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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:

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:

Writing Livestream! Starting tomorrow at 7:30pm (EST)

Ever since I moved to Japan, one thing that I’ve missed the most about living in the U.S. is not having a writing group.

I used to run a weekly writing workshop in Boston before I moved, and it was a great experience. Not only did I get to meet lots of local passionate writers, but we did some great collaborative exercises, and got valuable feedback from each other.

Unfortunately there aren’t many such groups in Japan, especially rural Japan where I live, and that’s something that I just kind of accepted.

Until now! It recently dawned on me that the Internet and livestreaming are both things that exist (I know, right?), so why not use them to have a live writing meetup online?

So I started by own Twitch channel, which you can access here: (Twitch is normally for streaming games, but they have a large Creative section as well where people stream art, cosplay, etc.)

https://www.twitch.tv/scottwritesstuff/

I’ll be streaming a live writing workshop every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time). We’ll do basically the same stuff that we did when I was the organizer of the Boston workshop: a fun warmup, a collaborative exercise, write to a prompt, and a free share so people can get feedback on anything they’ve written (novel excerpt, short story, query, etc.).

If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, then we hope you can join us! It should be a lot of fun, and a great way to finally get some of that writing done that we’ve been procrastinating.

Hope to see you there!

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strange things Japanese people do for Christmas 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five strange things Japanese people do for Christmas.

Christmas in Japan is an odd combination of odd and familiar. On the one hand you go to shopping malls and grocery stores and Christmas music is playing on the speakers and there are bright holidays decorations everywhere, but then at the same time… you have the really weird things that made my list.

I don’t want to spoil some of the craziest things that happen here on Christmas, but suffice to say that if your first thought when reading this was “Wait, Japanese people celebrate Christmas?” then you may definitely want to give this one a read.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 offensive Japanese insults 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five offensive Japanese insults.

Coming after last week’s top five strange ways to be polite, it only seemed right to do a full 180 and talk about how to be rude with some Japanese insults!

A few months ago I looked at the top five most offensive Japanese swear words, and people seemed to like it. Luckily there were still plenty of terrible words left over ready to be brought to the attention of the internet, so I jumped on the chance.

Originally this article was supposed to be a true sequel to the original and be “top five MORE offensive Japanese swear words.” But after my editor looked it over, we deduced that some of the items in the list strayed a bit far from “swear” territory and into just “not-so-nice slang” territory. I had to rewrite it a bit, but I think it’s a lot stronger now, and I’m looking forward to writing that “not-so-nice slang” article someday in the future.

The reason I really like the rewrite is mostly because of the #1 item on the list. What is it? Check it out to see.

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 strangest ways to be polite in Japan 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five strangest ways to be polite in Japan.

One of my favorite differences to examine between cultures is what is considered polite and rude. It’s always fascinating to discover that something you’ve been raised to do is considered rude in another culture, or how something that seems common sense polite to another culture seems bizarre to you.

For someone raised in the West, Japan abounds with these kinds of cultural differences. It was a lot of fun to think up the list of top five things, and there was a lot of shuffling and cutting that had to be done, though the number one item stayed firmly locked in its place the entire time.

What is it? Well there’s only one way to find out!

Read the article here.

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 most insane kanji place names in Japan 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five most insane kanji place names in Japan.

I wrote an article a few months ago about the top five myths of learning Japanese, and (spoiler alert!) learning how to read Japanese kanji was number one on that list. In my opinion learning how to read Japanese isn’t too much harder than learning how to read English.

English spelling has tons of exceptions and irregularities that sometimes make it seem more like a hieroglyphic writing system itself than an alphabetic one (I’m looking at you “colonel,” “indict,” and “mnemonic”).

But then there’s place name kanji. All bets are out the window when it comes to kanji used to spell place names (and people’s names too for that matter, but that’s for a different time). You could know every single reading a kanji has, and there’s a good chance you’ll still be completely wrong when it comes to pronouncing it correctly when used in a place name.

So that’s why this week I picked out some of the most insane kanji place names all over Japan that I could find. Even if you don’t know how to read Japanese at all, I think I wrote it in a way that will at least show how ridiculous some of these are. Enjoy!

Read the article here.

 

W.T.F. Japan: Top 5 crazy awesome features of Japanese restaurants 【Weird Top Five】

This week for my RocketNews24 W.T.F. Japan article, I wrote about top five crazy awesome features of Japanese restaurants.

I think I’m different than a lot of people in that I really, really don’t like going out to eat. In fact it’s something that I really don’t understand about other people. Let me explain with a list of the reasons why, in my opinion, going out to eat is usually miserable:

  1. It costs more (usually way more) than if you made it yourself.
  2. You may not be full afterward (can’t just go to the fridge and get more).
  3. It may not be prepared the way you like it (under/overcooked, something nasty mixed in).

Yes, I understand that there are some benefits of going out to eat (no cleanup, you can eat food you couldn’t prepare yourself, etc.), but in my personal opinion those pale in comparison to the three items on the list. Why would I want to go somewhere I have to pay more, may not leave full, and may not even like what I get? For atmosphere? Please. If I need atmosphere, I’ll go skydiving.

But all that changes in Japan. I really don’t mind going out to eat in Japan because most restaurants address those three issues like this:

  1. There’s no tips, so the meal is at least 20% cheaper.
  2. Most places offer some free food refill (rice, bread, cabbage) so you’ll leave full.
  3. Realistic 3-D plastic food samples so you know exactly what you’re getting.

It’s remarkable how much of a difference those three small changes make. And it’s not just those either. The whole dining experience from start to finish is always just less awkward, more relaxed, and overall more pleasant in Japan.

Why? Well go ahead and read the article to find out!

Read the article here.

Tips-y Tuesday: Cosplay as Your Novel’s Characters

Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we talked about the benefit of writing your query letter’s synopsis letter before starting your manuscript. This week I’d like to change gears and talk about something completely different: cosplaying as your novel’s characters.

For those unaware, “cosplay” (portmanteau of “costume” and “play”) means dressing up like a character from a movie, video game, or TV show. For some extensive examples of cosplay, check out the cosplay-related articles on RocketNews24.

But the thing about cosplay is, not all characters are as popular to cosplay as others. Sure, the most popular characters are of course going to be from the most popular media (anime, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, etc.), but there’s also another factor: how identifiable the characters are.

For example, even though the Twilight series, Divergent series, and Percy Jackson series are very popular, you almost never see Bella or Tris or Percy cosplays at conventions. Part of that is due to some of them being seen as “lesser” series in the eyes of some, but another very important factor is the lack of unique features on the characters themselves. No one would be able to tell you’re cosplaying as one of them instead of just walking around in your normal clothes.

Not the most easily-identifiable cosplay.

bella-cosplay

Whereas other characters that are more popular to cosplay have lots of unique features: Harry Potter has his scar, glasses, robes and yellow/red scarf; Daenarys has her long white hair, translucent gown, and her dragons; and pretty much every anime character from Ash to Naruto to Goku to Sailor Moon has a list of unique features that could fill pages.

Why is this important in writing a novel? Because it helps create more memorable characters that stand out.

When I started writing, one huge problem I had was that all my characters were too generic. They were just too normal. Would Harry Potter be as popular without his scar and glasses? Would Daenarys be as popular without her dragons? Maybe, but chances are, probably not.

What helped me start down the path to creating better characters was imagining what it would look like if fans of my book cosplayed as the character. If my main character was just a girl in normal clothes, no one would cosplay her. But if she was instead, say, a fancy half-spider half-human with eight eyes, two sets of legs, two sets of arms, a top-hat, monocle, and cane, then suddenly she becomes a lot more unique and cosplay-able.

You tell me if that’s memorable.

fancy-spider

Of course, you don’t have to go to such an extreme in your own character creation. If your book is just about normal people, that’s perfectly fine, but give us something to help identify the character.

Maybe they always wear a rainbow dress. Maybe they have a hat shaped like a volcano. Maybe they’re in a wheelchair decked out to look like a race car. Maybe those traits can work their way into your character’s personality, or even the plot, opening up details about your story that you didn’t even know existed.

Ironically, making your character stand out more by giving them less-common features makes them feel more real than if they were just generic.

So when creating your characters, don’t be afraid to go crazy. Give them unique features you’ve never seen before, and while you’re doing so, imagine how someone might dress up as them. Keep cranking up the uniqueness until you get to the point where you can imagine someone going up to your character’s cosplayer at a convention and screaming, “Oh my god! I love that character. Can I take a picture with you?”

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)