25 Dec 2012

Xmas Wishes

Just wanted to wish everyone at Storyslingers and everyone following this blog a very Happy Christmas! We've had such a fantastic year; hopefully in early 2013 we'll do a quick round-up post highlighting some of the exciting things Storyslingers has done in the last twelve months.

Until then, we hope you have a wonderful time, whatever you're up to and whether you celebrate Xmas or not. We'll see you in the New Year!

20 Dec 2012

Storyslingers Festive Party, Dec 18th 2012

Another wonderful Storyslingers holiday party! There were minced pies, delicious cupcakes, popcorn and drinks, as well as a selection of games. We played the Dictionary Game which was a lot of fun, so I thought it worth posting the rules here for anyone unfamiliar. It's a lot like the British TV show Call My Bluff, and is great fun if you're looking for a party game at any time of year. (I'm stealing most of this from Muriel, who helpfully explained the rules to Storyslingers.)

DICTIONARY: The aim of the game is to deceive others about the meaning of a strange word while resisting their efforts to deceive you. You will need a dictionary and non-distinctive scrap(s) of paper.

One player, the Dictionary Holder, chooses an obscure word unfamiliar to all. Example: "Pleymon".

In secret, each player then has to concoct a definition of the word and write it down. The Dictionary Holder writes the real definition, then collects all the definitions in a hat/pot. The Dictionary Holder then reads out all the definitions in a random order:

PLEYMON: a pale yellow star in the constellation Scorpio; the neck part of a suit of armour; a musical instrument from the Pyrenees; the fatty deposit in the second stomach of a cow; an ancestor of the porcupine; a gorge formed by melt water from a glacier.

Then players are to guess which one is the real definition. Bear in mind, thinking aloud is opportunity for mild gamesmanship.

Players then cast a vote each and announce it to the Dictionary Holder. You may not vote for yourself. Really wacky answers may get votes for sheer chutzpah.

Finally, the Dictionary Holder announces the correct definition. You score a point for a correct guess. You also score a point for each person who voted for your (false) definition. The Dictionary Holder scores a point for each player who didn't guess the right answer.

Then the dictionary is passed to the next player, who becomes the Dictionary Holder. Rinse and repeat.

(Note: "Pleymon" is a made-up word, so all definitions above are nonsense!)

We ended up playing this in a mix of individuals and small teams, which I think made it funnier as some of the discussions were absurd (and of course, at times a little naughty).

We also played some festive Dada. Here's one I captured on my phone:

A massive thank you to everyone who came along, bringing food and drink and making it an excellent evening!

18 Dec 2012

Christmas/ Apocalypse Party

Christmas/ Apocalypse party tonight usual place, usual time. There will be mince pies, there will be pop, there will be sweets, there might be something healthy but it will be shunned. Call my Bluff, Dada Poetry, exquisite corpse, mad libs; literary parlour games galore. 

I found these exquisite corpse pictures off the internet. Thanks internet!

9 Dec 2012

Mind-Mapping for Fiction Writers

Today I'd like to talk about mind maps—what they are, how to use them, and where to get them—as a way of brainstorming, solving problems, keeping track of your events and timelines, and generating new ideas.

Sometimes stories are straightforward: you begin with your basic idea or outline, and then you sit down and write it from start to finish. But not all stories are that easy-going. Quite often you find they grow and become complex, unruly things, and before you know it you're buried under a mountain of notes and plans, maps and research—and that's before you've even tried to structure your plot or study your characters in depth.

This is where mind maps could come in handy.

I'm fairly new to mind maps, but so far I've found them helpful for keeping my novel timeline in order. They're also an excellent "quick-reference" if you're looking for a specific detail and you don't have time to wade through page after page of notes.

What is a mind map? From Wikipedia - A diagram used to visually outline information.

How do I use a mind map? You start with a central theme or idea, usually placed at the centre of your map/page. This could be anything from a single word prompt to a phrase or topic, problem, character or concept. From there, you create sub-nodes and attach anything associated with the central theme. These sub-nodes grow outwards, generating more and more sub-themes and ideas, very much like a spider diagram. The best way to understand how a mind map works is to see one in action. Take a look at this hand-drawn mind map and this computer generated map (both images from Wikipedia).

How to make a mind map: You can create easy, free mind maps using paper and coloured pens or pencils (see example map above). But if hand-drawing isn't your preference, there are also a number of programs available for the computer—some free and some paid.

Free Mind – Free Mind is a Java-based software that is free to download and use. They have a helpful website that provides instructions on installing and running the program. Works on PC and Mac.

Simple Mind – A simple, easy to use program. This is also a Mac app, but I'm linking to the desktop version as you can use it on a PC as well. You can only download a trial for free; you'll need to buy the full version if you want to keep using it after 30 days.

Bubble.us – I've not tried this one, but it looks like it could be useful. You create your mind map directly in your browser. You can print it out, or download it to your computer when you're done.

Mindomo – This is a paid program. The website states: Human thought is characterized by expansion in multiple directions.  As a mind map software, Mindomo is a perfect match to work the way your brain does reflecting your thoughts.

MindMeister – This mind-mapping tool allows you to share your mind maps with others and collaborate easily. There is a free trial, though it should be noted that you have to pay a monthly subscription for the full program.

There's also a list of (rather pricey) paid mind map programs for Mac here, and a list of freeware programs for Mac here.

And there's a list of free mind map programs for PC here.