Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Writing Exercise and Sudden Monday: Character Card Game

In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, I'm offering up one of our writing exercises as a part of the Sudden Monday flash fiction hosted by Labora Editions. Check out other short fiction (500 words or fewer) from this week at Sudden Monday Volume 1

One of the best exercises we've had in the writing group is the random character generator exercise. We had three stacks of cards--one for a physical characteristic (like hair color or special clothing) and two for personality traits. The cards I drew were "has a scar somewhere on the body" (Physical), "has memory problems" (Personality I) and "is an inventor with a great new invention" (Personality II). Here's what I came up with:

  Everyone called him "Tesla Junior." Maybe it was because he was always inventing thing or at least trying to invent things. he had a couple of problems in this regard. Firs and probably most key was a certain lack of competence. None of his inventions ever worked out. He was always thinking of another new invention and forgetting where he was with the old invention.
  The other problem was his rival, nicknamed "Edison Junior," who always beat Tesla Junior to the punch. Tesla'a automated sidewalk sweeper was near completion when he though of an automated pumpkin carver. Meanwhile, Edison's Clean Sweeper go a government contract with over 200 local municipalities. Even if Tesla did get back to his own invention, the market was already gone.
  Usually Tesla Junior didn't care because he was already onto something else. But one time, he and Einie came to blows over competing yard de-leafers. Unfortunately, those blows included the competing tools. The ankles of both men would never be the same. Tesla got the wost of it though. That's why people who didn't know about his inventing nickname called him "Stumpy."
  Now, Tesla had the upper hand. He had once started to invent a household butler robot. Coming back to his prototype several years (and half-inventions) later, he started to take the robot apart. His methodical rows of gears, circuit boards, motors, servos, and bits of pipe were a bit of a mystery to himself the next day. "Now how do I put this thing back together?!?"
  Not remembering the previous order was a challenge because all the parts could be put together in so many different ways. Besides a household servant, it could be a deluxe food processor or a book shelf alphabetizer or a wall paper straightening device or a yard del-leafer.
  "Argh! Blank you, Einstein Junior!" He always used the word "blank" for swearing because he couldn't be bothered to remember proper swear words. And, quite frankly, the best hing that could happen for Tesla Junior was for Einstein Junior to become a tabula rasa, a blank slate who didn't have any ideas or any ambitions or any intelligence, for that matter. An orderless emptiness, a vacuumous void.
  Then it hit him. Another way to put all those parts together. An invetion of simplicity and utility. It would be easy to build. It would be easy to manufacture. It would be easy to finally beat Einstein Junior at his own game.

At this point, the timer for the exercise ran out, but really the moment of triumph is more important than the actual invention, right?

It's a fun exercise that we are sure to repeat. If you want to see how to set it up, check out Al's Writing Block, where he describes how to make your own decks and run the generator. He also has some good thoughts on character building, too.

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