Fontana Village 2018 – What Are Those Bears Up To?

6/18/18

This picture hangs in the front lobby of the lodge in Fontana Village. It has always amused me. I call it Appalachian Gothic because it is an obvious spoof of America Gothic, and black bears are common in the Appalachian Mountains. This could provide a writing prompt for a humorous short story.

  • Start by establishing where the bears are. They are on a lake shore in the mountains. I will assume they are in the Smokies. Choose any lake in those mountains where people go camping.
  • How did the bears acquire the oar? A tent is visible behind them. Did they kill the campers and steal the oar after eating their food? Maybe the campers are exploring nearby and will have an unpleasant surprise when they return.
  • Why are the bears pretending to be human? Maybe they are the campers, and the tent belongs to them. That would be strange for bears, but it could be a fun story.

While I was a the lodge this afternoon I looked outside at the mountains and thought about Louie. The Cherokee Indians are the native tribe here. I wonder if their legends have anything to contribute. That would be worth researching if I decided to develop this idea further. It would add a nice element of local interest.

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Fontana Village 2018 – Pondering Artwork

6/17/18

This week I have kept my eyes open for writing ideas. It has made me more observant of my surroundings instead of focusing too much on my own thoughts. I took this photo yesterday at the lodge. It is a carving on wooden cabinet just outside the lobby of the lodge. It portrays a medieval setting. A knight in armor rides a horse who also wears what could be armor. A dog runs alongside the knight. Maybe they are hunting. A castle is in the background.

I have walked by this cabinet many times during past visits, but I think this was the first time I noticed something odd about the dog. What are the spikes on his back? He does not appear to be wearing armor because no armor or straps run down his side to hold the armor on him. I doubt the spikes are his fur. It is a mystery.

After lunch I did some writing. I worked briefly on this post and then a story idea. This story idea has an interesting background. I had three idea fragments which did not make full stories, but I did not know how to use them. I later realized that I could combine them. I am intrigued, however, that in one fragment the part which I found most interesting at the time is the part I have decided to remove because it no longer works. Does that sound weird? I guess it does, but I will go back to what one of my coffee mugs says. “It’s okay. Writers are supposed to be strange.”

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Fontana Village 2018 – Letting Imagination Run

6/16/18

Today I found a shady spot on the porch in front of the ice cream shop to read and proofread yesterday’s post. Like last year, each post will list the date being described, but I will publish each one a week later. What will I learn about Louie today?

Today around lunch time we drove to Robbinsville to buy groceries. first we ate at the Wendy’s and then we went to the Ingles. While we were in the Ingles parking lot I looked at the mountains, trying to stimulate my brain. I thought that if Louie has relatives, then there could be other undiscovered caves inside those mountains. Are they connected with each other?

Some important questions, however, remain unanswered. First, if such creatures did exist here, then they would need to fly around some. They would also need to hunt for food. How would they remain undiscovered? I do not want them to have the ability to turn invisible like Elliot. They could minimize the risk by coming out at night, but eventually someone would see them. Second, what would they eat? There is little if any livestock here. Maybe they could eat wild deer and bears. As long as the overall population is not significantly affected, no one would miss deer or bears . . . unless they were tagged with tracking devices. That would get some scientists’ attention, and they would be excited (or terrified) if they discovered the truth. That opens interesting story possibilities.

At the grocery store I found this shirt for the local high school team. I suppose every on field injury is “just a flesh wound” to their players, and they keep fighting no matter how hard they are hit.

Maybe this bobcat at the lodge saw Louie flying overhead and was afraid it would become food. It looks like it could be looking at the sky.

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Fontana Village 2018 – A Journey Begins

6/15/18

Last year I posted a daily journal of my family vacation to Fontana Village in the North Carolina mountains. Now we are back. I do not plan to focus on our daily activities this time, although some I may add some. Instead, I will write about my personal thoughts regarding writing and the events which provide inspiration for my thoughts. I do not know whether I will post each day. I will take each day as it comes.

Last night I did most of my packing, and I set out my suitcase. This morning I found Arwen sleeping on it. I let her stay there as long as I could, but then I had to move her so that I could pack my clothes.

My commute passed without problems. I knew it would take me longer than usual this year because I planned to make several stops and take my time. On the last section of NC Hwy 28 there are some rest stops with nice views where I stop for a moment each year.

While looking at the mountains here, I tried to get my “what if” creative juices flowing. After a few moments I wondered, what if I saw a dragon flying over these mountains? I do not know where that came from or why I thought of it. It was not much, but I decided to write it in my notebook anyway. I did not know how I would use it, and so I decided to let it simmer in my mind. I did not know that further inspiration would come soon as the idea continued to develop during my commute.

A few miles later I stopped here with another nice view. Motorcycles are common in these mountains. A large group of bikers were here. Some of them wore American Legion patches, a biker organization which supports veterans.

I looked over the Fontana Lake and thought that maybe the dragon has an underwater tunnel into a cave inside one of the mountains on the other side of the lake. This cave has no above water access, and so humans have not discovered it.

At the exit of this rest stop I met this guy taking pictures. He works for the founder of killboy.com who photographs people driving the Tail of the Dragon. I spoke with him for several minutes and watched him photograph the bikers and other passing vehicles. He also photographed me as I left.

At the next stop overlooking the lake I imagined people in a pontoon boat who see the dragon swim under them.

I arrived at Fontana Village before my cabin was ready. I left quite early today, and so I expected that. Before getting lunch, I walked around inside the lodge for a while and looked outside the back window. A few years ago there was a forest fire in these mountains. It was too far away for my family to see it or have reason to be concerned, but we could smell the smoke and see a haze in the air. Some of the fire fighters who were assigned to fight this fire were staying at the lodge. I heard that campers started the fire, but today I wondered, what if the dragon started it? This dragon idea is developing.

During lunch at the grill I decided I could not keep calling him “the dragon,” and so I named him Louie. That is not much of a dragon name, but that it what come to me. On the other hand, if Pete can call his dragon Elliot, then I can call mine Louie.

Yes, the dragon is imaginary, but I have decided to run with the idea this week and see where it takes me. I am reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. He emphasizes the role of imaginative play in strengthening imagination and story telling. Last year I wrote a series of posts detailing my vacation, partly to challenge myself to write each day. That series was a basic vacation journal. This year my posts may be a journey of imagination. This could be fun.

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Writing Prompt – Ship in a Bottle

You find a ship in a bottle . . . with people onboard.


  • First decide where you find the bottle. It could be in a ship captain’s quarters, in a museum, in an antique shop, or somewhere else. This will significantly affect the plot
  • Also decide on the type of ship. Much could depend on whether it is a ship of exploration, a pirate ship, a fishing ship, a cruise ship, a ship carrying colonists, or even a ghost ship.
  • How did the ship get in the bottle? How long have the people on the ship lived inside the bottle?
  • How do they have enough air to breath and enough food to eat? Maybe their world is larger than what you see in the bottle, and you only see the area immediately surrounding the ship.
  • Do they know they are in a bottle?
  • Are they aware of people watching them from outside the bottle?
  • Can you affect the world inside the bottle?
    1. Create a large wave by shaking or tilting the bottle
    2. Add a giant squid
    3. If you place another ship in a bottle next to this one, will they fight a battle?
    4. What happens if you break the bottle?
  • Do the people on that ship have a ship in a bottle with people onboard? If you are on a ship, is it in a bottle as well?

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 Value of a Writing Notebook

Last Monday morning before work I read this post about the connection between a writer and his or her notebook. Later that morning I thought about my notebook. I carry it with me almost every time I leave my house. I bring it to church, and I keep it in my pocket at work. Sometimes during breaks or while waiting for our shift meetings to begin, I will sit on a shipping pallet and write a few notes. I wonder if my co-workers watch me and wonder what I am doing each day.

One time many months ago I lost one of my notebooks. I was not panicking, but I was seriously worried. Sure, I could re-write some of my ideas, but not all of them. Even those I re-wrote would not be quite the same. Losing that notebook would be a serious loss. Eventually I did find it. It had fallen into the narrow slot between the car seat and the storage compartment between the seats. What a relief!

When I am recording my first thoughts on a new idea I prefer to write them by hand. Sometimes I do not know how I will use an idea. Sometimes it is vague, and I do not know how I will complete it. Not a problem. I write my notes anyway. Maybe I will think of a way to use them someday. The notes do not need to be perfect. A perfectionist approach will get me nowhere. At this stage they only to be written.

For my writing activities, my most valuable possessions are my tablet and my notebooks. Losing a notebook would be worse than losing a favorite book. I can replace a book, but I cannot replace a notebook. Yes, many of my notes are typed into my computer, but some are not typed. Even if every word was typed into my computer, I would still hate to lose the notebook. It contains my ideas in their earliest forms.

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Writing Prompt – Visiting Auschwitz

I had originally planned to post my next prompt on Friday or this weekend, but I finished it early. I am also interested in people’s thoughts on it. Sometimes a story can serve as a reminder of terrible deeds of the past so that we can avoid them in the future. Someone could do that with this prompt.

Picture yourself visiting Auschwitz. You try to imagine the lives of the Jews imprisoned there and the suffering they endured. You imagine their conversations and the conversations of the guards. You start hearing their voices and think your imagination is getting the best of you. Then you realize you are in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

  • Imagine yourself visiting Poland. Maybe you are visiting your family. Maybe you are a tourist. Maybe you are researching the Holocaust. In any case, you visit the Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp.
  • As you explore the buildings and grounds, you ponder what Jews exerienced there here in the 1940s.
    1. The harsh labor conditions which ensured a high mortality rate
    2. The starvation, thirst, and exhaustion
    3. The gas chambers and the suffering of those who died from Zyklon B.
    4. The crematoria used to burn the dead
    5. The medical experiments conducted on prisoners
    6. The pain of losing relatives
    7. The hopelessness they must have felt
  • You then consider the guards.
    1. What would lead a person to participate in such horrific activities?
    2. Did some of them question what they were doing? If so, did they feel powerless to do anything about it? How did they sleep at night?
  • You try to imagine what it must have been like to visit this place when it was still operating.
    1. You picture how the prisoners may looked after a day of hard labor.
    2. You imagine the conversations of the guards as they went about their daily duties.
  • Then you think you can hear their conversatons. You feel sudden disorientation. When you return to your senses, the people who were exploring the compound with you are gone. Instead, you are in Auschwitz in the 1940s.
    1. How did you get there? How will you return to your time? Can you return?
    2. Are you there as a prisoner or a guard? Have your clothes changed to fit the times?
    3. Will you try to change history and save some of the prisoners? Can you change history? Or do you only want to escape this place and return home?
    4. How much do you know of what happened here? The more you know, the more prepared you will be.
  • This story would be difficult to write. Detailed sensory data would be a must, as would engaging exploration of deep emotional struggles. The history of Auschwitz cannot be handled lightly. It was a dark time in history. For many people, such a topic may be too disturbing to consider, but we cannot forget what happened there because we cannot let it happen again.


How would you develop this story? Please leave your thoughts in a comment.

Because of the sensitive nature of this topic, I asked my sister to proofread this before I posted it. She also enjoys writing. You can read her blog here.


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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Let Your Imagination Roam

After writing my first draft of my next writing prompt post (which should be posted on Friday or this weekend) I considered how this series allows me to let my imagination run in any direction. Even while I am still learning how to form a full story, I can nonetheless enjoy the fun of exploring where my imagination can take me. My second writing prompt post also gave me a reason to pull out books from my collection that I have not read since college.

Sometimes I wonder what my cat does when she is roaming outside. Which new territory does she explore? What sorts of adventures does she enjoy? Which animals does she hunt, or does she run up a tree to escape a large dog? Unlike her, I have a job and obligations. I cannot run out on a whim and go wherever I want. Despite this, I can still let my imagination out to play, and when I am at home I can try to express it. I will try to do that with my writing prompt posts.

What do you do to let your imagination run wild? Do you paint or sculpt? Do you play improv music? It can be a strange place, but it can also be fun.

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Writing Prompt – Some Reanimated DNA

A scientist acquires what he thinks is dinosaur DNA and uses methods inspired by Jurassic Park to bring it to life . . ., but it is not dinosaur DNA. It is Grendel’s DNA.

  • Someone could write this as a horror story, but I am thinking more along the lines of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.
  • I think this story should begin with an embryologist who is a big fan of the book and/or movie Jurassic Park and has often wished he could recreate a dinosaur. A paleontologist friend finds a bone which he believes belonged to a dinosaur. Some portayals of Grendel present him as a giant. If so, then his bones are larger than human bones. That may be why the paleontologist thought the bone belonged to a dinosaur.
  • While examining the bone in his lab, the paleontologist finds some soft tissue and is able to extract some DNA which he sends to the embryologist.
  • After this point the story could go in a few directions:
    1. After the cloned Grendel grows to maturity, he might break out of the lab and rampage through the town. This would work if the writer wants a story similar to classic monster movies or a silly monster movie on the Syfy channel.
    2. Maybe the lab is in a secured government base, in which case the scientists and military struggle to keep the monster contained.
    3. Maybe Grendel runs into the wilderness. The scientists know they need to deal with him, and so as the military searches they work on a solution.
  • Eventually someone needs to kill Grendel. He hates all of humanity, and so he will be a serious threat to everyone as long as he lives. The Grendel in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf did not become evil because of a hard childhood. Living as an outcast very likely contributed to his evil nature, but at the root he was evil by nature because of his lineage from Cain and the punishment from God.
    1. Maybe the military kills him.
    2. Maybe some hunters kill him while he is in the wilderness.
    3. If he flees into a remote wilderness, then maybe the scientists will have time to develop something before he becomes a serious threat. He could still pose a threat, however, to hikers and campers. Maybe the locals of a nearby village identify him with a monster in an old local legend.

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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A Memorial Day Display

This is cool. I went downtown to update the address on my car registration where I saw a Memorial Day display outside the Hart County courthouse. I saw crosses for WW1, WW2, Korean War, Vietnam, MPE, and even the Spanish American War. I did not read every cross, and so I may have missed one or two wars. This town has been serving in the United States military for many years.

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