11 June 2021 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #58

You’re having an ordinary day when a disheveled man rushes up to you and presses a small wooden bird into your hand. He tells you it’s important that you keep it with you, looks over his shoulder, and rushes off again. 

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28 May 2021 - 6:00 pm

Writing Spark #57

An accident results in a terrible head injury. You are told that you may not be able to recognise faces any more, that the part of your brain responsible for connecting faces to names has been damaged beyond repair. 

As you recover, you find the doctor’s warnings come true: you don’t recognise anyone around you. Not at home, not at your occupation, not even your neighbours. You know their voices, but the faces are wrong. Can you trust the doctor’s explanation?

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14 May 2021 - 6:00 pm

Writing Spark #56

The writing sparks are back! Here is a prompt to get your writing started today. Hope you have fun with it!

There has been a skull in your family home since you can remember, sitting on a shelf. You suspect it has been there generations. There were stories about it when you were a child, but that was some time ago now. 

One night, you hear a voice coming from the room where the skull’s shelf is. You go in, but there’s no-one in there. Just the skull, sitting on its shelf, watching as always.

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1 May 2021 - 5:20 pm

Superpowered: Epilogue

Congratulations! You have heroically made it through to the end of this year’s Asylum, for evil ends or good. You have put your super-powered writer self to the test and emerged victorious. 

I hope you have enjoyed exploring the world of super powers: their possibilities, opportunities, and consequences. I hope you had fun and surprised yourself. 

Now it’s time to lay down our pens and capes. The Asylum doors are closing. Until next time, my super wordsmiths! Go forth and spread your stories!

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1 May 2021 - 4:20 pm

Superpowered: Challenge #5

Your character is past their first big challenge. Whatever the result for them, whatever choices they made, they have no doubt had many more challenges in their path. 

Let’s move a way further along in their story. However smooth their journey has been, some time has passed – years, perhaps decades. Maybe it feels longer than it really was. Has it been a quiet time? Tumultuous? How true to themselves and who they thought they would be have they managed to stay? Did they rise or fall, or a bit of both? Are they happy, or bitter, close to giving up or determined to keep moving forward? Is this year just another in a long line?

It’s at this point that we bring them face-to-face with a young, newly-minted super-powered person. Someone who doesn’t know what your character has learned, who still has all those lessons ahead of them. Someone who is in need of a mentor to show them the way. 

What could your character teach them? Would they, even if they wanted to? Do they want to? This person, standing before them now, was them so many years ago. Or could be. Do they stay and mentor, or do they walk away? Do they do something else entirely?

Tell us what your character does when faced with this choice. Give us a glimpse of the legacy they might leave behind. 

Your bonus element this time is: mirrors. Work in as many reflections and mirror images as possible. 

Finishing up

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1 May 2021 - 3:10 pm

Superpowered: Challenge #4

Your character has made it through their most vicious challenge. They are alive, but how well have they survived it?

What were the outcomes of their encounter with their own personal nemesis? What did they lose? What were the costs? What did they learn? Did they learn anything at all or are they refusing to acknowledge it?

It’s time for your character to come to terms with what happened. What impact does this nemesis have on your character? Is the impact immediately obvious or does it take some time for your character to realise its full effect?

What kind of effect does it have? Is it a physical consequence of the confrontation: an injury, a torn cape, a noticeable scar? Is it something internal: a shaking of confidence; a breaking of trust; a questioning of things the character previously believed in? Is it something external: did they lose a person, or a relationship, or an object dear to them? Is it a place they can never go to again? Is it a mixture of these things? 

What does it make your character do in response? Might they turn away from the path they had chosen? Hang up their cape? Throw off their anonymity? Vow to fight harder, or dirtier, or never again? Do they have to make a tough choice, and if they do, how do they work out which way to go? 

Tell us how your character comes to terms with the aftermath of facing their nemesis.

This challenge’s bonus element is: shaky ground. Include tremors and unstable footing wherever you can.

Go to the next challenge!

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1 May 2021 - 2:00 pm

Superpowered: Challenge #3

Your character has discovered their abilities and learned hopefully at least a little about how to use them, and how the world works for someone in their position. Now it’s time to shake things up.

First, think about what your character’s prime purpose is in their super-powered life, now that they understand how the world is set up for them. Have they decided to be a hero? Been inducted into the villainous ranks? Decided to try for independence? Are they trying to hide their abilities?

Now let’s have it go horribly wrong. It’s time for your character to come up against a true challenge, one with real danger and real consequences. Now you get to throw a nemesis at them.

What makes a good nemesis for your character? Is it a person: a supervillain coming to bring them down; a hero to foil their plans; a competitor trying to make them look bad? Or perhaps someone higher in the ranks determined to keep them low on the ladder? 

Or is their nemesis something else? Something that plays on a weakness their power brings them? Anxiety or doubt that cripples their ability to act effectively? An internal voice that ruins everything? Is it something out of anyone’s control, like a change in the weather? Is it a truth they never knew before, one that threatens to change everything?

The stakes are high and the nemesis turns up at the worst possible moment to make things go horribly wrong. What is your character trying to do when this happens? What are they trying to achieve? When things start to go wrong, what is at risk? And things are about to go very, very wrong.

Tell us the story of your character’s encounter with their nemesis in this moment of crisis. 

The bonus element this time is: walls. Include as many barriers as you can, from real to figurative to metaphorical. 

Go to the next challenge!

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1 May 2021 - 12:20 pm

Superpowered: Challenge #2

You know how your character came to learn about themself and what they can do. Now let’s talk about their next steps. Let’s give them a mentor, someone to show them the lay of the land in this superpowered world of yours.

Consider who this mentor might be. How does your character end up with this particular person as their teacher? Is this person well-suited to the role, or have they wound up in it for another reason? Is it chance or design? What sort of person is this character and how much is either party invested in this new relationship?

What kind of guidance can they offer to your character? Do they have powers themself, or have they had powers in the past? Are they giving advice from outside the super-powered community? Were they a hero, or villain, or something else? Are they still, or have they moved into a different position now? 

What are the goals of this mentorship? Is it focussed on the character’s abilities: learning tactics and techniques, establishing control, or suppressing them entirely? Is it learning about how to be super-powered in the world at large? Is it how to hide and fly under the radar, or how to fly high and proud in a cape? Or is it about learning who to fight, rather than how?

How willing or eager is your character as they enter into this mentor-mentee relationship? Are they keen to learn, scared of what is unrolling before them, or sick of everything it entails? What are the key lessons this person needs to learn, and does anyone recognise what they are?

A problem is arising close to your character and, willing or otherwise, they are the person who must tackle it. Perhaps no-one knows this yet, but your character is about to be tested. Time is not endless. 

Show us this mentorship in action. Show us how your character prepares for this upcoming challenge, and how prepared they are when it arrives.

You bonus element for this challenge is: the empty cup. Include as many references to a cup, being too full, overflowing, and emptiness as you can.

Go to the next challenge!

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1 May 2021 - 11:10 am

Superpowered: Challenge #1

For our first challenge, we’re going to write our characters’ origin story. You know who this person is and what they can do; let’s focus in on that moment when they discovered they had superhuman abilities. 

Did it happen all at once? Was it a gradual process? Were they warned ahead of time what to expect or left to their own devices to figure it out? What were the first signs? What were their first assumptions about what was happening to them?

How did they go about figuring out what they can do? What was it like to control it, if they could exercise any control? Did they tell anyone or try to keep it to themself? What was their understanding of what this might mean for them and their life? Now is the time to find out. 

Tell the story of this self-discovery. Explore how your character found out about what they can do, and all the possibilities that opened up to them… or were shut off. Focus on the time before they spoke to someone higher in authority or experience than them about it.

Your bonus element for this challenge is: blossoming. Include as many flower or opening images as possible.

Go to the next challenge!

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1 May 2021 - 11:00 am

Writers’ Asylum: Superpowered: Prologue

Girl with afro playing superhero
Image by rawpixel.com

Welcome to the Asylum! It’s time to close the doors, settle into your seat, and get ready to don a cape. I hope you’re all refreshed and ready to go.

Today, we’re exploring the realm of superpowers. Through a series of five challenges, we’ll be working through the story of a single character. Each challenge will be an hour long or up to a thousand words, whichever you reach first. Each challenge will also have a bonus element, for those looking for an extra way to push themselves. There are scheduled breaks between challenges for refreshments and lunch, so don’t worry, you won’t have to be superhuman to get through today. The only caveat in these challenges is that your main character must survive to the last challenge

First of all, let’s figure out who we’re each writing about today. In a moment, you’ll have the opportunity to make some notes before the first challenge begins. Let’s start with some prompts for you.

The world we’re writing in has superpowers. Some might use them for good, some for personal gain, some for more nefarious purposes, and maybe some for all of the above. Take a moment to think about how your world handles these people. Are they accepted? Regulated? Reviled? Do they work within the law, outside of it, or above it? Are they out and proud, or forced to live in secret, or somewhere in between? Are superpowers just a part of everyday life? How common are they?

Next, let’s consider where these superpowers come from. Is there a scientific reason for their occurrence? Is it natural or manmade? Magical, religious, or mystical? Technological? Accidental? Alien or otherworldy? How does someone get these abilities, and at what point in their life? Is there only one way, one path, or many? 

Now think about one person who has superpowers. Give them a name and decide how and where they grew up. Family, or none? How did they do at school and what were their aspirations? Was their life ever ‘normal’? Where does their moral compass tend to point them?

What abilities does this person have? Is it an expression of the type of person they are, or counter to it? What are the limits of this ability or set of abilities? What can this person not do? What are the downsides to this ability, and does it come with any specific weaknesses? How does it complicate their everyday life?

Take a moment to make a few notes about who this person is and what they can do. The first challenge starts in just a few minutes. 

Let’s get started!

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