November 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a departed friend or relation
  2. Use these 5 words: fingernail, seamlessly, mistakes, tapestry, twists.
  3. “I still have to live with you tomorrow.”
  4. Start with: “Who says it doesn’t snow in _____?”
  5. Being banned from the bathroom
  6. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: round, against, chair, treacherous, juicy.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s past my bedtime.”
    3. Write about doubting one’s own sanity.
  7. A complete makeover
  8. Write about an annual festival.
  9. Living with someone who works the opposite shift
  10. Use these 5 words: gift, lessons, sensitive, understanding, magic.
  11. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
  12. Start with: “I do not believe in _____!”
  13. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: remorseful, toadstools, song, librarian, screams.
    2. Use the phrase, “that’s so tight.”
    3. Write about postage stamps.
  14. Include an Olympic hopeful in your story.
  15. “I really won’t have time for this next week.”
  16. Use these 5 words: radar, signs, alarming, chart, handwriting.
  17. Keep going by force of habit
  18. Start with: “I used to love telling the story of how we met.”
  19. A reflex you didn’t know you had.
  20. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: waterski, against, incantations, funeral, beyond.
    2. Use the phrase, “Look at the hustle.”
    3. Write about a reflex you didn’t know you had.
  21. No sense of the passage of time
  22. Include an impersonator in your story.
  23. Missing an important part of the instructions
  24. Use these 5 words: teacup, log cabin, soup, magnet, hanging.
  25. Write about temporary illiteracy
  26. Start with: “You should definitely try it.”
  27. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: overhead, relations, beach, dress, towards.
    2. Fill in the blank, “I wonder what _____ is doing, right now.”
    3. Write about an inconvenient sunbeam or shadow.
  28. Write about a daring look.
  29. The weirdest Tuesday on record
  30. Make a list of 10 favorite books based on a theme.

Who Are You?

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

This one’s for those of you who find yourself falling down internet rabbit holes when you should be doing something else.

Set a timer. ⏱ How long is up to you—adapt it to the time you have available. For example, if you have a half-hour of free time, set your timer for 15 minutes.

Pick any real person, dead or alive, and find out everything you can about them. Type their name into your favorite search engine… and go! Click from link to link, but with purpose. In the course of your research, if you find someone (or something) more interesting than your original subject, don’t hesitate to make a detour. You’re looking for a story idea—an intriguing character, an unsolved mystery, a fantastic setting.

Time’s up! Stop researching, set your timer for the remainder of your time, and write, using your research as inspiration.

This exercise can be done any time, anywhere, as long as you have your phone with you, and is a great way to make productive use of time you might otherwise spend aimlessly surfing.

Fall Three Cheers and a Tiger Winners!

The judges have spoken. Boots and the Broker have chosen the following stories as winners of the Fall 2016 Three Cheers and a Tiger contest:

  • Gold: “Little Big Man Speaks” by Robert Walton
  • Silver: “Jeanie in a Bottle” by Valerie Lunt
  • and a tie for Bronze between: “Why the Lapwing Laughs” by Christina De La Rocha and “The Error in Desire” by R.J. Snowberger

Congratulations to the winners!

All four stories will appear in the December issue of Toasted Cheese.

October 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

A Pen In Each Hand

  1. Write about a hidden regret.
  2. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: jealousy, means, harbor, misused, crossing.
    2. Write about the end of an era.
    3. Misquote an advertising slogan.
  3. Hurry up and wait
  4. Use these 5 words: urban, royal, waffles, pumpkin spice, humblebrag.
  5. Write about an accidental Spoonerism
  6. “This song is so perfect.”
  7. Write about an extended deadline.
  8. A list of things that will never make sense.
  9. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: stone, wheel, ocean, mine, excerpt.
    2. Write about a donation.
    3. Use the phrase, “… the balance allows…”
  10. Use these 5 words: lineup, people, story, charismatic, struggling.
  11. Write about a deadline that was shortened.
  12. Start with: “Never thought I’d see the day that…”
  13. Write about a craving for an odd food item
  14. A girl detective.
  15. Write about someone who’s nocturnal.
  16. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: hand, done, twelve, light, memory.
    2. Write about insurance.
    3. Use the phrase, “ten straight.”
  17. Filing a report before the work is done
  18. Use these 5 words: calligrapher, work, drawings, elective, mentorship.
  19. Last glimpse of summer.
  20. “Close your mouth when you eat.”
  21. “I can’t believe it’s Friday already.”
  22. A police incident.
  23. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  24. Use these 5 words: corpse, defomity, brain chip, haunting, wounded.
  25. “I’ve never heard ______ used as a swear word.”
  26. “How much sleep did you get last night?”
  27. Write about giving up something permanently.
  28. Imagine your worst fears.
  29. “Can we make this bigger?”
  30. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
  31. A character hates holidays.

Snapshots: What Are You Reading?

Gallery

This gallery contains 9 photos.

By Beaver Keeping a reading journal can be very satisfying. Not only do you get a feeling of accomplishment each time you add a new entry, but you’re creating a guide you can refer to whenever you need a reminder … Continue reading

A Midsummer Tale

Toasted Cheese is happy to announce the winners of the 2016 A Midsummer Tale Narrative Writing Contest.

1st: “The English Girl’ by Sarah Evans
2nd: “Liberal Arts” by Heather Finnegan
3rd: “The Net” by Gail Webber

Congratulations!

First place will receive a $35 Amazon gift card and second place a $10 Amazon gift card. The first, second, and third place stories will appear in the September issue of Toasted Cheese.

Kudos to everyone who entered. We hope you’ll join us for A Midsummer Tale again in 2017 and that you’ll pass the contest info along to your writing friends! Next summer’s theme will be announced April 1, 2017.

The 16th Annual “Dead of Winter” Writing Contest

Stories submitted to the 16th Annual Dead of Winter contest (December 2016) must use the theme THE HAND OF FATE (your entry must follow guidelines below).

This year’s theme is inspired by the 50th anniversary of the cult horror film Manos: The Hands of Fate. You may take as much or as little inspiration from the film as you like. You do NOT need to use elements of it for your story, although we’d like you to be inspired and have included some ideas about that below. Your only “must” is to use the theme THE HAND OF FATE.

SPECIAL:

Manos is universally acknowledged as one of the worst films ever made but its fans have latched onto its endearing elements. If you invest an hour of your time in watching the weirdness unspool, you’ll find something memorable, whether that’s a line of dialogue, a thrift store quality prop, or the strangely charismatic Torgo (as well as “the haunting Torgo Theme”). There’s a good story buried inside this weird little movie.

Note: the commentary tracks make the film more bearable to sit through; both include supplementary material to pad out a two-hour run time so the film itself begins about a quarter to halfway through (look for grainy footage of a family in a convertible). Manos: The Hands of Fate runs a little over an hour.

There are also several articles, reviews, and synopses online.

Ideally, your entry will not only follow the theme THE HAND OF FATE but will also employ some element of the film that inspired it. Examples (plot & character) include:

  • A couple/family gets lost on their way to a vacation resort
  • A couple/family finds something unexpected when they arrive at their destination
  • A cult whose leader is betrayed by his/her assistant
  • A cult revolts against its leader
  • A man who embraces 60s-era masculinity finds himself at the center of a situation he can’t control
  • A child who replaces a beloved pet with something sinister
  • A woman whose physical beauty makes her a target of desire for one, a “prize to be won” for another
  • A caretaker who abandons his/her post and faces physical consequences
  • The making of a low-budget movie goes awry

You might also be inspired by the time setting (1966), geographic setting (rural Texas borderland), or the film’s underlying (and unintended) themes, like sexism or servility.

We are not asking for, nor will we accept, Manos fanfic or any point-by-point retelling of the story of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Do not use the characters of Michael/Mike, Margaret/Maggie, Debbie, Torgo, The Master, or The Wives. You may take inspiration from them for your original characters.

EVERY YEAR:

  • Stories MUST be based on the theme provided.
  • Stories MUST be set in winter.
  • Stories MUST fall in the horror genre*.
  • The word count range for DOW2016 is 2000–4000 words.

HOW TO ENTER:

The contest opens October 1, 2016 and the deadline for submission is 11:59 PM ET December 21, 2016.

Email entries to dow2016[at]toasted-cheese.com with the subject line:
Dead of Winter Contest Entry

Follow general contest guidelines and general Dead of Winter guidelines

manos-torgo-dow2016

Apparently when you make a bet about telling a horror story, you end up either with Frankenstein or Manos.

September 2016
Daily Writing Prompts

  1. A Pen In Each HandThe cupboard is bare.
  2. Sign on door: “Closed for _____.”
  3. This place is not very old.
  4. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: blond, walks, telephone, spaces, mourners.
    2. Use the phrase, “cough and splutter.”
    3. Fill in the blank: “With ________ comes complexity.”
  5. The list just keeps getting longer.
  6. One of your characters is awarded an honorary degree.
  7. Each day must be better than the last.
  8. Use these 5 words: curiosity, fossils, collaboration, passport, sketchy.
  9. Looking back at a school paper from the beginning of the year.
  10. A hurricane-related storm.
  11. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: color, seducer, windy, tyranny, librarian.
    2. Use the phrase, “What about you?”
    3. Write about repeatedly asking, “Why?”
  12. A character who denies everything when confronted.
  13. “If there’s nothing there, I just _______”
  14. Use these 5 words: reclusive, flagship, brace, southside, impersonating.
  15. Everyone’s lease expires the same day
  16. A new ad campaign.
  17. Ambiguous directions send party goers astray
  18. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: shakes, woman, walks, surface, found.
    2. Use the phrase, “see and be seen.”
    3. Write about working down to the wire.
  19. “Tell me again why I used to like this?”
  20. “I’m going to save you and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
  21. Write about an extinct pest.
  22. Use these 5 words: staycation, dominoes, tango, power outage, heat.
  23. Emigrating to have two summers in a row
  24. Challenging a myth.
  25. Get today’s prompts on Twitter.
    1. Use the following five words: against, sailor, telephone, depends, hearts.
    2. Use the phrase, “That’s going to be difficult.”
    3. Write about drowsily making a mistake.
  26. A character who’s playing to the cameras.
  27. “Oops, I missed one.”
  28. Use these 5 words: violent, rodents, bowling, cafeteria, prank.
  29. A sudden glut of reading material
  30. “I used to be obsessed with _____. I have no regrets.”

Three Cheers Fall 2016 (CLOSED)

The Three Cheers and a Tiger Fall Contest is now open!

Entries must be received by 5 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, September 25, 2016.

Write a science fiction or fantasy story where things at one location (or dream state, past/future life, situation) are the same, and yet different, from one that’s familiar.

Word range: 1,500-2,000.

  • Send entries to: threecheers16@toasted-cheese.com
  • Your subject line must read: Three Cheers and a Tiger Contest Entry
  • Paste your story directly into your email. No attachments please.

For complete rules:
Three Cheers and a Tiger Guidelines
General Contest Rules

Elements of Style

A Pen In Each Hand

By Beaver

Some writers avoid social media like the plague, coming up with all manner of reasons why it’s detrimental to their writing (and everyone else’s). Other writers enthusiastically embrace it, testing out and playing with new technology, and incorporating what works into their writing practice.

I tend to admire writers who are willing to explore new technology, like Margaret Atwood, who is in her seventies and still trying new ways of writing, over those who dismiss all new technology outright, like Jonathan Franzen, who was apparently born a grumpy old man with a distaste for anything invented after his birth.

For this month’s exercise, visit the websites and social media of some of your favorite writers. Think about what they do well—what aspects appeal to you? what made you hit “follow”?—and then renovate your online writer presence based on your observations.

Some things to think about:

  • Blogging is a legitimate form of writing, and so is serializing work on a site like Wattpad. Writers have parlayed humorous social media accounts and fan fiction into book deals. Keep in mind if you have a knack for a type of writing that’s suited to social media, your social media accounts might not be a distraction from your real writing, they might actually be your real writing.
  • You can’t do it all, so what’s your focus going to be? Which platform gives you the most satisfaction? Which feels most natural? What benefits your writing most? Make that your primary focus, your everyday platform.
  • You may want to have one platform for brief updates and informal interactions with other writers and readers, and another for longer posts or more formal content (book descriptions, event schedules, etc.). For example, many writers enjoy Twitter as the work-from-home version of the workplace water cooler, a place to talk about writing and current events, while also maintaining a blog or Facebook page.
  • If you’re only going to use one platform, make sure anyone can access it whether or not they have an account.
  • Close or make private accounts you’re no longer using. If you want to keep other accounts active, repost content from your primary platform (set this up to happen automatically if you can) or use them occasionally for more specialized content.
  • Some writers like to maintain separate personal and professional accounts; others prefer to combine personal and professional. Accounts that provide a glimpse into writers’ personal lives and other interests tend to be more interesting for readers/followers, but not everyone is comfortable sharing personal content with strangers. Be honest with yourself about your comfort zone.
  • Use consistent branding (same username, design, color scheme, logo, graphics, etc.) and link your accounts together so readers can easily find you on different platforms.