Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gadgets and Gizmos in Your Stories

How many gadgets and gizmos do you have in your novels and short stories? If you write science fiction or steampunk, my guess is--quite a few. Still, even if you write say, mystery or historical fiction, you might enjoy including a funky techno doodad, as long as it's in line with your era/genre.

While researching I stumbled upon this article by Rob Temple, called "10 Historic Gadget Flops." Brilliantly researched, the article features some real loser inventions, such as the machine invented in 1927 that takes x-rays to determine a person's shoe size. But for writers, these flops are inspirational gems.

You could write a horror story featuring "The Finger Stretcher." It sounds like a torture device, but it isn't.

Or maybe the dirigible pilot in your steampunk story wears something based on the 1920's wrist watch navigator system which holds itty-bitty maps.

Hat Tipper

My favorite gadget in the article is the hat tipper. I don't know how or if I'll include it (or something similar) in my WIP, but if I can't see one in person, I sure would like to see it in a book. Then again, maybe I'll invent a hat taker-offer for certain young men I know who won't remove their hats at the table. Hmm...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens and a Challenge for You

Cowboys and Aliens worked for me. I mean absolutely. I went because it is so my genre(s). My wip (work in progress) is a combo science fiction/western/fantasy. If they'd given Jake (Daniel Craig) a magical creature for a companion, I'd have been in geeky mash-up heaven.

You should probably see the film before you read this blog because I don't want to spoil the story for you. So go see it. I'll wait....

I think what worked so well was the ordinary coupled with the unexpected. (Did you see the movie yet? Well quit reading now if you don't want spoilers!!!) They made out like the aliens were like the cowboys... well, they were actually bandits, but I guess saying cowboys sounds catchier. In one early scene, from far away you see the lights of torches and then horseback riders holding torches come into view. Soon after, there's a similar shot of lights in the distance, but this string of lights is a little too high to be riders.

Sure enough, they're a fleet of space ships. And guess what! They start lassoing everybody they can. Yep. Just like cowboys to cattle. Ha! Funny-scary-brilliant. Okay, so maybe they ought to have more superior technology than that, but it was unexpected--mixing the mundane with the strange and it worked for me.

And guess why the aliens were here. Go on guess! Gold. :-)

So, here's your challenge for the week. Write something where you mix the ordinary with the unexpected. Maybe create a bit of comedy in your story. Or an interesting first line for your novel. Perhaps you'll come up with a weird concept for a flash fiction piece.

Also see my review at "Catholic Once Again."
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