This was the day of the 24-hour writing challenge – a Writers of the Future tradition designed to illustrate to us newbie writers that the story-well never runs dry, that we are never “out of ideas” and that stories can be “made to happen” at will and from the most disparate of story prompts imaginable. It also showed us that, yes, at a pinch, you can write a short story draft within a mere day.
It was a day I’d been dreading in the lead up to the trip after being told how hard it was by other previous Writers of the Future winners (who I now suspect were having more than a little fun at my expense). It wasn’t that bad, by the way, though it did turn out to be hard work and many hours without sleep!
After a morning session on character development and improving character dialogue, hosted by the fantastic duo of Tim Powers and Dave Wolverton (David Farland) …
… we all headed off to the local library for our second writing prompt.
You’ll recall that my first writing prompt was an object:
Us heading to the library:
Tim Powers and Dave Wolverton accompanied us:
And, as always, our wonderful cameramen and women were there to catch every moment (image courtesy of Randy Henderson):
The 24-hour challenge requires the writer to create a story from three story prompts – a random object; a random book (or books) and a random conversation with a stranger. The Boulevard being what it was, we were advised to choose our strangers very carefully and not get into any cars. Needless to say, me and Leena Likitalo, as foreigners to the States, decided to stick together for the walk back to Author Services.
After leaving us with final instructions on finding appropriate books and strangers …
… Tim Powers and Dave Wolverton left us to our own devices.
Below is a picture of me jotting down notes from the books I chose. Even though we had three hours to get our book/s and talk to our strangers before the 24-hour challenge started in earnest (4pm), the time flew by and, eventually, I gave up trying to rewrite the text I was looking at and just took pictures of the books with my phone.
The books I chose (story prompt two):
My stranger (story prompt three):
For my stranger, I met the most wonderful guy with the most wonderful story of how he had come to be a security guard in his present job. Without going into the details of his story or identity, what struck me the most about him was how non-judgemental he was and how much he cared for the poor and homeless and regular clientele he was acting as security guard both on behalf of and, sometimes, at odds with.
He was also really driven, presenting himself four times a year to a company, which was promising future paid adult education courses to a select few people who could ‘prove’ their punctuality and dedication by being on time to the quarter-yearly role-call. He told me how, when he had first applied, he had been one of some 800 people. Now, he was one of only 190. He said he was going to keep turning up to role-call and that, eventually, he was going to get his position in that course.
Having gotten our three story prompts, Leena and I headed back to Author Services, stopping for a wonderful Italian lunch on the way. Leena was very hungry!
At 4pm, Tim Powers and Dave Wolverton sent us back to the Loews Hotel. The 24-hour story challenge had begun. All us writers spread out around the hotel and began to write.
Which was how I remained until 1am the next morning …
Thus ended day 4 at Writers of the Future.