How to troll a coder

I met up with my writer’s group last night for the first time since August.

We tried this new writing prompt we got off Reddit of all places. It turned out to be super fun:

Write about something you don’t understand. No research allowed!

We came up with our own topics.

It had to be something that at least one of us knew something about, so we could “vet” our stories, so to speak.

I got the task of writing about Hacking a Bank. These unedited results are deliciously awful (as expected):

Her palms were cold and sweaty. She rubbed them on her pant legs with a rough one-two and then her fingers resumed their frenzy on the keyboard. The encoder showed a flowing stream of lined code, invisible zeros and ones working behind her complex algorithm.

It was a couple weeks since she came across the idea of hacking a bank. At first, it was just jokes around the lunch table with her coder buddies. But she realized they were on to something and began secretly working on her side project in the evenings.

She drafted up a program that could penetrate the firewall in Goliath National Bank’s VLAN network.

Hah, idiots! she thought.

They only had one VLAN and the encryption, as she quickly discovered, was minimally secure. All she had to do was crack the firewall enough to access the Head of IT’s local files. She cloaked her signal and downloaded the files to her computer.

Now she had access to the bank’s international transfer codes.

She swiped any trace of her presence clean with a tap, tap, tap of her keyboard. She was sitting on a goldmine of information.

Ones and zeros soon to become dollars and cents.



Writing workshop: Smell (FINALLY!)

It finally happened. After weeks of postponing it, my group finally did the writing workshop on Smell. To be honest, I wasn’t as prepared for this workshop as I usually am, so I feel it could have used more work if I were to do it again.

For this workshop on smell, I brought some random items in little containers: dirt, marshmallows, and a cotton pad soaked in vinegar. The idea for this workshop was to choose two of the items and write a scene around these two smells. We chose the marshmallows and the vinegar, because the dirt from my backyard doesn’t have a distinct enough smell.

We took about 25 minutes and I gotta say, it was harrrrrd. I didn’t get to the second item because I was just so ridiculously blocked. I think it’s because during my internship, I wasn’t writing much and I’m now just a bit rusty…just a bit. 😦

I did manage to squeeze out some kind of scene but I did a lot of crossing out.

“Alana,” my mother warned, “Don’t tap on the glass. It might fall and break.”

“Geez, mom. I’m being careful” I said, putting my hands into the pockets of my hoodie. I spun around to walk towards the cereal aisle, but my right elbow, which was jutting out at an angle, caught the big glass jar of pickles I had just been tapping. The sharp stink of vinegar was all over me. All my mother could do was shut her eyes slowly and let out a sigh that said, “Why me?”

My mother quickly flagged down the man behind the deli counter who came in like a knight on a white horse, except the horse was a mop and his armor was a stained apron.

“Jesus, Alana. You smell like you bathed in pickles. I’m this close to letting you walk home” she huffed as she unloaded the cart into the trunk of our Toyota Camry. She was right. Vinegar has a way of hooking its sharp claws into your skin. Hours after, I was scrubbing my hands for the fifth time, but the smell continued to tickle my nose. Eventually, the smell went from a sharp acidity to a duller mustiness and then gone.

There you have it. A very uninteresting story about vinegar. I think it’s safe to say that I’m stuck in a writing rut. Let’s hope that next week breaks me of that. We’ll be doing a writing prompt on the theme: OUT OF THE ASHES.



Writing workshop, interrupted

I had a workshop on smell planned for this week. Unfortunately, everyone who signed up canceled at the last minute. Those are just the risks involved when you’re the organizer.

At least I got to write something while I waited for people to show up. So, no workshop this week, but here are the results of me with time to think. Continue reading

Writing Workshop on Senses #1: Taste

Our group is taking on a workshop series on all the senses. When the idea for this workshop series came to me, I got super excited about it. I knew this first workshop on Taste would be a challenge, because how can one really write about taste besides the obvious list of adjectives?

For this workshop on taste, everyone brought a different fruit to share. Since we had a lot of fruit and limited time, we chose 3 fruits (orange, banana, lime). The idea was to eat a piece of fruit, then take 10 minutes to write down the experience of eating that particular fruit. For example, its taste, its texture, what it makes us feel or remember. After each fruit, we went around and shared what we wrote. The range of things people wrote was simply amazing. At one point, there was even an epic rant on how bananas suck. Safe to say, it was hilarious! Anyway, here were my thoughts after I tasted a piece of banana.



It tastes exactly like it smells—sweet, but a dull earthiness to it. A waxy resin from the peel attaches itself to the sides of your tongue. The banana is a subtle fruit, but just as powerful a taste as orange. It lingers and its taste grows. And that is the type of fruit it is too; the longer it sits and gets ripe, the more strong it becomes in its taste, like wisdom.

My mother used to serve us Mexican rice with bananas (some call it Spanish rice). The earthy taste of the banana was the perfect complement that brought out the sweet acidity in the tomato. And somehow it made the bouillon in the rice taste more savoury. It is the perfect food for kids: bananas with Mexican rice.

Banana changes when you bake with it. It becomes more of a smell than a taste. It browns and you can taste its brownness fermenting in your nose.

I think this workshop series will be a great exercise in using senses other than sight in our writing. Fiction really comes to life when a writer can capture all of the senses.

Be sure to look out for the second part in this workshop series, which will cover how to write about smell.

Writing workshop: story elements

This week I ran a workshop on story elements. The exercise for this workshop was more difficult than I thought it would be, but I feel we all walked away with some great story ideas. Our challenge was to take three random elements and write a story weaving in those elements. I used this list I found on Pinterest to choose from:

The elements we had to work with made for some creepy writing. They were identical twinsa party invitation, and a locked closet. We took 30 minutes to write and shared afterwards. But we didn’t stop there. We went for the ultimate challenge!

We chose another set of three elements and incorporated them into the story we had already started. Trust me, it is not an easy task. The second set of elements we randomly picked were a campfirea scream, and a small lie that gets bigger and bigger. Yeah, things only got creepier with these new elements.

I won’t share my final results because they are very rough, but the plot that I came up with was something like this:


Adrian receives an invitation to the popular girl’s big birthday gala. His identical twin brother, Henry, does not. Adrian goes to the party, but disappears that night. Henry starts a search for his brother. He goes to the popular girl’s house only to find it recently abandoned. The house is empty except for a locked wardrobe.


Spooky, right? The second part of the challenge, I decided to create a scene from the party Adrian goes to, but if I’m honest, I didn’t succeed in incorporating the three new elements. I think this kind of exercise takes more time than the 30 minutes we allotted. At least it really got us thinking and the spooky vibes took us into a genre that was out of our comfort zone.

Try it out and let me know how it works out for you!

Thank you for not smoking

I sat on the steps in front of my rickety apartment building and watched her walk by. It was a daily ritual that took place in the day’s fading light. I went out for a smoke. She walked her Golden Retriever. A nice dog, but its namesake is tarnished when put in comparison with her eyes. Liquid fuckin’ sun. It was hard for me to understand what I was really looking at, because she doesn’t belong here. In this world, I mean. Life on Planet Earth is reserved for pain and brutal misery. But her?

It was those eyes. They poured out golden joy. It was enough to warm me up on those brisk San Francisco days. Or maybe that was the hot smoke filling my lungs as I took drag after drag. I wish I could take her in like this. Each breath taking me closer to a rattling death, but a journey I didn’t mind so long as she kept smiling like that.


He traced the rippled pale pink flesh on her stomach. “It was a fire,” she said, “When I was a kid, my house was on fire and I was trapped upstairs.”

He kissed the flesh and she didn’t even flinch. She wore her scars gracefully, like a wealthy widow carrying a heavy pearl necklace around her neck.

As he entered her, the flames leapt up in a blaze. He could see them, dancing in red and orange chaos. They rose higher with a growing intensity as his body moved closer into hers again and again with a quickening motion.

His eyes were burning. He could feel the thickness of the smoke in his throat and should have been choking, but she wouldn’t let him go. The moment he felt the smoke fill his lungs, he came in her with a shudder and lost consciousness.

When he came to hours later, he thought he could still see the red-orange flames, but it was only the late morning sun shining on his face. Before he could feel relieved, he smelled smoke coming from somewhere in the house and fumbled out of bed. He ran into the kitchen and stopped short when he realized that it was only the smoke from a cigarette hanging off the lips of his late night companion.

His eyes traced over her skin and he was amazed at how smooth it looked. He was so caught up in how beautiful her skin was that it took a while for it to sink in. Her skin was completely smooth. Yes, completely, even her stomach.

“But…how? Your skin. It burned, ” he sputtered out.

“My skin? What are you talking about? No offense, but have you looked in the mirror lately?” she joked and looked pointedly at his torso.

He followed her eyes and couldn’t process what he saw. The skin from his hip up to his rib cage and over his abdomens was a mottled mess of pink scars.

“You told me last night. You were a kid and there was a fire and you were trapped upstairs,” she trailed off.