Tag Archives: Games

Story Cubes: An Unlimited Resource


by  Lillian Csernica on July 14, 2014

waddleeahchaa.com

 

It’s not easy buying gifts for my son Michael.  He’s 18 now, and while his body is medically fragile to due cerebral palsy and seizure disorder, his cognitive skills are just fine.  Michael can use only his right hand and arm, so that tends to limit our options.  Some of his favorite toys are the ones where you push a button and something lights up and/or music starts to play.  The trouble is we can’t just keep shopping for him in the Preschool aisle.

One Christmas I found Story Cubes.  They are a dream come true on so many levels.  Nine six-sided white dice.  Every side of each die has a pictogram such as a clock or a globe or a parachute in solid black lines.  There are ten million different combinations of pictograms, and that’s just with the basic set.  Now you can get additional dice such as the Clues, Enchanted, or Prehistoria sets.

Michael has told us he wants to be a storyteller when he grows up.  He wants to write books like I do.  He already has the beginning of a YA science fiction series in the works.  This is Michael’s favorite way to play Story Cubes:

I put one die in his right hand.

He pulls his hand back to his shoulder and opens his fingers, dropping the die.

I tell him which pictogram is face-up.

We talk about possible meanings for that pictogram and Michael gives his “Yes” sign for the one he likes the best.

When Michael plays Story Cubes with one of his nurses, she will ask Michael a question and then he’ll roll the die for the answer.  That’s how they build their stories.

I keep track of the story in Michael’s personal journal, adding the particular pictogram next to its section of the story.

I took the Story Cubes and Michael’s journal with me to one of his triennal IEP meetings.  Everyone on the team, from Michael’s teacher to his occupational therapist to his speech therapist, got very excited about Story Cubes and their potential for helping special needs students.  I bought another set and gave it to the Speech Therapist so she could take it with her to the other schools where she worked.  The more teachers and therapists and parents and students who know about Story Cubes, the better!

We’ve written a number of stories together.  My personal favorite is the one about the professional gambler whose plane had to make an emergency landing because of lightning.  An unknown benefactor saw to it the gambler made it to the tournament where he was scheduled to play.  That man turned out to be a sheep rancher from Australia who was very rich, but on the shady side.  With a little work, I think it might make for a very entertaining suspense story.

As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for something to stimulate my imagination on those days when my brain feels like a dried up cornstalk.  Story Cubes are wonderful for turning the work of writing back into play.  I highly recommend them for solo play, or maybe even one meeting of your writer’s group.

 

 

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Filed under autism, Awards, birthday, Christmas, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, science fiction, Special needs, Writing

U is for Unicorn


by Lillian Csernica on April 24, 2014

 

 

Yes, this one might seem obvious, but just wait.  First I must share with you this lovely example of the baker’s art:

zandapanda.com

 

If you’re looking for something simpler, perhaps in the party favor line, here’s a little cutie:

 

But wait!  There’s more!  Apparently somebody has invented this silly game called “Chocolate Unicorn” where people do their best to stack six chocolate snack cakes on their foreheads within one minute and keep them there!  That’s the tricky part.

There must be more chocolate games out there.  Come on, tell me what you’re up to!  You have a “Buffy” marathon and every time Xander does something stupid and dangerous, you have to slam a handful of M&Ms!  It’s “Firefly” night for the Browncoats and they’re slamming Dove bites every time somebody swears in Cantonese!  I know you’re doing things like this!  You can’t fool me!

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Filed under Blog challenges, chocolate, fantasy, Food, Goals, Humor, romance, Writing

Embracing the Pain


by Lillian Csernica on November 27, 2013

For A Lady Who Must Write Verse

Unto seventy years and seven,
Hide your double birthright well-
You, that are the brat of Heaven
And the pampered heir to Hell.

Let your rhymes be tinsel treasures,
Strung and seen and thrown aside.
Drill your apt and docile measures
Sternly as you drill your pride.

Show your quick, alarming skill in
Tidy mockeries of art;
Never, never dip your quill in
Ink that rushes from your heart.

When your pain must come to paper,
See it dust, before the day;
Let your night-light curl and caper,
Let it lick the words away.

Never print, poor child, a lay on
Love and tears and anguishing,
Lest a cooled, benignant Phaon
Murmur, “Silly little thing!”

I’ve been having running conversations with my two best friends, also writers, on the subject of improving the depth and meaning in my writing.  Both have advised me to work with and through the considerable amount of trauma I’ve experienced.  Car accidents, surgeries, family upheaval, my sons’ disabilities.  Yes, it could always be worse, but I do have some rather weighty material to draw on.

Right now I’m up against a good example of what could be an opportunity to prove my friends right.  In the short story I’m working on right now, I’ve come to the scene where the hero is forced to watch his father get eaten by the monster.  If the hero’s father had taken the hero’s warnings seriously, this probably wouldn’t be happening.  Part of the conflict between the father and the hero is the hero’s refusal to play along with his father’s corrupt business practices and participation in a major cover-up.  To the father, that translates as the son being a real disappointment to him.  As the hero watches his father suffer a really horrible doom, the hero isn’t thinking his father is getting what he deserves.  The hero sees this as the culmination of being such a disappointment to his father, even though the hero knows he’s made the better moral choices.

I’m having a really hard time writing this scene, even though I understand it and I’ve got the action blocked out on paper.  Why?  Because November 18th would have been my father’s birthday.  Daddy died seventeen years ago, one month before Michael had to be delivered by emergency C-section.  This is a very hard time for me.  Thanksgiving is all about family gathering together and being grateful for who’s there to share the feast.  My father never got to see his grandsons.  I know how much he was looking forward to me having children.  Daddy would have make a terrific grandfather, taking the boys fishing, playing games with them, and best of all, going bowling.  Every time we take Michael and John to the bowling alley, I feel like Daddy’s spirit is there with us.

So you can see the trouble I have with making my hero watch as his father gets eaten by a monster.  It’s easy to kill characters you hate, characters that might be based on people in real life who have given you reason to dislike them.  It’s much harder to kill characters you love, especially when they’re based on people in real life whom you love.  I don’t know how Joss Whedon or George R.R. Martin stand it, I really don’t.

Now let me say that my hero’s father isn’t much like my own father.  My fictional world is probably better off with one less corrupt business executive.  That’s not the point.  My main concern is my hero and his emotional turmoil.  How can I sit here at the keyboard and take the empathy that even now has tears running down my face and translate that into the words that will express my hero’s suffering and the decisions he makes based on it?  I don’t know, honest to God I don’t, but I have to find a way.  I have to draw on my pain and reshape it into the pain as it is experienced by my hero, in a way that will resonate with my readers.

Dorothy Parker wrote, “Never never dip your quill/In ink that rushes from your heart.”   To get to the level of writing I want to achieve, that’s exactly what I have to do.  I have to take that quill and stab myself in the heart, over and over again, keep that ink rushing out, and write my stories from the very essence of my heart.  I’m going to cry a lot, and I’m going to get headaches, and I’m going to get sick to my stomach.  Nobody ever said it was easy being a writer, and anybody who thinks so is a fool.

I will complete this story.  I will do right by my hero and my father.  And then I will move on to the next story, sharpen the next quill, and spill my metaphorical blood across the page.  Because I am a writer, a storyteller, and this is what I do.

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Filed under Depression, Family, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, Horror, Humor, romance, science fiction, Self-image, Writing

Z is for Zygoma


by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2013

Most of the people you meet will have a zygoma. You have one. I have one. Supermodels are often known for their zygomatic arches. I have read one description of the zygoma as being slanted like the blades of a scissors.

Do you, at this point, have any idea what a zygoma is? If you’re not in some field related to medicine, it’s a safe bet that you don’t.

The zygoma is the cheekbone.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “What could the zygoma possibly have to do with writing technique?” I’m glad you asked that. The answer is simple.

  1. Do not use technical jargon unless you can create a context that communicates the meaning to the reader.
  2. You can explain the term in dialogue, but please don’t make it one character lecturing another. Dramatize!

It’s important to write vivid and realistic detail. If your characters have advanced degrees or they’re specialists in their fields, they will probably be using some technical jargon in their interior narrative, their dialogue, or any writing they do in the course of the story (journal, letters, memos, etc.). Context is everything.

Let’s make up a word: rumtinkflan.

Noun: My mechanic told me that it takes three weeks to get a rumtinkflan. There’s only one factory in Austria that still makes them.

Verb: If you try to rumtinkflan me again, I will take that serving fork and show you the color of your liver!

Adjective: The roses really are quite rumtinkflan this year, don’t you think?

Adverb: “Please, Jonathan, you can’t leave now!” she cried rumtinkflanly.

Yes, this is very silly. Does it make the point? I hope so. Put the technical jargon, foreign word, medical term, or invented jibberish into a context that gives the reader some clues about form and function.

This brings me to the end of the A to Z Challenge! Thank you all for joining me on this, my first blogging challenge! Please stay tuned for the Challenge Reflections post, where I shall give my post-game thoughts and analysis.

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Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Writing

Y is for Your Truth


by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2013

Speak your truth. Tell us what you see, where you see it, how it feels, the sound of it, the taste in your mouth as you contemplate it. Your truth. Your take on that strange shifting prismatic place we call Reality.

Another way to say this is “Call ’em as you see ’em.” I warn you, this is dangerous. Are you willing to be that little kid who was silly enough to see what was right in front of him and said so, announcing, “The emperor has no clothes!” People don’t like it when you won’t abide by the established, agreed-upon, and above all NICE version of reality.

Your truth. Your voice. Your vision. Your style. Do you want to sound like all the other writers chasing the latest trend in publishing? Or do you want to speak the truth that burns inside you, that makes you restless and dissatisfied and compelled to write it down in whatever shape best suits it?

Speak your truth. Be authentic. Point out that mole on the emperor’s left butt cheek. Tell people what that birthmark looks like. Your words. Your ideas. Your style.

Your truth will set you free.

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Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Writing

Q is for Question


by Lillian Csernica on April 18, 2013

There are a lot of books out there on how to write fiction. Sometimes they focus on one particular type of fiction, such as the mystery genre. Other books are more general and reach for the loftier heights of literary technique. How do you write a good story? I’ve just shown you how.

You ask questions.

In science fiction, the two famous questions are “What if?” and “What then?”

In the murder mystery, you can ask the classic “Who done it?”, the more forensic “How done it?”, or the psychological/psychiatric “Why done it?”

Journalists know that every story, fiction or nonfiction, must contain the answers to five simple questions:

 Who?  What?  Where?  Why?  When?  and  How? 

 The questions are simple. What makes the difference is how clever you are at coming up with answers that will intrigue and entertain your readers.

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Filed under Blog challenges, Fiction, Writing