Challenge Accepted: Bottlecaps


Samara challenged me to come up with a story idea using:

  1. bottlecap
  2. descent into madness
  3. a good talking-to

Here is my response:

When Jonah’s grandfather succumbs to Alzheimer’s, Johah inherits his prized bottlecap collection.  But when Jonah discovers that there is a rare piece missing from the collection, he vows to find a replacement at any cost.  Will a lecture from his parents and long therapy sessions break his resolve?



Okay, time for an update!  And a challenge.

We usually do a writing exercise near the end of out meetings. It varies week-to-week, but recently, because I’ve been thinking up new ideas for school (in a mad panic) we’ve been flexing our creativity muscle a bit with these exercises.

I think we should keep it going. So I challenge Urvi and Shannon (and anyone else, I suppose) to give us a plot outline, no more than three paragraphs, and in no more than ten minutes, using the following three things in any way/order.

But only when the have the time/need a break. If you’re busy, don’t worry about it. 

Here are the three things:

a bottle cap, a good talking-to, and the theme: descent-into-madness

It’s Not Just Us


I’m going to show a little fandom here; just stick with me. 

We aren’t the only ones who’ve killed off your favorite characters. And we won’t be the last. 

Think of the BBC’s new Sherlock series. At the end of season two [SPOILERS] (although, if there is anyone who doesn’t know this yet, I have one question – how?) Sherlock is dead. He is. And regardless of what happened in the third season, or what didn’t happen, for a couple months everyone who watched the show freaked out.  

Then there’s Doctor Who, a show which routinely kills off main characters. And/or removes them for a time. And it’s upsetting, and heartbreaking, but few, if any, fans will just completely drop the show once their favorite is gone. 

There is the interest factor – what will they do now? 

Or one might say it’s just Moffat, and fans of his know what to expect. Mainly, heartbreak and an extended grieving period after the credits. 

But I think there’s more to it than that

The Following had its fair share of murder. They back off a little at the end, which I think hurt the show. There were moments early on; when no one was safe, and you couldn’t count on a character (except Kevin Bacon) making it to the next episode. (But who wanted to be the one to kill off Kevin Bacon, really?) 

There’s an entire genre written around the cozy murder mystery. There isn’t any real suspense, and the reader doesn’t need to worry about the main character. But that bores me. It’s predictable. It isn’t engaging. 

Don’t get me wrong – I watch and read several different series/shows/what-have-yous that would be classified as “cozy”. It’s a great way to relax. 

However, I still want those shows that surprise me. The books I can’t stop reading out of concern for the characters. The heartbreak! I want to feel something when I read or watch a show. That’s how fandoms  get started: it’s their fuel. 

If I could figure out how to make the mass murderer the main lead in a cozy mystery I would. I’m trying. But if you think I’m not also planning another story, another chapter, another character’s grisly demise…you’re in for a shock.  I am in a writing group called Body Count after all. 


Not just for fun


There’s nothing like watching jaws drop and readers crying over something you did to a character. There just isn’t. It’s the most wicked, cackling kind of giddiness a writer can experience, especially after you bawled your eyes out getting it onto paper.

You might ask, “Why kill a character if it’s going to upset both the writer and the readers?”

Because reasons. Duh!

Because stories, especially the thrillers and adventures I tend to read, often hinge on the threat of death. As long as no one actually dies, it’s just a campy threat, and no matter what the characters face, we know they’re invincible. If someone dies, though, all bets are off. It hikes up the tension and stakes, and we have to pay attention. It’s a more engaging story.

“Sure,” you say, “but you can hike up the tension and make it come alive in other ways that won’t have readers threatening to find your house.”

Good writers do that, too.

But killing off main characters (or those the main character loves) ties fiction back to reality in ways that are healthy for everyone involved: deaths force us to internalize that endings are opportunities for new beginnings.

The surviving characters have to find a way to accomplish their story goals without relying on whatever capacity the dead character provided. (Think Luke and Obi-Wan in A New Hope.)

Readers have to attach to a new character, allowing them to be surprised and entertained by more than what the dead character could have provided.

And writers have to expand their repertoire, rather than using the same old tricks with the same old characters.

So we at Body Count joke and laugh and scandalize those in nearby booths, but it’s not out of a spirit of sadism. It’s because we want to be better writers and tell the best stories we can.

But, you know, having the police check in on us is fun, too.


Proof of My Sanity


Writers are a bloody bunch, but I’m not as bad as most of them. I’ve written a zombie novel, and most of my characters are still alive…for now.

You might think I’m a bit looney for joining a writer’s group called Body Count Writers.  You might be thinking, “Is this really the kind of person I want to associate myself with?”

I assure you, however, that I am sane.  I will prove it in this blog post by describing the most well-loved, bloodiest fandoms.  (Spoiler Alert:  Most people don’t think G.R.R Martin is a creep just for killing off [SPOILER].)

Now, before I list these novels, we must outline the criteria for bloody novels.

Obviously, Star Wars is bloody since an entire planet died–but do we care about all of those deaths?  No!

No one cares about the death of some faceless people on some imaginary planet!  In the world of fiction, Princess Leia’s death matters more than the death of her entire planet.  (Sanity Check:  This does NOT apply to reality.  I repeat, this does NOT apply to reality.)

Secondly, character-to-death ratio matters.  A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones, to you treacherous non-readers!) has a lot of death–but it has a horde of characters, too.

So, who gets the Award of Popular Bloodiest Fandom?

Divergent by Veronica Roth, of course.  Can you actually even name three characters that survive the entire series?

Yeah, I couldn’t either.

Okay, so now I’ve convinced you that I am Certified Sane by pointing out all the other writers who use death far more liberally than me, I should get a Certificate!   Unfortunately, my friends in BCW will have to prove their own sanity in their own blog posts–it’s a writer eat writer world out there, you know!