Saturday, March 01, 2008
Saturday Wordzzle Challenge: Week Two
Last Saturday, I introduced the idea of a word game that I call "wordzzles" and offered up a challenge for others to play along. Just as a reminder about how it works, you are given between 8 and 10 words/phrases and asked to create a small but coherent paragraph using every one of them. I know that one or two people are planning to take up the challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing what the words inspired in others. Meanwhile, here's my paragraph.
The challenge words were: Ostrich, conga line, lucite, garish, pumpkin seeds, persimmon, autograph, naked truth, false teeth and merry-go-round
Hannah Hinckley sat back in her chair gingerly nibbling on pumpkin seeds with her shiny new false teeth, trying not to smear her freshly applied persimmon red lipstick. It was almost beyond belief she thought, that the line of customers waiting outside the bookstore were there to get her autograph. What a bizarre merry-go-round life is, she thought. Looking at the big photo of the slim young girl she had been - a sad-eyed, over-painted waif bedecked in ostrich feathers and those hideous, garish lucite earrings, she could hardly believe that her dissolute youth had led her here. Life certainly could be surprising and that Hannah Hinkley, an illiterate miner's daughter had made the journey from stripper, to chorus girl, to bit player in the conga line of a B movie, to starlet, to famous actress should have been enough miracles for one life. But it seemed the gods had an extra tender spot in their hearts for her, and now, still surprisingly beautiful at 75, she was also the author of a best seller entitled Naked Truth. If you had never heard of Hannah, you might think from the book's title, that it was one of those racy, ghost-written gossip books and that those eager readers were lined up for the usual Hollywood dirt. The opposite was true, however. It was the subtitle - A Story of Luck and Blessings - that told the real story, because despite her slightly sleazy beginnings, Hannah's real story was about the power of quiet faith, kindness and wisdom and the crowds came out of a desire to connect with that profound inner beauty and to take inspiration from a magnificently generous soul. And they were never disappointed by the experience. The naked truth of Hannah Hinkley's deep goodness was a blessing nobody who encountered it - even just for the few short minutes at a book signing - ever forgot.
I didn't realize until I posted it here, that technically, by the rules of the game, I could have left the last half of the story off because I got the words into the first half and it made sense. Since it's my game, I'll cheat if I want to and I welcome everyone else to do the same within reason... or not... The idea is to inspire creativity and have fun. It's ok to modify words slightly - make them plural or past tense.
I have a fairly large collection of old exercises that I did some years back. Most of these were done on the spot. I think I do better under pressure. I thought I'd share an old one every week for the fun of it and so people can have an extra challenge if they want to come up with their own paragraph using these words as well as or instead of the words for the week. It's so fascinating to me that 10 unrelated random words can produce tiny stories like this one from the words: velvet, runway, television, guitar, oblong, chessboard, clay, pillow, woman with cat in her arms, rainstorm, xylophone
Sam sat working with the clay, shaping it slowly, skillfully into a beautiful woman with a cat in her arms seated cross-legged on a pillow. He had originally intended for her to be holding a guitar, but something in the oblong shape of it did not suit his artist’s eye. Actually, it had nothing to do with artist eye. Just that as he began to work the clay it had suddenly become Mary that long ago day, sitting on her favorite blue velvet cushion, some small creature, as always, in her arms, the rainstorm, blowing, beating down on the tin roof like a madman playing a xylophone. The chessboard sat between them and on the television, which in Mary's house ran constantly, the plane on the runway burst over and over into flames as if to sear the image into his brain, to make sure he never forgot how his brother died coming to surprise him for his 30th birthday. He only learned of Phil’s death hours later, but his heart had known, somehow, and sealed it into that moment of normalcy and Mary's beauty and rain on the roof.
For future weeks, I invite readers and participants to email or post some suggested words and phrases. This should hopefully make it more fair, spice things up a bit and deepen the variety and depth of the weekly challenge as well as taking the burden off my shoulders. I make every effort to be totally random in my choice of words and to just choose whatever pops into my head. (You can thank Tara Grace for "yowling cat". She is having one of her "talkative" evenings. Sigh.) Anyway, the words for next week's challenge are:
Yowling cat, ink stain, fever, river bed, home improvement, laughable, motorcade, broken camera, crafty and bourbon.
Just for the record, here are some basic Wordzzle Guidelines/Hints:
1) If there is a word or phrase which seem like the most difficult to use, try to get it out of the way first.
2) Sometimes especially outrageous words can be turned into the name of a character, e.g. given the words Bambi and bonanza on one occasion, I created a character named Bambi Bonanza, thus eliminating two really hard to use words in one easy stroke. Try to keep the names plausible, though. Nothing like teddy bear toothbrush. That's just cheating.
3) If you come across a word whose meaning you don't know or can't quite remember, there are a number of solutions. One very simple one is to have a character tell you that they don't know what it means. Make it part of the title of a book. Put it on a flag or poster. If you think you can get away with it, use it to name the cat or dog, a company or a castle.
4) Let your imagination play. It is not necessary to write the Great American Paragraph, to be profound, to make perfect logical sense or to write with total scientific or historic accuracy. The idea is to have a good time and to stimulate your creativity.
5) Don't work too hard. I seldom spend more than 20-30 minutes on these exercises. But it's up to you. If you want to spend time crafting a masterpiece why not? As long as you enjoy the process. If you aren't enjoying it then it is probably doing your creative juices more harm than good and you might want to find another way to entertain yourself.
That's about all the hints I can offer. This is an art, not a science, a game, not a chore.
The main idea is to have fun!
MARCH 2nd ADDENDUM:
I noticed over at Diane's blog that there were requests for fewer words. I'm open to offering a mini challenge in addition to the standard 10-word size, though I think if you try the 10 word challenge, you'll discover it's more fun than only 4 or 5. For those of you who are more visual, I'm open to the idea of you creating a visual drawn/or photo story. I have no idea how that would work, but if anyone wants to try it, go for it.
Here are the words/phrases for a mini challenge: outer limits, Lucifer, automobile engine, monk's habit, peanut butter & jelly
Thanks for playing...