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Posted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:14 pm
by GreenLeaves
Did somebody mention "flaming marshmallows"?

Let me at 'em. I LOVE burnt marshmallows over an open fire! :lol:

What is a fire tornado? It's very much like a wind tornado but made of fire...a funnel of fire. They can also "jump" causing other fires to spring up. They are also sometimes called "fire devils" or "fire whirls". They can do a LOT of damage in a very small amount of time.

See the following for an example and a picture of one:


Posted: Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:17 pm
by swfdoc1
It seems to me that your request for suggestions as to how we write outside the box could use a little meat on the bones, so I will give examples from my entries. Then I’ll apply that to the homework. I hope this helps folks, but I don’t want to make this a “read Steve’s writing” thread hijack, so I hope other folks will follow suit with their examples—I would LOVE to see concrete examples of how others do it. There is, of course a LITTLE out of the box and then there’s WAY out of the box. Some of my examples will be one and some the other.

For those who might actually want to read some of these, I am giving the links. For those don’t have the interest, I’ll give little parenthetical descriptions.

Here are a few things that I do:

1. Does the topic remind me of any events in my life or the lives of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, etc., that I could fictionalize (sometimes significantly)? The Milkman's Blizzard (Hot and Cold entry—father and son build an igloo in the backyard and then a fire in the igloo to roast hot dogs (this entry was disqualified because I messed up on word count)); Of Birdhouses and Daughters(In & Out—a family’s reactions to birds going in and out of a bird house, including the fact that a wren killed a bunch of chickadee nestlings to take over the birdhouse); Eternal Spring Hopes (Spring entry—as Spring arrives, a mother reminisces about the Spring her son was introduced to alcohol and drugs by older children, but trusts God for the son's restoration).

2. Is there some aspect of craft that I want to practice? If so, how do I do it with this week’s topic? The Black Book (Black entry—I wanted to work on atmosphere. (Jan had qualms about this one)); The Difference (South America entry—I wanted to work on a dialogue-driven piece. (This entry was marred by several missing words early on and because the original version was about 3 times the word limit and lost a lot in editing—but it still shows dialogue.)); Alone in the Woods on Christmas Day: A Prose Poem (Christmas Day entry—I wanted to learn how to write a prose poem).

3. Is there a way to substitute just one element of an otherwise “first list” idea and come up with something unique? So, this is an alternative to throwing that list away. I Hate Christmas Cards(Christmas cards entry—first list idea: cards received by businesses=>a man who hates these cards receives one ... but it's from God); The Devil's Dance(Australia entry—first list idea (after googling): Australian places; bush bards=> Bush bard tells a tall tale about the Devil claiming he owned Australia … until God sent him a singing telegram); The Way it Was(England entry—first list idea: famous English people=> C.S. Lewis=> Lewis died the same day as President Kennedy => what if Walter Cronkite had reported on that); Once Upon a Time in a Litter Box(India entry—first list idea: famous Indian people=>what if you could bring a bunch of them together at the same time? => “You are Cordially Invited to a Gathering of Fictional and Legendary Characters from the Stories Of and About India.”); The Descendants (USA entry—first list idea: America’s godly heritage=>how much we’ve lost=>comparing the past and present=> Puritan, John Winthrop in a time machine); Homework (The Kingdom of God entry— first list idea: parables of the Kingdom=>what if Jesus gave the disciples a homework assignment of writing parables?); Sentient Terrestrial Parental Coping Mechanisms (Adolescence/Teen Years entry—first list idea: each generation always thinks its kids are the worst ever=>who could evaluate this claim?=>an alien (as in ET) evaluates this claim for his Master’s thesis); Tricks of the Trade (Asia entry—first list idea (after googling): bonsai trees=>a demon is assigned to study bonsai techniques for insights into how to stunt the growth of Christians).

So now the homework:

“First list”:

Getting fired
The command to “Fire!” (a gun)
The Great Chicago Fire

OOTB ideas:

Technique 1:

1. I have a relative whose car caught fire INSIDE the tunnel under Baltimore’s Inner Harbor—what a mess that caused!
2. Before I was a lawyer, I was a forester (really). Once I was doing a prescribed burn that got away from me, and the fire nearly burned a man’s barn down.

(Either of these could be straight stories or incorporate spiritual lessons.)

Technique 2:

1. Showing, not telling—lots of possibilities here (heat, light, warmth, safety, comfort, fear, pain—but might still need an additional idea to get OOTB. (Straight or spiritual lesson.)
2. Second person POV—MC is trapped inside a burning building; use second person POV to create heightened sense of fear.

Technique 3:

1. Story about the Great Chicago fire from the POV of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.
2. Story about the Great Chicago fire from the POV of Horatio Spafford, the author of the words to “It is Well with my Soul,” looking back in time. (In a series of tragedies Spafford’s only son died; Spafford was financially ruined by property losses in the Great Chicago fire, all four of his daughters died when their ship sank in a transatlantic crossing, after starting their family over the Spaffords lost another son.)
3. A tense, scary story of someone (an old lady?) being held at gun point by the MC who is being egged on by an accomplice to “Fire!” The last sentence reveals that it is a five-year-old with a water pistol.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:43 am
by GreenLeaves
Steve, I LOVED your input. Wow, that's a lot to absorb, but really worth reading and adapting to my own writing...such as it is. Loved getting all this information and ideas on ways to "think" outside the box. It sure doesn't come easy to me. Thanks.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:17 am
by Symphonic
I think if this were a Challenge topic, at least half the entries (if not more) would be woeful tales of tragic fires. All the more reason to think out of the box, when the word has easy and obvious associations!

From List 1:
Losing job
Olympic torch

From List 2:
"O For That Flame of Living Fire"
St. Elmo’s Fire
Ten Virgins / Lamps

My (somewhat) out-of-the-box idea:
When I visited Greenfield Village near Detroit last summer, I toured Thomas Edison’s lab and learned about his search for the right kind of filament for his light bulb. So my story would be about Edison’s discovery of the long-burning filament--which would also symbolize his “fire of determination” to succeed. Something like that.

I don’t have a regular routine for coming up with Challenge ideas. When the weekly topic appears, I think about it for a while and mull over several ideas before settling on one. When I do choose an idea, I tend to stick with it... not always, but usually.

I have a very conventional, old-fashioned story sense, and I’m reminded of this every time I read other entries (especially in Masters). I like experimenting, but within certain parameters.

Take my story idea, for example. I doubt that anyone else would write about Edison and the light bulb for the topic “fire.” But it’s not a stunningly original idea, for all that. So (as others have pointed out) I would have to write it in such a vivid and memorable way that the story would seem to be original. A type of box, perhaps--but at least a pleasing and well-constructed one.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:54 am
by glorybee
Barb, conflict (as a literary term) is mostly used in conjunction with fiction.

It comes almost naturally in devotionals, which seem to center on some human issue and its resolution with God. Even the psalms are full of conflict!

If a poem tells a story, it'd be common to have conflict there. If it's just a lyrical poem--not necessary.

Essays typically have other functions: to inform, to persuade, that sort of thing. Conflict may or more not enter in there.

But in a short story, conflict is what draws the reader in--we keep reading because we're seeking resolution.

By the way, conflict isn't necessarily bad--it's not always sin, nor is it necessarily people in conflict with each other. A simplified literary definition might be a problem for the main character to overcome or solve.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:05 pm
by Shann
Dear Jan,
I just wanted to thank you for your timely lesson. I had been playing around with humph and had a few typical ideas in mind. Last night I rethought and am now going in an almost totally different direction.

My big fear is that my OOTB humph idea won't be OOTB because you so greatly inspired everyone to think OOTB, that My OOTB idea might actually now be In the box. Did you understand all of that?

But anyway, thanks for the inspiration, I'm off to write. I'll be right outside of the box if anyone needs me.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:37 pm
by glorybee
LOL, Shann, I'm sure you'll be fine.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:51 pm
by glorybee
Whoops, I just read back over this thread and saw that I'd missed commenting on a few responses:

Steve, I love your concept of a LITTLE out of the box and WAY out of the box. I've done both, and I've read both. There's a time for WAY out of the box--one of a writer's gifts is to discern when that time is, and when it's best to just drape a pinky outside the box.

, I love your idea that even ideas that are "in the box" can be written in creative and compelling ways. Absolutely, absolutely.

Thanks to two excellent writers for your valuable input.

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:42 pm
by Cajunluvie
No-No list

1. Someone's house burning accidentally or an arson incident that is being investigated.

2. A car engine catching fire while driving

3. Heating up food or cooking, baking in the kitchen where a fire breaks out

4. Campfire meetings in the woods with the Girl or Boy scouts or at summer camp.

5. Going to the hospital with burn injuries

Out of the box approach-

The narrator goes to a 25 years high school college reunion and meets an old classmate. Strikes up a conversation with the classmate and they hit it off. They start discussing about themselves when the conversation is interrupted and then the conversation resumes. They make a lunch date for the following week and then at the end, the narrator remembers the classmate was about to mention his favorite hobby and asks him before he leaves. He says he will show it to her after the lunch date. So, on the day of the lunch date, he surprises her with an announcement he is taking her to the circus. She doesn't know how that answers her question about his hobby. She waits for the opening act and is shocked that he is in the ring, blowing fire out of his mouth.

(I am not sure what the technical term for someone who blows fire out of their mouth but that was as best I could come up with from memory).

Hope that is somewhat out of the box. :P

Posted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:14 pm
by glorybee
Cajunluvie, that's definitely OOTB, and would be a fun story to read, to be sure.

Thanks for doing your "homework" so faithfully every week!

Posted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:00 pm
by AnneRene'
I hope this isn't too late to jump in. If it is, then no problem, ignore me :)

I wrote these responses before reading everyone's else's.

In the box.

House fire
Grease fire
Camp fire
Burn victims
Fire trucks

Out of the box

Ring of fire (earthquakes)

On fire for the Lord or anything one is passionate about.

Burn pile, ants in pants
True story of 11 year old boy spending the night at our house for the first time. Husband burning a burn pile at night, on top of ant colony (didn't know it was there). Boy starts jumping around hysterically, takes off pants and his legs are black with ants.

Posted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:32 pm
by glorybee
AnneRene, I love the "burn pile" story, and it makes a good point:

If something happened to YOU, it's by definition going to be unique. So write it (and there's nothing wrong with "tweaking" your own true story to make it more appealing to your readers).

Posted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:45 pm
by AnneRene'
Thanks Ann, I was really hoping I could still participate.

Have a question, kind of related :)

In a true story, (for publishing), do I have to use my real name through out the story, as well as the names of the other characters?

Posted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:54 pm
by AnneRene'

I think I'm confused. You mentioned Ann's Jots and Titles next door, so I went to Ann's Grammar basics. Saw that she posted on March 4th, but didn't find any replys.

Am I missing something?

Posted: Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:58 pm
by glorybee
AnneRene' wrote:Thanks Ann, I was really hoping I could still participate.

Have a question, kind of related :)

In a true story, (for publishing), do I have to use my real name through out the story, as well as the names of the other characters?
Is this question for me?

If you're writing about other people, get their permission. Depending on the nature of the story, you may want to change their names, but if they would still recognize themselves or the incident--get permission. There have been hurts here, but people who wrote family stories that people didn't feel they wanted aired in public.

Even if it's just a good-natured story with no possible hurt attached--get permission.

Same goes for using your own name. You're the one who knows if your story might have repercussions if published, and if you should disguise your identity or not.