October 30, 2020, 12:58:47 PM

Author Topic: Contest Theme Ideas  (Read 59289 times)

Offline Lanko

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #120 on: October 06, 2016, 03:19:59 AM »
That's a pretty cool idea @Raptori. One month where we could have a recycled theme or a free one where we would choose a theme X years ago or from year Y.

Also, just had the idea of some kind of bingo/lottery when you are given a random contestant name and "Choose someone else's theme". Oh, that would be chaotic if the logistics weren't so complicated  ::)
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #121 on: October 06, 2016, 03:37:45 AM »
Those would be great too.

One way for a lottery one to work pretty easily: before the contest starts, make a thread where anyone who is thinking about entering the contest has to post a theme idea. When the contest begins, xia/someone would then randomly assign each of those theme ideas to one of the people who had posted a theme idea (probably making sure they don't get assigned the theme they themselves submitted). Voila!  :P

Would require people to be nice with the themes though, nothing too difficult, and someone might end up with a theme they have no interest in...  :-\
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #122 on: October 06, 2016, 03:12:34 PM »
Those would be great too.

One way for a lottery one to work pretty easily: before the contest starts, make a thread where anyone who is thinking about entering the contest has to post a theme idea. When the contest begins, xia/someone would then randomly assign each of those theme ideas to one of the people who had posted a theme idea (probably making sure they don't get assigned the theme they themselves submitted). Voila!  :P

Would require people to be nice with the themes though, nothing too difficult, and someone might end up with a theme they have no interest in...  :-\

mine would SO be "excavating mucus".

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #123 on: October 06, 2016, 07:39:44 PM »
I know this suggestion is a departure from focusing on random ingredients/settings so brace yourselves!
UNCONVENTIONAL THOUGHTS THAT ARE NOT LINKED TO THE PAST AHEAD!

Instead of requiring that random ingredients tossed in, we could look at specific effects to be tossed out. Examples:
- Depth of Impact: achieve a moment of emotion = make us mad, make us giggle, make us gasp, make us cry, or at least, make my throat tighten up. The priority is the depth of the emotion - can you move people with words?

- Deliver muted tones: craft scene that conveys a modest emotion - not a giddy extreme: irony, melancholy, affection, or irritation, etc., without lapsing into melodrama or accidental comedy.

-Simulate a realistic scenario: show a character realistically convincing another character to change their mind. The change of mind must seem natural.

For me, this contest is just practice and a fun exercise. It helped my poetry structure. Those who write to get their stuff published on the website might not look at these kinds of projects the same way I am. I can't imagine being that big of an attention how're we to balance that? I'm not sure.
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #124 on: October 07, 2016, 12:25:03 AM »
@The_Gem_Cutter I don't understand why you feel the need, for a second time, to introduce a formal requirement into the Writing Contest. If this is done it would change the nature of it from what it has been into a simulation of a Writing Class, changing the focus of what we are judging and considering when we vote.

If you wish to explore those possibilities why not do it on separate threads? Your interesting and varied suggestions may appeal to many here and be valuable and the results of your discussions may help writers improve their entry stories, but I personally feel the Contest itself is not the place for this particular practice.

Following the Contest over the last few years has been a joy.  It is one of the most affable, non-judgmental and inclusive parts of the Forum; a place where  genuine dedication and effort reigns combined within an informal atmosphere of joyful nonsense.   I genuinely believe that this has been achieved,  by our friendly writers themselves, but also because there are no prescriptive or formal demands placed on the writing apart from the Theme and the practicalities of length and spoilers.

Any writer can practice style and develop their imagination freely on the given Theme of the month. It is clear that styles and imaginations are wide, varied and wonderfully astonishing, but above all enjoyable. All reading the other stories can learn what works well and in particular learn from those who often gain a win or high vote.

The innate atmosphere of encouragement and sheer good natured fun gives newcomers of all ages  the confidence to enter and to keep on entering, especially if they join in with the same spirit and are not overly focused on being an instant winner.

Over the last couple of years I have seen quite a few writers improve enormously and clearly benefit from their dedication to entering faithfully, time after time. Even felt comfortable and relaxed enough to try my hand at fiction now and then, after a lifetime of formal writing, but purely for fun and hopefully to raise a few smiles, but with no intention of garnering votes.

In these stories there have already been many examples of impact, emotion and realism that have occurred naturally as the writers saw appropriate. I would be sorry to see any restrictions or requirements imposed on this extremely successful part of the forum.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #125 on: October 07, 2016, 12:39:11 AM »
To add to Lady_Ty's point, while those kind of things mentioned by TGC are great targets to aim for in a short story, they're the kind of thing that feels better placed in control of the writer.

Every time we've entered the contest, we've written the story with at least one specific goal. Sometimes it's as simple as "practice making the dialogue feel natural", but sometimes it's more subjective like "evoke a feeling of melancholy in the reader". I'm not convinced it would be as useful an exercise if the targets were determined externally; it's important to tailor the goals to what you feel you need to work on as a writer. The themes as they are right now give sufficient flexibility for that to be possible.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #126 on: October 07, 2016, 02:01:08 AM »
Double-post but... thinking more about this:

One way for a lottery one to work pretty easily: before the contest starts, make a thread where anyone who is thinking about entering the contest has to post a theme idea. When the contest begins, xia/someone would then randomly assign each of those theme ideas to one of the people who had posted a theme idea (probably making sure they don't get assigned the theme they themselves submitted). Voila!  :P

Maybe each person could also be able to blacklist one or two suggested themes which they do not want to be assigned, to hopefully make sure nobody gets stuck with a theme they truly can't stand.
I wish the world was flat like the old days, then I could travel just by folding a map.

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #127 on: October 07, 2016, 02:07:02 AM »
Double-post but... thinking more about this:

One way for a lottery one to work pretty easily: before the contest starts, make a thread where anyone who is thinking about entering the contest has to post a theme idea. When the contest begins, xia/someone would then randomly assign each of those theme ideas to one of the people who had posted a theme idea (probably making sure they don't get assigned the theme they themselves submitted). Voila!  :P

Maybe each person could also be able to blacklist one or two suggested themes which they do not want to be assigned, to hopefully make sure nobody gets stuck with a theme they truly can't stand.

Or get a choice of two but have to definitely choose one to stretch themselves even if they are not keen?  Going to be hard to vote on brcause of not have common comparisons, but still good idea. We are rather piling work on the mods to organise - what do they think?

“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #128 on: October 07, 2016, 02:20:38 AM »
@The_Gem_Cutter I don't understand why you feel the need, for a second time, to introduce a formal requirement into the Writing Contest.
Point of order Lady Ty - I was not proposing a formal requirement that did not already exist - I was proposing shifting the current and long-standing topical formal requirement to something else. Still has the same number of restrictions: 2 (counting length).

I am always stumped by the requirement to dwell on potions, pirates, etc., and I thought it would be liberating not to have a theme jammed down the throat once. That's all.

So instead of writing a story that must feature X to one that delivers X. Fact: writing a story that must include pirates is just as restrictive as writing one that could be about anything but is supposed to be funny.

It's really not that big of a deal. The drama's a little misplaced - the thread is a discussion on theme ideas, or it seemed like it at the time. Pardon my idea. Most ideas crumble under their own weight in a group setting - so why did you feel the need to upset over a pretty basic one on a thread ASKING FOR IDEAS?

Here's an idea you can handle: let's write about the scariest monster ever: change.
These kind of stories often feature lighthearted, open-minded characters juxtaposed with their darker, fear-driven counterparts. Enter the heroine on her charger, saving the realm from change!

Fantasy is filled with stories of change, whether metamorphosis like Gollum under the Ring's influence, or people's fear of it like Denethor refusing to acknowledge the arrival of King. But let's not make the change too frightening - that could impact the affable, inclusive atmosphere.
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #129 on: October 07, 2016, 02:36:30 AM »
Clearly I have mis-read your intention again, as I understood you to mean that our usual moderator chosen theme should also include one of your suggestions.
As you were . No drama intended.
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
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Offline night_wrtr

Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #130 on: October 07, 2016, 02:45:44 AM »
I know this suggestion is a departure from focusing on random ingredients/settings so brace yourselves!
UNCONVENTIONAL THOUGHTS THAT ARE NOT LINKED TO THE PAST AHEAD!

Instead of requiring that random ingredients tossed in, we could look at specific effects to be tossed out. Examples:
- Depth of Impact: achieve a moment of emotion = make us mad, make us giggle, make us gasp, make us cry, or at least, make my throat tighten up. The priority is the depth of the emotion - can you move people with words?

- Deliver muted tones: craft scene that conveys a modest emotion - not a giddy extreme: irony, melancholy, affection, or irritation, etc., without lapsing into melodrama or accidental comedy.

-Simulate a realistic scenario: show a character realistically convincing another character to change their mind. The change of mind must seem natural.

For me, this contest is just practice and a fun exercise. It helped my poetry structure. Those who write to get their stuff published on the website might not look at these kinds of projects the same way I am. I can't imagine being that big of an attention how're we to balance that? I'm not sure.

I feel like I need to quote the below as it, from my perspective, is the way to go about doing those kinds of specific things a you mentioned.

To add to Lady_Ty's point, while those kind of things mentioned by TGC are great targets to aim for in a short story, they're the kind of thing that feels better placed in control of the writer.

Every time we've entered the contest, we've written the story with at least one specific goal. Sometimes it's as simple as "practice making the dialogue feel natural", but sometimes it's more subjective like "evoke a feeling of melancholy in the reader". I'm not convinced it would be as useful an exercise if the targets were determined externally; it's important to tailor the goals to what you feel you need to work on as a writer. The themes as they are right now give sufficient flexibility for that to be possible.

@The_Gem_Cutter I don't understand why you feel the need, for a second time, to introduce a formal requirement into the Writing Contest.
I am always stumped by the requirement to dwell on potions, pirates, etc., and I thought it would be liberating not to have a theme jammed down the throat once. That's all.

So instead of writing a story that must feature X to one that delivers X. Fact: writing a story that must include pirates is just as restrictive as writing one that could be about anything but is supposed to be funny.

Honeslty, I'm not sure where this is coming from? These topics are not restrictive IMO. Yeah, write a story about pirates. There are innumerable possibilties.

Go back at the archives and look at previous topics. There are so many ways to write a submission for each one. Just to bring attention back to your ideas, they are great to work on for the individual level. Like Raptori mentioned, why not work on them within the bounds of the monthly topic?

Give it a go and see how it works for you, maybe it will take you along a different path than expected. You can always drop in the critique thread after and see if anyone picks up on what you were trying to do or get feedback on that specifically.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #131 on: October 07, 2016, 03:52:06 AM »
I never noticed until just now, but looking at January's topic, there have been months where the topic was one of delivery before. This is exactly what I was proposing in my previous suggestion, the one that was ... poorly received by the community. Clearly, a suggestion from me will elicit a negative response - even if it's exactly what's been not just discussed but actually done before, and the loudest nay-sayers happily submitted stories for it. I'm going to stop notifications for this thread because it just upsets me.

The themes are not that restrictive or terrible, I just don't like having to include a theme. I can do it, and it's not drudgery, it's even fun in its way, but I don't like them as much as a free hand. Just a preference, not an allergy. So this second suggestion was not desperation. It was just an idea that came to me listening to M3mnoch and others discuss critiques on another thread.

Apparently, some derive a great deal of learning from critiques of their own and other's work. So I thought a batch of stories where everyone is trying to achieve a similar emotional moment (or whatever) would showcase a variety of approaches that might be interesting and thought-provoking.

I thought the challenge would be offset by having the choice to write about anything desired. And, in the reading/voting phase, I thought there might be interesting surprises along the way, the first of which would come from NOT knowing what content each story would feature.

One can easily write essentially the same story about anything - pirates, parrots, potions, and words beginning with other letters, too. One can easily remain in the same style and avoid what is uncomfortable or difficult. Staying in one's comfort zone is easy and comfortable (hence the name), but we developed the term to describe the need to get out of it, not the need to stay in it.

I am at least walking the walk - I don't look forward to critique of my essay this month because it's the first short anything I've written for decades. But staying in my comfort zone is not good for me. That, and poetry doesn't stand a chance around here.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #132 on: October 07, 2016, 04:16:58 AM »
@The_Gem_Cutter, I think it's more statements like this -

it seems creative writers are [not] prepared to embrace technical issues that are just as worthy of development, study, and yes, appreciation

- or this -

Those who write to get their stuff published on the website might not look at these kinds of projects the same way I am.

- or this -

a theme jammed down the throat

- which make people less receptive to your suggestions. It makes your comments come across as "this contest sucks, I want it to be different". The majority of people here thoroughly enjoy the contest as it has been for the last couple of years, so suggestions phrased like that are not likely to be received as the positive and interesting idea they might have been thought of as otherwise.

Incidentally, the second quote above in particular came across as extremely condescending, especially because (as far as I'm aware) nobody cares about getting their stuff published on the website! Sure, it's nice to see the winners posted there, but that's probably the least important part of the contest for anyone who joins in regularly. Putting yourself above others is not going to win you any support.

I presume you didn't mean to come across that way - elsewhere in the forum you haven't come across like that - so please don't get frustrated, and remember that we're not intentionally being dismissive of anyone's ideas. Even if people disagree on some things (such as when I disagreed with your suggestion at the top of page 8 ) it's not them saying the ideas aren't valid, just that in their opinion they're not the right fit for the contest as the general community here has come to enjoy it.   :)
« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 04:19:14 AM by Raptori »
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #133 on: October 07, 2016, 07:21:09 AM »
Thanks Raptori, for bringing all that back up, and quoting me in an argument, then acting as if that was how I introduced the idea. And like an idiot I let you summon me back into this crap.
... just that in their opinion they're not the right fit for the contest as the general community here has come to enjoy it.   :)
Is that the general community that didn't bat an eye when Xiagan went with a 4th Wall exercise in January? Pretty much exactly what I was talking about - a writing contest that featured a technical challenge.
Bye.
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Contest Theme Ideas
« Reply #134 on: October 07, 2016, 07:44:23 AM »
Seriously @The_Gem_Cutter there is monstrous lack of understanding here. I cannot correlate Breaking The Fourth Wall as a story writing style with the suggestions you have made below. Perhaps you can explain more clearly what you want without being either defensive or snarky.


You might consider some technically focused contests. For example, provide a short video of someone doing something complex with their fingers, a cat being spooked and jumping in a distinct way, and then setting the task at describing those motions in a very short space. These kinds of talents are, imho, just as worthy of study and arguably even more foundational to writing than the use of the broader brushes and landscapes of theme, plot, setting, etc.

I know this suggestion is a departure from focusing on random ingredients/settings so brace yourselves!
UNCONVENTIONAL THOUGHTS THAT ARE NOT LINKED TO THE PAST AHEAD!

Instead of requiring that random ingredients tossed in, we could look at specific effects to be tossed out. Examples:
- Depth of Impact: achieve a moment of emotion = make us mad, make us giggle, make us gasp, make us cry, or at least, make my throat tighten up. The priority is the depth of the emotion - can you move people with words?

- Deliver muted tones: craft scene that conveys a modest emotion - not a giddy extreme: irony, melancholy, affection, or irritation, etc., without lapsing into melodrama or accidental comedy.

-Simulate a realistic scenario: show a character realistically convincing another character to change their mind. The change of mind must seem natural.

For me, this contest is just practice and a fun exercise. It helped my poetry structure. Those who write to get their stuff published on the website might not look at these kinds of projects the same way I am. I can't imagine being that big of an attention how're we to balance that? I'm not sure.
-Gem Cutter
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic