Simply put, I would very much like to contribute more to Hatrack than I do already (which I personally feel is not very much), and hosting a challenge seems a good way of doing just that.
And, as it just so happens, I have an idea...
THE BACKGROUND I have benefited tremendously from writing practice scenes for all my brand new characters. The first method I created was to write two scenes for each new character: one in which he/she is in his/her element (exempli gratia: a soldier who finds himself in an urban gunfight), and the second where he/she is as far out of his/her element as possible (exempli gratia: the same soldier, back home during peacetime, attending his 9 year old daughter's PTO meeting, and being nominated by his daughter for the vacant PTO president position). Some rather interesting character traits came out of that exercise.
Another method I employ is to write scenes for every possible combination of primary characters in the story. Since, in real life, a person will act entirely different around one person than he/she will someone else, I will write as many one-on-one scenes as it takes to cover all possible combinations. As an added bonus, this has led to the creation of certain relationships (both beneficial and adversarial) that were not apart of my original plot.
Another method, one which I just recently added to my regiment, is matching each new character with a character from one of my previously stories. Most of these scenes are nothing more than me just having fun (the one of my teenaged Latino hip-hop singer challenging a sessile alien to a game of basketball is my personal favorite), but there have been some incredible breakthroughs that came from this exercise (just recently, I wrote such a scene where my WIP's leading lady is sitting in on a practice session of the band that is featured in my YA novel; it did a better job of defining her personality than anything else I'd written about her to that point, so now this 'practice' scene is going into the novel!). This is the method I would like to see turned into a writing challenge.
THE CHALLENGE Everyone who wants to participate in this challenge will email me a character bio (preferably in prose form, as opposed to bulletpoint form; the method by which some of us introduce a new character on the Interviews thread might work well here). You can use one of your existing first-string characters, or make up a brand new character especially for this challenge. Send me one, two, or several.
From this collection of character sketches, I will randomly select* two or three characters, and post their bios for all to see.
The challenge participants will write a scene (I'm thinking 1K word max) where the selected characters will interact with each other in any way, and in any setting, the participant sees fit. Since the Hatrack board focuses on the First 13, it seems only logical that what we write for this challenge will be the opening scene. Once the deadline has been reached (I'm thinking 2-3 weeks), I will post all the entries, and the voting will begin. Three points for a first place vote, two for a second place vote, and one for a third place vote.
Post your votes and any crits you wish to offer. Suffice it to say, all participants should vote. Non-participants are highly encouraged to vote as well.
* Don't believe this 'randomly select' nonsense for a moment. I very much plan to pair up characters from as many different type genres as I can. If I can match up, let's say, a middle-class suburbia zombie, a child thief from a dragon-ravaged village, and an alien shock trooper who's afraid of space travel, I'm doing it.
THE QUESTION Who would be interested in such a challenge?
My idea is, at the start of every new challenge, to select bios from a pool of bios. Before the first official challenge, I'll collect as many bios as people want to send me. In theory, if I collect, say, five, and only use two for the first challenge, I'll have plenty left for the second challenge. To replenish my pool, anyone can send me new bios anytime they like, regardless of whether a challenge is in progress or not.
And, while we're on the subject...I'll accept bios starting right now. My email address is in my profile.
quote:The challenge participants will write a scene (I'm thinking 1K word max) ... Since the Hatrack board focuses on the First 13, it seems only logical that what we write for this challenge will be the opening scene. ... I will post all the entries
So are we submitting the entire opening scene, or just the first 13? If we only vote on what you post to hatrack, then its restricted to 13 lines. Or do you want to pass all the complete scenes to everyone via email for voting, or some such?
quote:If we only vote on what you post to hatrack, then its restricted to 13 lines
This leads to an interesting issue. Simply put, if this challenge adheres to the 13 Line rule, it will not yield the same benefits to the participants that the exercise offers me...which defeats why I'm hosting this particular challenge in the first place. Still...I see no need to defy the Board rules, so I am more than willing to post the full thousand word entries on my personal web site. I will still post the challenge's character bios here, and we will still vote here. In fact, I might just take this altered process a step further by posting the first 13 of each entry here; at that point, the contestants can decide whether or not they want to follow the link and read on, thus making the scenario exactly like what we face in the 'real' world of publishing.
As I see it, the only thing that will truly change for the contestants is what site to visit to read the full entries...and a simple link from here will make that easy enough.
I will post the finalized rules here when we're ready to start the first challenge (as you can see, the rules are still a bit on the fluid side...inherent to this being the first writing contest of any kind I've ever hosted). In the meantime...SEND ME YOUR CHARACTER BIOS!!! My email address is in my profile.
You can always email the stories to each other and vote that way. This will enable you to judge the first thirteen without violating the thirteen rule.
Posts: 1888 | Registered: Jan 2008
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Barring any unforseen circumstances (my kids come to mind), I'll post the bios of the first two or three characters sometime tonight, and announce the start of the challenge.
My character bio probably won't be ready in time, but I've received a few rather interesting characters from which to choose. Thanx to everyone who sent them. Remember: the bio submission window is always open!
You do realise that by posting those stories on your website, they are now considered published therefore unlikely to sell, except as reprints (which is harder). They are therefore pretty much valueless.
If your story is saleable, I would urge you to consider sending it to a proper market rather than wasting first publication rights on a casual contest.