Writing Ritual Workshop – Three Card Ritual

Sunday, I attended the Rite to Write workshop by the glamorous, clever, and VERY energizing Jen Violi. It’s difficult to say whether the workshop was healing using writing or writing using healing…either way, it would have likely been beyond me a year ago, as I had some issues with things that are not measurable/reproducible.

There was this one bit, in the workshop….

It’s difficult to say exactly what this was for, or what it did. All I can report is that it appears to have done something in [balancing me/adjusting my perspective/clearing old thought forms/cheering me up].

These days I’m all about What Works, rather than What I Can Reproduce And Explain Empirically. So.

This was the procedure.

0. Determine a focus, a situation that is unsatisfying and would do well with restructuring, or with a new resoltuion
1. Select three cards from a tarot deck
2. In order of selection, dub them “Beginning, Middle, End”
3. Write a story with a paragraph devoted to each card, relating allegorically to what was determined in step 0; you have 15 minutes. Start with “Once upon a time”, to encourage you to not recite history, but something removed from it a step or two.
4. Read the story aloud, preferably to someone else.
5. Remark (or let your audience remark) on the indirect cues, ie tone of voice, patterns of emphasis, facial expressions, change in diction or meter or whatever might indicate emotional emphasis
6. Rewrite the story; same three cards, same step 0, same order, but resulting in a victorious or positive story; you have 15 minutes.

This should not produce anything but two hastily-written stories. In fact, the outward signs are two hastily-written stories. I seem to have found something more in the exercise, though.

My step 0: “I haven’t been writing, or doing much of anything else for me. I love writing, I feel good when I do it or have done it. Now most obstacles are out of my way and … I am still not writing.”

I drew from an animal-oriented deck.
The Wheel, showing all animals
Eight of wands, showing ants trudging in a labyrinth
Nine of swords, showing a crow on a shattered stump, lightning behind him

First round:

One upon a time –

–there was a man who could be anything. The secrets of how to share the strength of all things was his when he could focus to employ it, to take part. He knew to soar, and how, what it was to play and frolic in the waves or dance through the plains. The myriad possibilities were overwhelming to him; with all good things open to him, how could he choose what was right and proper to do? And the maelstrom of potential success and fulfillment bewildered him.

There were those in his life that he had chosen to love, and they had their own abilities and problems, different from his. They could do for themselves, but they chose not to — for whatever reasons — and so were unhappy. The man (who could be anything) decided to help his loved ones, and do for them what they did not do for themselves. Their needs were not sated, but multiplied, so the man split himself endlessly in the form of millions of ants, to fetch and find and carry and dig and care for. Soon there was nothing of him that was not split among the millions of ants.

The world, in form of a mighty black bird, found ants nourishing and pecked away at the man. Little by little, his split power and self was eaten until there was only an ant left. He took shelter in a tree, but the storms and the bird tore at it until it was shattered and uprooted, and he was trapped.

Okay, my inner 16 year old was alive and well. I got that.

I was paired with a lovely woman about thirty years my senior. We traded thoughts (having written oddly similar stories) and then rewrote.

Take 2:

Once upon — you know.

There was a man who could see the world. He not only could see what was in it, but could see the patterns of how it moved, and understood the reasons and the ultimate good of it. Knowing these things split him endlessly at first, but understanding the patterns of all things, he was able to guide his attention into a new vision of order, a grand march of majestic grace and power.

There were malefic entities in the world, and these took the form of the tiniest of creatures; ants. The endless scattered ants of trivial pain and petty frustrations bit at him, ran at the edge of his awareness and distracted him. With his new understanding of the patterns of all things, hew as not moved to resentment or anger — that burden would be too great, and not needed — but recognized that the pettiness and trivia need not be so great. He spun his understanding, guiding the ants through a labyrinth of his intention, spinning off the malefic portion each carried and leaving the ants to be merely ants, a part of the whole.

The trivial pains and petty frustrations he gathered up and laid at the base of the rotted stump of the tree of good and evil, piercing it through nine times (once for each of the charms Oden learned on that tree, so long ago) to hold them in place; if they needed to be malefic, they could do it there. Seeing that he had freed not just himself, but the ants as well (and perhaps even the malefica, which wants its own poisoned kind for company) he took wing — for understanding can let one do that — and returned to the majestic grace of all things, to see how he could take part in the beauty of the interwoven patterns.

So here’s the odd bit:

I’ve been writing, now.

I wonder if I’ll ever be smart enough to understand how this stuff works.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Reminding myself

  • Exploding Cats are not writing.  They are an occasional perk of writing regularly.
  • I chose to write to The First Line prompt not with the intention of performing a writing miracle during the middle of the work week, but with the intention of continuing forward motion.  If I miss deadline but finish a story, it will sell elsewhere (after their issue comes out).
  • I am not going to perform heroics, bludgeoning my way through midweek brain death on sheer will.
  • The point of this was to break those habits of thought.

*reads all that*

Yup.  That’s all true.  Good.

I’ve two hundred words.  I will not say things like ‘paltry sum’.  I will instead go add to them.

Good boy.

Edit:  More words.  Good boy.  I get ice cream.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry


Dinner with Cera & Ken was lovely.  Cera and I have been entirely failing to have time to talk for about a decade, so that was nice, and we knew each other when I was crucifying myself to demonstrate heroic love for someone that didn’t appreciate or believe it and she was having difficulties of her own.  We agree that we are both astonishingly more stable and happy now, and blame a large part of that one Ken & Shannon.  Love feast all around.

Of feasts:  the food was OMG!!!11!BBQ!!111BVDs good.  I had wild boar nachos, Shannon’s carne asada and tequilas (one of which was amazing) and bites of Cera’s tongue (the meat on her plate was tongue, you pervs) (dammit), all of which were extraordinary.

So, good.

Today I was cruising the intarwebs looking for a suitable writing prompt –

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Writing Prompt/ly

So, the 24 Hour Writing Contest has come and gone, and I am, in general, pleased.  The topic, to be written up in 900 words or less, was:

The bells on the door were still echoing as she stepped further into the old toy store. The owner winked at her and turned back to his black and white television set.  She reached under the rack on the back wall and pulled it out. It was just where she’d left it last week. She approached the counter and put the item down.

He turned to her, grabbed the item with surprise, and said, “This is NOT for sale…”

My brain grabbed onto the petty details of the prompt and screamed.  ”What is at stake?”  ”What good would putting something not for sale in a hiding place for a week do?”  ”Why wouldn’t merchandise be for sale, and why would that be important at all?”  ”What sort of story can I write about a bargain basement conflict?”  I mean, unless the shopper pulls a gun, the merchant’s response if final.

So I had her pull a gun, and things went swimmingly.  Somewhere, (I think from Jeff, the alpha-geek of Corvallis) I heard “the only real plot hook is a dead body,” attributed to Agatha Christie (if she did say that, I haven’t been able to find evidence of it), but I broadened that to “…threat of a dead body.”

Title:  Apology.  896 words, tendered 51 minutes before deadline.  I have not yet gotten a receipt for the entry, but I am unworried; if it ended up in ether-void, I still have the story and will sell it somewhere else.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

The Majency Oracle #72: Amphibian. Allegory.

I glowered at the great, sprawling toad. It stood — sat — it sagged in an unpleasant heap two feet tall at the top of it’s bulging eyes, and spread to cover nearly half the rug when it rested, its abdomen flacidly drifting to all sides. It boasted an irridescence of unwholesome qualities, a certain foul odor that put one in mind of the word “brackish”, and a heritage in academe.

“I am,” he noted with some satisfaction, “the best educated toad you will encounter.” I did not look the toad in its turret-mounted eyes. I was keeping myself calm, and discourse with toads was not going to help that. After a pointed silence, the toad moved to fill the gap. “And, of course, it goes without saying that I’ve all the finest tools for flexibility and endurance that nature, in her wisdom, could provide.”

“I’m very pleased for you.” I did not quite snap the words.

“I’ve powerful legs and jaw muscles, you know. Quite an advanced brain for those of the Bufonidae persuasion. I can travel, thrive on a variety of diets ….”

I grunted. The toad, unfortunately, took this for some sort of applause. He scrambled closer in that loose way that toads have, that almost no other creature does, nor wants to have. The smell of tainted water intensified.

“…Far superior to frogs, of course. Better water retention, more protective skins, greater scope in where we can live, what we can do….” He trailed off under my gaze. It wasn’t exactly a whithering gaze, but it was certainly unkind. It looked apologetic. I didn’t.

“Really. I’m very pleased for you. Now, if I could concentrate…?”

“Oh. Certainly. I didn’t mean to ….” If toads could shrug, this one would have. It shuffled its front feet uncertainly. I scowled at the screen on my computer some more. “You know, if there’s a way I can help, I’d — I mean, smart, quick, enduring, observant, flexible –” I cut the toad off by throwing my wineglass across the room.

“Can you install software?”

“– I am well educated –”

“Can you make the bleeding software work?”

“– but more in the line of literature and the paths of the human spirit.”

“You can’t,” I gritted. “Can you?”


“Well neither can I, all right? So what good is all that education and evolution?” There was another long silence during which I loomed menacingly over the toad. The toad ran a gray tongue around the left side of its mouth.

“I can produce serontonin from my parotoid glands — my warts, if you will. Maybe if you gave me a lick you could relax a little — ?”

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

The Process

Normally the creative process, for me, is luck; do I have an idea, aimless energy, time to write, and interest all at the same time. Then, if those conditions are met, did I happen (without thinking things through properly) to start the story in the right place, in the right way?

Amazing, I feel, that I have ever written anything.A few weeks ago, I was meeting with Lisa and we were dissecting the craze for supernatural love encounters. Vampires, were-creatures, fae of assorted textures and flavors…I was feeling grumpy that the fullness of the genre wasn’t being explored. (Except, of course, for , who has been playing with gargoyles and such – and kudos to her for it.) “Why,” I snarled pettishly, if one can do such a thing in such a way, “aren’t people writing about sexual creatures from lagoons? Why no horny hags? Someone,” I gestured to the writing world at large with a bit of tofu that would have been better used plugging my flapping jaw, “someone needs to write a zombie love story.”Lisa smiled broadly. “Great idea.”

“It would improve the paranormal genre.”

“It would.”

“It must be done.”

“It must. And you are a writer.”

“Yes, abso –” I stopped waving tofu. Evasive movement was called for. I summoned all of my cunning, all my wit. “Er,” I said.

“So when will you write your zombie love story?”

Never bitch about the state of the art while in one’s writer’s group. In spite of my attempts to derail the idea, I was committed by the end of lunch.

Now. The reasonable thing to do, by my past successes, was to wait for all conditions to be met and then revel in the happy coincidence. But there’s this synopsis thing I’ve been meaning to try, and a synopsis doesn’t require actual inspiration. It merely requires effort.

This is what I did:

  1. I fiddled with the idea for a while, and decided that I liked voodoo zombies, and that there should be a love triangle — maybe two. And that the protag should be not-a-normal voodoo priest. I still didn’t really know where this was going, but I had a sense that it needed to either tug the heartstrings or be Addams Family romantic. AF romance was easier, so….
  2. I wrote a one-sentence summary of the story.
  3. Then I wrote a one-paragraph summary, not requiring myself to stick to what I’d already done.
  4. Then I started figuring out what had to happen, to get from a beginning to the end I had in my head. Each happening got a line in sequence of the story.
  5. I started changing the happenings to scenes, still at one line each…
  6. …which began to evolve to several lines each…
  7. …until there was nearly two pages of synopsis of moderate detail.

No inspiration ever took me. I still had a nice time. It was fun to think about. Tonight I’ll start writing from the synopsis, which should be much easier than usual; pacing, character, and plot are all determined, a nice improvement on my usual method. If this works at all well, it will be much faster and much less stressful than my normal methodless method. I’ll letcha all know.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry