Writing Prompt – Leave Your Life and Move to the Shire

You face serious stress or a crisis in your life. When you reach a breaking point you receive the opportunity to leave your life behind and move to the Shire.

  • You struggle could be any of these:
    1. You recently lost your entire family.
    2. You have an overwhelmingly stressful career, and you long to quit.
    3. You are in sudden financial ruin.
    4. This world has been devastated by war, plague, or natural disaster.
    5. You have terminal cancer or a terminal disease.
    6. You can combine any number of these into the same story and/or add a struggle not listed here.
  • Describe your psychological condition when you reach a breaking point.
  • You then receive an opportunity to leave this life behind and move to the Shire. This would be the Shire in Middle-Earth, not a vacation resort replica in this world.
  • How will you move there:
    1. Will you walk through a wardrobe like Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia?
    2. Will you fall asleep in this world and wake up in your own hobbit hole in the Shire?
    3. Will you go to a boat port in this world to board one of the white ships of the Grey Havens, sail to Middle-Earth, and then travel by land to the Shire? Middle-Earth does not exist in this world, and so the ship will need a way to jump between worlds. It will not take you to Valinor.
  • At which point in Middle-Earth history do you arrive? Is it before or after the One Ring is destroyed? You will not join the quest to destroy the Ring. You will move to the Shire to find a peaceful life.
  • You will leave your current life behind, but what will you do for a living in the Shire? It must be something that would be natural for life there. You cannot bring the modern technology of this world.
  • Will you remain human or become a hobbit?
  • Is the move permanent?
    1. If it is, then you leave your current life behind and never return.
    2. Maybe you stay there for a year and then have the option to return to this world or stay in the Shire. That choice is permanent.
    3. Maybe you can return to this world for up to a few months and then make a permanent choice whether to stay in this world or return to the Shire.
  • In either case, when you go to the Shire, you get a fresh start. Financial obligations and health problems in this world will not follow you to the Shire, but they will be waiting for you if you return.
  • You also leave behind everyone you know in this world. Maybe you can bring one person or a few people with you, but they will need to make the same permanent choice.

By the way, while writing this post I found an effort to build the Shire in central Tennessee. I would love to spend a week long vacation there. The replica in New Zealand is too far for my budget, but Tennessee would be more manageable. Unfortunately this project was proposed three years ago and appears to have quickly fizzled out.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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The First Day of the New Journey

My last day at the warehouse yesterday went well. It was not too exhausting. People were supportive of my plan to improve myself, and they said I would be missed. One of the managers said I had served them well and had earned the right to “knock on the door again.” During my final days I did not slack off in my work. I wanted to end well because I did not want to burn my bridge on the way out, and I wanted to maintain my work ethic.

Today was my first day after resigning. I slept a little later than I would on a work day, but I still set my alarm to get up early. I quit my job to make this life change, and so I cannot waste time or lose discipline. I have  much to do. This week I need to focus on moving and studying for my final exam.

When that is finished I plan to invest the few weeks I have before Spring classes begin. I want to revise my LinkedIn profile and resume and maybe buy some business appropriate clothes that will help me find an IT job. I also plan to do some beneficial reading, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

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A New Chapter Begins

Journey

Today was my last day working at the warehouse. That means I am now unemployed. As this day has drawn closer, I have felt uneasy. I am taking a risk, a leap of faith, but I believe I am making the best decision.

If I play it safe and remain at the warehouse, then a year from now I will still be there and will be no closer to making a better life for myself. My body also will continue to decline. This is not a criticism of the company. It is just the nature of the work. It takes a toll on the body, and my back and hands definitely feel it.

I have a mind that can do more, but I will need to get credentials to use it in a job. Finances will be very tight for a while, but through this I can make a better life in the long run.

This past Fall semester I took one online class while continuing to work at the warehouse. This weekend I will move, and in the Spring I will take three classes on campus. These classes will cover some vital fundamentals for my program, and so I will be busy making sure I do well in all three.

I have experienced cold feet many times regarding this decision, but as I said, I believe it is the best decision. If I play it safe with my current circumstances, then I will move nowhere. Breaking out of this rut will require me to take a risk.

So, now it begins. I no longer work at the warehouse. After I am done moving, and after I take the final exam for my online class, I will have about 4 weeks before Spring classes begin. I will use that time for some personal development to prepare for my future career. Then I will go ahead full into my classes.

Get ready for the ride.

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Running Against the Wind

Back in September I said I would post on some coming changes in my life. Here it is.

On the way home from work a few months ago I listened to “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger. It is a great song. It plays in the movie Forest Gump while Forest is running across the country. During this journey he learns to put the past behind him and move on with his life. That has been my life for many months. While driving home with this song I thought about how my life did not turn out as planned, and how I intended to proceed from there.

Did you have a goal which you held closely and which defined the direction of your life and the decisions you made, except it did not come to fruition? How long did you keep trying, and at which point did you move on?

I have explained in previous posts how my previous career plans never materialized. For that reason the past several years have been difficult. I did not struggle with a lost relationship as in Seger’s song, but my struggle was equally difficult. I did not want to move on because I did not want everything I had invested into my education to be wasted. This left me stuck in a rut.

But I need to move on. I am working a physical labor job which is taking its toll on my body. I know I am capable of doing better and that I should not waste my potential. I am left with a choice: I can either continue doing what I am doing while going nowhere (running against the wind), or I can move on and turn things around for the better.

In pursuit of this change, I have enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College for some training in their cyber security program. I am taking one class online now, but some classes meet only on campus. I also want to take most of my classes on campus so that I can build a network of contacts. This will require me to quit my job at the warehouse and move almost two hours away. I will begin just taking classes to get back in the habit of school and later get a part-time job. Finances will be a significant challenge for a while (probably more than a year), but long-term I think this will be the right move because it will give me the credentials to get a much better job.

I have been offered a place to live with my sister for cheap in exchange for helping at the house. I can also bring Arwen with me, which is great. I would hate to give her up. She is a great companion. I will have less time to write, but I will try to chronicle my journey.

(I did not post this back in September because I thought I should wait until I had officially given my notice of resignation at the warehouse, in case any of them read this.)

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Writing Prompt – A Special Writing Notebook

Imagine that every page of your writing notebook works like a Myst linking book with the ability to take you to the world described on that page/ How did your notebook get that ability? Where will it take you? How do you get back home?


  • The notebook need not work exactly like a Myst linking book: 1) In the Myst series, a descriptive book which described the target world in great detail was needed first. Linking books referred to the descriptive book and linked to a specific location in the target world. In one sense, they were similar to a desktop shortcut on a computer which refers to a file. 2) A linking book also could not link from one place in a world to another place in the same world; it could only link to another world. You can follow these restrictions if you choose, but they are not necessary.
  • This story will be different for each person. The details will depend on what you have written in your notebook.
  • If your notebook describes different parts of the same world, can you use it to link to different locations in that world? If so, it would be an immensely valuable item, and inhabitants of that world may go to great lengths to acquire it.
  • If each section of your notebook describes a different story, can you jump around to each story?
  • Does your writing in your notebook literally create the world described? If so, how much control do you have over its history?
  • Does the notebook work only for you? If a character in a target world steals your notebook, could he link to other worlds or even to your world? That would open some fascinating story possibilities.
  • Maybe it only works for you and other writers. If so, that could open great story possibilities regarding a special status for writers. A fantasy world could have an elite class of writers who exercise incredible influence over many worlds. Can anyone learn the skills necessary to become such a writer, or is someone born into it? What happens when someone abuses this gift? This could grow into an entire novel.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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Musings on “The Neverending Story” and My Own Writing

The Neverending Story is a classic movie from the 1980s and a must see for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre or simply appreciates a free range imagination. I have watched this movie many times, but I can still watch it again and continue to enjoy it.

Why do I enjoy this movie? I have enjoyed fantasy stories for as long as I can remember. Some memorable moments in the fantasy genre include the Nazgul chasing Frodo as his pony carries him toward the river at the edge of Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, and Goldmoon defeating the black dragon Khisanth in Xak Tsaroth with the blue crystal staff of Mishakal in Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. These stories provide fun adventure in well-developed worlds that are foreign to us but which still grab our attention, and the magic and strange creatures provide special intrigue and wonder. The Neverending Story is filled with strange creatures (such as the rock biter and the luck dragon), and it has an intriguing plot about Atreyu’s effort to save his world from destruction.

I also enjoy The Neverending Story because it is about imagination unleashed. The entire world of Fantasia (every place and every creature) is the manifestation of human imagination. The movie is based on the premise that each world (including our world) manifests the imagination of another world in a never-ending chain, and yet those worlds are real in a physical sense. Each world is as boundless as the imaginations which create it, and they in turn are the creations of the imaginations of other beings in other worlds.

Throughout most of the movie, the plot plays out for real in Fantasia as Bastian reads it in the book that he borrowed (without permission) from the bookstore. After Fantasia is destroyed by the Nothing, Bastian enters the story and meets the empress face to face. She encourages him to re-create Fantasia in his dreams. She says he can have as many wishes as he wants, and that the more wishes he makes, the more amazing Fantasia will become. Fantasia then becomes the manifestation of his dreams, and he expresses his imagination freely.

I can somewhat relate to this story. I feel like I have an imagination that wants to break free in writing. The world inside my head can be an interesting place. Sometimes it is strange, but that makes it fun. Despite this, I struggle to write fiction. I once wrote a sci-fi story for a short story competition. I did not think I had a likely chance to win, but I decided that I needed to try regardless. It was rejected. I then submitted it to a sci-fi/fantasy literary magazine. It was rejected. Maybe I should post it on this blog so that more experienced writers can critique it. If I get enough requests in the comments, then I will do that. I am an amateur writer who has much to learn, but I am open to learn.

Sometimes I think that I am not cut out to write fiction, and yet that imagination wants to express itself. So, how do I let it out fully? “The Neverending Story” is an example of what can happen when a creative imagination is let out to play. I would enjoy doing the same.

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Writing Prompt – A Dark Ferryman

You are standing on a river bank when a dark ferry boat comes to shore. The ferryman wears a dark robe and hood. It is Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx. He says that he took a wrong turn and needs your help.


 

  • What do you do? Do you run away, afraid that he will take you with him?
  • Do you give him directions back to Styx? If so, how do you know where it is? You have never been there . . . , or maybe you have.
  • Suppose he offers you something in return for your help. What will you ask him to give you?
    1. Maybe you need a ride across the river, but can you trust him? Maybe he will take you to Hades instead.
    2. Maybe you want to tour the afterlife like Dante. Who will be your tour guide?
  • Why is he lost? He should know what he is doing. He has been doing it for thousands of years.
    1. Even if he took a wrong turn on Styx, how did he end up on this river? Are the two rivers connected? That would be disturbing.
    2. Maybe he did not take a wrong turn. You did, and you now stand on the shore of the river Styx.
  • Maybe he is nothing like he is portrayed in mythology. You could use this story to completely reinvent him.
  • You can draw from various sources in writing this story, such as Greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno, and Rick Riordans’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Be sure to add your own twist.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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Changes Coming

I am back again. Wow. I did not intend to be gone for this long.

I struggle to find the correct words to describe the last several weeks, partially because I will need to explain some of the vital details in a future post. For now, I think I will simply say that my past struggles with finding work in my field have taken a different turn. No, I have not found a job in any field related to my education, but I am re-orienting my life’s direction. This will bring some significant challenges for a while, including financial challenges, but in the end it will be better.

This sort of struggle can leave a person wondering where he fits. If one of the focal points of your life crumbles (career path in my case), then the struggle can be long and hard. What was the purpose of those years in school? I do not know yet. What should I do with my life going forward from here? The upcoming changes address that. What should I do with my writing, and how does it fit into the larger picture? I do not plan to quit writing, but I am considering how to focus it.

I know this post has been vague. Hopefully I can fill the gaps in future posts as this new direction takes shape. In the meantime, I also hope to continue posting writing prompts and musings on ideas that interest me.

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Time for a Break

I need to take a break from weekly posts so that I can handle some matters at home, but I do not plan to be gone long. In the meantime I will continue to read and will work on future posts when I can. While I am gone I will also read and respond to comments. If there is anything you want me to write when I return, feel free to send me a message through my contact page or post a comment under a post. I will have time to think about ideas while at work, and I always carry my notebook.

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Oddities of Modern English

Spoken language is always changing. What is normal English today would seem strange to people several decades ago or several decades in our future. There are also some changes in modern English which have occurred in my lifetime which I find odd.

That’s, Like, So Cool!

“I was, like, totally scared!”

“There were, like, so many people at the mall.”

Why do many people constantly insert “like” in meaningless places? “Like” does have some proper uses. It can express approval for something, such as “I like that music.” It can also make a comparison, as in “He stood still like a statue.” Today, however, it has invaded our spoken language as a meaningless add-on. It often serves no purpose except as a filler word. It is like people just like say the word without like thinking. It seems that the word is like there for no other reason than just to like be there. Like, you know?

To be fair, I should add that most people occasionally use filler words (such as “umm” or “uh”) when they need to think about what they are saying, but the prevalent use of “like” today sounds meaningless and weakens one’s speech. If it does not express a real concept, then give it a rest. Your English will sound better without it.

And so . . .

“It will be long test, so . . .”

“I was having fun, and so . . .”

The word “so” is a conjunction intended to lead into an explanation of the result or reason for an action. For example, “I packed last night so that I could leave quickly this morning,” or “He was distracted, and so he did not see the approaching car.”

More than fifteen years ago, however, I noticed people often ending sentences with “so.” In this usage it could indicate an implied conclusion which should be obvious from the context, but it has always sounded awkward to me. When I hear “and so,” my mind anticipates a concluding clause, and so a dangling “so” leaves me hanging.

Literally

“I was literally freezing!”

“I literally just arrived when you called.”

The word “literal” (or “literally”) refers to the basic meaning of a sentence without reference to metaphor or imposed interpretation not intended by the author(s). For example, a literal reading of a text interprets according to what the author(s) meant without imposing modern values.

“Literal” can also indicate that something is true in a real sense and is not merely hypothetical or figurative. For example, if the sentence “My office is hell” is read in a literal sense, then it indicates that the person actually works in the place of eternal punishment rather than an office with frustrating co-workers.

In modern use, however, it often indicates emphasis. The results can be strange. For example, “I literally screamed when he startled me.” Well, you either screamed or not. How does a non-literal scream sound?

The results can also be humorous. For example, someone might say “I was literally freezing” to indicate that he was very cold. Of course, if he were literally freezing, then the fluids in his body would solidify, followed by frost bite and possibly death. He means that he is freezing only in a figurative sense, which makes “literally” and odd choice of words indeed. People today greatly overuse the word “literally,” and I do not mean that figuratively.

I Could Care Less

“I could care less about the football score.”

“I could care less what they say about me.”

This one has always sounded awkward to me because of the contrast between what is intended and what is said. “I could care less” is intended to express that a person does not care about something, but the specific wording suggests that the speaker does care, even if only a little. “I couldn’t care less” expresses the intended meaning more clearly. The two expressions “I could care less” and “I couldn’t care less” are often used interchangeably, but strictly speaking they are not synonymous. Strunk and White explain it best:

The dismissive “I couldn’t care less” is often used with the shortened “not” mistakenly (and mysteriously) omitted: “I could care less.” The error destroys the meaning of the sentence and is careless indeed. (Elements of Style [2000], 42)

Closing Thoughts

I know these expressions are popular today, but they can become excessive and awkward. As Strunk and White explain, “If every word or device that achieved currency were immediately authenticated, simply on the ground of popularity, the language would be as chaotic as a ball game with no foul lines” (Elements of Style, 52). For a humorous example of where this can lead, watch and enjoy this video.

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