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Month: December 2017

Writing Stream Recap: That awkward moment when the hero and villain get engaged

Last stream, along with special guest Abbey, we did one of my favorite exercises: editing auto-generated fanfiction. We did this last week and it was a lot of fun, so we decided to try it again this week.

We used the auto-generator Fanfic Maker, and just to give you a taste of what we were working with, here’s the beginning of the story we were given: (all spelling/punctuation mistakes left as-is)

Writing Stream Recap: Ugh, stupid Christmas magic

Well Christmas is over, so that means it’s time to write about the harsh, sobering realities of the season that we wake up to with a hangover the day after Christmas.

For our writing exercise last stream (along with my special guest Abbey), we gave the chat five “miserable Christmas happenings” to choose from, and “drunk uncle” won by a hair. After brainstorming a bunch of ways we could write about a drunk uncle, we went with the most interesting one: writing from the drunk uncle’s point of view.

Here’s what we wrote:

Writing Stream Recap: Building snow-women and squirrel Christmas

Since our last stream was on Christmas, what better way to celebrate than by writing our own cheesy Hallmark Channel Christmas movie?

And of course, there’s an auto-generator for that!

Here’s what we got for our roll-your-eyes-but-you’ll-probably-watch-it-anyway Christmas movie plot: “The protagonist is an out-of-work actor who is forced to move back in with their parents. The love interest is a snowman magically brought to life. They work together to throw the demanding mayor’s massive holiday party (and fall in love in the process).”

Needless to say, this plot excited me. After getting some suggestions and votes from the chat, we were off. Here’s what we wrote:

Merry Christmas!

Christmas may just be another day in Japan — in fact it’s the only day kids have to go to school this week before winter break, which is kind of funny.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate with the same awkward family small talk, stomach pains from overeating cookies, and unwrapping what you think is going to be a Nintendo Switch but ends up being a Nentondo Swotch that your grandma got for you from Chinatown!

If you’re looking for holiday cheer, well, then maybe Google it. But if you’re looking for how Japanese people celebrate Christmas over here, then hey! I’ve got you covered.

Featured image: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Writing Stream Recap: EDITING fanfiction trash intro treasure

I was inspired for our latest stream by the recent YouTube video “How Star Wars Was Saved in the Edit.”

It explains how the first Star Wars movie as it was originally edited (which almost no one has ever seen) was an incomprehensible mess. It was only after going back through another round of editing that it turned into the masterpiece it’s seen as today.

You can watch it here:

This idea fascinates me. I love how essentially the film that we all know and love was hiding there, made out of the same raw footage of the original bad cut — it just had to be reorganized.

And the same idea works for writing. We all try so hard to get our first drafts done perfectly that sometimes they never get done at all. It’s easy to forget that they’re not supposed to be perfect: first drafts are just to get something onto the page. The perfection comes later, with editing. That’s when you turn the terrible stuff (like the original Star Wars cut) into better stuff.

So for the exercise during the stream, I wanted to try and turn some trash into treasure. To do this, I used the website Fanfic Maker, which automatically generates a horribly-written story for you. After getting input from the chat for what the story should be about, we got our terrible story and read it together.

It was… painfully bad. Here, you can read the beginning:

Writing Stream Recap: Karate-chopping writer’s block

For our latest stream, I wanted to induce something that most people try to avoid: writer’s block. After chat voted on a random sentence to start our writing exercise, I went with it and wrote half of a story, not knowing where I was going with it.

Then, just when I got to the point where I didn’t know what to write next, I stopped. That was my self-induced writer’s block. I couldn’t figure out what should happen next, and I could probably spend all day sitting there staring at the screen.

But instead of doing that, chat voted between three new random sentences, and the winning sentence immediately became the next sentence in our story. It was like taking a wrecking ball against a writer’s block wall, or de-clogging a writer’s block pipe… whichever metaphor you prefer.

Here’s the story I wrote, with the randomly-chosen first sentence and writer’s-block-destroying sentences in bold:

Writing Stream Recap: Dreaming about pregnant Harry Potter

Last writing stream certainly brought out some, uh, creative stories!

We started off with a writing exercise where we got a random word, and used it as our topic (our word was “contact”). Then we get five more random words and had to use them at some point in the story. Because nothing quite gets the creative juices flowing like having to connect seemingly-unrelated ideas.

After writing three different opening sentences and the chat picking the one they liked best, this is what I wrote (bolded words are the random words).

Writing Stream Recap: The worst date you’ve ever been on

I recently read the short story “Cat Person” in the New Yorker that has been getting a lot of attention online. It’s rare for a short short to go viral; anything that’s not a Twitter post, YouTube video, or Facebook image usually has no chance, so it’s great to see an interest in the medium spark up.

Since the story is more or less about a really bad date/relationship, it inspired the theme for our recent writing stream: what’s the worst date you’ve ever been on?

We started off with a fun exercise: get a sentence from a random sentence generator (yes they exist and they’re awesome), and then write a story about a date starting with that random sentence. We wrote for 10 minutes or so, and then we got another random sentence, which would become our ending sentence, forcing us to somehow complete the story toward it.

It was tough, but thanks to some suggestions from the chat, I liked where we ended up. You can read the story below:

Students in Finland, the world’s best-educated country, react to Japan’s harsh school rules

My pick for the SoraNews24 article this week is one for the kids: Students in Finland, the world’s best-educated country, react to Japan’s harsh school rules.

Youth education is a topic I’ve always been interested in. It’s a complex issue, but it can be usually boiled down into one question: what is the goal of school?

Let’s take a look at how the U.S. answers that question. If the goal of school is to “prepare kids for the real world,” then the schools fail; very few school teach classes that are applicable to daily life (cooking, nutrition, relationships, bills, taxes, etc). If the goal of school is to “help kids get a job,” then they also fail; what happens in classes usually resembles nothing like what happens at an office. If the goal of school is to “ensure an educated populace for the democratic process,” then they also fail; most of us have no idea how our government works beyond the extreme basics, and critical reading/discussion about current events is rarely encouraged.

So then what is the goal of the U.S. school system? It might seem cynical, but with the way classes are set up, it feels like the only answer can be “to prepare kids to work a mindless job in the future.” With a school system that praises memorizing and regurgitating useless facts, prohibits collaboration, and requires everyone to take the same classes sitting at a desk for eight hours every day, it doesn’t seem like it’s useful for much else.

Of course, I don’t think the teachers are at fault. Or the schools themselves. There are plenty of amazing teachers and schools in the U.S. who work hard to inspire their students, but unfortunately even they have a hard time escaping what is considered “normal school stuff.”

All of this then comes back to the topic of the article at hand: Finland schools. There, kids are given more freedom, less tests, less homework, and they excel far more than their counterparts in other countries.

Clearly, Finland answers the question of “what is the goal of school?” with the answer of “to educate students.” Who cares if they wear weird clothes? Who cares if they sit in bean bag chairs? Who cares if they take a nap? As long as they’re learning, everything else is just superficial.

And then there’s Japan’s schools. How do they answer the question of “what is the goal of school?” While I can’t say for sure, it feels like something close to: “to ensure a uniform, and uniformly educated, populace.” There’s good and bad there, encouraging group ideals is great but forcing students with natural non-black hair to dye it is kind of horrifying.

Anyway, check out the article if you want to see how Japan reacted to Finland’s lax schools. Personally I find the topic of education fascinating, since the way school systems are set up in a country can say a lot about their ideals and goals as a nation.

Featured image: PAKUTASO

Writing Stream Recap: Random-word tyrants, time-swapping bodies, and Nicholas Cage

Good times were had during our latest writing stream. We started off with a fun exercise: we used a random word generator to get 10 random words, and then we wrote a story using them as the first word in each sentence. Because that’s how great writing gets done.

The words were: construct, announcement, arrange, suffer, ladder, constitution, audience, sweat, like.

I somehow ended up writing what seems like a speech made by a crazed dictator. Funny how… that happens? Read it here in all its glory: