Writing Exercise: Rocking Your World Foundation

I ranted earlier this month about a shifter story where the shifter didn’t shift. Ending tagline was “Don’t do shifting sands. Rock your world foundation.”

Today’s writing exercise explores how different types of paranormals may adjust a scene. Break out of the boringly normal cycle where the generic “paranormal” plays out, where a vampire could be replaced by a mermaid without affecting the plot.

WRITING EXERCISE: Create a short scene with one paranormal character among normals. Any type of paranormal (vampire, witch, gargoyle, brownie, etc) in any type of scene (getting on a bus, checking out at a cashier, ordering a meal, moving to a new school, etc.). Aim for about 500 words.

PART TWO: Now rewrite the scene, but change the paranormal to a different type of paranormal. Vampire for genie, zombie for dwarf, good witch for dark necromancer, demon for shifter.

REVIEW: Once done, review the two scenes. What changes did you need to make for the different types of paranormal. Did the night scene need to become day? Did concentrating of the sounds of living from the hungry zombie become concentrating of the scenes for the shifter nose? Were quick demon tempers switched to fairy flitting and teasing? Add a comment below of what you discovered in Rocking Your World Foundation. If you want, include a link to the two flash scenes you created.


My attempt – Review

I started from this month’s flash of Prepping a Meal (1/9/2022) and switched the vampire for a zombie (the flash is below). The biggest changes were related to the social status normally associated with the vampires and zombies. Both of the climate-conscious monsters (because if you live a long time, keeping the human food-stock healthy is important) had electric cars, but the vampire has a Lotus Evija (costing more than $2 million) while the zombie has a used Toyota Prius (costing him much less). While both monsters used cash payments, the vampire splurged for wine, appetizer, and a dessert where the zombie struggled to pay for pizza for the woman he was escorting. Clothing differed with the zombie’s clothes deteriorating and the vampire’s tailored-made.

Another change involved the mystique surrounding the monsters. Vampires have a shiver sexy-terror, while zombies are associated with end-of-the-world depressive gut-terror. The vampire remained polite and cosmopolitan. The zombie threatened some and his conversation was simpler. Mild flirting occurred with one but not the other.

Final change was what was driving the women to be escorted as meals to the monsters, oops, I guess that should read “for meals with the monsters”? Nah. You know what is gonna happen in the next scene of these stories, right? Both women have a history of dead-end jobs, are on the heavier side of weight, and love their pizza. But for the scene to work, I had to change the motivation.

The action-arc of the scene remained the same: arrival, ordering, eating, and leaving to the next location. In neither case did the undead do undead things, but by the end of each flash you know exactly what is about to happen. As these are just quick (about) 500 word flashes, readers can be expected to fill in the genre troupes and does so. (The rant about shiftless-shifters involved a full-length novel, which should be long enough to do all-the-things.)

Could I change out another paranormal monster for the vampire or zombie in the stories? Not without other major twists in the plot and character. The motivation for both the monster and the meal-woman would need to change even more. Could a shifter work here? No. A random monster could not just switch out with either of these men.

Remember “Don’t do shifting sands. Rock your world foundation.”


Flash Title: Prepping a Meal (Zombie Version)

“Are you sure?” I ask a final time as the battered electric Prius buzzed into a parking space, waving my hand at the neon lights of the chosen restaurant. “Italian?”

My zombie date. Well, more like warden, smirks. “Your bio said you could eat pizza every day. We thought you might like it for tonight.”

Making my way to the paper-covered door proclaiming the daily specials, I feel Jacob’s dark eyes blackened further as they focus on my ass in my overtight jeans. I forcefully suppress the shiver rolling through my belly and along my spine, refusing to consider if it is fear or anticipation.

I’ve been hoping for years to accomplish what will happen tonight and only recently had the energy to carry through with a workable plan. Thank you Doc Woods for those happy pills, I think toward the northern part of the city where Health and Human Services has its clinics.

“I wasn’t lying.” I say once we were inside the pizzeria, my eyes darting to the other patrons. “This will be great.”

“No talking to others,” he said growled, his eyes roaming from my eyes to my t-shirt, also several sizes too small. I’ve packed on some pounds doing the Netflix and chill thing after work this year, only my version of the chill part being a pint of ice cream most nights huddled in my bedroom behind locked doors with the earphone on.

“Of course.” I wasn’t looking to escape. It took me forever to find this situation, and I didn’t want to lose this opportunity.

A waitress waves us toward a small table with a red and white checkerboard vinyl table. I glance over the paper placemat menu, while Jacob orders me a soda when the waitress returns to drop a bread basket with oils in front of us. She raises an eyebrow at his shoddy appearance but doesn’t say anything. Though he was the youngest of the zombies I met tonight, he still lacks the freshness of the living. He had to have been buried in his best suit like most people, but sometime since then he changed out to a worn t-shirt and jeans. They hung much looser on him than mine did on me.

“Can you stuff a large in that chubby stomach of yours?”

I reach down to pop the top button of my jeans. I’m going to ache, but it’s not like I’m worried about nightmares in my sleep tonight because I climbed into bed stuffed to the gills. “Sure. I didn’t get chubby by dieting.”

“Good, good.” He takes out the bills his group had shoved at him.

I watch him struggle to count them and put them in some sort of order. Jacob’s fine motor control was lacking and I’m fairly sure the poor math skill existed before his change. Exasperated, I grab the paper and get the money in order. I had done it enough in my dead-end jobs all my life.

Once my soda arrives, I place my order for a large supreme pizza, plus a dessert. I’m going to go out with chocolate on my lips. And there would still be enough to cover taxes and a decent, but not great tip. He doesn’t argue. In fact, he just sits with the unmoving weirdness of the dead while I sip my soda and break apart the bread sticks. I mix the oil and vinegar just right and savor the warm bread. Closing my eyes, I let the yeasty bread, sour vinegar, and rich oil transport me to somewhere else. Someplace without pain and yelling and loneliness. The food is gone before I reach that place, like always. So close and always so far.

When the pizza, smelling of grease, and melted cheese, and hot pepperoni, and tangy tomato, hits the table, my eyes focused on it and I inhale deeply.

“Does it smell good?”

For a moment, I had forgotten about my escort. I look up to find his eyes gazing at the pizza with longing. Not the bottomless hungry like when he looked at me but a melancholy wistfulness.

“Yes, like a piece of heaven.”

“Tell me about it.”

So I do. From the first napalm bite of too hot cheese, to the last slice cool and congealed. In between we talk. He tells me of his memories, what it is like to be owned by a necromancer, but skirts around why we are here together tonight. Somehow he keeps focused on me-me, instead of body-me, and that is nice.

As suicides go, I think this one is a keeper.

Eventually the only thing left is a few chocolate crumbs from my brownie and the full refill on my drink.

“Are you ready?” he holds up a small cloth packet as I stack the money on the receipt.

I nod, pushing the red plastic glass at him. He dumps the potion in and I stir it a couple times before sucking it down quickly. Doesn’t taste bad. Actually the more I drink, the more I want to drink.

By the time I’m done chugging, I have a head rush. I let Jacob help me stagger out of the restaurant and back to the car. Last chance to run, I think as I collapse on the passenger side smiling. No need to run ever again.

(words 881, first published 1/25/22)

Series – No Regrets, All Dead

  1. Prepping a Meal (Zombie Version) – Link to 1/25/2022
  2. You Have Mail – Link to 2/6/2022
  3. Naked Truth – Link to 2/20/2022

Editing Rant: Shifting Sands

Image acquired from: 8052643 © Radim Spitzer | Dreamstime.com

I’ve just finished reading a paranormal shifter romance where the shifters never shifted and the only paranormal activity was performed by the normal entering the paranormal world at the very end of the book. The ending scene was great, but when the book is a SHIFTER Paranormal Romance, all three parts of the genre should be touched on.

I wanted to see the dragon shifter in action. This is not the first time I read a shifter book where the shifter never shifted. If you are writing a shifter book, the shifter needs to shift at least once. It’s like reading a romance without any romance. Without a shifter shifting, a romance romancing, the story is build on shifting sands instead of a solid (worldbuilding) foundation.

In this particular case, at least the paranormal aspects of the world remained intact. But the truth is for this manuscript, the shifters could have been vampires, dwarves, genies, or any other human-appearing creature. You may have heard the example, “if you can replace a character with a lamp, it isn’t a character”. In this case, if you could replace the shifter with a normal (billionaire), it isn’t a shifter.

As a writer, your job is to bring your world to life, generic doesn’t cut it. (see previous rant on Generic Worldbuilding)


Don’t do shifting sands. Rock your world foundation.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words 5/25/2011

Photo by Albie Patacsil on Unsplash

IFM vs. Railroad

What is the difference between “It’s Fucking Magic” and Railroad?

After reading Kalayna Price’s “The Ugly ‘Because'” (Magical Words 05/25/11):

I did a deep dive in my head. I HIGHLY recommend reading the post (again, the link is above) and the related comments. This topic travels through plotting, to character agency, and worldbuilding.

Everything created by authors is whole imaginary cloth. Yet, not.

Sometimes IFM (It’s Fucking Magic) is the correct reply for worldbuilding questions. “Vampires don’t work that way.” and “Faster than light travel needs some scientific base, which string theory or gravity might cover.” — IFM dude.

But if the reader is going, “Vampires don’t work that way according to how you defined your world, why is this one different?” – if the answer is, “I needed a good vampire to contrast against the bad vampires, so I railroaded the characters to doing what I wanted.” Yeah, no. That is bad writing.

“Because I say so.”

Laying down tracks and tying characters to them so they cannot deviate from the story from start to end is going to create a very boring story. 

Yes, the characters are made up. And yes, really, everything in the end is “because I said so”. But the world and characters you created must act within the parameters of the world, and not just the railroad tracks of the story. Characters are not IFM when they decide to break up with their fated mate, just because the darling makeup scene needs to occur in two chapters.

Because. Not a good reason when an adult tells you are five, and still not when you write a story at fifty. If you write a “because” story, your reader is going to ask “why”.

Homes Throughout Time

Iceland Homes – Photo by Hama Haki on Unsplash

Need to create a different type of house for a fantasy or science fiction story? Look into the past.

What ancient homes looked like: from the Egyptians to the Aztecs.” on love Property.

Reeds to mud to stone. Windows and stairs. Mosaics, painted walls, and ornate ceilings. 

Don’t make everything a castle. Don’t make everything four walls with a floor and ceiling.

Do the animals share the family space? Is terrain used for breezes or insulation? What materials are used?

Mix your worldbuilding up!

Again the URL is: https://www.loveproperty.com/gallerylist/91093/what-ancient-homes-looked-like-from-the-egyptians-to-the-aztecs

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words 8/17/2009

Image courtesy of Multipedia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Magic Systems

Last month, the Magical Words posting from A.J. Hartley talked about Too Much Power. This week I thought I would circle back to an old post from David B. Coe on magic systems.

Magic in fantasy and powers in superheroes contain an affinity for exponential growth, reaching Too Much Power without much effort. The challenge is reigning in the power systems to make the story as much fun to read as it was to create the powers. 

Mr. Coe suggests three structures to control the systems:

  1. Limitations – Example, planetary gravity wells are limited to a certain distance from the planet.
  2. Costs – Example, escaping gravity takes propellant.
  3. Rules – Example, all matter is affected by gravity. Energy is not affected by gravity.

Be careful introducing exceptions to the rules to make your life as a writer easier. Gravity doesn’t get to change its rules. Well, it shouldn’t. I am sure some physicists will have a conversation with the universe creator someday about the deus ex machina of light which is both energy and matter.

The full post is here:

WRITING EXERCISE: Create one power or take one from a work in progress (WIP), just one power, for a fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero world. Define a limitation, cost, and two rules. Write a flash of 50-1000 words based on it.


Ancestral warrior. Limitation – most powerful in the ancestral lands, close to normal outside of the lands. Cost – obligation to protect all those of the tribe from those lands. Rules – (1) Lineage/blood-line only. (2) Peak physical, but not natural spell caster.

Look for the story Ancestral Warrior to be published Sunday 1/5/2020. You may recognize the protagonist if you have been following this blog for a while. This is where Honestly meets its Atlantis Wardens beginnings.