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Homework (The Idea Engine)

Nonmandatory in the extreme.

The idea of "homework" is to put out a challenge, throw down a glove, see if anyone picks it up. Most of these are ideas that came up around the table at writers' group meetings. Pick something, see if it jogs you. Not the sort of thing you'd ever normally write? Take the challenge, pick up the gauntlet, say, "Yes, by God, pistols at dawn, dark and sinister man, have at thee!"
 
Or do you have a better idea to kickstart the creative engine?
Tell us. Post it. Let people take a few swings.
 
And I'll put up a link to their counteroffensives.
 

This is the Introduction to the Opposites
 
The trick to this one is: Reverse something. Write a scene, or a story, in which something is the polar opposite of the way it is in our world. The social roles of men and women are switched. People are nocturnal. Dogs are the masters and we slobber all over them when they come home. Children run the home, parents abide by their rules. And it has always been this way. Give it a shot. Harder than you think. This one was suggested by JJ Stansfield.

Writing About Reading
 
Got this idea from a talk by Nick Bantock (author of the Griffin and Sabine series). Write 400-500 words about your reading habits, about their development through your life, about how and what you read. More writers should think hard about reading. You might be surprised with what you come up with.

Found Titles
 
Find a title, or a character name, or a setting, in everyday phrases. For example: "Sargent Greenleaf 8077 AD" is actually the name of a model of industrial padlock. But wouldn't it make a great title for a Stainless Steel Rat-type science fiction story?

Notes from Workshops, etc.

Notes from Stuart Ross' "Poetry Boot Camp"

Held at the National Library, Dec. 8th, 2003. Notes provided by Catherine MacDonald-Zytveld (thanks Cathy!)

Postcard Stories:
 
The postcard story. A test of brevity and wit. Or something like that. The official postcard story, as listed by Grain magazine in the guidelines to their annual Short Grain Contest, is 500 words or less. I say 'bah' to that. I say it should fit on a postcard to be a true postcard story. Sure, you can squish font and write small and circle around the address like a madperson. But it should fit. And the real challenge is: can you, once you've written it, actually send it?

Fairytales
 
Take a different look at a fairy tale. Read "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs as Told by A. Wolf." Or Anne Rice's "Beauty." Watch "The Tenth Kingdom." Read Neil Gaiman's "Stardust." Or the comic series "Fables." Fariytales are just full of really surprising and sometimes disturbing things.
Then, write your take. Or write your own. Or whatever.


Hey, suggest something. You know you want to.