While I can’t post the stories that came out of the writing jam thing I did for the last six weeks, I can put up my postmortem wrap up on how the whole thing went for me. I’ve done a few edits to remove spoilers and such.
Without the stories to go with them, this set of write-ups might not have a lot of context, but I think there is enough of the process of going from idea to story, that it might be interesting for some people.
I’ve only recently joined Codex. I don’t really know anyone here, and no one knows me, so I’ve been fairly quiet. When I saw that this contest/story jam was happening, I jumped at it. I’m glad I did. I’ve had fun coming up with new stories every week. I normally work much slower. I think at least 3 out of the 6 can be made into something good. I waffle between which 3 that might be on an hourly basis.
I’m still fairly quiet, and I’ll probably stay that way for a while, but interacting with a few of you during this was nice.
I’ve never done anything like this for writing before, and I’ve never attempted Flash length, but I have participated in a lot of game jams. For better or worse, I approached WW in much the same way. Arrive each week as blank a slate as I can, and say yes to the ideas as they come.
I hadn’t really considered the scores (and to be completely honest, I don’t think I understood the competition format of WW until about week 3), so those didn’t really factor into what I chose to write. The comments, on the other hand, were great. Almost all the criticisms of my stories I found myself agreeing with, especially if they were pointing out something I cut or wish I could have added or clarified. Others were pointing out something I hadn’t considered or didn’t know might be a stumbling block for readers, and those are always immensely helpful.
So, thank you. I hope to use all of that and get these stories out into the wild, where all stories belong.
Title - Know thy Enemy, Know thyself
Prompt - Are you familiar with the works of Sun Tzu?
Fun fact about me. Before I switched to art and animation, I studied poli sci. I read, wrote about, and talked about a lot of ‘classics in political thought’, Sun Tzu among them.
As a result of all that reading, I might have a different take on these writings. I’m usually pretty baffled by the typical business bro take on the likes of Machiavelli, Musashi, or Sun Tzu. I think it might be fair to say that many of them have read these books and misinterpreted them badly.
One fun direction to take a game jam prompt is to go absolutely, painfully, literal. I figured that might be fun, since the characters in my story were going to be blissfully unaware of nuance or irony.
I think the result is something sort of fun and goofy, but not the kind of story I could expand or refine into anything worthwhile. It’s sort of a skit.
It was a silly thing and a fun warm up, but I can’t imagine taking it much further than that.
Title - Tortoises
Prompt - Break Something
This prompt made me think, what if you fixed something so hard that you broke it? What if that something was a person?
This led to wild thoughts of immortality and the mental consequences of dealing with that much time.
I considered the counter to that. A group of people that had become, or had been created, immortal. The spawned mind is a person that can’t conceive of its own end. Linear time is an inconvenient part of existing, but they don’t understand mortality. They are young (perpetually?) and inquisitive.
So the story is an eternal child trying to understand an eternally old man trying to understand a very old tortoise. Each of them trying to deal with time in their own way, and none of them ever being able to truly connect.
I think I managed to capture a bit of what I was going for in 750 words, but this is a story that needs a little more room. I’ll be reworking it and filling out the character of the spawned mind a bit more to establish how completely alien the characters are to one another, while still being recognizable as human.
This was probably my most evenly successful story for readers. I think the parts I had to cut (about 500 words) didn’t harm the flow of it too badly, but several comments hit on things that I left ambiguous only because the passages that clarified them had been cut.
This story has already grown a bit, but it will probably top out around 2000 words or so.
Title - So Much More Than Magic
Prompt - “all adventures, especially into new territory, are scary.” Sally Ride
I batted around a few of the prompts this week, but Sally Ride’s quote stuck with me. Sally Ride was, above all else, a scientist. That made me think, what’s a more frightening adventure than changing the way you think. How you ask questions. The transition from knowing that the world works one way and then being shown that there might be a new way to look at it. A way with more questions than established answers. At least it might be frightening at the start.
I don’t think I succeeded with the way I wrote this story. After I posted it, I thought of so many revisions and refinements. Things to remove, things to add. I think I will be able to pull this one together, but it might take a few passes.
This one came in right at the bottom of my group for the week. That was a little disheartening, until I read the comments. The parts that I wanted to hit seemed to be hitting, but the cuts I had to make to stuff it all down to size were just too harsh. Many of the comments cited things that I had cut to an almost eerie degree of specificity. It was probably pretty obvious those parts were missing.
I think my main failure here was properly scoping the story and pace to the constraints.
Title - Zero Regrets for the Apocalypse (rummage sale title)
Prompt - What’s the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
I looked at the prompts. Nothing stuck.
I spun through the title rummage sale. Nothing kicked off any ideas.
As soon as I put the prompts in one window and the titles in another, the two parts of this story snapped together.
What if someone ate the moon? And they loved it. They wanted more, even if that means an apocalypse, everyone else be damned. When making the decision between personal desire and potential annihilation, what if a seemingly good person chose desire. It’s not that hard to imagine. It happens all the time. We all do it constantly.
Maybe this is an allegory, maybe this is just a goofy, absurdist story. Maybe it’s both.
Most people seemed to be on board with this story. Others, not so much.
I don’t think it’s a much larger story, probably still flash, but I think there is an audience for it. I’m going to do some more work on it to find out.
Title - Excerpts from the notes of Lance Corporal Thomas Dusanne
Prompts - Open a book randomly and find the second paragraph - and - you discover a family secret
I had been thinking about writing in an epistolary format, simply because I have never tried that before. Discovering a family secret, or long-lost document, seemed to fit the bill. I was still floundering a bit so I tried the Open a Book prompt and stumbled onto a date in 1915. Add a dash of can-con and some horror elements and I was off and running.
I did a lot of research for this one, read and listened to many letters and notebooks of Canadian soldiers from WWI, and wrote several other passages that I had to cut. I will be adding those back, because honestly it flows better with them.
This seemed to land very well with some people, and not so well with others. A few people picked up on some of the parts I thought might be too subtle, so that’s good.
Something about this story is telling me that it wants to be a comic. I’m looking into making that happen.
Title - After Hours at JD’s Salvage Yard
Prompt- Who is the strongest person?
I think the strongest person is one who continues on in the face of adversity. One who retains their joy even when it would be easier to let it go. Sometimes the strongest people are strong because they have help.
This story started out as an action packed arm wrestling scene between mechs. I didn’t get very far in before all I wanted to do was examine what sort of person would do that.
I shifted everything over to a very simple scene where I could get to know Zenon.
A lot of readers in my division didn’t like this story (scene) very much, and that’s completely okay. If you are reading this, and you didn’t like it, that’s fine. I didn’t write it for you. I wrote it for me. I like to write these scenes to get to know my characters, and if everything goes well, I can start to like them.
Zenon and JD will absolutely become characters in a new story, but it probably won’t be this one. It might involve mech arm wrestling, and it might not, but it will be about dudes being good to each other. Even though the world around them might be a bit grimy, the story will be joyful.
I’ve started to put together what shape this new story will take.