Taking inspiration from one of the scenes in the book project I’m currently working on, I’m preparing a class on “monsters in a bottle.” In truth, the inspiration for this idea goes back to my childhood when I used to see this whimsical advertisement in my comic books for “sea monkeys”:
As you might guess, the sea monkeys didn’t really look like the illustration . . . they are basically shrimp.
Well, magical creatures in a bottle may be a disappointing exercise in reality, but I’ve decided it’s a great idea for a creative writing class. Since I have a camp upcoming on the theme of “monsters and mythology,” I’m creating a workshop in which my students will assemble their own magical monster bottle. They will put in a few important “raw ingredients” such as a feather or a claw. They will label and tag the bottle and then write a series of instructions to explain how someone would “hatch” the bottle and turn it into a full-grown monster.
Here’s some photos of the sample bottle I put together:
I’m also hoping that this will inspire them to write a lengthier story. After all, what if someone doesn’t quite follow the instructions correctly? There’s all sorts of story possibilities!
I’ve starting writing a new project these days . . . but, truth be told, it’s been cooking for a while. I actually found this photo on my computer from a couple years ago where I was brainstorming this book with one of my creative writing classes.
The idea was that everyone had a “story brew” brainstorming sheet to get started and, in an attempt to model it, I “story brewed” my own idea. Here’s the photo of my workings:
Some of the ideas have since been discarded . . . and some remain!
By the way, here are some photos of some of the students’ story brews as they were in progress . . .
In order to get my creative writing students “incited”, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks creating our own keys. After all, keys play such an important role in so many stories; they are a great way for a character to either start an adventure, or to help him or her along the way.
The students started with a brainstorming sheet and then designed the key on paper before building it. Many of them also designed tags to go with their keys. In some cases, these tags presented instructions, or a riddle.
Here’s some photos of the activity . . . there is quite the variety of keys!
Here’s a sketch of a character I’m working on for a new book. Yes, I know. He looks like a tiger. But he’s not!
I actually did this sketch years ago (this character has been percolating in my brain for a long time). Now that I’ve finished the bulk of my work on Kendra Kandlestar, I can turn my attention to this character—and his story. I’ve come to realize that this character has one other important feature that is not shown in this sketch. That will have to be shown in future concept drawings.
Here are some photos from my most recent edition of my “secret doorways” workshop.
It has been one of my most popular activities among my creative writing students the last couple of years. I think it’s because students really love working with their hands and getting away from their computers for a while. Personally, I really believe in the concept that busy hands lead to good ideas, and sometimes staring at a computer screen is really just counter-productive in the creative process.
I post a lot about doors on this blog, and I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot more about them, starting today.
One might think that I would have gotten doors out of my system with Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, but the truth is that it just spurred me onward, to the point that I’ve decided that my next series (not just my next book) will be all about doors.
The wonderful part about this decision is that it gives me a continued excuse to go travel the world and take a lot of photos of doorways. I’ve shared some of my favorite doors in the past, but I’ve got a lot of new ones to add to my collection, which all came from my recent trip to Europe.
The photos below all come from one door that I found in the castle district of Budapest. It has all of my favorite features; it’s wooden, weathered, and colorful. It’s also a double door, with the larger door being for horses and carriages (or cars, if you prefer) and the smaller door for us bipeds.
I’ve just posted the latest episode of Life on Planet Marce, the podcast my wife and I have started to chronicle life as a married couple working in the arts. We actually recorded this episode in the car while being lost on the way back from our friend’s house.
While we try to find our way home, we talk about some of our biggest artistic achievements of 2014 and argue over who is the most like Sherlock Holmes. I discuss the inspiration I discovered during our trip to Europe . . . here’s a picture to go with the episode: me in front of a very cool window at the Louvre.