Sunday, August 05, 2012

Character Foil Writing Excuses Prompt

Writing Excuses episode 6.29 talks about writing character foils. A foil being a character that offers a contrasting role that casts the other characters attributes in a sharper light. Several examples are given in the podcast.
  • A straight man being the foil to a funny guy.
  • The sidekick to the superhero
  • The wise man and the apprentice/student
  • Sherlock Homes and Dr Watson.
  • A theologian versus a scientist
  • A human who can't relate to humanity versus a monster that can
  • A person who believes in visions versus someone who thinks they're crazy
  • And probably some others as well
I think this is a great thing to consider when writing. The two points that I think are good to keep in mind here are that the two characters can be very alike in other respects and that both characters should have something to give. In other words the foil should have a reason for being beyond just highlighting the other characters attributes.

The prompt for this episode was:

Generate a list of five character pairs. Pick the most interesting of the set, and write about them.
So here are five character pairs of my own design:
  1. Absolutist versus relativistic
  2. Gluttonous eater versus picky eater
  3. Pessimist and optimist
  4. Desiring success versus having success
  5. A dandy versus a slob
And here is what I wrote on the pair I picked:
Albert sighed as he rolled the pea around with his fork as his brother ate heartily, shoveling mouthfuls of mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and roast into his maw. "Mom knows that I hate peas, why does she keep giving them to me?"  
Swallowing his mouthful, Greg answered, "She probably hopes that you'll be like me." waving his fork around with chubby little fingers and dripping gravy on his shirt. 
"I'd rather think she'd want you to be more like me." Albert wiped his clean fingers on a napkin and stared at his plate wondering if he should make an attempt to eat more as his brother made his plate as clean as Albert's fingers, mopping everything up with a soft roll. "I'm probably a lot cheaper to take car of, not that it makes any difference in my allowance." he frowned. 
"Yeah, well at least you get some, I'm still paying for that broken window, you know." Greg said buttering another roll as Albert got up from the table and dropped his plate in the sink. "Since you've got the money and all, do you want to go and get some ice cream?"
"Only if they have rocky road, I don't even know why they make other kinds of ice cream." 
"I do, because all the different flavors are awesome, you have your classics, chocolate and vanilla, butter pecan, mint chocolate chip, oreo cream, fudge ripple, each one delicious in it's own way." Greg said his mouth on his sleeve. 
Albert scraped the remains of the meal into the trash, setting his plate in the sink, "Ok then." he said washing his hands. "Let's go."

If it isn't the character pair I was aiming at was number 2 a glutton versus a picky eater. I also tried rolling in some of the other ones, but really I didn't write enough to develop them. It feels like there should be more but I've run out of time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steam Punk Alice in Wonderland Prompt

I've listened to a few of the Writing Excuses podcasts and decided to try writing the prompt from the episode Pigeon Holes.
Today his prompt for you is to write the opening scene of a steampunk version of Alice in Wonderland.
Which seemed like a fine prompt, but in all honesty, I've never read the book Alice in Wonderland, so I wasn't sure how it began. So I went ahead and read the whole book, which was actually quite short and then thought about it and wrote the following in 15 minutes.

Alice starred at the sky, watching the near silent airship float by on the breath of the wind as she listened to the ticker-tack of her sisters portable computation device. There were beeps and whirrs as her sister typed away at the keys producing a long ribbon of paper spilling out one side. She looked at that strip filled with numbers, letters and symbols but saw no pictures. She sighed, how boring, she'd much rather look at an automated picture book. She laid there and pondered if she could make a paper necklace as a white rabbit whizzed by. Nothing seemed particularly odd about a rabbit rushing by but this rabbit rode on a miniature steam bike, dressed in a fine vest. The thing that caught Alice's eye was the pocket watch he took out of his vest, looking worried about some appointment. 

Alice was on her feet in a flash racing after, just in time to see the rabbit and contraption roll into a large pipe. She was forced on to her knees to follow after, and crawling along in the dark feeling her way along the cool metal tube, she didn't quite notice the ground give out under her until she was falling, turning and tumbling. She fell for to great deep depths, or perhaps she fell very slowly, giving her a chance to look around at the walls as she fell. They were covered in all manner of cupboards and gears, filled with springs and sprockets gleaming metal and brass. She picked up a particularly beautiful set of binoculars, hoping to look through them and see the bottom of the hole she was falling in to. But when she put them to her eyes she found the lens to be cracked. Sadly she set them on a slowly rotating propeller mindful of her fingers as she passed. 

After a good long while, she finally felt the ground beneath her feet and looking around she found herself in a great hall lined with doors of all shapes and sizes, some big, some small, some wood and others metal but all locked. She tried the handle of each going along until she found a beautiful glass door. She looked through the glass and could see the gears and mechanisms that worked the lock and just down the hallway past the door she saw a beautiful garden. She thought to herself, '"Oh what a lovely garden. If only I had the key." 

Feel free to comment, but please take things with a grain of salt since I really haven't read any steam punk either. In the end, I think it was a fair go, but the thing that makes steam punk fun from my perspective is the fantastical machines, but Alice in Wonderland is already such a fantastical story that it seems difficult to one-up what's already there, and to top it off there isn't a lot of plot to speak of, it's the peculiar situations and dream like world that give the book it's feel.

Also if you feel like reading a hard copy you can buy it from or read get the text from Project Gutenburg.