JEN: I’m Jen. I write about shape-shifters and kissing, apparently, but not exclusively.
ANNE: Bonjour! I’m Anne, and I write the things in my dreams. Also things that have happened to me. Also things that are bloody. Also, I like to say also.
JULIE: I’m Julie and I write about whatever strikes me, and often that is relationships, gender, and things that don’t exist in real life. Sometimes wolves.
AUDREY: Hello! I’m Audrey and I write YA fiction. I like to write romance and dark things, preferably together.
AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH MONTH, WE ALL GET A PROMPT — A SONG, POEM, SCULPTURE, PAINTING, ETC. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE YOUR PROMPT.
JEN: At the last minute, always. Wait, what? (laughter) I usually tag the prompt with an emotion and then pull small details from the prompt for use in the actual story. For the Stars prompt, I got the idea that strength was important, so I used that as inspiration of the voice of my main character, and then used the actual stars as a launch pad for fictional desert lore.
ANNE: My process is to sleep on the image / song / etc. and then have dreams. Once I have an idea, I flip on PBS and 9 times out of 10 they will be showing a travel show on the place I wanted to write about, so I take it as a sign and dive in. I usually write/edit for 4 hours per short story.
JULIE: Sometimes I have an idea right away. If not, I’ll do some research about the prompt topic and see where that gets me. For the Stars prompt, there was something that popped into my head a while ago, which I wrote down and turned into the story.
AUDREY: I try writing something, which I then decide is terrible. Then I do a bunch of research, most of which I don’t use. Then I write it again and decide that something is off. I think about it for a couple of days, come up with a better idea, and then wait to the last minute to actually do any worthwhile writing. I’m hoping to develop a better pattern of writing, but I may be hopeless.
DID YOU HAVE TO RESEARCH FOR YOUR STORY?
JEN: Most of my research is done on locations and science-y things. I did a lot of weather research for my manuscript. But really I feel like I do very little research for what I write. I think it’s mostly because I do a lot of world building where I can make up my own rules.
JULIE: That’s the best kind, and why sci-fi is so hard.
ANNE: I do a surprising amount of research for such short pieces. For our most recent prompt (Kiss of Death), I read my journals from trips to Paris, got out Métro maps, listened to French music, and generally put myself into a French mood.
JULIE: I researched the Jaume Barba one a lot because I didn’t have any ideas. I ended up watching a scene from an Ingmar Bergman film that was supposedly connected to it. But it didn’t really help me out.
AUDREY: I read about that on Wikipedia. Yes, I do lots of research. Sometimes I go off on strange tangents on Wikipedia, and sometimes I come up with ideas that way too.
ANNE: All online research eventually leads to porn.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT YOUR STORY BEFORE YOU START WRITING?
JEN: I never know much until I start typing. I might have one character and a tiny world idea.
ANNE: I have to know names, setting, and how it ends.
JULIE: No. I guess I usually have a character in my head, but I don’t think of it as “must know” before I start. Sometimes it just develops as I go.
AUDREY: For Cimmerian Tales, I try to identify what my dark element is going to be because I don’t want to start writing my story and realize two weeks later that it is all butterflies and pixie dust. However, I tend to gravitate toward dark ideas naturally.
JULIE: I think you can make just about anything dark.
JEN: I agree that you can make anything dark.
ANNE: Make them evil butterflies that blind humans with their pixie dust.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR MAIN CHARACTER BEFORE YOU START?
JEN: I usually know what his or her voice is, motivation. I usually only know snippets of things and its rarely consistent.
ANNE: I’m very plot-driven, so I usually don’t know a whole lot about my character when I start off. I figure that out, maybe, half-way through. I definitely have to tease out meaning from the snippets that I do know before I start.
JULIE: It’s hard to say, because sometimes I’ll just have a sentence come to me and it works like a flow. The details get worked out as I write.
AUDREY: I meet my characters as I write.
NOW THAT WE’VE ALL WRITTEN ABOUT THE SAME PROMPT FOR JULY, WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU WERE SURPRISED ABOUT OR ENJOYED IN THE OTHER THREE STORIES?
JEN: Anne is forever excellent at badassery, and I just love the way her characters perceive each other. (ANNE: The key to badassery is to be dead inside. AUDREY: And have a badass haircut.) Audrey’s was mysterious in a way that made me want to know all the whys and hows, and I want to know the different levels of heaven, and how that world works, and give me moreeee. I really enjoyed how Julie made a clearly dark and tragic story seem so light and airy at times. The imagery was really beautiful
ANNE: I love the way Jen can form these intense relationships in so few words. It’s absolutely lush. She’s so good at the feels. Julie did an amazing thing with time that I really enjoyed in a short amount of space. Audrey took a shared prompt and ran with it in this fantastical direction. I especially enjoy hearts being torn from bodies. I love that the MC dies. That is … be still my heart.
JULIE: I liked that everyone embodied death differently. Jen’s–something about the voice and narrative just sweeps you in, and the pace and intensity at the end is perfect. Anne’s–I like that death is a BAMF and reminds me of Death from the Endless in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. And the Frenchness. Audrey’s–I was also going to say I liked the concept of the afterlife. I also liked that the main character was absolutely resolute about his decisions. The teenager-ness was well-captured
AUDREY: I really like the voice in Julie’s story. I find it really appealing. And I love that Anne’s story felt like Paris, and her Death character had an amazing outfit. I just loved Jen’s story. It started with tragedy, moved into hope and love, and then came full circle.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU HAD WRITING EL PETO DE LA MORT BY JAUME BARBA?
JEN: I had trouble with figuring out how he was going to go from not really knowing this girl to wanting to be all over her in a thousand words. He had to know her but not know her enough to know that she was killing his friends. (ANNE: You nailed that, b!) I also wanted to personify death without being too obvious.
ANNE: Mine was our word count limit. I got too involved and wanted to go on for pages instead of getting to the point.
JULIE: I couldn’t get away from a literal interpretation of the sculpture, and I wanted to go further than that.
AUDREY: Time. It is always against me.
ANNE: That’s because you frivolously waste it.
AUDREY: With my research that I don’t use. When I wrote my first draft, the story was too small and nothing really happened, but in the end, I think I tried to stick too much into that word count. Parts of my story feel rushed.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT WRITING THIS PROMPT OR THE STORY YOU TOLD?
JEN: I had a million kinds of fun writing the very end of mine. I really enjoy playing with pace, so I like when I can really speed up a storyline like that.
ANNE: Visiting Paris — even if only in words — again. J’adore cette ville.
JEN: You made me want to go to Paris!
JULIE: I like Roman and Greek myths a lot, and while I didn’t really use any, I felt like I was writing one. Or it’s a Roman tragedy.
JEN: I got that vibe perfectly.
AUDREY: I really liked the imagery of bleachers with blood dripping down them. And it was fun researching Aztec culture.
JULIE: Where did the name Yarely come from? If I’m using fantasy names or foreign names, I usually pay attention to meaning.
AUDREY: A former co-worker had a daughter named Yarely. She was Latina and I loved how she rolled the r. I wanted a name that felt more Mexican and not Aztec, since they are very different cultures.
JEN: Audrey is my name!sister. Olan I stole from one of my favorite YouTubers. I usually try to use names that seem to fit the setting.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR PROCESS WILL CHANGE FOR THE NEXT PROMPT?
JEN: I think music is much more organic and will be a lot less literal, I am thinking of a certain theme which is not how I usually start, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
ANNE: I listen to the same song while writing a prompt, so a music prompt is going to be great! This last one was “Danse Macabre” by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. (JEN: Try “Let It Be” by Blackmill!) I might play with past tense. It’s a scary thing.
AUDREY: Mine was “Love is Only a Feeling” by The Darkness.
JULIE: Interesting. I’d like to try to write something with a linear timeline this time, but otherwise, I don’t know, other than trying to figure out how best to write to instrumental music. I don’t listen to anything when I write, but I don’t think my overall process will change much. I’m just going to have to figure out how to accompany the music.
AUDREY: I’m going to try to procrastinate less.
JULIE: I have an idea, but I am not sharing.
ANNE: I have an idea too. A dream backed-up by PBS. Love me some PBS.
AUDREY: Mine is about death.
ANNE: I see a leit-motif here for Audrey.
AUDREY: I’m hoping to add pillaging to my repertoire.
THANKS EVERYONE FOR SHARING MORE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS! CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THE NEW STORIES NEXT MONTH. STAY TUNED FOR JEN’S ANSWER TO THE PROMPT NEXT MONDAY. WE’RE ALSO GOING TO SHARE MORE CONTENT IN THE UPCOMING MONTHS. FOLLOW US ON @CIMMERIANTALES OR TUMBLR. LIKE US ON FACEBOOK.