19 May 2018 - 5:20 pm

Mind and Spirit: Epilogue

Congratulations! Your ghost’s story is complete and you’ve made it to the end of the Asylum. 

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the journey and stretched some writing muscles in the process. Did the caveats work for you? Did it all come together in the end? Will you be sharing what you’ve written today?

Thanks for taking part in the Asylum. If you have any feedback, please let me know, so I can keep it fun, fresh, and developing into the future. 

In the meantime, you are free! Now get your meat suit out of here.

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19 May 2018 - 4:20 pm

Mind and Spirit: Challenge #5

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You know your ghost’s purpose and its time to resolve it, one way or another. It has learned how to communicate with the living, and how to claim and drive a meat suit. It has gained some friends or enemies: the living are lining up beside, behind, or opposite it. It is time for the ghost to go after the thing holding it in this world.

So now it’s time to bring all those threads together. Things are coming out into the light and up to a climax, for better or worse, and by the end, your ghost will be both dead and gone from the world of the living. Whether the ghost winds up at rest, banished, or obliterated is up to you. 

You know the pieces in play. You know the tools the ghost has at its disposal. Your final challenge is to tell us the story of the ghost’s endgame. 

This time, the caveat is to drain the colour out of your writing and give this piece a monochrome theme. Focus on the balance – or imbalance – of light and dark through the last part of your ghost’s story. 

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19 May 2018 - 3:10 pm

Mind and Spirit: Challenge #4

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Your ghost’s purpose is becoming known now, and your ghost is getting better at affecting the corporeal world. There may be (living) people actively trying to help or hinder the ghost – or both. 

The ghost wants more. More contact, more impact on the living world, more progress on its purpose. Its physical interactions have been limited so far and its time to take the next step. It has no body of its own, so now it’s time it tried to take over someone else’s.

Who does the ghost first try to possess? Why does it select this particular person or body? Is it a human or a different kind of creature? Is a random person or someone they know? Someone they have an affinity or connection with? Do they start with someone or something that might be easy to take over (like someone weak-willed, asleep, or in a coma), or a fresh corpse, or go for a living, breathing, conscious body? Will this person fight them taking control? How successful is your ghost likely to be? Will the host be able to wrestle for control, and is there any way to get the ghost out?

Once the ghost has control of a body – whether its first attempt or the sixth – what is the first thing it will want to do? How does it react to having a physical presence in the world? What are the first things it notices? 

This challenge is to write the ghost’s first successful possession. For however how long the ghost manages to retain control, tell us about it being in a corporeal body for the first time since it died.

The caveat is to focus on tactile information in this challenge. Tell us what the ghost feels in this new skin.

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19 May 2018 - 2:00 pm

Mind and Spirit: Challenge #3

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

However your seance ended, your ghost has been affected. It has been able to talk to the living, it has reached outside of the building it has been haunting, and now it wants to do more. 

Think about what your ghost wants and who they might seek to contact. Perhaps they latch onto the driven person who prompted the seance, as this person was interested enough to ask questions. Perhaps the ghost goes to someone from their past instead, someone they were close to who might help them, or someone they want to send a message to, should any such people still be alive. 

What kind of message is your ghost trying to send? What do they want to achieve, and how do they go about it? How good are they at finding the right words? Are they trying to force their purpose on unwilling humans, to punish someone, or convince others they need help?

Contacting the living isn’t easy, though. Your ghost finds a way to do it through text, literally writing words for the living to read. It can be through any media you like: ink on paper, or text on a screen, scratches on the ceiling, or blood seeping through the walls. Or all of the above! 

Your challenge is to show us the ghost’s efforts to communicate, and where those message take the ghost and whomever it is they are contacting. You may also want to bring in other textual material to shed light on the ghost’s purpose, through reports, records, and news stories.

This challenge’s caveat is that you must treat the ghost’s textual messages as a character in its own right. Make the text expressive in more than just the words it conveys through your descriptions.

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19 May 2018 - 12:20 pm

Mind and Spirit: Challenge #2

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You’ve had some witting or unwitting visitors to your haunted house encounter your ghost. Perhaps they survived it; perhaps they did not. Now let’s talk about the consequences of that visit.

Someone is convinced that the ghost in the building is real, and that something must be done about it. Perhaps this person is a survivor from the first challenge, or perhaps it is someone connected to those who went inside. Either way, they’re looking for answers, particularly The Answer to the ghost problem.

This driven person decides that a good place to start might be someone who believes in and knows about ghosts. They look for a medium, and it’s up to you how easy such a person might be to find. Would this person go to a spiritual shop on a high street, or to a friend with the right connections, or answer an ad in the newspaper? Might they know a medium already? Or would they look up a ritual in a book, get some friends and try it out?

Whatever their method, this person winds up sitting in on a seance. Perhaps to witness such things for themself, or specifically to contact the ghost they are interested in; either way, this ghost is going to come knocking. But when the medium and group of ghost-contactors settle to form the circle, they don’t know it, not for sure. 

Think about this medium for a moment. Who are they? How stereotypical are they, and how commercial? Is being a medium their work or something they keep to themselves usually? If it’s an ad-hoc, amateur medium or group, who is taking the lead? What methods do they use to talk to the dead?

Build a picture of the room where the seance is being held in your mind. Think about the type of chairs they are using – if the circle is seated – and what the lighting is like. Consider the symbology of the ritual and any required items that might be there, ready to use. Think about the tone and ambience of the room. 

Consider how the person seeking your ghost is feeling as silence falls and the ritual is about to begin. Consider their doubts and hopes, and the questions they truly want answered. Then, close their eyes as the medium gets to work.

Your next challenge is to write this seance, where your ghost is given a borrowed voice.

This challenge’s caveat is that you must primarily use aural sensory information, and no visual information at all. There is no light or dark here, only sound.

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19 May 2018 - 11:10 am

Mind and Spirit: Challenge #1

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

You have some ideas about the ghost and the building it is haunting. This building is an open secret the locals talk about sometimes, prompting fear or ridicule, or both. 

Right now, some people are going into the building. They might have permission from the building’s earthly owners or they might not; they might know about the stories of this place, or they might not. Whatever the case, they’re going inside. 

Consider who these people are. Build a group of two or more in your mind. How old are they? What are the relationships in this group: friendships, or professional relationships, or romantic? Positive or antagonistic? A mixture of all of those?

Why have they come to this building? Are they here by accident or on purpose? Are they breaking in for a laugh or a challenge or a dare, or for a more serious reason? Are they believers looking for ghosts or scientists looking to debunk ridiculous stories? Are they teenagers doing something reckless, or lovers looking for somewhere private to hook up?

How do they get inside the building? What obstacles must they overcome before they can get inside – fences, gates, security? Boarded-up windows with tetanus-laden nails? Webs spun by many, many spiders?

Once inside, what’s the first indication that maybe, just maybe, this ghost is more than just a story?

Your first challenge is to tell the story of this mortal invasion into the ghost’s domain. 

The caveat for this challenge is that it must not contain any spoken dialogue. No spoken words written out at all. 

Good luck!

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19 May 2018 - 11:00 am

Mind and Spirit: Prologue

Welcome to the Asylum! Come in, take a seat, but don’t get too comfortable. Today, we’re going to get our spirits unsettled, look into the disturbed, and maybe, just maybe, solve a mystery from the wrong side.

We’ve got a lot ahead of us: five hour-long challenges, each a different piece of the puzzle, each exercising a different writing muscle. In this Asylum, we also have an extra level to our challenges to keep you on your toes. We’re going to dive into the supernatural, so you’d better be wearing your best ectoplasm-proof pants.

Before our first challenge, let’s get familiar with the landscape of the story ahead of us. 

To get started, close your eyes and think of a world. Perhaps it’s like ours; perhaps it’s alien and strange, or in a disconnected time.

In this world, some believe the spirits of the dead can linger. Some think it’s rubbish, tales to scare children or the inventions of feverish minds. Others believe they can talk to those who are gone. In this way, this world of yours is a lot like ours.

Choose a location somewhere in this world. A town or city. A spacestation or a remote village. Somewhere people live and breed and die. Think about what type of place this is, its chief characteristics, its weather, its people. 

In this location, there is a building that the locals say is haunted. Focus on this building. What sort of structure is it? A home or a business or something else? How big is it, and what does it look like? When did it first become haunted? Is it still in use, or has it been abandoned? What are the stories that people tell about it, even the ones that can’t possibly be true?

Now think about the spirit that clings to this place. Who was the person it used to belong to? How did they die? Something powerful or important is holding them to this world beyond death – what is it? Is it to do with the person they were, how they died, or some kind of external agency? What sort of ghost have they become?

Open your eyes. You have five minutes to note down the ideas swirling in your brains. Capture them in words: the building, the ghost, the reason. Five minutes, and then we will start to tell our stories.

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3 November 2017 - 5:16 pm

Writing Spark #49

(Picture from HuTui6.com)

This week, our prompt is a challenge:

Write the story of a character missing one of their senses.

Which sense will you choose? What effect will it have on the character or their story? How obvious will it be, if you don’t mention it explicitly? Go forth and find out!

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27 October 2017 - 5:57 pm

Writing Spark #48

(Picture from HuTui6.com)

This week, here’s a curious question:

“If I stare at you hard enough, will you spontaneously combust?”

Haven’t we all wished that at some point? What would happen if it was actually possible? So many options, go write them!

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20 October 2017 - 5:19 pm

Writing Spark #47

(Picture from HuTui6.com)

Here’s an idea to get you started:

The difference between an angel or a demon is mostly a matter of perspective.

Perspective is so much fun to play with. Explore all sides of it! Have fun. And work out just how different – or not – they are when it all comes down.

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