Friday, October 20, 2017

Writing Exercise #18: Torturing Hobbits

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Hello, friends! I hope this week has treated you kindly. Today, we're going to torture our hobbits a bit more, all right?

Two weeks ago we began with JRR Tolkien's line, "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit."

We spent time creating our own hobbits, careful not to copy Mr. Tolkien's ideas. Once our hobbits were created, we came up with a plausible reason for our hobbit's underground living arrangements.

So many creative ideas, you guys! I was very impressed.

Last week, we took the exercise a step further: we gave our hobbits a problem. So many problems to work with too. You've all outdone yourselves. Good job.

This week, we're going to push things even further. We're going to make things worse for our hobbits. In doing so, we're going to make their situations more important to both them and our readers.

As an illustration, I'm going to steal an example from last week's comments, okay? Olivia gave her hobbit a fantastic problem. She decided that her hobbit's undergound home was filling with water.

NOW! There are several ways we could make this worse for Olivia's hobbit. We could:

1. Explore the avalanche effect: We could allow this one problem to be just the first in a connected series of instances. For example, when the underground hobbit hole begins filling with water, maybe it puts out all the lights, which causes our hobbit to get turned around. Now, instead of making her way out and into the safety of fresh air, she's burrowing further into the quickly filling hole. It's no longer just a matter of our hobbit losing her beloved sleeping place; now, she suffocating. The situation has become deadly.

2. Get personal: Perhaps we need to delve into our hobbit's psyche. Water in a hobbit hole isn't the worst thing that could happen. Unless, of course, our hobbit has a deep fear of water. What if our hobbit nearly drowned as a youngin'? What if our hobbit does everything he can possibly do to avoid water? What would the constant drip, drip, dripping do to his nerves? Suddenly, an easily resolved problem is torturous.

3. Up the stakes: What if Olivia's hobbit has a very important job? What if he is the keeper of all the hobbit selfies? What if every selfie in all of Hobbiton is stored in this one hobbit's underground home? Water would certainly be a problem! He could lose all the hobbit selfies! Silly, yes? But what if it isn't selfies that are stored in this hobbit hole? What if it's something more important? What if every bit of hobbit history is kept in hand-sorted files and stored in this hobbit hole? What if every record ever kept is slowly being eked away by the water leaking into this underground home? The problem is suddenly much more desperate, isn't it?

4. Add an antagonist: Perhaps the water isn't an accidental occurrence. What if our hobbit has an enemy? What if the enemy decides to take advantage of the distracted hobbit by sealing up the entrance to his underground home? However will our hobbit escape?

5. Give him a lie to believe: Let's say our hobbit believes that only the most blessed of hobbits are lucky enough to have water dribbling into their homes. What if he believes that he was gifted with the ability to breathe water? What happens if he gleefully watches the hole fill? Day after day, the depth grows until our hobbit comes face to face with this lie. Can he indeed breathe water? What does the truth do to his belief system?

Now, it's your turn. Take that hobbit you created, and the problem you gave him, and make it worse. Again, I'm going to ask you not to solve the problem. That is not today's goal. Your goal is to torture your hobbit a bit more.

REMEMBER! When you participate in our writing exercises you can enter to win an opportunity to ask Jill, Steph and me a question for one of our upcoming writing panels. Once you leave your response to the writing prompt in the comments section, use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Next week, Rafflecopter will select one winner and we'll contact you for your question via email. Happy writing, friends!

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  1. I'm going to go create a problem for my hobbit first. I didn't get to do it last week because I was sick. Be right back. :D

  2. Copernicus knows he needs to follow the tree hobbit. He knows the tree hobbit needs his help for whatever reason. But ground hobbits aren't meant to be exposed to sunlight. Sunrise is in one hour. If a ground hobbit is exposed to sunlight, they turn to ash and blow through the wind.The mute tree hobbit stands, awaiting for Copernicus to make a decision.


    1. Suspense! High stakes! Very good job here!

  3. Willa had to warn the hobbits about the wood sprites' plan of betrayal. Since she'd been shunned, she decided to go to her family first. Surely, they would believe her. That's what she told herself anyway when she rapped on the oak door.

    Her mother opened the door and stared. "Willa!" She hugged her, and Willa relaxed. The rest of the clan must have heard the commotion for all came up and crowded at the threshold.

    "Why are you here?" Willa's father asked.

    Willa explained about the wood sprites. As she did so, her mother withdrew her embrace and the whole family frowned.

    "Stop." Willa's mother shook her head. "You come here to degrade our friends? Is this some pitiful excuse to get on our good graces again--a pretend rescue from danger?"

    They didn't believe her. Willa's throat closed up, so she couldn't do more than plead with her eyes.

    "You are no daughter of mine." The door slammed in her face. Dazed, Willa slowly turned and made eye contact with a wood sprite fifteen yards away peeking from around a tree. With a smile, it flew away.


    1. Oh, no! Poor Willa. How will she save her family now?

  4. I'm honestly not sure how to make things much worse. My hobbit (basically a jackalope) has been captured by poachers who want to take his magical horns in a process that will kill him. I want to say I could have his hobbit friends captured too, or have him play an important role for hobbits, so that he can't be lost. The problem is that I've already established he lives all alone, with no contact with other hobbits. I'm not sure where to go further, but the problem is already pretty bad.

    1. Hmmm... perhaps the people who captured your hobbit were then arrested in a police sting? Now people who don't believe in magic are wanting to do tests and research on him. Publicity on the discovery of a jackalope lets one of his escaped captors know where he is. For now he's safe, but he might get stolen again!
      Does that give you any ideas? That is kind of a tricky position you're in; I hope you can get it figured out!

  5. For a moment, the visitor thought he had failed.
    The figure simply sat in the hole staring at him, but made no move to get up.
    Then the world shifted so fast that the visitor stumbled back, overwhelmed by vertigo.
    One moment, the hobbit was at the bottom of the hole and in the next half a moment, he was standing in the world above again. He had leaped out of the hole in a blur of motion, going straight through the bars as if they had never existed.
    The visitor stared in shock and not because of the sudden blur of motion.
    The hobbit's hood had fallen back as he leaped, revealing his face.
    Suddenly, everything made sense. The hobbit's short stature, his agility, even the lack of a beard or other hair grown long from years without a hair-cut.
    The feared hole-dweller was a mere child with short choppy brown hair, grey eyes, and chubby pale cheeks. Only the burn that marred half his face marked him as different from any ordinary child. That and the strange light in his grey eyes.
    "I thought_you are not him," The visitor stammered.
    The hobbit eyed the visitor, "Of course not. He is somewhere else. Probably enjoying a nice comfy life far away."
    The visitor gulped. The hobbit may look like a child, but there was a sense of wrongness to his voice that betrayed his true nature.
    "But we thought you were the one doing it."
    "Doing what?" The hobbit asked then he held up a hand.
    He sniffed the air for a moment then reached out as if tugging on a string. The shadow of the nearest tree suddenly stretched towards him as if he were a magnet it was attracted to.
    "The land itself is dying. He is stealing bits of shadow wherever he can," The hobbit noted."Stealing from trees, rocks, animals, but that is not what you are worried about is it. He is taking them for people too."
    The hobbit blinked, as if suddenly registering the meaning of his own words.
    "Oh. Since the one taking them isn't me that could only mean..."
    The visitor nodded. "Charon. The one trying to end the world as we know it is your father."

  6. I finally figured out a way to torture my hobbit! (Since Mrs. Dittemore already came up five amazing ways to do that, it should have been easier, but oh well). I also realized my first two installations in this story were in different tenses. Whoops!

    The hobbit pushed her head horn-first through the small, gushing opening in the rocks. It was the path she had descended years ago, when mankind’s hatred became too much for her. Her three-toed hooves suctioned to the boulders she clambered up on. She pushed her nose high enough to find the air above the icy incoming stream. Hope burned in the forge of her chest, and she raised her long neck through the hole. The opening, caked as it was with limestone buildup, caught on her shoulders. She started scraping her scales against the stone.
    Her scales rubbed smooth on the walls. Their sharp edges were already filed off from her restless slumber. She shrieked and dropped to rub her neck into it. It was no good. Her nightmares had been her undoing.
    The hobbit splashed through the pool and onto elevated ground. Already it was covered. She galloped back and forth in the space, bellowing. Only one burst of flame survived for a moment in the humid air. The glare of the enclosing walls stabbed panic into her heart.
    She dropped and twisted on the ground. She scraped her legs with her hooves. Her scales were loose at the edges, but her most successful attempt at peeling one off only caused her pain. The molt was coming. It was coming. It had to come!
    She stilled, begging her undergrowing set of ridged scales to mature.
    The water was still rising.

  7. There’s a rabbit in her hole.

    She (Hobbit? Hobbita? Hobbitette? Hobbita.) ducks behind a corner. The rabbit is tearing through her food store, hopping from sack to sack, twitching its nose. It sinks its teeth into a carrot.

    Hobbita flattened her ears. No one steals the carrots.

    She stretches her neck around the corner. ‘Hello?’

    The rabbit squeals, knocking over some cabbages. It gazes upwards, studying her pointed face, silver antlers and mottled wings. ‘You’re a hobbit.’

    Hobbita snorts. ‘You’re a thief.’

    The rabbit kicks the carrot behind it. ‘No.’

    She sighs. ‘Just leave, and I’ll forget I saw you.’ And the rabbit would forget it saw her, hopefully. If even a tiny rabbit reported her hiding place…

    It frowns, and tilts its grey head. ‘What’s a hobbit doing in a hole? Hobbits can’t live in holes.’

    Hobbita retreats down the tunnel; her wings dislodge soil from the walls. ‘Nothing.’

    ‘No hobbit in their right mind would live in a hole.’

    One hoof after the other, faster.

    ‘Unless they were-’ The rabbit straightens is ears, widening its dark eyes. ‘You’re Hobbita!’

    Hobbita tries to turn and run, but her antlers snag on a tree root from above. Pain drops through her. The rabbit easily leaps towards her.

  8. ((Oops, I wound up taking my sweet time posting. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to write my way out of this, but here goes nothing.))

    The hoofbeats thundered closer. Fear coursed through the hobbit's veins, renewing his desire to live. And besides, now there was the child to consider. Even if cared nothing for his own preservation, he could not let the invaders hurt another.

    The hobbit instinctively reached for his spear, but felt only rough stone beneath his fingers. He had for gotten: the spear had broken the last time he'd hunted, and he had yet to replace it. With no weapon and nowhere to hide in the shallow cave, the hobbit and the child had only one chance at survival: running.

    The hobbit grabbed the child's hand and dashed for the cave entrance. She shrieked and pulled fruitlessly against his grip, but the hobbit kept running.

    The hobbit and the child burst from the cave directly in front of the invaders. The hobbit smiled to himself as the horses spooked, rearing and bucking and distracting their riders. But his smile quickly fell. One invader had already calmed his horse, and steered it around the others, towards he hobbit and the child.

    The invader circled again, swinging his sword at the hobbit's legs. It met its mark; the hobbit cried out as pain ripped across his calf. He dropped to his knees. He could only look up at the invader's sneering face, the bloody sword raised to pierce his heart.