The Strange Place...
and the Sad Face.

Build something weird.


Get the handout

Here's a simple handout to help you create both:

  • your troubled protagonist
  • your strange place

This one-page handout guides you through the process of imagining the two key components of your story.

How it works

The goal here is to survey your local area -- its environment, its institutions, and customs -- and to produce two interesting things from it.

So I suggest you think of at least four notable aspects of your local area. 

Write them down in the "inner circle."

Then try to imagine a more extraordinary, outlandish, advanced, magical, hi tech, or horrifying version of each thing. Write those down in the "outer circle."

Don't censor yourself: create! 

Got four things, both the normal and the weird? 


Now you should pick one "normal" thing for your protagonist to be working on and be obsessed by.


You should pick one weird thing to form the "strange place."

Can you give me an example?


So far you've had two writing prompts:

  • the one-syllable setting
  • the strange place and the sad face 

I can show you how I might complete those challenges.

But everyone writes in their own unique way.

And I want to help all the different types of writers who are trying out these emails.

For instance, I know that some of the people taking this course have been responding to challenges one and two in "full" fictional prose.

Here's an example of that approach from me.

This is a story about a magical grill. 

The tale begins with the one-syllable paragraph from challenge one, continues with the description of the strange place from day two, and leaps into action immediately after:

Day One: The place where you live

I love my street when the air turns cold and the leaves fall. We are high, here, and our street hugs the height of the long ridge. At the end of the year, you can look down, to the north, and see homes lit up on the next hill. With no leaves to block my sight, more homes show up, streets that were closed off from sight all year...

Day Two: The strange place...

On one of the apartment blocks on our road, there's a man who is always out grilling on a huge, ornate grill. He is a heavy fellow, usually bare-chested, despite the freezing cold air, with a hairy body and a bristling face.

His huge grill takes up most of the porch, and I don't think the other people on that floor like him. Once, I saw a wife demand that her husband do something about this grilling man -- my Spanish is not good enough to know exactly what she said -- but the husband refused. He looked afraid.

And, to be honest, I find the bare-chested man a little odd, too.

You see, there's something weird about his grill. At night, it seems to...

...and the sad face

I never thought I would inherit that strange man's grill. 

Here's how it happened.

The day after I was fired, I took my dogs on a long walk.

As I passed the apartment where the strange grilling man lived, he closed the lid of his huge grill -- I thought I heard an odd sound emerge from it, like a scream.

He waved to me. I waved back. I felt empty inside. I was unemployed. I had failed in the most public way possible. My wife kept asking how we were going to survive without my job.

So I had gone out, taking the dogs. Just walking. I had no idea what else to do.

I was about to go on, keep going away from my house, but something told me to look across the street. From the porch, the bare-chested man seemed to be staring at me, staring, full of hate and fear.

As I watched, he clutched at his chest, and staggered. He tried to grab the handle of his grill for support, but he missed, and fell backwards. I heard a hard thump as he collapsed.

I ran with my dogs to help.



That's one way you could do it. Maybe the three sections will line up nicely, or maybe they'll need a bit of adjustment later.

If so, you'll simply need to do a bit of fine-tuning, later, but that's not a big problem. After all, this is just the first draft. The key is to keep moving.

Do not worry if you don't exactly know the secret of the strange place yet -- I don't know what my crazy screaming grill does yet, either.

Just start writing. It's the best thing.

Now get the handout

Here's a simple handout to help you create both:

  • your troubled protagonist
  • your strange place

Copyright 2019, Daniel David Wallace