Working For Your Supper

This is not how you tell a story.
Imagine you are a story teller in some medieval market. You stand up in the fire light to tell your story and hope they’ll throw you enough coins to keep going, enough coins to live another month, another year.
If you start with “Fifty years ago the magical empire of—“ they’re going to throw chicken bones at your head. What’s more, you’ll deserve it. And if you start with a list of characters and their ranks and professions, by rights they should run you out of town at sword point, though I hear some communities are more lenient.
But you are, first and foremost a story teller. You have a minute, there, in the light of the fire, to cast your spell and have these people give you money they could spend on chicken or beer.
Tell them the story. Start mid-action. Explain nothing. Make sure everything is implied in the tone and opening, then pile on it by little actions, little gestures, little flashbacks. Keep the spell going. Keep the story spinning. Your turn.

*For bonus points, tell me what information you can glean from each of the snippets! (beyond “Sarah is a meany mean person of meanness who teases us” natch.)


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202 responses to “Working For Your Supper

  1. No, Matthew thought, you can’t leave out the battles. The battles that his father fought against the Turkowi and Tivolians both. But Master Frank droned on about politics and skipped the battles. Matthew fought off a yawn. Everyone knew that the merchants had hired his father, Count Anthony Malatesta, to save their hides after they left the Sigurney garrison to fall to the Turkowi. Everyone except the merchants and Master Frank, that is. Matthew tried to hide another yawn and went back to planning ambushes and counting the months until he could ride out with his father.

    • Main character is a son of the nobility, almost old enough to be allowed into battle. And no interest in politics.
      Setting is Medieval ish, with horses. There is low level fighting, skirmishes and ambushes, at present, but there might have been larger battles in the past.

      • You got it. Setting is early Renaissance-ish (just getting to the point where cannon can be cast as opposed to forged). And yeah, Matthew is absolutely uninterested in politics. Especially as taught by Master Frank.

    • Son of a mercenary commander bored with a history lesson taught by a school master. In a boarding school or with a private tutor. A war was lost and a garrison fell and was not restored. Matthew’s father was hired by merchants to protect local interests but merchants may be questioning the need for his father’s services as they try to use politics to instead of arms to maintain security.

  2. The University of the One Empire’s School of Directorate Studies in New York City was not at all what Ebsa Clostuone had expected. He’d thought it would be so upscale and snooty. So elevated and erudite. The best of the One.
    The hazing came as a surprise.
    Oh, he knew perfectly well that as a “mere” Clostuone he’d probably get some mental testing . . .
    “Did you hear me, Fresher?” The upper classman was four inches taller the he was. Muscular shoulders and chest obvious through the thin tight fabric of his shirt.
    “Actually I’m a Junior. Transfer student, you know?” Ebsa tried to make his voice sound patient, and perhaps a little amused. I probably just sound like a dork. And I don’t need a confrontation with a dozen other students looking on.
    “Here you’re a Fresher, until you prove we can rely on you in the field.” He looked beyond Ebsa. “And that goes double for a Colonial.”
    A snort from behind him. The young man standing there dropped his suitcase and shrugged a backpack off his shoulder. “You must be the House Boy. I am assigned to room 312. Bring the luggage.” He stepped past Ebsa and headed for the stairs.

    • Dan Lane

      MC: young, male (late teens/early twenties?). In the Odd spectrum, somewhere near “nerd” territory. Not upper class, not lowest class, but lower/lower-middle. On the middling-smaller side. Not *especially* afraid of a fight, but respecting the consequences of witnesses/complications.

      Setting: alternate NYC, University.

      Genre: YA, could be superhero fiction leaning, could be a lot of other things, but definitely YA.

    • A status and class conscious society. A empire of some sort. School name suggestive of a school for the children of high level government officials or for specially selected children to be groomed for high office. Possibly a military academy. Uncertain if the Colonial is speaking to Ebsa or the Upper Classman but either way he is attempting to assert his dominance early on.

  3. I turned up my collar against the drizzle. A three block walk from the bus stop to my apartment. With Samantha out of work, there just wasn’t any money to get the car fixed. That meant the bus.
    A coyote howled. I shivered. We have a few that wander the outskirts of town and there’ve been the occasional attacks, mostly dogs and cats but some folk are starting to worry about children.
    I passed the school and approached the gate in the fence around the apartment complex. I saw a man huddled against the fence, wrapped in a blanket. I always hated to see that.
    “Sorry buddy,” I whispered as I passed him.
    “Hey, Gimme a dollar.”
    I nearly jumped at the voice and looked down. No, it wasn’t the bum by the gate.
    A figure stepped out of the shadow. “Gimme a dollar.”
    I held up my hands. “Sorry, but I’m broke myself.”
    “Then you won’t mind my checking.” His right hand darted out and grabbed my left sleeve. I saw a flash of bright metal in his left hand.

  4. The new girl was too eager. For one thing, she’d starched her coif, as if *that* would keep people from noticing how little grey hair she had. Then she just stood around gaping at the dragon bones like she’d never seen any before. Maybe she hadn’t. What nameless fool had hired her?

    “Stop gawping and get to work,” I snapped. “This is a very popular dungeon, and we’re always overbooked. The next band of random adventurers could be here any minute.”

    “Oh! Yes. Um, I did the walls like you said…”

    I glanced over. “You missed a spot.” I pointed to the clean swatch of granite. “Look, you put the slime on first THEN the grime powder. Sticks better that way, and the spiders have something to work with. And when you’re done there, restock the traps on level 3.”

  5. Hey, this is fun, but I can shut up if I’m being obnoxious.

  6. Pat Patterson

    Until they started using it as cover for coming through the wire, I loved watching the night attacks. The rockets were just orange fireflies that floated lazily up until their zenith, then accelerated BAM and smashed into the ground within the perimeter, tossing up sprays of sparklers and dirt. The tracers couldn’t possibly hurt anybody, with the way they’d rocket into the sky whenever they hit one of the berms. And before it got too hairy, the Old Man would get on the horn and call for tac air. Trails, man, lots of trails, and then nape would light up the whole world.

    (And on a completely different note, Sarah can write ANYTHING! I Just finished ‘The Blood Like Wine.’ I’m starting to develop a taste for love stories…)

    • MC: Soldier. Age and gender undetermined.
      Setting: A camp fortified with berms, tac air, and rockets, so contemporary to near future.
      Genre: Impossible to tell at this point. Are “they” aliens or enemy soldiers?

    • The scene and language is suggestive of a night attack on a base in Vietnam. Rockets or artillery forcing men into the safety of bunkers while the enemy attempts to infiltrate through the outer fences and barb wire. The use of nape (napalm?) and the calling in of air support is also suggestive of Vietnam. . MC liked to watch the fireworks until something happened when the enemy finally broke through.

  7. On the morning after her Genesis, the Gabrielle Dolly stood up atop Chimney Rock and dusted off her butt. Pete — Petra Alexandra — the Troll Guard Lieutenant who’d been the dolly’s guardian for the night grunted, then sighed, as she levered her lanky, six-four frame erect.

    “Guess we’d better get going, “she said quietly, almost sotto voce.

    “Think so?” said the dolly.

    The two of them ambled back up the path to where their borrowed motorcycle stood on its stand. While the dolly stood by, Pete yanked the Harley off the stand and keyed the electric starter. The bike rumbled to life. The two mounted up and rode off down the gravel access road toward the main blacktopped loop, which would take them down into the gorge.

    • MC: Tall young woman. Rich or important enough to have a bodyguard.
      Setting: Desert, maybe, Rocks and gorges.
      Genre: Fantasy of some stripe. “The Dolly” “The Troll Guard Lieutenant”

      • MC Short spunky redhead. Think more Poddy than Glory. Yes, rich, but not why she has a bodyguard. That’s because the Gods are after her. Sarah says it’s not fantasy. Who am I to disagree? The series is called The Baby Troll Chronicles.


  8. Huh. I want to play too:

    The ogre looked at his omelet and sniffed it, his nasal slits flaring. With a dubious series of clicks from his throat mike, he tried to hand it back. I don’t speak ogre, but I’d been around them all my life. I knew what he meant. Shoving the plate back at him through the hatch, I told him, “Yes, I cooked it. No, it doesn’t have a rat bar hidden in it.”

    More clicks.

    “I don’t care what it smells like. You ordered it, you eat it.”

    He tried to look woebegone, which is hard to do when you’re an eight-foot, green-skinned, tusked monstrosity.

    • MC: Waiter/Waitress (I’m inclined to think female, but could be wrong). Future setting (hatch) Space Ogres! Either a space ship or some form of star base (though could be an underground bunker). This shall end interestingly for the Audience.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        “been around them all my life” is interesting as well. Is the MC the only one of his/her kind among the Ogres? A multi-species colony of some sort? Plenty of questions concerning the “been around them all my life”. [Smile]

        Oh, one thought “don’t speak ogre” seems to mean that Ogre speech can’t be spoken by the MC’s kind and Ogres can’t speak the MC’s speech. Understanding is obviously possible both ways.

    • Main character has been there a long time. Seen everything and has had the same conversation countless times before. Neither character particularly happy about their situation.

  9. It always begins with fire, from the first cooking fires to the burned cities lost to the ages. She stood silently while yammer of the bar drowned the reporter’s voice, leaving only the images of fire for once displacing the expensively pretty news anchor. Kseniia grabbed her medical bag and, leaving what was left of her lunch, turned back to her hoverbike, kicked it into gear, and headed deeper into the Martian Outback, with Earth burning behind her.

    • Hey, I like this. Earth burning, survivors on a Mars colony, heroine is medic.

    • MC: female; medic or ER-type nurse or doc, could be experienced civilian or former military: she’s seen this rodeo before.
      Setting: A bar on Mars, possibly terraformed Mars because no reference to atmosphere problems (or the hoverbike has a self-contained atmosphere). Away from the major settlements.
      Trivia: cosmetic enhancement is expensive, or the graphics package to make the newsie pretty costs a bundle.

    • Fire. Symbolizing (G*d help me! Literary symbolism!) the creation and destruction of societies and civilizations. From cooking fires causing people to gather into groups and forming civilization until eventually that civilization become so large their fires consume everything. War or civil break down consuming the earth while the main character flees into the wilderness to start the cycle all over again.

  10. Brock Regus morning shift started out well.
    During his previous time off he had finally meet that sultry voiced siren from orbital control. By listening to the sound of her voice for the past score of synodic periods he had built up a beautiful image of her in his mind. Now he had finally got to compare his dream with its flesh and blood counterpart. Aside from getting picky little details like her height, weight, hair color and general proportions completely wrong, she did not disappoint.
    While he had been enjoying the pleasure of her company, the Kalamor station crew finished loading cargo and propellant onto the Connalf Minimule. Now he was back on duty going through the pre-flight checks with a smile on his face and a song in his heart.
    The docking this trip had been a very successful.

  11. McChuck

    I hit the ground laughing this time. My team stared quizzically at me as the bullets flew over our heads. “Blazing Saddles!” I yelled. Blank stares now. “We’re being shot at by a six year old!” More blank stares, then they start looking at each other with expressions that said ‘Has the old man finally gone crazy?’ Wow, I keep forgetting that they banned all the good stories back when these guys were just kids. I wish I still had a working copy. I miss those old movies that made people laugh.
    Finally. The little bastard trying to shoot me in the ass ran ran out of ammo before hitting anything but dirt and sky. Time to get up and take the gun away before he hurts himself trying to reload. I wonder what this one’s mother will do to him for losing the family gun?

    • MC: Middle age to old guy, police or soldier on “peacekeeping” mission. Unusually good sense of humor.
      Setting: Near future with draconian controls on unacceptable media, and guns.
      Genre: SF. Not enough info to guess at a sub category. The laughing reaction to being shot at probably means it isn’t going to be too dark.

    • Jim McCoy

      Steampunk set in the future. Crusty old dude as the MC.

  12. Draven

    One more assignment, he kept telling himself. One more assignment, and in a few months he could just go back to Cepheus, take the discharge pay and then….

    He stopped in the corridor, deck plates thrumming with the subtle hum of a ship in warp.

    … and then what? He wondered to himself.

    • MC: Male, Military, old enough to be getting out, but no indication if that’s after a single hitch or several decades.
      Setting: FTL ship, in transit to ??? At least one inhabited world, and with the need for space forces, probably a whole bunch.
      Genre: Mil SF.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Long term military at that based on the idea that he’s not sure what he’d do after getting out.

        • Draven

          Yep y’all pretty much nailed it, it is from a short story I’m working on to help me work into the character and setting for a novella (well, a couple of them) i am plotting out.

  13. I disagree slightly on the beginning of a story by a storyteller entertaining people in person, especially in a tavern, or even at court. It seems likely that he would tell them something about the story first, so they know what he’s referring to. And I would think it unlikely, even after the introduction, that he would start right in the middle of the action, at least most of the time.

    On the other hand, a dry recitation of facts and establishing the characters would certainly have random unpleasant things flying at him.

    • The Iliad, originally a spoken tale:

      Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

      And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of A

      It starts with Achilles’ anger, rather than the run-up to the war or anything like that. So, in the middle of the action.

    • Pat Patterson

      Yes, but: in real life or in totally made up fantasy, the start of one story is typically found in the middle of another story. Maybe that’s a quibble, but unless you start with “In the beginning…” you are always starting in the middle of the action.
      ‘Anyway, so there I was at 35,000 feet…’

      • McChuck

        And then I was all, like, trembling and stuff, and trying hard not to cry. I can’t believe the double-plus ungood stuff this guy at the next table was talking about. It triggered me so hard I could barely hold onto my latte. I wanted to get up and scream at the over-privileged, evil, baby-killing asshole, but I could tell from just looking that he probably a Christian and would rather rape me than try to hold a decently civilized conversation like a real human being. Then I accidentally called you, Buffy, when I tried to speed dial 911 but missed. I’ve been meaning to catch up with you anyoldhow. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been three whole days since your abortion! Do you want to go with me to a party at Kevin’s place? His parents are totally out of town for the weekend, and I’ve got the Jag back from the shop.

    • You might want to check out the history of “in medias res” — it has a certain venerable background, really.

    • Sounds like you’re describing the role of the book blurb, not the opening scene.

  14. Jim McCoy


    One minute I was factoring polynomials. The next I flew through the air into the wall. I caught my breath and looked up. All of my classmates were dead. The teacher was dead. The room stank of copper and feces. My pants were wet. I felt a warm wetness spreading from my crotch down my legs. I was disgusted but at least I wasn’t bleeding.

    I grabbed a chair leg and ran from the room. I could feel my throat becoming hoarse from my screams. I couldn’t hear them. I turned the corner. There were men with guns. I turned back the way I came. There were more men with guns. They looked surprised to see me. I had nowhere to go.

    • MC: Student. High school, perhaps?
      Setting: A school attacked by unknowns.
      Genre: Not a clue.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Genre, possible SF or Fantasy as the MC survived unharmed something that killed all of his? classmates and teacher. Supporting evidence is that the men with guys didn’t seem to expect anybody to survive the explosion.

        • I’d lean toward thriller with sci-fi elements. Or the start of a conspiracy-theory YA with bad government and/or corporation trying to cover up something gone wrong/false-flag with a “bit” of overkill.

          Sorry. been skimming the YA shelves at the school again. I’m thinking I need to write a story about a certain famous YA/school-material publisher being a front for an eeeevil alien race planning to destroy Earth by first corrupting the children to the point where they won’t fight back.

          • Jim McCoy

            Actually though, you had it pretty much right on. Oddly enough, the part you missed it is the YA part. The story skips a decade not long after this. This is actually the beginning of the prologue.

  15. Pat Patterson

    “Anyway, there I was sitting in my man cave. I had just finished posting reviews for Murder World and Fancy Free when my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, came home with the news: The girls were being snippy with each other again. We shared a smile, then I went back to my reading of Peter Grant’s ‘Adapt and Overcome.'”

  16. It started with a woman, but then, it always starts with a woman. The Lotus Sutra tells us “Woman is originally an agent of the six devils and has been born as a woman to prevent man from following the way of Buddha.” The Diamond Sutra explains how “Woman is the emissary of hell; she destroys the seed of Buddha. Her face resembles that of a saint; her heart is like that of a demon.” Buddha may have reached enlightenment and showed the way for all of us to be born again into paradise, but he clearly didn’t have a clue when it came to the subject of females.
    The problem with women is not that they are out to destroy us. Eager to impress or please a woman and fortified with the resolute courage of the committed saké enthusiast, we go out and destroy ourselves. With women cheering us on, we attempt things that the legendary hero in a mythic epic would consider suicidal.
    At first, I was pursued by the ham-handed goons of an underworld boss collecting some unpaid gambling debts. I had no idea how good I had it. Once the woman convinced me to do her a “simple” favor, I was wanted for treason by three different factions of the Imperial Court, I was possessed by a vengeful spirit, two-thirds of the warriors in the capital were hunting me to collect a huge bounty on my head, and a tricky goddess had designs on my soul. Oh, and I was still pursued by the ham-handed goons of an underworld boss collecting some unpaid gambling debts.
    But, let’s tell this from the beginning.

  17. The solar storm alarm went off right in the middle of breakfast. Odd, since Shepardsport was in lunar night right now, but there was always the possibility of some other radiation event. And everyone from the pilot-astronauts to us lowly Expulsees from NASA’s clone creche knew the iron-clad rule: treat every alarm as the real thing, even if you’re sure it’s a drill.

    As I was heading out the dining-commons door, I saw a lost-looking kid, about six or seven. I didn’t know him personally, but the Scott gene-markers in his features were plain to read. My ur-brother might have failed his in the Gemini VIII disaster, but I wasn’t going to fail him.

    “Come on, squirt-tail.” I took him by the hand and guided him into the stream of traffic, behind a couple of JAXA pilots in from Edo Settlement. “We need to get down to the storm shelters, stat.”

    • Draven

      *sends money*

      • MC: Expulsed from NASA’s clone creche. Male clone of David Scott, I assume, and the Gemini VIII problems were not safely resolved.
        Scene: Multinational Lunar Base. Japan has a “settlement” near enough that people come and go.
        Genre: SF Thriller.

  18. Dan Lane

    “Hit him again. He’ll talk.”

    The Foraxian wasn’t big, like freight lorries are big. He was big like a freaking shuttle craft. He wore the little office like a old coat, with me and the weaselly little man stuffed in the pockets. Still, he could manage a decent punch without tearing out a wall first.

    I may have bounced off the ceiling once or twice. Anyways, next thing I knew I was on the floor. The chair I was tied to remained miraculously unsmashed. The mountainous thug shrugged his foothills a bit, as if to say ‘Sorry about this.’ I grimaced back, as if to reply ‘them’s the breaks, man.’

    “I think you loosened some fillings there.”

    Sure. Brains fill skulls, right?

    “Still want to play the tough guy?” the little fellow whined. “Cooperate. Sunny Sal is not an unreasonable man. Unlike you.”

    He nodded, and a fist the size of his head found me again. Say what you will about the state of the ‘verse these days. A punch in the mouth is at least honest. It’s not a handshake with one hand while the other stabs you in the back. It’s not a dark haired goddess that spikes your drink and rolls you for loose change. It’s as straightforward a “fuck you” as you’ll find.

    Then the radiation alarm lit off like all the hounds of hell baying at once. We all went white.

    “Where’s the nearest shelter!?” the weasel asked.

    “Too far,” I croaked.

    • MC: Guy who’s gotten on the wrong side of the Space Mob.
      Scene: Far away from Earth. Possibly a space station of moon. No natural radiation shielding, in any case.
      Genre: Space Opera. SF Noir detective possible.

      • Dan Lane

        Pretty darn close. I was thinking semi-stable space station on a gas giant orbit (puts the hard rads nice and close, too). Needs applied phlebotinum to get around the light speed issue with “rad warning” giving enough time for the characters to get to a rad shelter, assuming they weren’t idiots and taking the time to get to know one another inside the receiving office of a loading dock on the wrong side of the station (planet facing).

        Artificial rad shielding built in, but say they expanded. Faster than their ability to shield properly, in any case. They weren’t fools, those old spacers- not going to say anything about the succeeding generations, though.

        Space opera is a wider scope than I thought about, actually. This was more the product of too many Chandler shorts in between reading a couple of science articles on thermodynamics… I just didn’t want to clutter the narrative too much with cliche’d noirish tropes. You shoulda seen the stuff the delete key got!

    • Eamon J. Cole

      Mr. Lane, you’ve been holding out.

      When ya going ta finish?

      • Dan Lane

        *splutter* I just jotted that down not a few hours ago! It ain’t even on my shiny new hard drive yet. They’ll probably all get cooked by hard rads in a minute or two if they don’t come up with something So Crazy It Just Might Work.

        I’ll stick it in the steaming pile of crap known as “story ideas” and see what mutates. That, I’ll need HAZMAT gear for.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          Hm. I had a box of sympathy around here somewhere…

          Ah! Here’s a box of tissues, for your splutter. Now, where’d the other box go…

          It’ll turn up. Probably stacked with some puppies, somewhere. Anyway.

          No sticking it in steaming piles. No-no. Give it its own folder. Put it on the corner of your desk. Let it stare at you for a while. Get the edges of it under your fingernails, suffer some paper cuts. Let it seep into your blood, move around a bit. Marinate in your brain pan.

          Faulty atmospherics, dark corners, creeping fog, a little black and white around the edges. Hard rads, hard whiskey and mysterious women on station from out-of-orbit…

          • Meh. What’s a little hard rad? Either they’ll remember a hold full of ore in transit to shelter behind, or it’s the cops or an ally (or other enemy) triggering a false alarm. Has he got a spunky minion? Sultry girlfriend? Cute robot?

  19. The weirdest thing that ever happened to me, personally? That’s easy.
    The first time it happened to me I was down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was at a place called the Red Star, and there was this woman sitting next to me at the bar. Nice looking, about 35 and put together pretty well. I don’t remember how we got on to the subject, but we started talking about the supernatural and the occult. Well, the whole State of Louisiana is full of voodoo, so I guess it wasn’t too strange. Anyway, after a little while she asks if I believe in vampires. I tell her that if she’s talking about guys who dress in outdated tuxedos and sleep in coffins during the day, and who run around all night biting women in the neck and drinking their blood to stay alive, then no. No, I don’t believe such things exist.
    About that time some guy comes over to her and whispers something in her ear, and she takes his arm and they leave. For all I know he’s her husband and he might be the jealous type, and if he’s had a few he’ll want to start a brawl with me for talking to his wife, so I just keep quiet and stare down at my drink. Then I looked up and saw her in the mirror, walking towards the door, and she looks over her shoulder and smiles at me. I see she’s ditched the guy who picked her up, so I turn around thinking I’m going to hustle up and go with her. But I must have missed something because the guy is still with her. The thing is, when I turn back to the mirror, the guy is gone. I look over my shoulder, and the guy is still there. I checked once more before they went out the door, and I’m here to tell all of you – that guy didn’t have a reflection. Now tell me that isn’t the weirdest thing you ever heard of.
    I turned back and picked up my Manhattan, and that’s when I caught her. The woman sitting next to me at the bar had no reflection.

  20. Eamon J. Cole

    Quinn was on his ass (again) scrambling for some distance from the honking-big croc that ripped his leg off. The carbon-fiber shaft of his trident was standing, quivering from the thing’s shoulders, but didn’t seem to be much inconvenience as the croc worried the leg with ludicrously big teeth. Fortunately, the titanium was holding up okay and the socket and foot were out of danger for the moment. He didn’t want to waste money on another one. Besides if he had to paint a new socket it’d never match his right one and he’d end up doing them both.

    Scrapping his butt across the 50-yard line, just about dead center on the bottom of the “C” in TCU, he was sitting on the horned frog’s head. He pulled his carbine around on the sling and wiggled looking for a stable seat. With the barrel shroud clacking against the plastic of his right hand and socketing into the edge indentation of his small shield he lined up for a shot on the ugly head — if it’d just stop shaking his damn leg for a minute!

    The sudden twitching seizures as the big croc slapped the turf at about the 39 and the echoing crack of Alessia’s rifle saved him the trouble.

    He kept his sights on target, but the thing was down to tiny jerks.

    Must’ve found a way into the stands. Beer’s on me. Maybe I’ll get a kiss out of it, too…

    • MC: Cyborg, or at any rate, a guys with artificial legs. _Could_ be a robot.
      Scene: College football field.
      Genre: Very odd. Cyborgs and crocs?

      • Eamon J. Cole


        Cyborgs and crocs, now there’s a story worm! I don’t know whether to kill it or embrace it…

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Perfectly legitimate read, by the way. It’s part of what interests me about this exercise — where the limited format leads someone else’s imagination! (And, consequently, what I need to work on in storytelling)

        But, knowing the story from the inside I didn’t see cyborgs so, cyborgs and crocs tickles me and I like it!

        Now I want to do the other half of the assignment but I’ve got to rush off for a while. Maybe new stories when I get back??


    • Setting: Ft. Worth gone strange, that or a disgruntled Florida fan mad scientist (but I repeat myself) has turned something loose on TCU campus.

      MC: male, been around the medical block or has paid for upgrades and prosthetics, former military or law enforcement (probably military). Female partner, possibly hired to off the croc.

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Yep. FW gone strange, military vet, amputee (two BKA, one mid forearm), hired to deal with the croc.

        • Sib-in-law is a TCU grad. *flashes secret sign of the horn frog*

          • Eamon J. Cole

            Flashing that around in here! Careful, somebody might see! Then they’d call the cops, and there’s the whole trademark thing…

            I knew the TCU bit would be a regional recognition issue, but the larger world-building grounds things pretty clearly in Fort Worth, so I wasn’t sweating it much.

    • Draven

      Blood Bowl?

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Better than the GoDaddy Bowl.

        • Dan Lane

          *shudder* I don’t do football (anymore), and even *I* know that’s a low bar. Try better than the bowl of salsa/cheese dip my aunt makes for Thanksgiving. That’s a *much* better standard. *grin*

  21. The door pushed open and a long, gray snout with many teeth pushed partway through, venting a blast of exhaled air. It was with effort that I got the door closed, even with the Tavish’s grunted assistance.

    “What I meant to be tellin’ ye was of th’ nature of some of your guests.” The Tavish huffed, after the latch was secure. “Before you open that door, y’really ought to announce yerself.”

    He showed me a a small bell beside the doorframe, the cord dangling all the way to the varnished, hardwood floor. Smoothing his jacket, he diffidently tugged at the cord. The dainty bell chimed and he announced, “Now, y’can be opening the door without alarming her.”

    Smiling, he turned the knob.

    When nothing had issued forth after a long moment, I got brave enough to stick my head in. All I could see was a stairway vanishing down into the gloom. “Nothing here,” I said, feeling very relieved.

    I looked down at a scratching sound, at a small door alongside the large one.

    A small animal rushed out, yapping, to run in delighted circles around my ankles, a dog – a Pomeranian, a dust-mop with white and gold and brown fur dragging the floor, a tiny mouth with a large tongue, and two bright eyes dancing with joy to see me. It licked me in the face before I could hold it away, and it wriggled until I brought it closer again.

    So, there I stood, looking at the Tavish, a friendly, yappy dog snuggled in my arms. “What do you suppose happened to the beast that tried to come through this big door?” I asked him.

    The Tavish was observing me with great mirth.

    “Yer holdin’ her,” he informed me.

  22. They found Amergin in the forge, whistling while his father hammered on a horseshoe. “You never told us your son could make music,” the lead soldier said.

    “I’m a smith,” his father said. “You know that I sing to the metal, and you never bothered me.”

    “Smith’s are protected,” the soldier said.

    Another soldier stepped up. “Are you saying the boy is your apprentice?”

    “I’m saying he’s my son,” the smith said. “He imitates me. It’s what sons do.”

    The first soldier shook his head. “Not good enough. We’ll have to take him to Taris.”

    His father crossed his arms, still holding the heavy hammer. “You get Lord Jarryd to come here and tell that to me himself, or he goes nowhere.”

    The soldiers looked at each other, and at the three others behind them. Amergin scooted behind his father, not sure of what was happening, but knowing who would win an assault in the close space. He was only seven, but had seen his father break up fights before. No one in the dun crossed his father, and the men looking between him and his father were strangers to him, thought they seemed to know his father well enough.

    “Very well, Rorrus,” the first soldier said. “We’ll let you alone, but know that we’re watching your boy. And you.”

    “I know the rules,” Rorrus said. “I’ve never broken them.”

    “Yet,” said the second soldier.

    “Ever,” Rorrus said, and took up the horseshoe again.

  23. There I was, on the steel island– Devil Dogs to the left, Squidmen to the right, and in front of me the blue Guardian of the Mountain of Mail…..

  24. I always thought the spelling mistake on the shoplifting sign was amusing until we caught one. That was the I learned that Miss Lorraine wasn’t just the owner of the worlds cutest trinket shop but also the most successful madame this side of the Mississippi.

    • MC: Honest clerk, with no idea he/she was part of the facade.
      Setting: Someplace that attract enough tourists to support a “trinkets” shop. New Orleans leapt to mind, for no particular reason.
      Genre: Urban Fantasy and/or Comedy.

  25. Luke

    The walls were white, and the air stank of disinfectant. The scuttling personnel wore an unnatural shade of green. They looked at us with sympathy, which faded as soon as they looked away. Music was being piped in from somewhere. it sounded like it has been stolen from Cirque de Soliel, all whining flutes and guttural chanting. I looked down at my wife, mostly drapedin blue papercloth to spare me the sight of gore. I forced a smile, and squeezed her hand.
    I said, ” don’t worry. They’ll have the damned thing out soon.”

    ( Rough, but considering I’m typing on a phone…)

  26. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Steve heard the shots first and then the howling screeches. Here in the Wild, strange cries meant danger and nobody should be around to be firing rifles.

    Dropping his pack and grabbing more ammo for his Monster-killer, he ran downhill to see what was going on.

    While rifle shots had stopped, the howling screeches continued and Steve saw what was happening.

    Two men, a Bigugly and an Elfrogue, were fighting a pack of monsters. They had dropped their rifles and were using their machetes to fight off the monsters.

    The monsters were six foot tall feathered bipedal lizards. They were fighting too intelligently to be just animals.

    A small voice inside tried to tell Steve that it wasn’t his fight. Steve had entered the Wild to get away from people. Steve wasn’t listening as he aimed his Monster-killer.

    /Look closely at the knoll to your right/. A female voice said.

    Startled, Steve looked and as if a haze dropped he saw three more of the monsters on the knoll, one was taller than the rest.

    /The tall one commands the pack. You must kill it to save the men/. The female voice said again.

    Not sure of what was going now, Steve aimed his Monster-killer at the tall monster and fired. The monster’s head exploded as the heavy slug hit it.

    Immediately, the pack’s coordination shattered. While the pack fled away from the men, a few headed up hill toward Steve as if they knew who killed their leader.

    While the men retrieved their rifles to kill the monsters heading toward Steve, Steve himself began killing the monsters and thought /it doesn’t look like I’m going to be die today/.

    • Eamon J. Cole

      MC: Steve, wanderer/traveler/hunter?, migrating to rough country to “get away from people.”
      Scene: Wild lands, off-planet/other dimension.
      Genre: SF or a derivation of Urban Fantasy?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        I left out something that the female voice said to Steve. She calls him “young Hunter”. I need to put more in to imply that Steve is late teens. IE not a full adult.

        • Eamon J. Cole

          Oh. I had him in his thirties or so, little hard done-by. The “young hunter” would have put paid to that nicely, since the age read was all in my head.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            No problem. Also, I didn’t get to why he wants to be away from other people. Part of the reason would be shown shortly after I stopped the snippet. Basically, he’ll start gorging himself on monster meat and he was afraid that he’d attack humans that way. Before he fled to the Wilds, he had gorged himself on a feral pig.

  27. It’s been 15 years since first contact and 10 since the virus went live. They spread it with their glad handing, we come in peace bullshit, and it hit like a bomb when it went off.
    But they underestimated us.
    We drink poison for fun.
    We create cures from disease.
    We worked fast. Fast enough? We don’t know yet but there’s hope. The young ‘uns, the ones just coming up, they’ll be the ones to reap what we sow. It’s our job to make sure we do it right, to make sure they remember the past, and why we’re fightin’. It’s our job to make sure they have a fightin’ chance and maybe, just maybe, our great grandchildren will know a world like what we knew.
    Before the aliens.
    Before the virus.
    Before the Change.

    • Haven’t I seen that somewhere before?

        • Dan Lane

          There’s a lot of shared material in first contact scenarios, believe it or not. Ain’t as bad as zombie/vampire stuff, but it’s there.

          MC: Not a one, possibly. This could be the wide angle shot that narrows down to the PoV character in the beginning of a story. Or it could be an actual narrator, of whom we know nothing but that he knows this tale as yet.

          Scene: Earth (high likely) or a settled planet (low likelihood). Around first contact, and shortly thereafter (~10 yrs?).

          Genre: SF. Could be hard-ish SF. I’m a sucker for good medical sci-fi, but it’s apparently a niche genre, and some of the “big names” in it aren’t to my taste right now.

          • I’ll admit it’s been years since I’ve read much first contact stuff so it’s possible. It’s meant to be a shifters versus zombies thing with the aliens using the zombies to change the earth enough to support them. The zombie virus has problems with animals, though, so the shifters that exist come out of the shadows to try and help find a cure. The results are interesting.

            • Dan Lane

              I can’t come up with anything *specific,* so it’s likely just a shared theme, which isn’t a bad thing. Go for it, and see where it leads. If it looks to consanguinious later on, well, filing off the serial numbers is a tried and true technique after all… *grin*

  28. “Hey there big boy, you wanna little company?”

    Dave Hudson regarded the fluffer with a disdainful eye, and saying nothing, returned to his drink.

    “Aw, c’mon, it’ll be fun,” it said, tugging on his sleeve. Leaning close, it whispered in his ear, “I just got the latest upgrades.”

    Dave sighed, put down his glass, then explained, “I don’t need to make a deposit. My tour is almost up. I’m going home next week.”

    The gynoid actually managed to look momentarily disappointed, before putting back on its sunny expression. “Well, congratulations then! Do you wanna celebrate?”

    “I am celebrating,” he said ruefully, turning back to his drink again. “Go bother somebody else.”

    Defeated, the little sex android turned away and sashayed over to the next table, where a few of the new recruits from his Company were laughing it up. Dave watched it go. Clearly it had undergone some serious upgrades. A real woman who could swing her ass like that so naturally would be denounced as a traitor to the matriarchy. Dave could tell, given his expertise in android systems. Most of his time shipboard was spent fine-tuning his squad of combat ‘bots, when he wasn’t leading them on boarding operations.

    The newbies clearly appreciated the company. Fluffers were always friendly, always willing, and always very, very good. Some guys even thought they were better than real women, which was an idea that got a lot of reinforcement out here on the frontier. Particularly since real women were virtually non-existent in space.

    • Dan Lane

      MC: Dave Hudson, mid-to-long service military, NCO. Enough experience to be slightly jaded, not enough yet to be too philosophical about it.

      Scene: Military bar, not clear whether in orbit, on exoplanet, or even on Earth (descending order of likelihood).

      Genre: Mil SF.

      • Yeah, this is the start of “Pretty Hate Machines” that ran hard into a ditch a page or two later. Men are all in space, women are planetside and like it that way (Feminist dystopia). Fluffers function to collect genetic material for shipment to Earth for breeding. Dave was raised on a colony, and has odd ideas about a proper family, and wants to go back to Earth in the hopes of finding a wife (Fat Chance, men who survive their tour in space are rare, and they are restricted to a “Resort” on the Hawaiian Islands. Women can visit if they want to try seeding “the old fashioned way”.) Before he gets there, on his last mission, they intercept a cargo ship converted into a slaver, and during the cleanup, he’s stuck on it alone. He discovers some gynoids in the cargo bay whose programming is more akin to his squad – they are assassin bots. And he must fight them for control of the ship and his survival.

        It was actually the plot idea for a first person shooter.

  29. Holly

    By the calender, spring had arrived. Denarion would never have guessed that by the winds which whipped around the corners of Dragonhome’s streets. Those poor souls who, like he, must be abroad scurried over uneven stones, hastened by their lash.
    Denarion wrapped his tattered cloak more tightly about him, a reflex rather than a practical reaction. A new cloak, indeed, any new clothes, were beyond his means, unless he sell his sword or the tools of his trade. The first was unthinkable, the last would condemn him to starvation. Day laborers must be strong, well-muscled, and Denarion was as thin as a whip, but already too big for those trades which needed small boys, like sweeps’ apprentices, and he would not steal.

    • Dan Lane

      MC: Young male. Outsider, but familiar enough with the environment he finds himself in. Has a sense of honor, but knows he’s in a cleft stick. Good setup. Introduces MC and shows hints of his personality, then immediately dives into The Problem.

      Scene: Fantasy Town (not city), One Each. Dragonhome is a pretty well-used name for a town, so it comes off as a bit generic to this reader.

      Genre: Epic fantasy!

      • Holly

        Yep, mostly. Actually capital city, but I expect that’d be clear a few paragraphs further along when he passes the Cathedral.

  30. Here’s another one:

    The sun hung thirty degrees above the horizon. Another two and a half days before sunset. Until then, dust was the enemy, and Jeff Brannock’s weapon was his long handled discharge-brush.

    The ground rumbled from blasting at the nearby construction site, kicking more dust to settle over the field of solar panels.

    Air hissed in Jeff’s helmet as he swept the next panel clean. Ions from the polonium source in the head of his brush discharged the static that caused the dust to cling to everything and the bristles wiped the residue away.

    “Oh well,” He said, his transmitter turned off. “It’s a job.”

    • MC: A man who’s about to regret having his transmitter off.
      Scene: A planet with a very long day, possibly the moon, from the day length, but the dust settling seems to indicate some atmosphere, even if not breathable.
      Genre: Depends on whether that was construction blasting or an attack. Space opera, MilSF, survival, thriller, all possible.

  31. OK, I guess I wanna play, too:

    Walking by the hydroponics gardens, Herman Branson felt something was off. He stopped and looked around, his hands on his hips, lips pursed in concentration. A few moments later, his mouth fell open. That was it! The plants were wilting! He walked over and intently studied the ones nearest. He fingered a couple of leaves, then looked at the base of the plants. Peering closely, he reached in a finger and probed. The absorbent plastic substrate was nearly dry. This was bad. This was very bad.

    He bolted to the hydroponics controls just as an alarm started sounding. When he got there, he found that the alarm was, as he feared, for a low water level condition. Thinking that a leak had undoubtedly occurred, he realized they would need to find the leak and then pull some of the main water supply into the hydroponics until they could be resupplied from Earth. Then he found that the valve for that was already open! He asked the computer for a reading of the total water remaining in the system, he received a horrible shock. The entire system was down to a mere 247 liters. The next supply transfer was not due for a month, and a second query of the computer informed him that the hundred men and women in the pilot base would only survive about half that long!

  32. MC: Male member of an exploratory group. Not in charge of the hydroponics, but cross trained and able to recognize the problem, when it became obvious.
    Setting: Off earth, fairly near future, with recognizable tech, although the manual valves may be backup, with electronics FUBARed or sabotaged.
    Genre: Thriller or Survival in an SF setting.

  33. Pat Patterson

    Seems like we have the basis for one of the best workshops EVER; or, we have the core of an anthology to be submitted for publication.

    • Yeah, there’s not a bad idea in the bunch. I’m impressed.

      • Dan Lane

        Well, if you need bad ideas, I have *LOTS.* See, there’s this warehouse over here, and overflow over there, and the basement’s getting kind of full, too…

        • Pat Patterson

          Oooh, bad ideas..
          That really, really needs to be the topic of another blog post.
          I’d like to see if anyone else remembers Snoopy’s action novel: “‘Ha ha,’ laughed the bunnies.’Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha!'”

        • There are no bad ideas, merely bad executions. 😉

          And if it takes five strokes to get the head off, that’s a bad execution.

        • My own “Story Ideas” file has ninety ideas jotted down. Honestly, I’m afraid to look at some of them. “Baby Space Pirates” and “Paul Bunyan’s Grandkids” Really. And those are just the ones that never got enough written to get their own folder. The totality is scary.

          • Dan Lane

            Uh. Mine has been around since probably high school, when I first got a computer of my own built. “Drunken Goblins And Treaty Brides.” “Alien Spacecraft Gumbo.” *shakes head* These things should not see the light of day.

            On the other hand, occasionally it serves to get that *one* story that *has* to be written out of the head and safely on screen, where it can bloody well *stay.*

            • Yes. Exactly.

              Until in the middle of something else you suddenly realize that a long time ago you wrote something that would fit perfectly. Frantic search ensues.

              • Holly

                This is the advantage of not being able to think of titles to save my life. The files in my (bad) ideas folder are titled by POVs’ names.
                Which actually indicates that I never have ideas without characters or trouble coming up with character names (and that the ideas are pretty strongly associated with those characters). Huh. Never thought about that before. Does it mean anything?

  34. The first time I met an elf I naturally thought nothing of it. The first time I remembered the meeting, though—that took me by surprise.

    • Kinda like the Silent, eh?
      MC: no clue.
      Setting: no clue about the most of the world. But elves that erase the memory of themselves when seen is taken for granted.
      Genre: Fantasy of some sort. Could be anything from Paranormal Romance to Epic.

      • I noticed the resemblance to the Silent but this gimmick (along with an explanation for dreams about that extra room in your house you’d never previously noticed) is necessary for the scene I have in mind. But I don’t yet know the MC’s name, nor what happens after that one scene.

        • I thought that not remembering interactions with elves was a pretty common fantasy trope?

          • That’s elves erasing our memories. For some reason (I don’t know yet why) these elves want us to remember them but cannot make that happen. But while we see them, everything about the situation seems normal to us.

            I think I have a bit more to go on now…

  35. Oooooo!
    I’m new to this party, but may I play, please?

  36. (I think my comment got eaten. Can I join in, or is it too late now?)

  37. Nia liked the sound of the pencil sharpener. It blocked out the voices.

    She couldn’t keep using it for too long, though. One of her classmates gave her a dirty look as she finally walked back to her seat. She tried to pretend it didn’t bother her; it wasn’t nearly as bad as the silent chatter that had already started up around her, anyway. She hated that more than anything. Well, almost anything. She hated the medicines more.

    /Please, please, just give me one day, please-/

    /Why won’t you let me live?!/

    Nia sat down and tried to ignore the voices. There was a little more than half an hour of class left. She could hold out that long. Putting her newly-sharpened pencil to paper, she turned her focus to the teacher and started taking notes again.

    /Stupid, selfish girl!/

    /I could be small, if you liked. I’ve seen it done!/

    /I could help you./

    Nia kept trying to ignore them and take notes. Bad grades meant she might have to go on more medicines. Talking to the voices here meant more medicines, and more days of feeling sick and wrong while the voices got angry and screamed at her anyway.

    /Give me life. I can give you revenge. I can give you power./ The other voices grew quieter around that one, as if drawing away from it. Nia could almost feel the fear from them as the voice spoke softly. /Whatever it is you want, only give me life, and I can deliver it. I give you my word./

    Nia didn’t want its word. She didn’t know what it was asking for, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to. Her hand tightened around the pencil.

    /I can teach you how to give life, in fact, if that is what you want./

    /I want you to go away!/ Nia thought. One of the kids next to her glanced her way nervously. /Go away and leave me alone!/ She could feel something new, a kind of pressure in her head, and it grew stronger as she focused on the voice. /Just get away from me!/ The pressure peaked, then suddenly drained away to nothing. Everything was quiet for a moment; there were no voices at all.

    Then she heard something move inside her desk.

  38. Mars

    Turning back towards the battlefield Jackson was unprepared for the hellish scene laid out before him. The earth was a bed of ashes scattered with the still glowing bodies of vampires who had caught fire when the archangel manifested a miniature sun over the now shattered plains. In the center, a smoking mound of dead leeches stood nearly 100 feet high, as if the thralls had thrown themselves upon their masters in an suicidal effort to shield them with their own undead flesh. As the flesh-hill bean to shudder and the seven masters rose above the blackened corpses of their own foot soldiers Jackson came to the sobering conclusion that that was exactly what had happened.

    Jackson thought to himself “I am wearing the single most advanced powered armor ever created, directly behind me stands the most powerful Catholic Magus since Peter himself, a kabbalstic Battle Rabbi that defended Isreal from the attack of the 12 ifrit single handed, and a Sikh Godcaller who may also be the living Avatar of Rama-Krishnu. To both my right and my left stand a full warpack of Garou warriors, and backing us all up are four full regiments of the finest soldiers and material Unca Sam had to offer. In short I am probably leading the single most powerful force ever assembled in the battle against evil. and yet we are all, extremely, totally, and truly, fucked.

    Jackson turned around, faced theses noble, brave, and utterly doomed men, threw them a crooked smile, and screamed out, “Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?”

    “I’ve always wanted to say that” he thought to himself, as he charged to his death.

    • MC: Soldier, used to battling the forces of evil.
      Setting: Battlefield of unknown location. Could even be the Final Battle, given the other players mentioned.
      Genre: Not sure what to call it. Paranormal SciFi Horror?

      • Mars

        Hi thanks for checking this out, I was afraid no one was reading these comments anymore.
        Para-normal sci-fi horror? I like it. Urban contemporary para-normal sci-fi horror adventure.

        But um, was it any good? Do you wanna read more or …………

        • Pat Patterson

          Mars. in my humble opinion, your opening paragraph needs some work to bring the adjectives down a level. By that, I mean you could dump ‘still glowing’ and ‘now shattered’ from the first paragraph and not lose anything.
          Also, ‘hellish scene’ tells us either that we are about to read a Cthuthul story, either told straight, or as a parody. And Jackson spends entirely too much time mentally cataloging his super troops.
          Unless you are writing an over-the-top parody, or a comic book where such things are, I believe, permitted, don’t tell us that your side is ‘noble, brave, and utterly doomed men.’
          On the other hand, ‘Come on you apes, ya wanna live forever?’ , followed by the thought ‘I always wanted to say that,’ is nifty.
          Note: I’m a reader, not a writer.

          • Yep, the adjectives are a bit over done, leaving a somewhat amateur feel to it, but that’s something that practice is for improving. On that note, see yesterday’s post by Sarah, titled, “Write!”.

            I think it has the potential for a good story but one that needs to be carefully crafted, as it’s in the nature of things that can go off the rails really easily. The beginning appears rather similar to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books, though it could easily take different directions.

            • Mars

              I can see what you both are saying in regards to the adjectives. Most of my writing experience comes from a marketing background where you can NEVER have too many adjectives.
              The story in question is in a similar neghborhood as the Monster hunter series, though I plan on taking it in a different direction. As to Sarah’s post its funny but I read that while I was checking to see if anyone was still watching this thread. And it lead to 5 good (well at least I thought so) pages on this. I think it was the first 5 pages but Im actually not sure.

              Im thinking about maybe starting a blog and releasing it as a serial work at first, both to get feedback from readers and to see if my storytelling is good enough to get people interested.

              Discovered this blog through Correia’s blog actually, recognized the names of some of the authors as peoples who’s stuff I’ve liked, and decided to finally put down on paper one of those crazy ideas that have been running through my head.

          • Mars

            Hmm. I never realized people connected “hellish scene” to cthulu, definately not a cthulu story. All though chtulu and the many angled ones may appear in the future due to the way this worlds magic works. Though if that does come to pass any hardcore cthulu fans may find my version of ol squid-nose a bit rage inducing. And yeah, Jackson is a hardcore Heinlein fan. Theres nothing he’d rather do than read an old Heinlein paperback while sitting in a tree stand during deer season. And he’d being doing that every day if it wasn’t for all the damn vampires.