Category Archives: Inspiration

9 Writing Prompts to Jump-Start Creativity

With the end of Camp NaNoWriMo in sight, some have already reached their monthly goals while others are still reaching for the finish line. Don’t fret! It’s not too late to get some more words in, even if it’s not on your original project. After all, one of the main points of the NaNoWriMo challenges is to get you to write everyday. With that being said, here are 9 writing prompts to carry you through this last weekend and hopefully the finish line.

9 Writing Prompts

  1. Local townsfolk see a witch fly over the moon on a broomstick…literally.
  2. A loved one is reincarnated as their widow’s (or widower’s) house plant. Tell a story from their POV.
  3. Start a new scene by finishing this dialogue: “If we get this money…”
  4. A woman who has been missing for three weeks suddenly reappears with no memory of where she has been for that time.
  5. “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” Local teens wander onto a “vacant” lot.
  6. A woman receives a fortune telling her to be more daring, “Fortune favors the brave.” She takes the advice to heart and shows kindness to a man who breaks into her home. What happens next?
  7. Tell a story from a house’s POV or even just the stories from one room.
  8. “When her head hit the floor, it bounced slightly then came to a halt as her eyes stared blankly ahead. She wasn’t supposed to die. Not like that.”
  9. A person stumbles across a tombstone with their name on it…and perhaps their birth year.

I hope that some of these (at least one) will benefit you and help get the creative cogs turning in your brain. Sometimes when I read  writing prompts, I have new ideas. Did any of these stand out to you? If so, which ones? Did they spark any creative fires? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy writing!

-RB

Inspirational Video Games for Writers: The Legend of Zelda

I am a firm believer that inspiration can be found just about anywhere – movies, books, comics, dreams, stories from co-workers, an overheard conversation at Panera, etc. But one place that gets overlooked just as badly as comics is the world of video games. In this series, I’d like to cover a handful of video games that have inspired writing ideas of my own throughout the years. The first and probably most well-known game series that comes to mind is The Legend of Zelda.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I came into the world of Zelda late. My first time being exposed to the wonder and creativity of the franchise was in the 7th grade when I received The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Christmas. It was released on the Nintendo 64 system, a system which my parents purchased for me at the tender age of eleven and told me that in order to repay them for it, I had to empty the dishwasher for LIFE. It was worth every plate and piece of silverware I had to stash away in a cupboard.

Games such as Zelda, StarFox, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Forsaken 64, Hexen, Jet Force Gemini, War Gods, and DOOM infiltrated my childhood and carried me through my teenage years (at least until Harry Potter took my attention away). Nowadays its difficult to find the game system for less that $100 and even harder to find some of these classic games for less that $300 online.

Title screen/loading screen for the original Ocarina of Time released for n64.
The Best Video Game of All Time?

At the time, the Ocarina of Time was hailed as one of the best video games if not the best for the Nintendo systems. Decades later they would vastly out-do themselves with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (more on that later). Looking back at Ocarina of Time, the graphics were terrible compared to today’s standards but at the time, they were awesome!

So what made the game so great and inspiring?

One of the greatest appeals to video games is that they have the power to insert us into new worlds with new sets of rules. Instead of reading a book where we are at the mercy of the author, video games can follow a linear story line while still letting the player make the experience their own. Video games allow the audience to make decisions.

In some instances, those decisions affect game-play but this is not the case with Zelda. However, I discovered elements in the game that I had not yet seen in fiction (at least not as an 11-year-old.) Along with monsters and creatures that I’d never heard of and boss fights that were each unique and rewarding, there was a new set of rules.

Photo credit to cubed3.com
A New set of Rules
  • Players could trap fairies in bottles for life restoration.
  • Dungeons and temples aren’t just buildings in the world. One is inside the belly of a volcano, another is inside the belly of a fish and a third inside of an ancient tree!
  • Monsters came out when the sun went down.
  • A house filled with cursed spider-people awarded treasures to you when you cured them of their spider-ness (seriously the stuff of nightmares).
  • Blue flame and the ability to trap it in a bottle to melt ice later.
  • Music changed the weather, changed the flow of time (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask) or teleported you across the world.
  • Arrows wielded elemental magic (light, ice, fire, etc.)
  • Special clothing allowed players to endure underwater questing or intense heat.
  • Bombs grew out of the ground as plants.
  • Money and magic were found my destroying things, looking under rocks or cutting the grass.
  • Ghosts could be trapped in a bottle. (Seriously, obtaining bottles was a personal goal in this game.)
  • Masks gave you new abilities, changing your body into something else (specifically in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
  • Secret grottos contained treasure, riddles and puzzles to solve.
  • There is another world at the bottom of a well.
  • There is an artifact that allows you to see through false walls.
  • You can fly while holding onto a chicken…cough… I mean, cucco.
Hidden at “The Bottom of the Well” …Is this not one of the creepiest things? Photo credit belongs to duly-nerded.com.

And those are only to name a few. Though many of these elements are commonplace by today’s video-gaming standards, they weren’t always. Keep in mind that this game was originally released in 1998.

A Magical Universe to Explore

There were all sorts of unspoken treasures and secrets hidden in the land of Hyrule. It was a colorful world and I was also very into the plotline. Having never played a Zelda game before, when I sat down to play Ocarina of Time, I was fully engrossed.

I knew nothing of Zelda at that time and became fascinated by this “Hero of Time,” the Triforce, and characters like the Great Deku Tree and Impa. Speaking of the Great Deku Tree, I would often walk in just to hear the hauntingly beautiful music. Needless to say, this was the first video game that prompted me to buy its soundtrack and still remains to be one of the few. I’m listening to it as I write this post.

Obsessed With the Cultures and Lore of Hyrule

After I defeated The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I couldn’t get enough of the land of Hyrule. Not only did I replay the game, but I also got a Gameboy Color and games like Link’s Awakening and Oracle of the Seasons. However, Zelda in 2D didn’t provide the same inspiration as Zelda in 3D, at least not for me.

However, I was still inspired by the diverse races and cultures of Hyrule. From the ancient and wise Sheikah to the child-like Kokiri, my mind was racing with all sorts of creative ideas for a fantasy realm of my own. Hyrule’s lore was rich in spirituality and history. To this day I still find myself reading up on it to learn more.

The seven sages.

It wasn’t long after the success of the new Zelda games for Nintendo to release The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Though I helped my nephew beat it years later, I was never a big fan of the game myself. I’m not a big fan of time limits and the game is one BIG time limit. Time limit quests are one of my least favorite things in video games (right next to in-game rain – cough, cough – Breath of the Wild brought that to a whole new level of hatred). As years passed, my love for Zelda was passed on to my nephew as he grew up playing older games like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Twilight Princess and others.

Will There Ever Be Anything as Magical and Inspiring as the First Time I Played a Zelda Game?

At this point, that first Zelda game was unbeatable in my mind. Nothing could top it and I would never experience that sense of awe, wonder and inspiration again. My memory of the game never faded but my interest moved to others video games, seeking and sometimes finding inspiration in them. This was until another Zelda was released.

The Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

No longer the naïve, sheltered eleven-year-old that was playing her first real video game, I’m now a fully-fledged adult who has been exposed to so much fantasy and magic throughout the years (I’m still obsessed with the Harry Potter Series). By this time, I had played World of Warcraft on and off for years, dreamed of becoming a Grey Jedi, played Fable a dozen times, and volunteered myself into the Hunger Games (I’m from District 4). This game had its work cut out for it. And boy did it do an outstanding job!

First of all, let me say that purchasing the Nintendo Switch was no easy decision. After looking at the other games for the system at the time, nothing appealed to me except Zelda and we struggled with the idea of buying a whole new console for one game, especially as minimalists.

But our desire for this game was great. So we purchased a Switch, (along with a larger controller for his man hands) and we purchased the DLC along with the game. It was an investment to say the least. However, the enjoyment that we both got out of the game as well as the inspiration that it reignited in me (giving me at least one novel idea) was worth it.

Relishing in the Breath of the Wild

Not only did Breath of the Wild keep hold of certain classic Zelda elements such as the elemental arrows (adding bomb and ancient arrows), and special garb but the creators expounded upon it. Drawing from other popular RPGs, players were now able to brew elixirs and potions, cook unique recipes for attack and defense boosts, collect multiple armor sets and use items from the world to upgrade their stats – often granting stronger abilities once the complete set was obtained and upgraded. Things like swim speed, climbing speed, lightening resistance and stealth to name a few.

Climbing presented a whole new way to explore the game. Vast canyons and mountain regions were now 100% explorable and filled with unique monsters and puzzles to titillate our minds.

Drawing Writing Inspiration from Breath of the Wild

In a completely open world, anything is possible. Things in this game were unpredictable and largely based on the players decisions. Don’t believe me? Check out this fan made video on YouTube. Seriously, you don’t even have to play the game to find it hilarious.

This video alone provided so many ideas from the game that I could inject into writing. How?

  1. What can go wrong, will go wrong.
  2. Death finds a way.
  3. Anything is possible. Literally.

When writing a story, authors often talk about the slow, sagging middle of the story. What if, like in the video above, an arrow is shot at them from an unseen enemy in the middle of nowhere? The treasure they were seeking kills them? They are able to have one enemy attack another? Video games with such an open world filled with possibilities can open up ideas in your writing.

Magic is Only Science Which Hasn’t Been Explained

The Sheikah Slate, a smartphone or tablet-like device in BoTW,  presented players with the ability to use technology that was “ancient.” Players could not only use it to map the humongous map, but also to freeze time for specific objects, move metallic objects, create ice from water, track resources and create bombs. The so-called “ancient” technology provided a way for advanced science to enter a world of magic. Hey science fiction and fantasy authors, I’m looking at you!

Photo credit: Zeldapedia
Other Inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Shield surfing
  • Paragliding
  • Having an enemy get electrocuted during battle because he was fighting with a metal weapon in the middle of a lightening storm.
  • Special abilities granted to you from dead friends.
  • Melee weapons augmented with elemental properties.
  • The possibility that your weapon can break mid-battle.
  • A blood moon which when rises, resurrects all the previously defeated monsters.

Players are also introduced to new groups of people like The Yiga Clan and the Rito. Now, the Rito race was featured in another Zelda game that I didn’t play so while this was the first I’d seen them, they weren’t entirely new. I fell in love with the Rito Champion, Revali, and adored the Gerudo Champion, Urbosa. Characters like this, along with the amount of cut-scenes, bring that much more depth and pleasure to an already vast and amazing world.

Photo credit: Zeldapedia

I hope if you’re struggling to find inspiration, you take a look into some video games. Keep in mind that they are another form of story-telling and can be a valuable resource for those who know where to look.

Happy gaming!

-RB

Cover Art from GQ.com

6 Ways to Find Creative Motivation

In a world full of distractions, it can be difficult to find motivation to write. If you’re like me, you have millions of creative ideas and you spend a great deal of your free time thinking about them but not actually putting the fingers to the keyboard or the pen to the paper. Maybe it’s the entitled millennial in me but sometimes I think that modern day creatives should receive awards for not allowing themselves to be distracted by their smart phones for long enough to record an album or write a book. The late, great writers of old had their own problems but they didn’t have Netflix, YouTube, smartphones, and in some cases, electricity!

Most times in order to get myself to write, I have to be bored. This is why when my friends suggest I get into this new show on Netflix, I frequently deny the invite. “But it’s so good. You’ll love it. The writers do a really good job…” I’m sure they do which is exactly why I don’t want to get sucked into it because it will distract me from my own endeavors!

I’ve written a few posts regarding productivity and finding motivation as a writer but somehow I feel that those posts still don’t cover everything. There is so much to say about the subjects of motivation and distractions. So I sat down and composed a list of my top 6 motivators for you. I hope they help you, fearless creative, to go after your own dreams!

1. Grant Faulker’s 52 Pep Talks for Writers

I love this book. In the author’s introduction he writes, “Stories remind us that we’re alive, and what being alive means.” An invaluable resource if you’re looking for motivation, Faulkner’s Pep Talks include, “Finding Your Muse,” “The Art of Boredom,” “Overcoming Creativity Wounds,” and “Pull Yourself Out of the Comparison Trap.” Seriously, picking out just four titles right now to share with you was a challenge because they are all so inspiring.

As the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), Faulkner has the right frame of mind to help encourage us to push forward as adventure seekers and write. I constantly read and re-read this book, picking specific articles to read depending on what I’m struggling with most. In doing so, you feel a bond to the author. Sometimes hearing or seeing what other authors have to say about this solitary craft, makes you feel like it’s not so solitary after all. Though many of us prefer the isolation, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.

2. Be Held Accountable, Set Up a Patreon Account

It’s immensely difficult to hold yourself accountable to your own deadlines. It’s even easier to become discouraged when you don’t meet them. And again, if you’re anything like me you create impossible deadlines for yourself. I’m a huge culprit of this. However, things become so much easier when you break the work into smaller, more manageable chunks AND get other people to hold you accountable.

Not only has my partner promised me a trip to England when I publish my next novel (because he knows that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to go there), but having followers who are interested in your work will prompt and encourage you to write more.


Recommended Reading: The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer. Also, check out her TedTalk here.


3. Struggle More

Sound strange? I’m a firm believer that struggle is helpful. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they are fighting to survive. Unfortunately (and it makes me sound ungrateful to say this), I had a very normal childhood…overwhelmingly normal. I grew up in a middle-class working family and was spoiled. I never learned what true struggle is and so when I went out into the real world, I expected things to be handed to me. Lack of struggle taught me nothing.

After being out on my own for a while, I had racked up a substantial amount of debt. By now I’ve paid some of it off but not all and I’m using what is left to help me struggle more. How? I’m throwing every penny I can spare at that figure. We’ve cut back on vacations, fancy dinners and all of the other things I was allowing myself to be spoiled with. Even something as simple as cooking in 6 nights a week and only getting delivery once has been an adjustment. To some, this is their normal life but I had some learning to do.

It’s been a wake-up call. Telling myself no grocery shopping until everything in the freezer and pantry is gone has shown me just how much food is in the house! I’ve realized that we’re not starving here and that what I consider “struggle” is actually nothing close to. While struggle can mean different things to different people, consider where you are and where you want to be. Cutting back a little to gain big later on makes the “struggle” worth it. It’s very motivating that I know I won’t eat sushi if I don’t meet my goals for the week…

4. Weekly To-Do Lists

This is a big one. I’m a huge fan of to-do lists but for the longest time I was doing it all wrong. As stated in my previous post regarding productivity and the Right Way to Create Routine,  having too rigid of a schedule can hinder you. I used to make my to-do lists by the day. Now, I make them for the week. This way if I slip up one day or don’t feel well, I’m not automatically behind.

What’s on my to-do list this week? Here’s what it looks like.

-Write Monday and Thursday’s blog posts

-Finalize Mortis Book 1 Chapters 1-6 Final Drafts

-Create two public Patreon Posts

-Create two Patron-only Patreon Posts

It’s important not to overload yourself. Once I finish this post, everything on that list will be 50% complete and it’s only Sunday! But I have no idea how the rest of my week is going to pan out. Life happens. Leave room for it. You might have to work late one evening, or have a sick family member, or have to pick your kid up from his overnight stay in jail for an underage DUI…there’s no telling! You can always add more if you finish everything early. Keep it simple. Don’t hold yourself to doing a certain thing on Tuesday because let’s be honest, Tuesday might be shit.

5. Read In-Progress FanFiction.

This one might sound a little strange but I swear it works! I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a huge fan of FanFiction. And there is nothing more exciting than reading a work in-progress and seeing that “new chapter” notification show up in your email inbox. Recently, I’ve been reading a dark and graphic Harry Potter FanFiction called “Not the Same Girl” by Emmaficready.

The author does a good job of making things worse and worse for the main character in every chapter. So why is it motivating? The author also posts a new chapter about twice a week. Though the chapters are never long, they always progress the story. It’s a great way of seeing that sticking with a story, chapter by chapter, turns it into a novel-length tale. It helps remind me that I don’t have to create Rome in a day. I can work with smaller scenes to construct a larger story. So thank you to Emmaficready and other Fanfiction authors who update regularly!

6. Remember Your “Why”

If you’re writing for the sole purpose of becoming rich and famous, you’re in the wrong business. Writers are in this for the story telling. Think about why you want to create. How are you adding value? Today’s society is saturated with advertisements that constantly tell people where and how they should spend their hard-earned money. What makes your work so special?

The truth is that no matter how bad the world gets, people need creatives. Whether you’re making music, painting, taking photos, writing books, you’re adding value to someone’s life. Artists provide a way for the world to escape its harsh realities. I believe it was Anne Lamott who once said, “A writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. It’s a lie if you make something up. But you make it up in the name of the truth, and then you give your heart to expressing it clearly.”

As writers tell lies to speak truths, we also record history and capture moments with words instead of pictures. We evoke emotions, we create kingdoms and tear them to the ground. In a lot of ways, it’s playing the role of a god. We torture characters then we save them only to kill them in the end. Artists add value by providing a special place for people to get away from their lives… their soul-sucking jobs, their abusive and toxic relationships, their war-torn countries, etc. Writers create safe-havens. We send people on missions and adventures.

We are the silent leaders.

Lead away!

Happy Writing!

-RB

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7 Reasons You Should Be Reading Comics

In my previous post about where to find motivation as a fiction author, I mentioned the beauty and inspiration that can be found in comic books. I didn’t start reading comics until I was 30 years old. Like many people who don’t read them, I figured comics were all about Batman, Superman and other heroes that had become very mainstream and commercialized. I was so glad to be proven wrong.

It was my partner who got me into comics. He has been a fan for years. The first time he took me into a comic book store, I was overwhelmed by the variety of characters and genres. In many cases, I couldn’t see the works being made into novels because the artwork was so vivid and grand.

As a minimalist, comics were a struggle for me at first because I needed the physical copies. Each volume was like a story and an art book in one. Sorry avid e-reader fans but it’s very difficult to read them on Kindles and Nooks. I do suggest purchasing the physical copies. These gems are so worth it!

Clicking on any of the pictures below will lead you to the Amazon page for that volume, providing you with detailed descriptions of plot as well as reviews. These are currently my top seven reading recommendations and also the seven reasons you should be reading comics. Enjoy!

1. Low

This was the first comic series that I picked out for myself. I was looking for something based underwater to help inspire me on a piece I was working on titled The World Beneath (still a WIP). I did a little research and Low by Rick Remender was the only thing I could find and behold- it had outstanding reviews so I purchased volume 1.

Remender has been quoted as saying that he normally writes such dark characters and how odd it was for him to write one of the main characters in Low because she is so optimistic it’s almost annoying at times. But it pays off. Low takes you into a violent and imaginative world filled with the light of hope and the darkness of despair. Not recommended for children. Expect sex, nudity and violence. The links to each volume are in the pictures below.

2. Descender

I cannot tell you what first inspired me to pick up this story but it quickly became one of my favorites! Written by Jeff Lemire, Descender is the tale of a boy robot looking for his long-lost childhood companion and that childhood companion, now grown into a man, looking for his childhood robot – amidst a war where humans and robots don’t exactly see eye to eye… A strange twist of Romeo and Juliet? Perhaps.

While there is some violence and adult themes, this series is far more child friendly than the one previously mentioned. As with Low, I believe there is only one or two more volumes left in the series so join in on the fun! As before, the pictures below will send you to their Amazon page where you can view plot details and reviews.

3. Animosity

Animosity took me a while to find. It wasn’t readily available in our local comic shops at the time and shipped from overseas when I ordered from Amazon. Now that it’s more popular, it’s easier to to get your hands on. Personally, I’ve only gotten through the first volume but I absolutely loved it. I mean there is a talking hound named Sandor after the Game of Thrones character! Who doesn’t love that?

As with many of these more “adult” comics, there is violence to be expected but no nudity.

4. Heathen

I hope that this one volume isn’t the end of the series. I want this one to continue but haven’t laid eyes on a volume two. Dealing with Vikings and gods, this all female cast portrays some very strong female characters and talks about some of society’s more pressing issues today. If the authors or reading this – I beg of you – CONTINUE!

5. Saga

It took me a while to get into this one which was shocking because it’s extremely popular in comic circles and is considered one of the top best sellers. My partner is a big fan of the series so I borrowed his volumes and started reading.

As with many modern comics, there are strong female characters but Brian K. Vaughn has created a vast ensemble of diverse male and female characters (and robots and ghosts and a cat that can tell when you’re lying…) Part of the reason it took me so long to become attached to this story was because I hate the two main characters. I don’t care for them or their love story. But like with many other popular pieces of fiction (Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings) it’s not the main characters that everyone falls in love with. Instead, it’s the vast number of supporting characters who end up with just as big of a role as the series marches on.

Contains sex and violence but not as gory as Harrow County (mentioned below). Saga is extremely creative and like Heathen, touches on a lot of society’s hot button topics on a grander scale.

6. Reborn

I picked this one up on a whim because the back cover got me hook, line and sinker! As far as I can tell this is a stand-alone and won’t have future volumes – which is fine. The story is perfect the way it is and doesn’t leave room for much elaboration.

There were a lot of things in this single volume that I did not see coming. I love it for being so unpredictable as I can usually predict endings beforehand. Any author who can fool me deserves my thanks. The picture below will take you to the Amazon page with full plot descriptions and reviews.

7. Harrow County

I don’t know why I didn’t expect to like this story. After all, I love a good horror. Horror comics usually have their own section in the store but they are still not as great in number as Fantasy and Science Fiction. That doesn’t mean they aren’t as enjoyable!

Sometimes violent yet always imaginative, there is a sense of urgency throughout the series that I love. I find each volume hard to put down once I pick it up. Props to Cullen for writing such an engaging plot and lovable main character. Check out the links below for story details!

Keep an eye out for more recommended reading posts.

Happy Reading!
-R

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