28 May 2015 @ 07:10 am
Hello my friendly Flames,
Let’s talk about humor. Do you write funny?
I had a couple of free hours at work the other day, so I slipped into sneak-a-peek-at-the-internet mode (thank you Samsung). I was looking for advice on a completely different topic when I stumbled across an article labeled: “15 tactics for writing humor”. I had to read it because I like to be funny, but I have trouble syncing my humor with my intent.

For example -
When leaving a job interview the other day, I found myself in the elevator lobby with a young man wearing a backpack sporting the company logo. He was also sipping from a large plastic cup with the logo and holding a paper gift bag in company colors with the three letter acronym emblazoned on the side. I’m not one for small talk, but I’d just left a very chatty meeting I was nervous about. Before I’d really considered my no talking to strangers Suburb Girl rule, my mouth started up and I found myself awkwardly saying,
“Soooo you got all the swag…”
Young man sips something like lemonade, then looks up at me with a question in his eyebrow. I sort of flap my hand around to draw a vague circle around his logo-ed stuff. He shifts his shoulder to look at his backpack in the elevator door reflection.
“I’m leaving the company,” he says. “Today is my last day.”

“Was the backpack not big enough?” I ask with a silly smirk.
Quite obviously, it was a joke. Yet he seemed annoyed like I was prying and explained, “I found a better position.”

This is just one example of me trying to be funny and slamming face-long into the glass.

So what I want to know is, are there really only 15 tactics? Because I need way more help than that. I’m thinking a full battle plan with that involves a map and those wooden carvings that represent troops.

What first made me lean in and really connect with the above article was the author’s statement that he disagreed with the notion that humor cannot be taught/learned. I’ve always thought that the assumption of native talent was logical because some people are funny and some aren’t. Realistically though, most of the unfunny people I’ve met did not even want to be funny. So maybe there is hope for those of us are willing to work for it.
Here are the fifteen tactics from the article in handy bullet points:

  1. Overstatements and Exaggerations

  2. The Understatement

  3. Playing Off a Sense of History and/or Predictability

    1. On-going Jokes

  4. Relatability

  5. Presentation

    1. Emphasis

    2. Don’t Laugh at Your Own Jokes

  6. Fish Out of Water

  7. Beating Around the Bush

  8. Stating the Obvious

  9. Over-complication and Over-simplification

  10. Miscommunication

  11. Defying Expectations

  12. Thoughts vs. Words

  13. Awkward and Reactionary

    1. Gutter Humor

  14. Stereotypes

  15. Stupidity Humor

There are tons of examples (with links to visuals) in the article from pop culture and the author conveyed his points well, so I won’t rewrite the article. But pulling solely from the resource of the TV show “Arrested Development” I’d like to pick some laugh out loud moments and tie them to their bullet point.

My sense of humor is not typical. I adore the dry British humor and I find stupid humor personally embarrassing. I stay away from exploiters of it like: Ben Stiller, Will Farrell, Adam Sandler. That said, all three of these guys have one or two films in their body of work that I enjoy. Jason Bateman, on the other hand, rarely makes a movie I don’t like. This is how I got sucked into watching “Arrested Development” and evangelizing it like I’d just discovered comedy.

In the very first episode, the family matriarch (an aged, boozy, narcissist who strikes me as the dark mirror version of Nancy Reagan) points out a group of protesters on a party boat near the family’s yacht.
“Just look at those homosexuals. Everything they do is soooo dramatic. It makes me want to set myself on fire!” - That one is a combo of 1 and 14 with a little 5a thrown in.
Her daughter is standing next to her and makes a shocked face over the spoken prejudice, then she points out one of the protesters (dressed like a pirate) and muses that she thinks she has that same shirt. Her mother - ever the caustic wonder - snarks, “It looks better on him.” Mother Bluth makes a face that says she is definitely keeping score and just gave herself a point. Then sips her drink. This speaks to 3/3a, but it’s part-way through the first episode so you can only suspect. The last tidbit of humor the writers squeezed from this scene is that the daughter’s husband is on the party boat of protesters. He joined the group due to a miscommunication (10) and, also due to a miscommunication, he is the only one dressed like a pirate. It is indeed his wife’s shirt.

The whole scene played out in 30 seconds - with a bit of set up throughout the 30 minute episode for the husband falling in with the protesters. To some this might be offensive, but the writers aren’t against homosexuality, they have one character whose tiny mind is exaggerated. She looks down on everyone with equal measure, including her own family.

As a humor bonus, I’ve included this seven-minute video of visual comedy tactics for film that I find really interesting. Edgar Wright (no relation) is a British director I’ve admired for a while. He and his cohorts (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) make excellent comedy together.

[vimeo 96558506 w=500 h=281]

Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

*in case that embedded link doesn't work right, here's another - https://vimeo.com/tonyzhou/edgarwright

Talk to me about your favorite expressions of comedy. What gets you laughing? What kind of humor is a struggle for you? Is there a line or scene in one of your stories that you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favorite comedic writer? Do they write storied fiction or ironic commentaries on life? There are so many things we could talk about under this umbrella, maybe we’ll cover a few specific works in future chatter posts.

There is a sign-up sheet for June writing. Don’t miss out.

The reading list has been up since Tuesday. There are a few more days to cast your vote.
Read. Comment. Vote.

Our next flamestorming session in Google Hangouts is scheduled for June 14th. Join us for the storm.
27 May 2015 @ 07:05 am
Well, here we are, Wednesday. The last week of May. Exciting, no?

The deadline for the May contest was yesterday and I would like to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of everyone in this community. Thank you so much for your participation and support. I know we all can’t wait to read the fruits of all your hard work and dedication to writing.

For today’s chatter. I would like you to consider the words of poet Carolyn Forche. I was fortunate enough to remember to schedule a reading she gave in Conway, Arkansas, earlier this year, into my calendar. I almost didn’t go; my car had a flat tire and was running on the spare. But I’m glad I went because, as she read, she offered this piece of advice: get to the end.

The way I write, I do not think of where the end will be, what will happen, what message I want to leave my reader with. Today I encourage you to talk about your process of ending and how you crafted the end of your month-long journey here.

If you did not participate in this month’s challenge, please join the conversation and tell us how you decided to end something, anything.

#govoteflames for your favorite May story/poetry collection now! The posts are up and the writers have spoken! #goread and support your fellow Flames and be sure to share your thoughts on the awesome work everyone has done this month.
Then #gosignup for the June contest before the 31st.
26 May 2015 @ 03:27 pm

Once again we are offering the opportunity to submit your most polished, single prompt-inspired writing in a month-long contest! All genres are welcome. Newcomers are welcome.


The entry with the most votes at the end of June will be invited to share their winning work on our website --- are you excited? Good! We'll be hosting Writing Sprints at Google Hangouts (stay tuned for times and dates), as well as standing by to cheer you on to the end. Need a beta reader? Just ask. Want to discuss writing in between bouts of hammering the keyboard? We'll have daily Chatters in which you may discuss your process, seek guidance, or give guidance. Just think of us as your Writing Support Team. Ready, Set ...


Your word count shall not exceed 5k. Feel free to enter a micro-fic, essay, or poetry collection, or one short story within this word count limit. New work only, please.

I'll announce the prompt on the afternoon of Sunday, May 31.

In the meantime, here's a hint: LOST & FOUND

... GO!

26 May 2015 @ 06:00 am
Some days I am so lazy, it's a wonder I have a heartbeat. Others, I can out work and out produce anyone. I am capable of forecasting neither.

It's rare for me to get on a "planned" writing streak. In fact, such a thing has only occurred once (with success) in the last three years. That definitely qualifies as rare. Do I lack the necessary mental and emotional ingredients to learn and exert self-discipline in my creative outlet of choice? Needing to know the answer to that question led me to experimenting with various routines. Somewhere along the line, though, I tend to deviate from planned routines and squirrel... whatever.

Fact is I'm a damn grownup now, so I guess the most important routines to maintain include getting up on time for work and remembering to pay my bills with acceptable regularity. Perhaps taking hold of this reality is the origin of years' worth of melancholy --- I might be on to something. Anyway, I've learned to take the writing as it comes. Like standing at the top of the hill with a butterfly net. Sometimes slumping with self-pity , sometimes in delighted anticipation. Sometimes looking off into the clouds wishing for the available technology to install a butterfly radar that maps trajectory from miles out, but that little gadget would require an outstanding user's manual.


My intention for this chatter was actually to ask about what writing realities you have explored since taking on the suspect title of "writer": Did you begin with the hopes of writing epic fiction and discover a knack for poetry or essay? Or, vice versa? Did you wrestle for months or years with the idea of a ROUTINE and win out? What is the most important self-discovery you have made since first acknowledging that you are, indeed, a writer? Seriously. I want to hear all about your writing woes and wins and personal discoveries.

26 May 2015 @ 06:53 am
Good morning, Flamefolk!

Pencils down was called a few short hours ago and we have six hearty submissions to read and comment on. Let's see how our writers wielded the prompt for "What is Reality?"

Be sure to welcome our newest writer Shane Bell. He's a personal friend of mine from the real world and has been writing as a hobby for decades.

Your reading list:

Title: Connections
Author: ayumidah
Word Count: 3,103
Warnings: None

Title: I am Ilya, we have met, perhaps?
Author: bluegerl
Word Count: 1,850
Warnings: None

Title: The Saga of the Song Drifter
Author: Cedar Wolfsinger
Word Count: 4,533
Warnings: Car wreck/medically induced coma/rehab

Title: REALITY: A Poetry Collection
Author: Kathy/darlinleo
Word Count:1,060
Warnings: Weird little poems

Title: Untitled
Author: hwango
Word Count: 2,373
Warnings: mild language, violence, child death, and misfortune. Not my usual sunshine and whimsy.

Title: Aether Geist
Author: Shane Bell
Word Count: 4,868
Warnings: adult situations, references to drug use, sexual references, profanity.

The polls close by 11:45pm on Saturday, May 30 (EDT).
There can be only one winner, but we won't limit the number of votes allotted.

Remember when you are voting to consider how well the writer has met the criteria given.

Be sure to spread some comment love, let your fellow writers know they are appreciated. If it's an off-site blog and you have trouble with commenting, feel free to share your comments here and we'll pass them along. In fact, I encourage you to share some [constructive] public thoughts below with the community. Let's talk about what we read, together.

We love it when our Embers write, but we also need the community to come together and read what's being submitted. Even if you didn't have time to write this week, please take a few minutes to read and encourage your friends to read as well. Share our fire!

#govoteflames and don't forget the #commentlove

Voting Poll
25 May 2015 @ 06:49 am

Good morning! For those of us in the States, today is observed as Memorial Day, a 24-hour block once a year that we are meant to pause and show respect and gratitude for the men and women who have served our country’s military. Understandably, not all people have clear feelings about military service, so today’s chatter is not about service in general. It’s about the difficulty of grasping something one has not experienced.

Appropriately, this month’s theme is reality, and the question of its nature. Because every perception of reality is different, it is a dangerously fluid concept. The good news about that is, one hundred people could write about the same subject and we’d get one hundred very unique glimpses into the world. Some would even be so far a deviation from our own understanding that we may be forced to question our own perceptions altogether. I open up with the topic of military service simply because, even though I was raised by ex-military parents, I have never served and I know myself well enough to say I never will. It isn’t a lack of patriotism, it’s more a matter of knowing exactly how capable one’s self is of accomplishing certain tasks. I was not built for service, so I know confidently that I will never serve. Because of that, I will never have the hands-on experience needed to truly understand what it means to be a soldier.

For me, not being able to experience something does not always mean I can’t or won’t write about it. Surely those of us who’ve written science fiction do not expect readers to believe we’ve flown in starships or had tea with alien life. I write about werewolves. I don’t expect you to believe I’ve met any. But that’s the double edge on imagination, isn’t it? With the one blade, one can imagine into existence any and every world and situation possible. Yet, we turn the blade over and discover the opposite edge is a bit duller than we’d hoped, and we know it is from lack of use and care. The imagination can take us many places, but there are some experiences (like those of enlistment, as exampled above) that cannot be replicated without having lived it, or without a very intense course of research.

How do you approach topics you know you do not fully understand? How are you able to lend reality to a life you’ve never lived?

Remember to delve into your own answers to the question, What Is Reality?

Some sprints are available for your reading pleasure, as well as an archive of the sprint efforts thus far. Will you join us?

24 May 2015 @ 01:39 pm
So this weekend The Republic of Ireland has voted in favour of gay marriage. This is all the more remarkable when you realise that just a few decades ago the Republic of Irelandwas a virtual theocracy.

Life over the past 100 years is full of massive change. Two world wars, the Great Depression, not to mention several recessions. The rise of communism, the fall of communism, the rerise of a military Russia. Native terrorism, imported terrorism, PR terrorism, computers, the internet.

So my questions for this week. Have you ever written about social changes? And which, in your opinion, is the largest change of the last century?
23 May 2015 @ 10:36 pm
Why yes, in the US it is Memorial Day weekend. Which is end of school coming bbq Indy 500 etc.  I remember reading somewhere that the first Memorial Day memorial was a group of freed slaves who knew where a group of Union soldiers had been buried in a mass grave. They dug them out and buried them again in individual graves.  It just seems..fitting.

Meanwhile what were the chatterlings about on the days leading up to Memorial Day?

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/as-it-happens-sunday-chatter-15/" title="As it Happens-Sunday Chatter">Sunday</a>

About using time in the story.

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/manic-monday-hosted-by-ricochey-11/" title="Manic Monday, hosted by RicoChey.">Monday</a>

Talks about sprinting.

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/tuesday-chatter-by-darlinleo-15/" title="Tuesday Chatter by Darlinleo">Tuesday</a>

How about running into plot walls.

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/wednesday-chatter/" title="Wednesday Chatter">Wednesday</a>

On surprising your characters.

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/thursday-chatter-by-t-s-wright-2/" title="Thursday Chatter by t.s.wright">Thursday</a>

What sort of importance do you put on the backdrop?

<a href="https://brigitsflame.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/chatter-post-for-friday-may-22-2015/" title="Chatter Post for Friday, May 22, 2015">Friday</a>

On art that challenges reality.

And do not forget, it is almost the deadline for this month.
22 May 2015 @ 06:00 am
Happy Friday, my friends!  The Merry Month of May is winding down.  How that happened, I have no clue.  Take heed – the deadline for the month’s contest is fast approaching, with Monday being the last full day to write. I hope your weekend activities include planned time in which you can #gowrite.

Writing is a very private process, and can be isolating.  When it’s just me and the computer, and the words in my head, I sometimes forget that there are people out there in the world beyond my screen. That frequently is difficult for me because I am a very social person.  During NaNoWriMo, my region has a virtual chat room in which there are scheduled times that we gather there and do timed writing – or word sprints.  I have enjoyed that in the past.  I have also found that putting a timer on for 15 minutes and typing hell-bent-for-leather until it sounds is a great way to motivate myself to write.  It also is a short enough duration to keep my interest while giving me time to write something that makes sense.  I have been writing like that since last November.  The piece I miss setting my own timer, is the camaraderie of sharing how many words we got on any given sprint with the other writers, and laughing about what we did.

On Sunday, Tami, Kathy, Cheyenne, and I spent a few hours on Google Hangouts doing sprints to various prompts.  I believe our consensus was that a grand time was had by all!

I was able to figure out how to turn some of my scary medical stuff in 2014 into ways to include my protagonist in her own story, even when she spends weeks in a medically-induced coma.

Various prompts were thrown around, at first each of us writing to a separate prompt.  At the end of the session, though, Tami’s honey gave us a great prompt:  A Most Unusual Tool.  These are the words that came from Tami, Kathy, and I as a result.




As you can see, so many different ideas can come from the same prompt in the same 15 minutes.
There will be more opportunities for involvement in writing sprints, so stay tuned – there will be more #flamestorming ahead!

To refresh your memory on the prompt for the May contest, in the event you have been writing for weeks and what you have now is nothing like what you expected when you started, and for ease of posting your entries –   Click here.

21 May 2015 @ 08:13 am
Good morning, Flames!
There are just five days until pencils down on our musings on reality.
I would ask you today if you've ever had occasion to alter actual events in your memory to reconstruct reality, but if you had you wouldn't know...

If I could do a survey, I wonder what percent of people would insist that there is one reality - one fixed set of known data about the universe - and all those who do not see it as THEY do must be mentally deranged. Probably close to 100% right? Unless we queried some crazy people. 0_o
Philip K. Dick wasn't just an author who imagined alternate realities for his characters and the future of humanity. Outside of his fiction, he suffered from the persistent belief that the reality accepted by the common man was a version given to us by external forces that wanted to control mankind. He would regularly vacillate between the forces keeping us ignorant so that we would work to attain awareness and those same forces being motivated by the power derived by our obliviousness. PKD alternately attributed the signal he had tapped into - revealing true reality - to divine powers, alien beings, and government agencies.

He just didn't know.

And he spent years trying to work it out. Eight thousand words later, he was no closer to an answer than Einstein came in his quest for a unifying theory of everything. (To which we now know the answer is 42. Sorry Al.)

PKD pushed this new information on everyone he knew well enough to pen a letter to, and made new friends with anyone who would listen. He believed that the books he'd written prior to his first true revelation - when the signal first broke through - came from pieces of that same signal he had unwittingly intercepted throughout his past. Then he began to use his own works of fiction as foundation material for his study of reality. What he wanted more than anything was to be heard and validated. PKD's quest for answers was lonely, infuriating, depressing, and manic. Even the people who listened and nodded (instead of shaking their heads in denial) were on the outside looking in. Other than the rare blurt that it was all a result of having taken too many psychotropics in prior years, he never stopped believing in the signal and the message.

RicoChey asked at the beginning of the month if it was possible that the creative mind is actually a sign of mental illness. If you use PKD as the yardstick, then maybe we writers are all on the precipice of madness.

Have you ever met a person who can swiftly convince themselves of little adjustments to their reality. I don't mean they lie convincingly to you, they lie to themselves and the next moment it becomes their truth.
I was once in a relationship with a man who had this ability. It could be a scary thing to witness. The first time I realized that he wasn't just a stubborn liar - the first time it dawned on me that he believed his own lies completely - I was at a loss on how to handle it and it made me question every anecdote of his life he'd shared. It was never about the big stuff, but there were plenty of little things to make a case for delusional behavior.

Would you tell them that they are wrong? How do you make a case with the proof of your senses against another who is just as convinced their senses reported something different? How long until you start to wonder if they're right and you're deluded? Without a live camera feed recording every shared moment, you can't. In my preferred genre of writing, it makes for an interesting character. But in the real world it makes for a terrible relationship.

Talk to me about your experiences colliding with another's reality.

Then #gowrite while there is still time.
20 May 2015 @ 07:29 am
There are only six writing days left until the May contest ends!
Get your submissions in no later than 04:00 EDT on 5/26 in order to have your story included in the voting. That's 4 am for those not oriented to a 24 hour clock.

The prompt (which you should have started writing for well before now) is "What is Reality?"

We've had some writing sprints along the way. If you're having trouble with your inspiration, read through them to see if something sparks.

Sprint #1
Sprint #2
Sprint #3
Sprint #4
19 May 2015 @ 06:33 am
This chatter is brought to you by rain, rain, and rain, and the color of all those flowers being drowned. So, yeah, here in my little corner of the planet April showers brought May showers. I sincerely regret that I never thought to teach my dog to wear galoshes when he was a pup.

Speaking of regrets: Don’t y’all feel badly that you missed the 2015 Re-Intro of Flamestorming? I sure do feel badly for you. We had timed writing sprints there, and it was all big fun. As RicoChey put forth yesterday, different styles of prompts inspire writers (with the exception of prompt floozies), and writing games can very well lend insight to just what kind of writer you want to be.

I learn something new with every prompt and writing game. In fact, discovering that each writing discussion and exercise does indeed offer such learning experiences is equally important to me as that amazing feeling that comes with completing a larger work. And learning what limitations I have at the introduction of a game or project is equally as important as new revelations of style and voice that might come in the midst of a project.

Today, I invite you to tell me about your best (and worst, if you wish) writing prompt experiences. What did you learn? Did it change the way you approached your craft? Did you discover a yet unrealized and astonishing trait? #talktome
18 May 2015 @ 07:00 am

Good weekend, all? I hope so. I spent part of my Sunday sprinting on Google Hangouts with Tami, Cedar, and Kathy. This month’s contest will play host to a few different sprint events for those of you who need the exercise, or just thrive on prompt writing. Conveniently enough, it’s prompt writing I’d like to discuss.

Here at the Flame, we’re more than familiar with the idea of prompts and topics. We literally live off of them. Over the years, we’ve seen the gamut of prompt possibilities, ranging from open-ended one word prompts like “fire” and “fate”, to the challenge to begin all entries with a particular phrase. The Mod Hydra continues to strive to deliver the best variety we can provide, aiming to target each and every member of our diverse writing family.

I, personally, am easily prompted. I’ve learned this about myself over my years here at the Flame, both as a player and an administrator. The first prompt for which I ever wrote was “reap” back in 2009. My first mini-contest was a personalized four-part prompt provided to me by random selection: “cattle prod, dungeon, deus ex machina, written as a mystery”. It is worth noting that we also had a limit of 3k words, that mine reached 2,998, and I chose to be complete buffoon and add “the end”. I won. ;-) And my favorite “begin your entry with this sentence” prompt? “There it goes…” I didn’t win, but the entries were so diverse, it truly proved the myriad potential of even the most specific prompt.

I think the prompts to which we respond well say a lot about us as writers. Those of us who respond best to one word at a time need freedom and room to move. Those of us who thrive on selective challenges like the aforementioned mini-contest are thirsty for challenge and creative adversity. Those of us who can pull something from nothing regardless of topic? Well, I guess we’re just the floozies of the writing c0mmunity.

By what brand of prompt are you most easily inspired? Do you need to roam wild, unbound by bullet points and specifics, or do you need to be pushed to find a way to put a square peg through a round hole? What sort of insight to gain into yourself, as a writer, when you consider this question?

Click here to learn more about May’s prompt, and refer to paragraph one for links to information on sprints and more about Google+ Hangouts, a free service for all GMail users.

17 May 2015 @ 12:59 pm
Yes another sprint. Something to play with if you do not make the google hang out or something to play with during the flamestorming session.

If your birthyear is an even number, than here is your sprint


Write about the moment in your life that is the most realistic. It is my opinion that we all have a moment that stands out.

If your birthyear is an odd number than here is your sprint


WHat is the most surreal moment you have witnessed? They are certainly not hard to notice if you just keep your senses alert. Of course sometimes it depends on the circumstances. Such as looking out the labour room as your son is being born and seeing a sky full of hot air balloons.

So..I hope you enjoy.
17 May 2015 @ 11:31 am
We are wandering into the last half of the month. Before you know it there will be knocking at the door from trick or treaters. Okay,perhaps I am rushing things just a tad. But the fact is that from an internal point of view, time is not a constant. Sometimes it seems like a moment can last forever. And sometimes it just never lasts long enough at all. I remember reading that the Australian aborigines believe that time is fluid, that it stays and it is we who move.

Have you ever used time in your stories? Have your characters ever thought of time?