variety of weekly offerings is what it makes it so enjoyable, and Alpha and Olivia are two of the best.

    1. Thank you, Sandra. =)

      I think you might be right about pre-plotting. But hopefully it will take off soon. (Pun unintended!)

  2. Cool. I'll check these out soon.

  3. Wow, good luck with them! I'll have to check them out soonest.

  4. John, be cautious in speaking too much of the tome's history. We don't want to upset the little darling, now do we?

    Seriously though, thanks so much for the plug for The Prediction!

    1. Heh, I speak only in the most reverential tones...

      And no worries, the more who share the burden the easier the load on our souls. Er... I mean, the more who join in the more fun we have... ;D

  5. I think it interesting that you say writing prediction helps keep the stories going, because for the first time for me I am writing a serial based on the three words each week and what I love about it, is that I don't know which way my story will turn until I get those three words. The Offering is the first time I have attempted to do this. I love taking part in Prediction, the company is good and it helps spark one's imagination plus to get to read some good micro fiction to boot!

    1. I think it's a little of both for me, vague story elements exist in my head, but the words take it in interesting, unpredictable directions.

      It is, indeed, very good company. =)

  6. Ooh Rise and Alpha!!! I remember those, so glad you're expanding them, John! I need to follow them both back to the first installment. Starting...now.

    1. Thank you, Cindy. =) Hope you enjoy them. =)