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 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 Prompt: Breaking Away

This week, our group met on Monday, instead of Thursday, so you get the writing prompt early! *throws confetti*

The theme was Breaking Away. For some reason, what came to my mind straight away was a break up scene. I’m not sure about posting my piece for this prompt, because it got a little racy. The premise of the story is pretty straightforward: Eloise and Alejandra are in the middle of an argument and Eloise is breaking it off with Alejandra after 10 years together. Alejandra tries her last measure by seducing Eloise. They sleep together, but in the morning when Alejandra wakes up, she discovers Eloise is gone.

It is my second time writing a sex scene and my first time writing a lesbian one. I have to say my biggest struggle is pronouns! I can’t just say “she did this, then she did that” because it isn’t always clear which “she” I am referring to. And it annoys me to keep saying “Eloise’s this and Alejandra’s that.”

Does anyone know a way around this? Or have any tips in general for writing erotic scenes? Not that I think I’ll be writing a whole lot of erotic fiction, but it’s always good to be well informed. 🙂

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!

Writing workshop: Show, don’t tell

This week at the Writers Club, we did a workshop on the infamous phrase in any writing circle, “Show, Don’t Tell.” It’s infamous, because it’s thrown around often with not a whole lot of explanation.

I wanted to clear away some of the confusion over this phrase for my group of writers. Or maybe it was for my own sake. Either way, rather than write a post about it adding to the confusion, I decided to make a quick slideshow summarizing what Show, Don’t Tell means to different writers and the methods they use to achieve the art of “showing.” I also threw in some writing prompts you can try out for each method, just for fun. My group worked on the first writing prompt and I did catch myself “telling” when I could have been “showing,” so let’s call it a success.

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Writing exercise: people watching

Let’s all just admit something. It’s hard coming up with characters out of thin air. That’s why it’s important for any good writer to stay alert and do some people watching. We all do it instinctively anyway, but as writers, we need to focus our full attention on it every once in a while. Consider it an exercise in refilling sources for your imagination. Below I outline a method that I follow. Continue reading

Writing workshop: building characters

This week, our group did a live writing exercise. We were all given a different character with basic information: name, age, and occupation. We were given a setting and then took 20 minutes to write an inner monologue.

The character I was given was: Per Jensen, 30 years old, stay at home dad. The setting was waiting in a long line at the grocery store check out. Here is the monologue I managed to write in 20 minutes, unedited.

Eggs. Milk. Diapers. Cheese? Aw, crap, I forgot the cheese. This line is so long, if I step out now that’s an extra 15 minutes at least and did I leave the oven on at home? Shit. No, better just skip the cheese.

Sonja will probably complain about that. “What do you mean you forgot the cheese? You know I like it on my toast. And all we have is strawberry jam and you know I’m allergic.” I mean, fuck, as if it’s the worst thing in the world to eat dry toast. Put some butter on it, if you’re that needy.

Ok, fine. I’ll deal with it. I mean, c’mon, I used to be the CEO of a tech startup. I can handle this. I mean sure the startup never really started up and it was only three people I was managing. I wonder how Jon is doing these days? Haven’t talked to that guy in…how old is Jacob? Born in February 2013…Crap, has it been two years already? How did that happen?

I should probably send him a Facebook message or something when I get home. Two years since the last company meeting where we all decided to pack it up. Three years of preparation and sweating blood and BOOM – some other team of 20 somethings come out with the same product, but better because they had some weird, trendy marketing ploy up their sleeve. Who is friends with Lady Gaga, anyway? And actually convinces her to write the music for their promo video?

I miss it sometimes. God, I do. But hey I’ll get another chance…I think. Only get one chance with these little nightmares, hehe. Oh, I’m next in line. Hmm, you know what, I better get that fucking cheese.