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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 5/20/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

xdpaul serves a warrant. Watkinson and Ben-El question the jurisdiction. • Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke asks which science fictional cineverse we might inhabit. Given the surprising revelation that he keeps Al Gore memorabilia, it could conceivably be an episode of Futurama. • Join the discussion...

miko wins the Recasting Genres challenge, but don't worry... he isn't allowed to participate again for another week and a half. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as M's wife celebrates Pick Strawberries Day a few days early, global media gears up for National Waiters and Waitresses Day (also known in some circles as International False Prophet Day), and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

As of the deadline for our current challenge, we have received the following entries (listed in their order of appearance within Files > Friday Challenge 2011 05 20 ):

  • “All the Luck” by WaterBoy

  • “Luck” by Watkinson

  • “No luck. Only skill.” by Ryan J

  • “The Moon's Last Gambler” by xdpaul

An enthusiastic "Huzzah" to all who have entered! The judges are now considering your submissions. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 22 May 2011.

Props for Props

And now it is time for this week's Friday Challenge, courtesy of miko:

Last week, I had commented on Friday the 13th luck, and Waterboy called me out on my karma – I didn’t come off so well.

This week, I find out that tomorrow is, of all things, The Rapture! Now, I’m going to look pretty bad again when I’m the only one who shows up here on Monday.

It seems both cases are conspiring to reveal rather more about the state of my soul than I would intend.

But that’s not all.

I was sitting on my crappy sofa in my crappy flat trying to think up a Challenge for this week, so I started looking around in desperation for inspiration. What did I see? Junk. I realized that I don’t own a single valuable thing, or even anything in decent condition? What would other people think?

What does my shabby stuff say about me that I would never intend to reveal?

Aha! That junk had just given me the idea for this week’s Challenge.

Props in stories can serve several purposes: as plot devices (e.g., a bomb), as setting (e.g., a tree), as symbolism (e.g., a scarlet letter), but also – drum roll, please – as characterization.

A story may employ objects to reveal character, without the character necessarily having to say, think, or even do, anything.

So, this week’s Challenge is to write a scene, vignette or story having the sole purpose of revealing to the reader the essence of a character by employing only that character’s relationship to some prop - that is, readers should see the character not as the character would choose to be seen, but as unintentionally reflected by the chosen object.

(Remember, don't just describe a shabby apartment - it's about characterization, not setting.)

Pick some (underdeveloped) character from one of your works in progress (or make one up). Decide what readers must understand about this character – what makes him tick. Pick a prop (an inanimate object) having a necessary and appropriate relationship to the character. Then tell us the story of the object (showing us the object’s relation to the character) so that readers will in fact come away knowing the character in a way the character’s ego would never permit.

Stay within 250 words, and props will go to the best use of a prop to bare a character’s soul.

Anyone can enter, except for miko. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. You are not allowed to supply a more lengthy characterization-via-prop-related-inference sketch in 250-word chunks, and you are not allowed to build on anyone else's setup.

Everyone is asked to vote, and to say a few words about what they liked, and why. Or to say a few words about what they disliked, as the case may be; by submitting an entry, you implicitly agree to accept criticism, because there will probably be some handed out, and no one is immune. When voting, please rank a work as either “0” (not so good), “1” (not as bad), “2” (could have been better) or “3” (pretty good stuff!). If you give either a “0” or “3” vote, feel free to argue in support of your reasoning.

Don't like the negativity? Feel free to think of the levels as “0” (Not bad for a first attempt), “1” (Right on!), “2” (Holy cow, I wanna buy this now...) or “3” (Sweet mother of God, how did you write something this awesome?!!). The point is to clearly differentiate, and rank according to your own preference.

For the purposes of this challenge miko will be serving as Ye Olde High Marker, Voluntarily Walking th' Plank.

As of now, we are playing by the loosely enforced and slightly modified rules of The Friday Challenge. All entries are due by 6 AM Eastern time on the morning of Friday, 27 May 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 29 May 2011.

Oh, there is one more thing... but it is the most important! Have fun. Always have fun.
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