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…it leaves a very sour taste in your mouth. 

Due to tropical forces beyond my control, this week’s planned vacation in paradise rather resembled the considerable warmer place without the fruity umbrella drinks or even the warmth for that matter.  Our cruise was cancelled, we lost power and at least a day of paid vacation, but as the old saying about lemonade intimates, that simply means I have a better footing as NaNoWriMo gets underway.

So November 1st is staring you in the face and you’re wondering.  What the heck am I going to write?  While I beg to differ with anyone who claims creativity can be taught, I do have a few suggestions that might help you get your muse started. 

We begin by breaking your 50,000 word novel into manageable chunks.  You are going to get sick of the word speculate.  In my opinion, all fiction is speculative.  Obviously the canon interpretation applies primarily to science fiction, fantasy and horror, but fiction in general asks the question, what would happen if?

Character

Think of someone you admire, someone you despise or even yourself.  Now imagine that person as:

  • a mailroom clerk,
  • an astronaut,
  • an ogre,
  • a dragon-slaying knight...

keep speculating until you find an idea that really captures your interest.

Setting

Place your character in a setting.  Start with the most likely and hop through genres until you find something fun.  Sure Toby the mail clerk probably works in the basement of the headquarters of some giant corporation,  but what if he worked:

  • on a space station
  • in Hell
  • in the mayor’s office of a twenties style city run by criminals,
  • in the office of a general who just staged a coup… 

Again, keep speculating until something catches your fancy.

Conflict

To carry a novel, you’ll generally want to introduce at least two levels of conflict, for this discussion will use personal and global as examples. 

Toby the clerk wants to change something about his life. 

  • He’s bored of life in space and wants to go home.  
  • He can’t remember how he ended up in Hell.  
  • Perhaps he’s in love with the mob boss’ daughter or wife (or son if you want to go that route). 
  • Maybe he’s the nephew of the deposed dictator looking for revenge on the new general. 
This first conflict should be universal and easily understood: love, fear, vengeance, a desire for meaning, etc.

Toby’s story is interwoven with a global conflict.  (Global in this case is not necessarily “Earth” It could be as small as the family home in which the story is set and as large at the multiverse) 

  • The giant corporation is battling media coverage which (fairly or not) accuses the company of wrongdoing. 
  • The space station is making first contact with an alien starborne race. 
  • The devil is missing and Hell is more chaotic than usual. 
  • A mob boss is making a move to go legit or to wipe out the competition. 
  • The new general is planning to use his new power to complete a ritual sacrifice
This is the conflict where you can be as creative as you want to be.

Now what?

Now take the pieces that you’ve brainstormed and really get down to speculating.  For each detail you uncover, ask:

  • What caused this event to happen?
  • How would this impact Toby?
  • How would this impact the global environment?
  • How do the other people in Toby's life play into the two conflicts?  What are their goals?
  • What if magic/advanced tech/espionage/murder/etc is really behind this?
Keep asking questions and keep writing my friends!


 
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What You Remember
By Wakefield Mahon


“You’re being difficult.” Robert sighed, running his fingers through what remained of his gray hair.

“The word you are looking for is recusant.” Amanda half-smiled. “Funny the things you remember. Anyway you’re not my father. Don’t tell me what to do!”

“Listen my grandchildren are coming over and you frighten them. Please go.”


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She smoothed out her blood stained prom dress “I’m not leaving until my date gets here.”

Robert wiped a tear from his eye. “I did. It took me years to get over the accident but I’ve moved on and it’s time for you to do the same.

******
A big "thank you" to judge Rakel' Sampson who saw fit to select my story as this week's winning Tuesday Tale.  And as always thanks to hostess Stevie McCoy for keeping the contest going!

 
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The Phrase:
“guess this is [ ]” (this can appear anywhere in the story)
The Judge’s Prompt:
Kurama no Hi-Matsuri / the Kurama Fire Festival

[Note:  I wasn't really going so much for a story so much as tribute to the hostess for the final contest entry.  I didn't win a badge but I did have a lot of fun.  I've made minor edits from the original version.]


Festival of the Last Days
By Wakefield Mahon

“Guess this is the end Larry. We done cleaned out old Jake’s pawn shop, we only have two cases of shotgun shells left with a horde-o-zombies that don’t seem to want to slow down no matter how much lead you give them.”

“We’ll give them what for Darryl. We ain’t going down without a fight. I’ll tell you that right now. Hey what happened to that wife of yours? She didn’t…?”

“Naw, she’s just on the phone with her girlfriends like the world isn’t coming to an end. They got them fancy satellite phones, expensive as hell but they’re still chattering away. I swear I couldn’t shut that woman up with a whole roll of duct tape.”

Yuki stopped talking.

“She’s looking right at the back of my head isn’t she?”

“Yup, and I reckon it’s a good thing she ain’t got a shotgun in her hands but the look in her eyes.”

Darryl took a deep breath and turned around. “Yuki I don’t mean no disrespect but do you think you could stop talking to your friends long enough to help me hold off the coming apocalypse? Them zombies will be here any minute. I promise you ladies can go shoe-shopping all you want, later – in what’s left of the mall … if we survive that is.”

Yuki rolled her eyes and went back to talking on the phone.

“Ooh that woman.”

“Aww, let her have her fun Darryl. We probably ain’t going to make it out of her no how.”

“You got that right, Larry. Did you see them creatures? I swear I saw one – pretty sure it used to be a lady – she had purple hair, what kind of horrible zombie disease can that be?”

“Well you know, some folks dye their hair bright blue or purple on purpose.”

“Are you two boys finished gossiping?”

“Huh?” The two men stared blankly as they saw Yuki standing over them, a torch blazing in each hand.

“Snap out of it. They’re almost here!” The rhythm of drums filled the air.

Larry and Darryl leveled their shotguns. “No, not like that genius; do you want to end up like your other brother Darryl? Take these torches and get ready for the procession.”

“What in blazes are you talking about, Yuki?”

“I was on the phone with my cousins. It’s October 22, right? It’s not Yuki-jinja but I’m pretty sure First Baptist on Oak Street will work.”

“Still, not following you.” Darryl twisted his face.

“The Kurama Fire Festival to help the departed find their way to the other side? I swear you don’t listen to a word I…”

“In Kyoto, where you were raised, near the forest of Cherry Blossoms where the cicadas used to drive you crazy, I remember.” Darryl reached for the torches. “Sounds like as good a plan as any, just tell me what you need me to do baby.”

A smile rounded Yuki's surprised expression.  "I have a feeling everything's going to turn out just fine."


Let me just say, while I'm here, a huge thank you to Cara Michaels who has inspired legions of writers with her #MenageMonday contest and #WIP500 program, not  to mention the help and friendship she's offered to me personally.  You are so very appreciated Cara!
 
A flash of steel and the first thug slumped to the ground.

"For the love of all that is good, Rik, don't kill them!  The shining one teaches us life
is precious."

“Relax, Dudley.  I didn’t do any real damage, he’s just unconscious.”

“Tank no kill, Tank smash.”

The second thug dropped to the ground.

Tank frowned, his fist still hanging in the air.  “Him too weak.  No Fun.”

Lin glared at the barkeep and stowed her dagger while Dudley knelt to make sure the two men were unconscious and not seriously injured.  Satisfied the men would be alright, Dudley placed the cost of dinner and two extra copper coins on the table.

“You’re seriously going to leave a tip?” Lin asked.

“It is common courtesy,” he said glanced at the tavern owner, “Even among heathens.”

The EverGrim glared back with enough hatred to make Dudley shiver.

Once they were a few hundred feet away from the tavern, Rick chortled.  “What kind of name is Bartender Bob EverGrim anyway?”

“He’s not that bad.”

Rik spun around hand crossbow drawn.

The singer from the bar raised her hands.  “Easy there fella, I’m not out for revenge. I just want to talk to you.”

Dudley closed then opened his eyes.  “If she’s wicked, I can’t sense it.”

“Thanks for your vote of confidence.  My name is Melody.  I make my living performing at Bob’s Tavern.”

Lin eyed Melody coolly, keeping her hand near her dagger.

“As I said, I mean you no harm.  I’ve actually come to ask your help.”

Tank blinked.  “Oh yeah, pretty singing lady from food place.”  He grinned in self-satisfaction at placing her face.

Melody smiled.  “Thank you, sir.  I’m guessing, by your garb, that the four of you are mercenaries.”

Rik lowered his crossbow but not his guard.  “Perhaps, why do you ask?”

Melody bit her lip and started to turn back away.  “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

“Melody wait,” Dudley said.  “My friends and I are waiting on a mission from the church.  Or rather I am waiting and these brave souls have agreed to travel with me in exchange for…”

“Money,” Lin interrupted.  “Scrolls and other magic supplies can cost a pretty penny.”

“I have my own reasons,” Rik seemed to look through Melody.

“Tank get to smash things.”  The boyish grin sat out of place on his hulking frame even more so his jagged lower teeth which passed for human only from a distance.

Melody stared at the ground for a few moments before speaking.  “Bob used to be a good guy.  He’s been acting so strange lately.  I’m afraid he’s gotten tangled up with the wrong people.”

Lin’s expression softened slightly, which given her childhood in the Gray Elf community signified much.  “I understand your concern, but if he’s getting into crime, why not find another place to work.  You sing well enough.”

“I would,” Melody said.  “The problem is that Bob is… my father.”

 
A slight hooded figure, no more than five foot tall, pushed open the doors to the tavern.  “Why is it that every time we meet up, it’s always in a Pub?”

“Because Rik, a man gotta eat, don’t he?”  Tank’s accent was guttural but hard to discern with all the food in his mouth.

“Oh Tank, you eat enough for the four of us.”  Lin’s Elfish lilt was different but as sweet as Rik’s.

Dudley chimed in.  “I rather think Lin’s reason lies more in the imbibing of spirits.”

Lin leered at Dudley.  “A woman needs refreshment.”

“I suppose.”  Dudley back away slightly.  “Personally, I can’t understand the attraction of a pastime that causes one to lose control of their senses.”

Rik flashed an easy grin. “Well, it does help drown out the pompous words of the holier than thou, eh?”

Lin lifted her glass and shouted “Hear, hear!”

 Rik laughed and pulled down the hood of his cloak.  Silver hair cascaded over his sharp obsidian features.

“Hey!”

The young woman in the corner of the room stopped singing and every eye in the room turned toward the man behind the bar.

“We don’t accept your kind in our establishment!”

Annoyance flamed in Lin’s eyes as she twirled her dagger dangerously.  "What kind? Elves?"

The barkeep hesitated.  "N...Not all of you, just the dark ones."

"Take it easy, barkeep, " Dudley waved his hands.  "I'm sorry what's your  name?"

"Bob... Bob EverGrim."

"Well you see Bob.  Rik here is a follower of Eilistraee. He's one of the good ones so if you'll kindly apologize and get my friend a drink..."

Bob glanced at something then seemed to get his courage back.  “Say what you want, Paladin, the only good Drow is a dead one.”

Dudley sighed.  “I can personally vouch for this one, sir.”  An almost indiscernible grin creased Dudley’s expression.  “I check him for evil daily.”

“Well then the lot of you can leave. Scram all of you before I call the sergeant of the guard in here to teach you a lesson.”

"Why you think we need lesson?"  Tank stood up to his full massive height.  "You think we stupid?"

"I should have known there was something off about you.  You’re one of those filthy disgusting half-breeds, worse than a pure-bred Orc if you ask me!"

“Now sir, The Shining One does not tolerate racist hatred.”  Dudley rested his hand on his war hammer.

“It’s alright Dudley, I’m used to this treatment. Let’s go.  They probably have rotten food anyway.”

Tank raised a hairy eyebrow.  "Food not rotten.  Food tasty!"

The rest of the party laughed and they all made ready to leave.  But four burly men with clubs stood in front of the exit.

“You’re not going anywhere.”