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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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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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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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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Writers’ Asylum: Murder in Mind: Epilogue

The party is over. It’s time to clean up the mess and try not to notice how sticky the floor is.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our party, and solved a mystery while you were here. You now have a bunch of stories, to do with as you please!

Thank you for coming along and taking part. The Asylum wouldn’t exist without its inmates. If you have any suggestions about things we could try or improve, let me know!

In the meantime, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out. You are released!

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Murder in Mind: Challenge #5

(New to Murder in Mind? Head back to our first post to get started!)

It’s getting late when, deep in the hubbub of the party, someone screams.

The music stops abruptly. The lights come up. The faces you have already written about look around the room.

There is an announcement that silences the room for a moment: the host has been killed. No-one is allowed to leave.

What has really happened? How many of the events of the evening were exactly what they seemed? Now is the time to tell us.

Challenge #5: The Final End

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Murder in Mind: Challenge #4

(New to Murder in Mind? Head back to our first post to get started!)

With so many people and so much going on, it’s inevitable that something will go missing. And now, something has. It’s an absence that someone notices, and cares about. An absence that someone mentions and will try to rectify.

The thing is, this something is not just missing: it has been taken.

Consider what this something is. Is it big or small? Precious to anyone, or only to specific people? What defines its value, and to whom? What is it and who does it truly belong to?

Why might someone take it? Revenge, greed, opportunity, justice, or a joke? Some other reason?

When the item’s absence is discovered, where is it? Has it already left the party, or is it secreted somewhere close by? Is it still in the thief’s possession? What happens when its owner starts to search for it? Who joins in to help, or steps aside?

Tell us the story of this theft, from the missing item’s perspective. What will its final fate be?

Challenge #4: Taken

Go to the next challenge!

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Murder in Mind: Challenge #3

(New to Murder in Mind? Head back to our first post to get started!)

We’ve seen what happens when things get testy between partygoers, but not all clashes at this party are angry. It has brought together people from many parts of the host’s life, including his or her past. Some bonds are remembered, some reforged. Some sparks are rekindled, while others are new.

The party rolls onwards. Food and drink are consumed. There might be dancing, perhaps some singing.

Two people are definitely feeling the less violent and more salacious sparks. (Or more than two, if you’re feeling adventurous!) Think about who they might be, and why it took this party to push them together in this way. Think about why it is they’re drawn to each other. A shared history? An animal chemistry? Chance and proximity?

Tell us about the sparks between these two, and how they go off to find somewhere to indulge in their passion. What happens when they get there?

Challenge #3: Rendezvous

Go to the next challenge!

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Murder in Mind: Challenge #2

(New to Murder in Mind? Head back to our first post to get started!)

The speech has been given and the party rolls on. Let’s think about some of the attendees to this little shindig now. There are the host’s family, friends, and work colleagues. There are possibly school friends, and people who share the host’s hobbies, like the gym or a club. They might be exes, or people who have supported the host in the past.

These people from all the different parts of the host’s life mix, likely with varying degrees of success and smoothness. Some of these people may have crossed paths before; some may not have. For some, they may only know what the host has told them of the others.

Inevitably, at some point, tensions flare into outright sparks. Think about those who might clash with each other. Focus in on two specific people, or three if you’re feeling ambitious. What might they clash about? Why would it come out here, at a public event? How enthusiastic will this clash get?

Show us the confrontation and how far it goes!

Challenge #2: Tete-a-tete

Go to the next challenge!

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Murder in Mind: Challenge #1

It’s time to throw a party. So let’s get started!

Who is the host of this special event? This person has invited everyone in his or her life to the party, from family to work colleagues to friends. Give them a name, an identity.

What kind of place does this host live in: city, village or space station? What is their typical day like? Do they work? If so, what sort of work? Where are they in the hierarchies of their life? Manager or managed? Parent or child, or both? How successful do they consider themselves to be?

Do they have a family? Partner? Ex-partners? Who are the people they are closest to in their life?

What are their aspirations? What’s next for this person?

Now let’s think about why they are throwing this party. The host doesn’t usually call all of these people – from the private and professional sides of their life, and from all the different parts of those arenas – together at the same time, so why now? There must be a purpose. Is it a celebration, commemoration, or announcement? An anniversary of some kind?

Does everyone know why they’re there? Has the host been up-front about his or her reasons for the party? Or has it been shrouded in mystery, or even lies and misleading phrasings? Was everyone told the same thing about the event? What did the host have to do to get everyone here?

Now let’s consider the party itself. What kind of venue is it being held in? Is it indoors or outdoors? On a boat? In space? In a lighthouse on a remote island?

How does the venue feel – is it crowded or spacious? Dim or bright? Is there music playing, and if there is, is it too loud to talk?

What is the tone in the room? Are people talking, or drinking? Getting along, or clashing? Awkward? Are they glad to be there, excited, feeling forced, coerced, or just happy there’s an open bar? (Is there an open bar?)

Let’s go to the point of the night when everyone has arrived and the party is just getting going. The host has decided to give a little speech or presentation, to let everyone know why they have been gathered there.

Walk us into the party, right up to moment when it’s falling quiet. All eyes are turning to the host. Show us the speech and its impact on the room.

Challenge #1: Welcome to the Party

Go to the next challenge!

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