Having fun with The Storymatic

As I explained in this post last month I bought a fun little package at the store called The Storymatic. Basically it is a giant deck of cards in a box with gold cards for characters and copper cards for situations or story droplets as it were. What I have been doing is drawing 2 gold cards and 2 copper cards and just going with it.

The first set I drew was:

Carnival worker, phone call at 3am, six months to live, discovery of a new species.

I got nowhere with that, not even a sentence. If anyone wants to have a go at it… start now! I’ve got the four items in the back of my mind, and maybe someday… Outside of making it an X-Files story (literally) it just produces nothing.

I did a few others that resulted in meh.

Then Sunday I drew the following cards:

  1. Secret meeting
  2. If only what was said could be taken back
  3. Aging Clown
  4. Person who steals cats

At first this seemed to me as incongruous as the first set. I give myself a few minutes before jumping in but not too many minutes. But clowns and secret meetings have been two elements of a novel I have been VERY SLOWLY working on for – shit- five years now? Basically think of the end of days, end of time and the universe, Future Man’s last stand, and armies of life hating clowns. I even have a side piece called Clown and Eve (think Rebirth of the World, but this time it gets off to an even worse start!), it exists (for now) only in my head, but it’s pretty messed up stuff.

Anyway, this had enough familiarity for my natural output. I didn’t hit all the points on the list, but I hardly think that is the point. Unless, of course, you were doing it as a group game style.

I still have to find some people who even think that would be fun. Am I completely off the grid? I’m thinking, hey! we gotta do this right now! Who knows where we’ll end up! Maybe I’m a freak, I can put myself in a dank cellar right now. There’s a leaking water pipe above me. It is too dark to see but I can hear it drip… slowly. The pain in my wrists is excruciating. I think I’m tied to a furnace or something. I move. Just a little. And I brush against something, and I think it moaned. Something made a sound. Was that a person? A corpse? A door above me swings open and a small shaft of light falls upon a flight of stairs. Into the frame steps a man. Who is that? Hey! It’s Cousin Eddie from the Lampoon Vacation movies! Is that a good thing or bad? Just kidding, but put a different location at the other end, say, yourself (or you as your character) feeding ducks at the park at sunset. How did you get from point A to point B? Go!

Anyway I got something that I think was pretty interesting if, perhaps, inept, and, certainly, incomplete. Scrivener tells me it is 895 words (which is a good single stretch for me) and 3 paperback pages. I wrote until I could go no further at that point, but I think there is material and even theme worthy material present.

So I offer it for, I hope, amusement. Note: I’ve been reading a lot of Lafferty lately and I think that peaked in a tiny bit in a sentence or two. Or I flatter myself, which would be odd of me.

Sad Face stood in the middle of the small room surrounded by his peers. The pasty white of his face was smeared with red and his frown was twice turned down. Sad Face stroked a large orange cat that he held to his protruding stomach. His inquisitors made a circle around him at tables too low and chairs too small. It was a classroom, a colorful classroom of rainbows and alphabets and numbers and construction paper cut-outs of various smiling animals.

Grimrole the Peeker, Curly the Cue, Puss in Boots, Laughing Lady, and Ralph formed the opposition to Sad Face on his right. They too were of pasty reflection and sour prism. But theirs was an arrow, an angry bow, and their frowns were for Sad Face.

Rascal, Galoshes, Hubris, and Candor the Gondor, formed Sad Face’s opposition to the left. They too were of pasty reflection and sour prism, but also of envious spectrum and malice aforethought. They were the strongest of any of the multitudinous factions that made up the group of 9. At last count there were no less than 36 factions among the group of nine, each in a war with the other. And many more factions with you let a faction consist of a single member.

The cat that sat aplomb on Sad Face’s belly was Nelly. She had lives for the each of them.

And she may need them this night.

“What have you to say for yourself, Face?” sneered Puss in Boots.

“Nothing,” said Sad Face. He petted Nelly absentmindedly and Nelly let him absentmindedly.

Hubris stood up and pointed a preposterously white and large finger in Face’s direction, “This clown is too old to be one of us! Look at the silly things he plays at! I say we dispose of him!”

There was a swell of snarling, conjecture, objection, bellowing and posing from both sides of the table. Sad Face stared at the floor. It was hard to tell if there was fear in the pancake or whether there was syrup to hit the floor. He just stood there stroking Nelly’s fur. And while Nelly may have enjoyed that absentmindedly, she did not enjoy the sudden gash of scarlet cacophony that splintered across the room and she raised her cackles and hissed at the rioters.

“Quiet!” roared Candor the Gondor. He rose as he said this and the bellow of his voice masked the breaking of both chair and table and the spilling onto the floor of his allies, Galoshes and Hubris. These two, their feet being of absurd size, struggled to get up; and their giant heads of frizzy, discolored hair bobbed up and down in their fight.

“Do we forget?” said Curly the Cue as he twirled one length of his long, green mustache, “Do we forget who Sad Face is?”

“What does that matter?” hissed Grimole the Peeker peering coyly from behind his woman’s scepter, a cream colored fan, and batted his exquisite lashes at Puss in Boots who turned away in mortal disgust (as did anyone). Peeker giggled. “We eat our young. Why not throw away the old?”

“Or eat them too!” Cried Laughing Lady and she broke into mad shrieks of laughter causing the others to cover their ears in anguish.

Ralph sprang up atop his desk and sang basso, “And just who is this Sad Face we speak of?” It was a serious question because Ralph could not remember anything that was not sung from day to day.

Ignoring Ralph except to answer his question, spoke Hubris. “He is the first of us. The first to put out a light because it lit. To dirty a puddle because it was clear.”

“But I, I was the first to stick a knife in a baby’s eye because it enjoyed its sight!” This was Rascal whose full name was Rascal Animus.

“That is all well and fine, Rascal. And surely we would not have come as far as we have unless you had brought us to such ghastly refinement. But Hubris is saying you did it because of Sad Face. He was our father.”

“Bah!” Lashed out Rascal and pulled a long knife out of his drooping drawers and plunged it into Sad Face’s belly – and through Nelly in the process.

“My Nelly!” cried Puss in Boots.

Sad Face looked up at Rascal through shaggy red eye brows, “That was uncalled for, don’t you think?” Nelly’s body sagged against the long shaft of the blade. Sad Face grabbed the handle of the knife, pulled it out of himself and tossed it ringing onto the floor. Nelly fell to the floor and Puss in Boots rushed to her side sobbing.

“Are you not going to die?” asked Rascal.

“No, I think not. I haven’t dirtied my last puddle, nor shed my last mocked tear.”

“I’ll hold a seance, a rite, a ritual, or find some patch of earth for you to spring from, my sweet.” Puss carried her off to her seat, sat down, stroked her bloodied fur and glared at Rascal with enough venom to make a coven run for cover.

“It is so odd she cares for something. Goes against our most basic objectives, does it not?” asked Rascal abstractly to no one in particular.


8 thoughts on “Having fun with The Storymatic

  1. Doctor Smith, yes, it’s me, Jo-Jo from the carnival. Sorry for calling at three in the morning but I can’t sleep. I was thinking about what you said — that I’m a new hybrid species and, for some reason, I only have six months to live. Tell me, is that in dog months?

    Musical Accompaniment

  2. 1) I would totally play that group game. (But I’ve been called a freak.)

    2) LOVE the names of the clowns.

    3) Some lines I like: the ‘twice turned down’ frown; ‘of pasty reflection and sour prism’; ‘glared… with enough venom to make a coven run for cover’; and aspects of others.

    4) Things I didn’t get: the factions bit; ‘It was hard to tell if there was fear in the pancake or whether there was syrup to hit the floor.’ That line is kind of funny, but… what?! Why was the stab to Sad Face’s belly ineffective on him? Is it a fake fat-clown belly?

    5) I think some of the strongest narrative aspects are the beginnings of the background of the ‘world’ and of Sad Face in particular. Very interesting.

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey, thanks! I have no answers to any of your questions, I wrote that on the fly, although it fits, somehow, into my apocalyptic nightmare story.

      I don’t know why Sad Face doesn’t die, but I love it when characters suffer the act of death without leaving the story!

  3. Okay, here’s a brief critique. R.J., this is so far removed from the style I’ve seen in your other writing, that I am amazed it is from the same author. That meditation must be having an effect on your creativity.

    In this writing sample, the reader is not a passive receiver, but a participant.

    Reader (thinking)

    “They too were of pasty reflection and sour prism, but also of envious spectrum and malice aforethought.”

    Sour prism. This is new. What does it mean? Well, connecting it to “envious spectrum” and “malice aforethought” it suggests a personal perspective, a prism through which the world is perceived. And it is, indeed, a sour, distorted prism.

    “They were the strongest of any of the multitudinous factions that made up the group of 9. At last count there were no less than 36 factions among the group of nine, each in a war with the other. And many more factions with you let a faction consist of a single member.”

    Reader (thinking)
    Whoa! Math! Let’s just check. Combination without repetition. n!/r!(n-r)! Number of items (9) factorial = 362880. Divide by factorial of subgroup times the factorial of number of items minus the subgroup (10080) = 36.

    Editing note: I thing the author meant “if [not ‘with’] you let a faction consist of a single member.”

    But I don’t see how that allows “many” more factions since there are only 9 individuals. They don’t combine. Many more would result if you allowed overlapping groups of three, four, five, etc.

    Reader (thinking)

    “She had lives for each of them”
    Nice. Cat. Nine lives.

    Editing note: I think the author meant “hackles” not “cackles.”


    I could go on, but you see what I’m getting at. If this is your new voice, stay with it. This is publishable level stuff.

    1. Holy crap, you think so? Yeah, I have been working on style a lot (but not really so much on story). I’m a ways away as that is the first time I got something I felt somewhat confident about even as a brief glimpse into a world. Notice I didn’t leave a lot of caveats as to how bad I thought it was like I usually do.

      I agree it is better. But I’m not satisfied yet. Well, halfway…

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