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Not every story started out as a spark inside my own head. Sometimes, it began with a prompt from a fellow writer.

One of the great aspects of AoVD that I will always treasure is the way it became a workshopping community, with a bunch of writers working to hone their craft (several of whom are now published authors!) and share ideas and suggestions. This included writing challenges.

By the time all of that started, I was so caught up in helping program and maintain the site that I couldn’t actually participate in all that many challenges myself, but I treasure the ones I was able to get in on, all of which are below:

Ally Ranger’s ChallengesLadyElaine’s ChallengesLive StorytellingLyric Wheel ChallengesMy CoR AU Challenge

I first met Ally on the VDEB Yahoo!Group, and we became friends. In 2002, when Superchick joined AoVD, Ally began giving her small writing prompts to help her increase her confidence in writing stories in English (Chicky’s Danish, but so fluent in English that you’d never guess it wasn’t her first language). The prompts were so cool and interesting that a whole bunch of us jumped on the bandwagon and did them, too.

The Almost-Silent Sex Scene

Write a sex scene of one hundred words or less, with a maximum of twenty words of dialogue. No names may be used, so only the actions or the things they say can indicate who they are.

The Drabble Challenge

Write a drabble (a story of exactly 100 words) in any fandom.

LadyElaine joined AoVD in late 2001, and immediately began elevating the heck out of everything. We were in the throes of a bit of a struggle with the larger PB/Vin fandom over whether or not our workshop/critique approaches were too rough, and having a new member speak up and say “no, that’s exactly what I’m here for” was a huge help. Our members’ critiques had grown quite hesitant, until LadyElaine began demanding that we shred the heck out of her stuff and not hold back. She raised the bar at the perfect time. Not only did she challenge reviewers to dig in deep… she challenged other writers to do the same by giving us some spectacular prompts. I wish I’d had time to do more of them.

Anywhere but Vindom

Write an “Anywhere But Here” story using the following limitations:

  • No Vin Fandoms Allowed
  • 2nd Person Narrative
  • 250 to 500 words
  • You must include a priest, a pillow, and a person winking.

Silent Solutions

“Write a short story (no longer than 250 words) in any Vin fandom except TFatF. (You’ll see why in a sec.) There must be at least two characters.

“Here’s the kicker: You must present the whole story, problem to climax to solution, with no dialogue. None at all. That includes thoughts, telepathy, jotting down a note and handing it to someone, sign language, etc. If it’s one character talking to another, it’s out. (This is why no TFatF–they could just sit there and work on cars.)

“What, you thought it would be easy?? That’s why it’s called a challenge!”

This week, on When Muses Attack: This was a phenomenon that would periodically happen in the chat room or in direct message windows: something (a picture, a suggestion, or a moment of brainstorm) would prompt someone (and I swear, it wasn't just me) to start telling a story on the spot. The result would be a complete story, or an opening chapter of a longer work, that had just kind of materialized out of the blue. While not precisely a challenge situation, we did challenge each other to try to do it too, so...

Dallas, aka SerialHag, was going by “Faithette” when I first met her on VDEB. She fell in love with the moniker “Serial Hag” after I had that be the slogan Jack had worn on her backpack in Apprentice, and asked me if she could use it. Of course I said yes (especially since I’d snitched the term from the Jon Waters film Serial Mom). Soon after, she began writing a TFATF fic using that pen name, and then — when AoVD was born and its chat room launched — began hanging out in the chat room and roleplaying out parts of her story to get a better handle on some of the scenes. People became so used to seeing her roleplaying as one of her characters, Dallas, that they just started calling her by that name all of the time. Soon after, she became the fourth partner at AoVD and was officially in charge of the chat room. ❤️

In fall of 2001, soon after 9/11 and while we were finding creative outlets to help everyone get over the trauma, Dallas launched the Lyric Wheel Project. The idea was simple enough. People who joined the “Wheel” would, roughly once a month, receive a writing prompt and the name of another member of the wheel. They would send a song of their choice, that they felt fit the prompt, to that member, and would then receive a song from another member of the wheel. Then each writer would use the prompt and the song to construct a story that fit both.

I had high hopes of participating in many of the wheels (and I sent and received a lot more songs than I ever managed to use!) but the demands on my time meant that I only managed to churn out story responses to two of the seventeen wheels.

Lyric Wheel #6: First Times

A character from any Vin Fandom experiences something for the first time.

Lyric Wheel #12: Obsession

A Vin character is in the throes of obsession… or another character is obsessed with him.

I issued this challenge in 2004, over on the RGFC board (which was where I spent most of my time at that point) to help myself and my fellow Rhiana fans find ways to deal with our disappointment over The Chronicles of Riddick, which had recast, renamed, and recharacterized Jack and then killed her off. Although obviously we couldn’t change the canon, I wanted to find ways for us to rework the narrative, in our minds, so that Kyra — the character who had made it onscreen — didn’t have to be the same character as Jack after all. I ended up making a number of rules to go along with my prompt, specifically so that we didn’t descend into Kyra-bashing. The specific rules for the prompt were:

Write a story in which Kyra turns out not to be Jack after all, using the following rules:

  • Must be no more than 1000 words.
  • Must not actually contradict anything directly said or done in the movie (but may contradict implied things).
  • Kyra can’t be a villain. Whatever reason she had for telling the lie about her identity wasn’t actually malicious, and her sacrifice at the end was meant wholeheartedly.
  • Most important, Jack is alive and well and a completely separate individual.
  • Someone (maybe Jack, maybe someone else) knows and can explain why Kyra pretended to be Jack.
  • No info-dumps. Reveal your information within the story’s action and dialogue.

I probably wrote more responses to the prompt than anybody else, but all of my CoR-related fiction (whether it fits the specific parameters of the prompt or not) is “Kyra isn’t Jack after all!” fiction anyway. Below are the ones that followed (or came reasonably close to following — running over the prescribed length was frequently a problem for me… shocker!) the prompt:

Ardath Rekha • Fanworks