Free new writing tool

Howdy folks,

I wanted a better way to organize my stories as I was writing them, so I sat down and made a set of features that I’d like to see in a website, and then I made it. It’s called Pathfork, and it’s free, and it’s here. You can write and organize your chapters, notes, settings, and characters, and tag characters and settings in and out of sections and works like you would tags or categories on a blog post.

It’s free to use, so if you’re interested, by all means take a look. Happy writing!

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Writing exercise: if I’d known then…

We have a creative writing club at work, and we recently switched from talking about texts that we’re currently writing to doing little writing exercises and talking about those instead. I think it’s a good way to focus more on the craft and help each other out. Plus, this way, if somebody doesn’t care for my or somebody else’s longer text, they don’t have to keep reading it week after week.

We’ve got our first meeting in this new format tomorrow.

Anyway, the prompt this time around was 500 words on “if I’d known then what I know now, I never would have…”

This was mine.


If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have shot that damn squirrel. I wouldn’t say it was bad karma exactly—I don’t believe in that stuff—but sometimes things happen that make me question. Like, you give a bum a dollar, and then later that day some stranger buys you a round.

I can’t blame the squirrel. I wouldn’t’ve been out there in the yard with my pellet gun if I wasn’t in a foul mood to start. I have these cans strung up from this old scrub oak in the back. The plan wasn’t to do anything more than take a few plinks. Helps me relax. My hippie friend Jim says it’s something akin to to zen meditation. He’s a good guy. I’m crashing on his couch now. He doesn’t let me have the gun in his house. It’s in a storage locker along with everything else I packed. Not that Jim has any cans strung up out back to shoot at anyway.

So I’m there shooting at the cans. Each one I hit goes flying on its string with a nice pa-ting! sound. It’s like the sound in the old cartoons when they spit into a spittoon, only not. I’m focusing on a can off to the left when I see the squirrel in my periphery up on the fence. It looks like, well, a squirrel, no point describing.

I’ve only got a few pellets left. I figure I’ll try and hit it, and I’ll miss, and then I’ll head back inside and finish my episode of CSI . Except wouldn’t you know it, I hit the damn thing, and it goes running off. I winged it in I think the tail. I’m not a great shot, to be honest.

So it runs off trailing blood along the fence and scampers over the other side. The neighbor’s yappy dog goes nuts, barking its stupid little head off. Neighbor comes out, must see the dog barking at a bloody fence, peeks his head over the fence to see what’s up, but I’m already dashing back inside. The neighbor figures correctly that something’s happened and yells a nosy question at me.

But I don’t get a moment’s respite because my wife starts up the fight we were having again. Oh, now you’ve done it, she says, and goes on about me having anger issues and never taking responsibility for my actions. And here I am, spooked and staring a little wide-eyed, deserving maybe of some sympathy. I point at her. Look, I say, you’ve no business, and at a time like this, too! And she rolls her eyes, like I’m not even having an acute problem with the neighbor here, and jerks her thumb over her shoulder. Out. Just go.

So I pack a bag and I go. I text some friends for a place to stay, but where I actually go is to the bar. No stranger buys me a round. Jim, the hippie, gets back to me, says I can crash with him. And the rest I guess is history. Here I am, still in a foul mood, and no gun with me to shoot and no cans to shoot at anyway.

Damn squirrel.

Tattooed Characters

As you may know I love procedurals and mysteries. Over the summer and fall I watched a lot of House, which is essentially a police procedural set in a hospital, and then when that ran out I wanted something lighthearted that I could stream before bedtime. For now I’ve settled on Rizzoli & Isles, which is sometimes dreadful but always soporific.

Anywho, the episode I watched last night involved a character who had a tattoo of a QR code. (It was actually a pretty good episode, too.) It got me thinking about tattoos on characters more generally. Marked bodies have relevance in all kinds of fiction, though the one I’m most familiar with is Germanic mythology and Norse sagas. In both, but especially in the sagas, very little physical detail about characters is given. When a detail is given, it’s one of the ways that you know that a character is not only important but different somehow. For instance, Odin only rises to his highest level of significance after he trades an eye for a look into the future.

This is an extreme example of conservation of detail, where you only mention things that are, in one way or another, relevant to the story. These can be scene-setting details and grounding details, or a way of getting to know a character better. In some genres, like historical fiction, a lengthy depiction of the setting is part of the form. In a Victorian Briefroman, an overly-formal description of characters and customs, even if not at all related to the plot, is expected. (I don’t care for the latter specifically because of this, but that’s merely a matter of personal taste.)

This is especially true in time- and space-limited formats like an hour-long mystery. You literally only have time for clues and red herrings and a bit of verisimilitudinous detail. So when this character was tattooed, it was important, especially because it wasn’t the sort of person you’d usually associate with a tattoo. A QR code is also something that contains explicit data, and probably isn’t just an asethetic throw-away. Unless it’s part of an extensive description of Maori tattoos or something else genre- or setting-relevant, then, a tattoo is a pretty important thing to put on a character.

I don’t currently have any characters with tattoos. I’m sure that I will soon, especially in the urban fantasy story that I’m working on (more on this to come!).

Finally, some random questions.

  • If you had a tattoo of a barcode, a normal barcode that represents a number, what would it be?
  • What about a QR code, which (usually) represents a URL?
  • I’ve long thought that a regular expression would make a fun tattoo. What pattern would you match?