Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All the Colors of the Rainbow

I have long been mindful of the limitations caused by various physical handicaps.  While I don't experience any such handicaps myself, I try to be aware of the things those with handicaps may not be able to experience.  Someone deaf can't be woken by the morning song of the birds.  The feeling of soft grass underfoot is missed by one bound to a wheelchair.

Even with the constant pushing of technological boundaries, there are still some limits.  One thing science hasn't allowed us to do yet is show colors to the blind.  How do you show someone that has never seen what red is?  What do you use as a reference when saying that yellow and blue make green?  That is what I'm going to attempt to do today.  Not everything I describe will look like the color I use it with.  I'm less concerned with how something looks than with how it feels.

Red
Red is the color of anger.  It the fire that roars inside when feeling rage. The pop and roar of a fire give red its sound.  It is the raw heat of flame.  It is the lifeblood that flows through our bodies.  Pricking your finger on a rose's thorn calls red forth.  Cinnamon is red on the tongue.

Orange
Orange is controlled strength.  Orange is the warmth of a body under a thick, soft blanket.  The feeling of a warm mug of tea in your hands.  Trumpets and trombones play orange's music. The acidity of orange juice as it flows down the throat, the sharpness of a grapefruit, the sensation of a warm slice of pie.  All of these are orange.

Yellow
Yellow is soft and smooth.  It is calm and quiet.  The touch of the sun on a spring day is yellow.  The softness of a baby chick.  The silky feel of a rose petal.  Songbirds in the morning sing yellow's song.  A kitchen filled with the smells of baking bread becomes yellow.  Yellow tastes like crisp lemonade and the buttery texture of a pastry fresh from the oven.

Green
The smell of a freshly cut lawn fills the world with green.  The emotion of living is green.  A bite from a crisp apple is green.  The vibrancy and renewal of Spring is all green.  Green is the sliminess of Jell-O squished between the fingers.  It is the pungency of fresh mint.  It is the burst of juice when a grape is crushed between the teeth.

Blue
Blue is where colors start to get cool.  Streams and creeks flowing from melting snow are blue.  Being sad is sometimes called feeling blue.  The clatter of ice in a glass of water ring with blue.  The coolness and relief from that water running down a parched throat.  The air after a cleansing rain is filled with the smell of blue.  The popping of blueberries and their essence in a muffin are the flavor of blue.

Purple
Purple is the color of royalty.  It flows with pride.  It is the caress of a thick pile carpet.  It is lounging on a very comfortable couch.  A clarinet and sax quartet would play the songs of purple.  The pop and fizz after a firework explodes are all purple.  Sipping a sweet wine causes purple to flow over your tongue.

There are many more colors, but I think this would be a good start.  Do you think I got any wrong?  How would you describe a color I didn't?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Whole New World

One of the important components of a good story is a good world.  In order for a story to take place, there has to be a place for the tale to occur.  One of the challenges of writing is finding the right balance between narrative and world building.  Bogging the reader down with too many details of the world without any action is just as bad as leaving the world empty and not allowing any context for why the characters behave the way they do.

Today, I'm going to play the role of a mythological god and build myself a world.  Someday I may populate it with characters that have adventures.  Or I may leave it empty and see what happens.

Emptiness.  A void that lacked even the black of darkness itself.  Such is the canvas for creation.  First, a sun so that there may be something to brighten the days of the world.  Also, so that there may be something ti differentiate the day from the night.  Opposite the sun are a field of stars.  Bright points of light to make the night less frightening and to guide long distance travelers.

Now, for the world itself.  A medium sized planet with a broad temperate zone.  Three landmasses separated by expansive oceans.  The continents meeting at each pole with ice covered terrain.  Mountains run the length of two of the continents with the third being covered completely in jungle.  Creatures roam the lands.  They crawl among the tree branches and scamper up the steepest cliffs.

The seas contain the clearest waters.  Waters that contain animals that vary in size and shape.  All of them eating each other in the struggle to survive.  Currents carry water from depths so dark, denizens there know no difference between the day and the night.  The waters are replenished by rivers that flow over each continent.

The space around the planet itself needs to be filled.  Three moons should do that nicely.  Two in a standard orbit at typical distances for such heavenly bodies.  The third tidally locked moves around the planet in a polar orbit.  This configuration should confuse any astronomers that may spend their time studying the heavens.  To inspire any future civilizations to further expansion, the system should contain more planets.  This one in particular shall be the closest to the central star, with five others spread out unevenly behind it.

The emptiness is now filled.  The void contains both darkness and light.  Everything is ready for the stories of the peoples that will fill the planet.

What kinds of people would you have populate the planet?  Would there be peace for the entire world, or would wars be ravaged for the spoils of each terrain?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Child's Gateway

I've done a blog post before based on an image.  Doing some browsing, I came across another image with a tale to be told.  Something about the look on the child's face tells me that he has no fear of what is before him because whatever is behind him is so much worse.

It was a typical day at school.  Pretty much the same as every other day I've had for years.  The same jerks calling me the same names.  The same giggles from the girls as they walked past me.  The only saving grace was the fact it was Friday.  I wouldn't have to tolerate any of this for the next two days.  There would only be may father to avoid.  Since this Friday was also his payday, he would be easy to avoid in his drunken stupor all weekend.

With my mind on caring for myself and other plans, I failed to notice anything different about the side alley I usually took on my walk home from school.  That is until I noticed a shuffling sound in front of me.  The sighing of cloth against cloth seemed to fill the alley.  Stone ground against stone under my feet.

A light popped on the ground.  It was like a campfire, but, instead of reds and oranges, it was pure white.  A large figure with horns, one broken, emerged from the darkness as the white flames grew in size and brightness.  Around the big, horny dude stood a growing number of what I could only think of as mummies.

I didn't move.  I stood completely still.  First due to fear, then from the shock of the unreality of what I was seeing.  Something in the back of my mind was telling me they couldn't see me if I stood completely still.  To this day, I don't know if this was true or not.

As I stood there, a voice spoke.  I didn't exactly hear it.  The words seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.  They entered my mind without bothering to go through my ears first.

"Welcome traveler.  Before you is a gateway.  A passage to other realms and realities."

As the voice spoke, the fire continued to grow.  However, the top of the flame never got any higher.  The ground below it began to sink lower and lower.

"Beyond is more than you can imagine.  There will be women that will adore you.  Riches worth more than anyone could spend in a lifetime.  Your plate will overflow with enough food to feed entire countries.  All that you desire is yours to claim."

"Will there be pain?"

The large guy with the horns almost seemed startled.  "I'm sorry.  What?"

"Will there be pain?  Will there be challenges to overcome before I receive any of the rewards you mentioned?  Will there be a risk to my immortal soul?"

"That is a question your kind has never asked before.  I cannot say I know the answer.  It is something you will have to step into the purifying fire to discover."

"I don't believe I will get all the wonderful things you described without some kind of price.  Some kind of toll paid."

I looked over my shoulder at what was behind me physically and metaphorically.  To escape it all.  The teasing.  The giggles.  The eyes smiling, not at me but at my expense.  The silence from those that were supposed to protect me.  The drunken beatings I have witnessed and been given.

I knew any price to be paid to get away from it all would be worth it.  Even without the rewards the horned figure promised, getting away from this place would be worth any price.

I stepped in to the flames and the world vanished.

If you were to give a name to the creatures in the picture, what would you call them?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wars

It seems like there has been war as long as there has been humanity.  Wars over the possession of land.  Wars to remove tyrants.  Wars to reclaim stolen fortunes or beautiful women.  Wars for food, or over religious tenants, or defending the rights of the people.  Whether or not is good for anything, war has been around forever.

With that in mind, it is understandable that two powerful figures would go to war between themselves at some point.  Today's story is about two powerful wizards that each create an army of their own and wage war against each other.

Flags flutter from the tops of tall poles.  Tents line each side of a field.  A field that was once covered in beautiful flowers.  Now it is full of craters and stains.  The grass is trampled and contains marks where bodies have been dragged away.  As the sun rises over the camps, a single figure stands before the largest tent on each side.

The figures begin chanting in an ancient language.  While their tones are similar, the words themselves are different.  They gesture and move their arms in similar yet varying fashions.  The chanted words begin to shape alter reality.  Air shimmers and shifts.  Wispy clouds overhead start building and becoming looming storms.  The ground itself moves underfoot as tremendous powers are flexed and released.

The ground in one camp rises more and more.  Small bumps become mounds.  The mounds form new, unnatural shapes.  Arms develop and muddy bases split into legs.  The humanoid piles of solid and grass begin to line up in ranks between their camp and the field.  Branches and twigs gather themselves into piles.  The piles become laid out in skeletal shapes.  Smaller pieces of wood form hands and fingers.  They grip wooden bows that form themselves in the palms of the developing archers.

The magic being wielded on the other side has a different effect.  Instead of rising up, here the ground splits open.  Skeletal hands of true bone reach out of the chasms and grasp the ground above.  With a grip as strong as Death itself, the multitude of hands grab the dirt and pull.  Arms of bone begin to emerge from the holes.  The arms are followed by torsos and heads as skeletal warriors of every type and size emerge ready to do battle.  Some have swords strapped to their thin waists.  Others have bows slung over their bare shoulder blades.  A few are dragging studded clubs on the ground as they lurch towards battle.

Silence echoes across the land as the wizards each complete their summoning spells.  Two unnatural armies face each other.  The minions of each side advance towards the field.  The commanding wizards stand and watch.  Looks of concentration on their respective faces.  Eyes darting from inhuman soldier to soldier.  Slow advances become rushing charges as each army fills the field of battle.

Suddenly, the one sound that could bring the entire conflict to a halt booms across the entire realm.

"Sam, honey.  It's time for dinner.  Come inside and clean up."

A child stands up, multiple figurines and toys at their feet.  "But Mom, I just started having fun."

"Dinner time is now.  You need to clean up and wash your hands.  If there is some light left, you can play more after you eat."

Did you ever play any war games as a child?  If so, what were some of your favorites?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Writing Prompt: Soldier

With the coming of the new year, I will be trying to spend more of my time writing.  Even if the results aren't posted here or published in a new book.  Like a runner training for a marathon or a wood carver whittling to hone their craft, I will dedicate a portion of each day to increasing my creative talent.  There are so many more stories to be told.

After the drain of the holiday season, my creative juices are running a little dry.  For today's blog post, I decided to reach out to another source for story ideas.  Reddit has an expansive number of writing prompts in various subreddits.  One such prompt is simply titled "Get Up Soldier, You're Not Dead Yet..."

Around me I can only sense complete darkness.  Along with the lack of any light there was only total silence.  I couldn't sense anyone else in the emptiness.  As near as I can tell, I'm the only one here.  There are no sounds of anyone breathing.  No whispers of others moving in their bunks.  I am utterly alone in the resounding silence of the dark depths.

It is only after I become aware of how alone I am do I notice that I'm not in pain.  The last thing I remember, I had just finished a long hike with a heavy pack.  My entire body ached.  My stomach was grumbling loudly for some nourishment.  I dropped my pack by my bunk and headed to get something to eat.  Then only darkness.

Could I be dead?  Could this be what death feels like?  Did I die of starvation before getting food?  Did I get a meal but there was something wrong with it?  Is this Heaven or Hell?  Where am I?  Where is everybody and everything else?

As I start to truly ponder my situation, a new sound reaches me.  It is the distinctive noises of a door opening.  A dim light shines through the opening.  My eyes try to adjust to the new illumination while I try to figure out where I am.  Then the figure speaks in an authoritative tone.

"Get up soldier.  You're not dead yet.  Although you did give it a good effort.  Now, get your ass back to training.  They need these infirmary beds for real fighters that are really injured.  Not some fool that lets his insulin get out of whack on a simple hike."

I will definitely be exploring reddit more for writing prompts.  Have you any other ideas for short story starters?  Is there a story idea you'd like me to write?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Adventure Has Been Chosen

One of my favorite celebrities is Wil Wheaton.  He's had his career highlights.  Movies, regular on a television show, guest star on another show, host of his own clip series, host of his own YouTube series.  His face has graced more than a couple teen magazines.  Fans are able to easily follow him as he has grasped the advantages of social media.  Above all, he has remained humbly human, sharing things he enjoys as well as personal struggles.

On Monday Wil took to Twitch.tv for a rare broadcast.  Live to Internet viewers, he read a Choose Your Own Adventure book from the 80s.  He let the viewers direct the story by voting in the chat room when it came time to make a decision.  He would then read as the story continued and laugh at many of the jokes made in the chat room.  It was was a joy to both watch and take part in.

In the second story he read, we were a race car driver.  The decision was made to participate in an off-road race.  The route followed took us and our mechanic through a poor refugee camp.  Ultimately, we finished the race in fourth place after promising ourselves we would return to the refugee camp to help.  

Wil Wheaton then suggested someone should write up what happened after the race.  How some of the characters celebrated.  So here, today, is my wrap up to "The Race Forever."

You and Eduardo whoop it up as you climb out of your Land Rover.  Fourth place was no major win, but you had survived.  The two of you even managed to avoid damaging the hastily repaired axle any further.  The prize money, even for fourth, was still enough for a month-long party in whatever port you may want to visit.  First, you had a promise to keep.  It was a promise to yourself, but still one very important to follow through with.

You locate the nearest bazaar and start putting in orders.  Fortunately, you found a friendly caravan leader who agreed to transport your purchases.  This way, you wouldn't be damaging any more vehicles on large rocks.  Before long you are standing outside the bazaar, looking down a line of camels loaded with food, blankets, tents, and other items.

The caravan moves as a single line to the refugee camp.  Just like during the race, the worn out souls soon crowd around you, making movement nearly impossible.  However, this time you have more to offer them than the exhaust from your Land Rover.

At a barked command, the camels kneel down on the ground and workers start unloading wrapped packages.  You help others nudge the refugees out of the way and start setting up improvised tables.  The weak individuals finally make room and just watch, dumbfounded, as trays of food are placed on the tables.

You stand on the rock that damaged your axle earlier and look out on the tired faces of the refugees.  Your voice carries out over their heads, "Times for you have been rough.  You are a people without a home.  Still, you come together and help each other as much as you can, giving what little you have of your own."

Looking at the faces now staring up at you, you recognize the family you encountered earlier.  The man that had disappeared after diving in front of your Land Rover, the child he had been carrying, and the woman he handed the child to.  They are huddled together at the edge of the crowd.  Locking eyes with the man, you continue speaking.

"Had I won First Place, the prize money would have been enough for more permanent housing.  As it is, enjoy this feast and may these tents provide enough shelter for the time being."

The man nods at you.  You nod back and step off he rock.  You walk over to the improvised tables and sit down next to Eduardo.  As you grab a small loaf of bread, the refugees begin sitting down and filling their plates.  You smile inside and out as you realize how a few critical choices led you to this feast for those that had so little hope left.

Wil Wheaton's recording can be found here.  It includes a log of the chat so you can see how the votes go and enjoy the conversation as much as he does.  If you enjoy it, go ahead and subscribe to his channel.  I am truly hoping more videos like this are made.  There are a lot more Choose Your Own Adventure books to share. 

If you watch the video, what decisions would you have made differently?  How would you tell the story of what happened afterwards?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Story Time

I have had children of my own for almost a decade and a half.  I was a child myself for a large number of years.  Ask my wife, and she'd say I'm still rather childish.  Knowing all of this, it's surprising that I haven't written a children's story until now.  Honestly, the thought of attempting one has never entered my mind.

During a chilly morning walk to school with my sons, one of them started singing a silly song he had recently learned.  There were no specific lyrics, just a list of animals and matching hand gestures.  The end of the song is punctuated by a slightly unexpected animal.  Now, how to turn this in to a story.....?

Word had spread.  All the animals of the forest had heard.  There was to be a large party.  There would be good food.  There would be dancing.  There would be fun with friends.  It would be a good night for all the animals invited.

Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon had decorated the glade with ribbons.  Lights of all colors hang from the branches.  Mr. Rabbit had cooked his favorite vegetables.  Mrs. Bear made a salad mixed with bright berries.  Mr. Cat caught enough fish for everyone to enjoy.  There would be a lot to eat.

The Beaver family brought their drums.  The Canary sisters had been practicing new songs for a week.  The Duck brothers had their trumpets and Fred Frog was an expert with the guitar.  Music would flow like a breeze between the leaves.

The party started and all the animals started having fun.  There was dancing.  There was good music.  There was beautiful singing and laughter.  Every animal at the party was enjoying the night.

It suddenly went silent.  The singing stopped.  The drummers stopped drumming and the horn players stopped blowing.  Everyone looked in the same direction.  They all stared at one animal that just arrived.  Nobody expected him to be at the party.  Nobody expected him to bring snacks.  Nobody ever expected Squirrel.

Who would you invite to an animal party?  What do you think they would bring?