24 Hour Story

Second maybe to the “Reveal” the 24 Hour Story must be the most famous (or infamous) part of the workshop week. The name more or less says it all, right? Write a story in 24 hours, that’s the task. And, though it wasn’t immediately evident, the lesson as well.

Tim Powers, the mad wizard that led us on this journey, handed out Items of No Material Significance. One person received an empty .45 cal. casing, another a length of flexible metal tubing, someone else a hunk of wood. I received a single $1.00 bill. The experience was already paying for itself.

Items of Ordinary Significance - Small

The object only needed to spark some kind of inspiration. I didn’t have to tell a bank heist story, or the tale of a king’s coin engraver, but something about the dollar needed to get the thought process going.

Library - Small

Tim then led us off to the Will and Ariel Durant Library where we were to grab books, do research, color in inspiration and verisimilitude into whatever idea we were working with. I read about Ancient Etruscan art and the Bronze Age Collapse, because I’m cool like that.

Lastly, and perhaps as infamous as the 24 Hour Story itself, we had to talk to a stranger. It’s awful and there’s not really any sugarcoating it. We’re on Hollywood Blvd. (the part with all the tourists). People are there in groups–with their friends and family. People are not particularly interested in talking to strangers. Add in the fact that here is about where the surreal nature of what’s going on and the fact that photographers have been nipping at your heels since you landed in LA may catch up with you (it did for me). I wandered until I found someone who was alone, separated from the herd, talked for a minute, and got it over with. Just like ripping off a band-aid.

Now, if that paragraph sounds harsh, it kind of was intended to be. But that doesn’t mean that the lesson of the exercise was lost on me. People can be an incredible source of stories and inspiration. Listening to what they say might spark a creative fire, and there’s value to that lesson. In practice, in the moment, I was just glad it was over.

So now, armed with our item, our research, and whatever we gleaned from the interview, we met back together where our mad wizard sent us forth at 5:00 p.m. to write one complete story and have it submitted by 5:00 p.m. the next day. We couldn’t submit an opening and an outline, we couldn’t write write write then… uh… the end. It had to be a complete story (quality not being a requirement above completeness).

So we dispersed, we wrote, and a little less than 24 hours later I had… something. It had a beginning a middle and an end. The prose was rough, the concept rough (but one I may revisit and try to polish in the future), but it was done, and it was submitted, and that was that.

So the big question, of course, is WHY DO THIS?

Well, the lesson really goes hand in hand with the point of the conference. The conference isn’t to teach how to write. The conference starts from the perspective that everyone there can write, knows how to write, and has demonstrated an ability to do so well. What everyone has *not* done, is demonstrate the ability to do so for a living, as a professional.

The point of the exercise is not to write a story in 24 hours, but rather to force everyone to prove to themselves that they can.


Sidney’s Illustration – The Reveal

illustration - MEDIUM


Everyone gathered together–writers, judges, a few family members. There wasn’t nearly enough space, and it got hot in a hurry. Everyone talked, filling the room with a heavy din. The illustrators were there as well, themselves every bit as nervous as the writers were.

I spoke with Eneasz, Jeremy, and Diana, shifting foot-to-foot, retaining absolutely none of our conversation. I suspect it was part of their plan, wind everyone as tightly as possible to get the most effective release of emotion.

It worked.

When they opened the doors I saw Kyna’s piece first. The color of the sand a piercing red/orange that contrasted with the silver of Deacon’s flesh. Easels lined the outside of the room.  I scanned them, walking around the room from right to left, slowly, a few yards between myself and the art.

I saw Sidney’s illustration from a distance, and from afar it has a dark simplicity. Black around the borders, the center burning with infernal red. When I finally approached, I realized it was so much more. Fine sketch strokes form Nya, frozen in a moment before he explodes, raining destruction across the office. Papers and office supplies hover, frozen in place, but practically humming with kinetic energy.

Glowing behind Nya is red stained glass. The red light echoes the thin lines of power that glow on his face. His eyes are vacant, empty, pits of despair and better pictured than I could ever have imagined. Horns curl from Nya’s head, a detail I never conceived of, but one that Sidney discovered. It fits the character better than I would have come up with on my own.

Up close, the piece reverberates with details of what care and attention to detail Sidney put into the work. Easter eggs, a coffee mug, softballs, and a hate-filled sticky note directed at Nya’s foe. There’s so much in the piece, I couldn’t handle it.

And, I did a crappy job of emoting in the moment. I didn’t do a great job of conveying my awe at the piece. Sorry Sidney, but hopefully this post makes up for that failure.

I fell asleep that night, and woke up the next morning, thinking of Sidney’s illustration.

It’s perfect.

Art “Reviews”

I’m going to discuss some of the art I was exposed to last week. Simply put, it’s all inspirational and breathtaking.

Here’s the problem though: I’m not an artist. That’s why these are “reviews” and not Reviews. I am not equipped to discuss or critique it in an intelligent manner. Sometimes I will say things like “it’s awesome” and hope that’s sufficient. Sometimes I will say things like “it’s dynamic.” It may not be ‘dynamic’ in the sense that an artist would use the word, but to me, a lay person, it makes me think of movement, and thus I’ll go with ‘dynamic.’ So hopefully I don’t mess up. Fingers crossed.

To the artists I’m discussing, sorry for my unsophisticated words, and if I trip over myself and say something I shouldn’t, call me on it, and I’ll fix it.

To everyone else, just go look at it for yourself. It’s way more effective than listening to me blather on about it, yes?