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Deal 74: The Light of Truth

I walk the streets in my true form, carrying my lantern. The lantern appears to be unlit, but to my eyes it casts the light of truth showing its bearer things as they truly are.

But tonight, something is amiss.

I walk the streets, and my lantern does no good.

Everywhere I go I see crowds of small children in outrageous attire. Here is a group in frilly pastel dresses and fake tiaras. There is a group dressed as super heroes of a bygone day. There is a ghost, a gnome, a witch (well, a cartoon of a witch at least) and more than a few that seem to defy all explanation.

In the lantern light, the little girls are revealed to actually be little princesses. The little boys actually are little heroes. Wait, I got that wrong. Everywhere I go I see princesses and heroes and cowboys and batman, but all mixed up. Some of the boys really are princesses. Some of the girls, heroes. There are mad scientists of all ages. Even a few mad engineers. But mostly there are people of all ages who under the lantern’s truthy light are revealed to be kids in costumes.

What madness is this?

It must be Hallowe’en.

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Improving and Inventing Plausible Worlds

Some forms of writing, notably science fiction and fantasy, require that before you can write your story you have to first build the world that the story is set in. Sometimes a story and characters are strong enough to carry the weight without a lot of elaborate background detail, but for most of us that is not the case.

In “normal” fiction genres, the mystery writer is probably most aware of world-building issues since they must provide a puzzle that holds the reader’s interest until the moment they are prepared to reveal the answer, and they must have an answer that both fits within reality as the readers understand it, and within the confines of the evidence presented in the course of the tale.

When the inevitable questions arise about how to plausibly arrange your story’s world so that the plot works and readers aren’t mystified by rules that change arbitrarily, wander over to the World Building Stack Exchange and see what they can do to help.

This would appear to be a useful resource for more than just writers. Anyone with a work of art set in a larger context could potentially benefit. The obvious applications are in game design, but I’m sure that other arts have moments where a friendly ear would help.

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Hero’s journey explained by puppets

One of the more detailed theories of story construction is the Monomyth first described by Joseph Campbell, and often also called The Hero’s Journey.

It is the simple idea that many great stories share a common collection of archetypes which may be characters, objects, or even part of the landscape of the story.

Here is an entertaining summary of the theory, summarized skillfully by Fafa of Glove and Boots.

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Deal 72: There’s an app for that

Revenge. I needed revenge. But in these busy times, I had no idea how I could pull it off, so I let it stew while I got on with normal life. The job. The wife. The kids. Normal.

Then it hit me. There’s an app for that, and if there isn’t, there should be.

So the quest began for the right approach to righting my wrongs the easy way with an app. I wanted something that didn’t require a lot of effort on my part; and I really didn’t care what it required of my victim, after all I am seeking revenge.

So the various spy apps, key loggers, locators, and so forth are cut from the list, but that still leaves hundreds of apps in the general category of “up to no good” to review. This was beginning to feel like work, and that was counter to my plan. So I simplified, and tried something I should have tried first up. I searched the app store for “Revenge”. After all, if you don’t ask, you clearly don’t get.

I got one hit. A virtual voodoo doll. It wasn’t free, but then a good revenge must come at some price.

I bought the app, and installed it letting have all the access it needed. In hindsight, it is possible I should have read the license first.

It opened up and showed me a creepy little man holding an even creepier doll. Well shame on me for assuming that voodoo would be done by a large black woman in a swamp, he sure seemed creepy enough to be the real deal.

“If you have willingly entered into this contract, you may proceed at your own risk. If you are having doubts, now is your first and only chance to put me away at no (further) price or consequence. Touch the doll when you are ready to proceed.”

I touched the doll, and it grew to fill the screen. He continued, “Good. We’ll soon have you all sewn up.”

Wait. That sounded—

“First, we need to know a little more about you. Let’s see what you’ve been up to. First a peek at your browser history. Interesting. And now a peek at where you’ve been. And who you’ve been calling. And what you’ve been discussing, online and off. And finally, let’s see if there’s anything in your medical history that will help.”

Um. Did I really agree to all that?

“About this time, people usually start trying to exit the app. I’m proud to note that you haven’t tried that yet. But let me predict something for free, on my own dime as it were: You will try.”

I snatched my hand back from the phone. The image of the doll filled the screen now, and I didn’t like its expression one bit. It went on.

“I see that you’ve been banking from here. That will do nicely, and may I congratulate you on the sizes of your bank accounts? Well, former size, actually…. but I digress. You wanted revenge. And revenge you have got.”

Again, that didn’t sound quite right.

“As of this moment, you are no more. You are erased. Your accounts are gone. Your home is gone. Everything you were or had is gone. There is nothing left for you.”

I frantically grabbed at the phone and tried to switch away but to no avail.

“See, I was right! You did try to leave.”

I tried to turn the phone off.

“Nope, can’t do that either.”

I would have tried to remove the batteries, but the damn phone is glued shut and the batteries cannot be removed.

“That tickles! Do that again! But note that you can’t turn me off.”

I threw the phone at the floor. It bounced, and landed back in my hand.

“You can’t do that either! You are mine until I decide to let you go.”

I tried to set the phone down on the table, but now it was stuck to my fingers. I couldn’t let go of it. I tried to stand up, and the chair was stuck too. I hobbled over to the door, and the knob wouldn’t turn. The creepy man in the app cackled at me the while.

“I told you. You are mine. Now touch my doll and join me here.”

I stopped struggling for a moment and stared at him. He was holding the doll up toward the screen, and it was suddenly apparent there was a second chair in the image, and it was empty. I looked around. There were no windows. The door was gone. The walls were closing in.

I touched the doll.

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Intelligent Carrot Stories

This is a collection of the two-sentence stories produced by readers in response to the recent challenge to write stories inspired by the cards Carrot and Intelligence.

Thank you to all who participated!

Earl

Carotin-elligence

As I sat eating my carrot stew, this thought occurred to me: What if, by consuming the orange root, and making it’s memory enhancing properties part of us, the carrots are actually eating us…. changing us… making us… more like them… After all… If you eat enough of them, you WILL turn orange….

Shal

Waking I see nothing, but feel the warmth and air above, cool ground surrounding my body. Vibrations, footsteps approach, sudden pressure then free of earth; crunch.

Shal

Surveying a can full of discarded party favors after the costume ball, he paused – “There we have it Watson”, declared the great detective, “now we know which guest did the deed. He pointed to an orange scabbard, mate to the green-handled dagger protruding from his lordship’s chest.

Andy

“Eureka: intelligence has been achieved” the scientists cheered! The carrot just screamed in horror at what had been done to it…

Paul

The old wizened gypsy cackled, “Eat this carrot–It will help you develop your intellegence.” If you only knew,…

Cliff

As the Hare stood over the dead Tortoise, holding the bloody carrot sharpened to a razor point, he chuckled. No more jokes about who wins the race.

Pete

The alien intelligence communicated telepathically with his brothers that he now had complete control of Bob, his human host. Bob went into the kitchen and ate a carrot.

Pete

The intelligent man will not peel carrots naked. Thought Roger, too late.

Paul

If a stranger was to see an intelligent man and a carrot arguing in the street, it would be hard to tell them apart.

Paul

The intelligent man knew how to listen for the quiet screams of desperation as he bit into the heart of the recently unearthed carrot. Please nooooo…

Den

When carrots achieved first sentience, then intelligence, we were all doomed. Peeled and doomed.

Pete

A man with a carrot in his ear sat next to a woman on the plane. The woman said “which one of you is the carrot?”

Den

Ted gave his fiancee a 24-carrot ring. Carol once again doubted Ted’s intelligence.

Epilog: But kept the ring

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Deal 71: Owlwo

The owl reflected. He reflected in the pond, and realized he wasn’t likely to find lunch over water. He reflected on the sky, and knew it was a good place to be. He reflected on trees, and thought about all the trees he’d known.

There was that experiment in his youth with a willow sapling. The tree was barely strong enough to hold his weight. It bent in the wind, but when the wind shifted it flung him off. Even when it was still, it swayed too much to get a good day’s sleep.

Then he tried redwoods for a while. Redwoods are pretty much everything a willow is not. Tall. Sturdy. Tall. But not very branchy, and despite a lovely texture to their bark, rarely did a redwood provide a good place to shelter from the risks of daylight.

By far his favorite tree was a good, stately, solid oak. They were just prone enough to have hollows that made good nesting sites. The acorns attracted food right to his doorstep. And the broad leaves provided ample shelter from sunlight and a cool place to sleep the day away.

The owl reflected, and decided that nothing could separate him from his favorite oak.

Then the squirrel family moved in.