League Writing Challenges

Welcome to The League of Extraordinary Scribes Challenge Page! 

The idea behind these challenges is to encourage Scribes of all ages to stretch their writing muscles and try new styles and ways of telling stories.

CHALLENGE FOR 9/7/11-9/14/11

Create an action/adventure hero and/or heroine to the point you could write a short story with him/her. It may sound hard, but it really isn't. The hardest part is finding a name with the feel you're going for.

 Some key things to remember is that they're heroic, 'good' in a basic term, admirable, and often have a flaw.

 I'm not going to set any real rules because it's such large genre, nor can I judge entries to award a prize. I suppose the deadline would be September 30, just so it doesn't infringe on the October contest.

Key questions to ask yourself:
-Adventurer or agent? This categorization sets the stage for many other things. Agents are often highly skilled, trained, and supplied by the government. Agents also often deal with human-caused conflicts. Adventurers seek adventure, and are often opposed by humans as well as nature and traps. They furnish their own equipment, and aren't required to follow government appearance regulation.

-Appearance? One of the most important aspects of an action/adventure character, it defines how easily they're recognized.

-Skills? Are they martial arts experts? Computer hackers? A sniper? Bomb technician? Speak two dozen languages? Crack a bullwhip? Read ancient languages?

-What motivates them? Why do they seek adventure? To share knowledge with the world? Defeat a mad genius? Just to have an adventure? See new places? Find treasure?

-How would you define them? Or, archetype once I get those typed up. Is the character a daredevil aviator? A treasure hunter? Masked vigilante? G-Man agent? Explorer?

-What's their flaw? What gives their shell of pure heroicness a crack? Snakes? Bugs? A shady past?

So, do you accept?
Good luck and enjoy!

Copy right 2011 Kaleb Krammer

CHALLENGE FOR 8/10/11-8/17/11
 Part 1of exploring your characters.  So you have a character who's trying to save the universe? Everything's intense for him, right? Well, everyone has to have some down time. This challenge is a nod to what I heard is the start of the football season. Take a character and write a scene of that character playing a game. Explore his or her sense of fun.~Nathanael Rebiger

CHALLENGE FOR 6/29/11-7/6/11

You may or may not know this, but there are only some 30 plots in the whole world. We writers recycle, dress up, mix up, and slightly tweak these same 30 stories to create the vast number of tomes on shelves in libraries and bookstores today. Get to know your story better, find the heart of it in the list below and then post here which old set of bones has attracted your attention. It’s a little easier to find your plot than it is to find your ‘take away’ value but it’s just as important. 
Here are the types of plots available, now go and root out yours.

1)      Supplication (asking for aide against enemies)
2)      Deliverance (appearance of a rescuer)
3)      Revenge (one of the most popular plots)
4)      Vengeance by Family Upon Family
5)      Pursuit (the chase)
6)      Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune
7)      Disaster
8)      Revolt
9)      Daring Enterprise
10)  Abduction
11)  The Enigma (often has the element of seeker attached to it)
12)  Obtaining
13)  Familial Hatred
14)  Familial Rivalry
15)  Murderous Adultery
16)  Madness
17)  Fatal Imprudence
18)  Involuntary Crimes of Love
19)  Kinsman Kills Unrecognized Kinsman (not used as much)
20)  Self Sacrifice for Ideal (not necessarily death)
21)  Self Sacrifice for Kindred (not necessarily death)
22)  All Sacrificed for Passion
23)  Sacrifice of Loved Ones (for perceived greater good)
24)  Rivalry Between Superior and Inferior
25)  Adultery
26)  Crimes of Love
27)  Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One (skeleton in the closet)
28)  Obstacles to Love
29)  An Enemy Loved
30)  Ambition
31)  Conflict with a God (nearly every Greek Story)
32)  Mistaken Jealousy
33)  Faulty Judgment
34)  Remorse
35)  Recovery of a Lost Loved One
36)  Loss of Loved Ones

* List taken from Theme & Strategy by Ronald B. Tobias pgs 146-157.

Extra assignment: Look at your favorite books, and see what plots you find there, and make a list of the ones that you are drawn to again and again. These are the plots you probably are subconsciously putting into your own stories. Take a look and see!

CHALLENGE FOR  6/22/11-6/29/11

Last week we talked briefly about creatures that inhabit your worlds. This week the challenge is going to shift from creatures to characters again, per requests of scribes who said that this week and last week have gotten us away from their main character and supporting character development. They’re right, it has and we did it on purpose too! Main characters and supporting characters are important, to be certain but so are the worlds and books they inhabit.

This week’s challenge is to take each one of your characters and have them walk into a room full of people. Just ordinary people, but people they’ve never seen before. A place they’ve never been before. How do they walk? Do they strut, or stride, or simper? Do they hesitate on the threshold? Do they bound into the room or do they slide? Even if they’ve wings or scales or can hover, for this exercise, they need to walk.

How your character enters a room tells the reader a lot about who they are; a brave man might strut but so might someone who was fearful but didn’t want to show it. A brave man would be at ease, a coward might sweat or stammer as he greets the others in the room. Think. Think about your characters and then one after another have them walk into this peopled room. It’s a bright room with wood floors and windows that stretch from two of three feet off of that straight to the eaves of the roof. With light filtering through the gauzy white curtains that flirt and flit over them. There are worn chairs and couches dappling the floor and the fabric on them is worn and dusty.  A woman will walk in differently than a man, someone with clawed feet will walk in differently than someone with hooves, a four-legged character will enter differently than a two legged character. Think. Think about each of your characters and then have them walk into the room. Show the reader their character.

Don’t forget to post your challenge pieces!

Copyright 2011 Michelle Black

CHALLENGE FOR 6/16/11-6/22/11

Hello all! Michelle here again. The feed back from last week’s challenge has been fantastic. Every last one of you has said how hard it is to find the “take away value” of your tales. That means that you haven’t boiled them down enough yet. It’s all right that it’s taking longer than a week, don’t give up, keep on letting those tales simmer. And if you’re in the League on Face Book, don’t hesitate to ask one of your fellow Scribes for help. In fact, even if you aren’t in the League on Facebook you can ask for help, ask one of you friends or fellow writers that you trust to look over your story.  For this week, I’ve chosen a lighter challenge and one that I think will play to the strengths of the world builders among us.

This week, we are going to look at the creatures that dot our stories close up and in person. I’m not talking about aliens or other races, I’m talking about the brute (or perhaps not so brute) beasts that inhabit the worlds we all create. There are two ways to go about creating creatures in your story but both start with a trip to the encyclopedia. Why? Well because you want your reader to believe that this creature could exist. It’s part of crafting the willful suspension of disbelief, which we will talk about later this month. So, start with an encyclopedia.

 If you are crafting flying creatures, check out the bird sections for wing-to-body ratios and the types of flight achievable with certain types of wings. For pack animals or beasts of burden, check out the horse and see what the height-to-weight ratio is for the different breeds. You can also check out elephants and camels as well as alpacas and oxen for beast-of-burden height-to-weight ratios.  Do you need to craft a water dweller? Check out whales, sharks, dolphins and squid for ideas on fins, water jet, airbladders, and hydrodynamics.  But wait, what if you want something a little more exotic for your beast of burden? You want your character to ride something like a lion or a tiger. Well check them out and study the skeletal structure of the great cats. You might need to tweak them slightly due to the limits of their spines and the weight that they would be carrying with a rider.  What about companion animals? Does your character need a loyal companion to relieve stress, act as an early warning system, and carry documents to other characters? Check out ferrets, hawks, and serpents for ideas and look at arachnids too. There are plenty to choose from and with some tweaking you’ll have a fine creation unique to your world.

Now, how to add them.  Remember I said there were two ways?  There are.  The first is to go back and begin mentioning them at the beginning of your tale. If you are a world builder, you’ve probably all ready done that.  But for those who aren’t there are ways of adding in animals without making it so sudden that it jars the reader. No one wants to be reading a book and then SUDDENLY WYVERNS because it breaks the flow of the story. So, what do you do? A trick that I use is to back up slightly and put the animal with a specific group of supporting characters (if you have police or military characters or royals that have come up just add the animal you want to use in among their appearances) but you can also back up just a bit, and put the animal somewhere your protagonist sees it. A market works well, especially if the animal is being sold. 

So you can put it in a natural commerce spot OR with a specific group of people and you don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning to weave the animal you just realized you needed, into the story.

This week’s challenge is as follows:

Create a new creature for your story using the steps listed above.  Be sure to share the results with us. Below, you’ll find the League’s Creature Feature springboard page to help you think about the different parts of the animal that you’re creating. Feel free to share it with others just don’t claim it as your own or sell it as part of a book. It’s free for personal and group use


Height for male:

Height for female:

Length for male:

Length for female:

Weight for male:

Weight for female:



Wing Span:








Blood type:




Life cycle:





  Copyright Michelle Black 2011

CHALLENGE FOR 6/8/11-6/15/11

One of the questions that agents and editors alike will ask a writer is this:

“What is the take-away value of your story?”

What in the world does that mean?!  Are they asking you if your story will good with take-away food? No. What they want to know is what is the theme of your book. What is the core idea of your novel that after the reader finishes it they will “take away” in their heart?  What did you whisper to the reader in between the words?  It’s not easy to boil down the entire contents of a tale into a single sentence, but it’s not impossible either.  Here are some examples of what I am talking about.

Disclaimer. These are my thoughts on the books listed and what I took away from them not necessarily what the author intended for me to take away.  But for the sake of example, I’m listing them here.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George  Speare: Love is stronger than hate.

The Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse: Love is sacrifice

Crime Scene Jerusalem by Alton Gansky: Being a Christian doesn’t mean you escape suffering.

The Door Within by Wayne Thomas Batson: We are in a war and you must choose a side to serve, there is no neutral place.

The challenge for this week is as follows:

Take your current WIP and find the theme, the “take away” value of your story. Write that on a piece of paper or put it on your desktop sticky note and keep it in front of your eyes. This will help you keep your story focused, and when you are asked “What is the take away value of your story?” you’ll have an answer.

copyright 2011 Michelle Audrey Black

CHALLENGE FOR 6/1/11-6/8/11

This week’s Paper Tiger Challenge deals with vocabulary, not yours, but your character’s vocabulary!

Every character in your story or book should be a little different in the words that they choose; after all they come from different backgrounds and are different genders and ages. 

For instance, a scullery maid wouldn’t call a walk in the woods the same thing that a princess would call a walk in the woods. A maid might call it a tramp, a ramble, a hike or a walk. A princess would be more inclined to call it a stroll, a foray, a promenade, or a saunter. They are talking about the same thing (moving through the woods) but their vocabulary shows their differences in education and mindsets.

What about a knight? Well he might call a walk through the wood a march, a trek, or a trudge.   

The words they use all depend on the background, education, and personality of the character you are writing.  A scullery maid isn’t likely to know what the word promenade means, let alone use it in a sentence when the word walk will do just fine.  A princess isn’t likely to invite someone to go tramping through the wood with her either, as it sounds too common.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a character reference sheet and to refer back to it from time to time. Anyone who would like to use the Leagues’ Paper Tiger reference sheet for character building and charting please e-mail us at leagueofscribes@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to send it to you, no cost.  We will also not harangue you with newsletters or other offers, we promise.  Now back to characters and vocabulary. Think about your paper tigers. Really think about them.

Some characters might use conjunctions.
Some characters might not use conjunctions.
Some characters might say, “This needs to be done.”
Some characters might say “This needs done.”
Some character might say the sky is blue.
Some characters might say the sky is cerulean.

The challenge for this week is as follows:

Write a paragraph about your main character taking a walk through the woods on a bright summer day. Describe the wood, what they see and smell and feel and hear and if applicable, even what they taste.  Then write the same scene, but switch to a different character and describe the wood again using their vocabulary. The two paragraphs should be different. They don’t have to be fantastically different but they should be somewhat different, if they aren’t then you might need to do some character tweaking. Remember, all of your characters are paper tigers, but not all of them are the same species of tiger!

HINT: The thesaurus is a wonderful collection of words and a writer’s best friend, not a species of dinosaur. Don’t hesitate to use it!

copyright 2011 Michelle Audrey Black

CHALLENGE FOR 5/25/11-6/1/11

Using the teaching that Amanda Bradburn gave here write a paragraph using similes that show the nature of your main protagonist or antagonist.

Are they as focused as a dog on hare? 
As useless as a broken toothbrush? 
As empty as the air after lightning flashes? 

Don't go over board, remember that similes are like lemon zest in cooking, best when used sparingly!  Use at least one in your paragraph but really make the words form around your character!

CHALLENGE FOR 5/18/11 to 5/25/11

Select a character that is not your own and then using that character create a vignette.  For those not in the League on facebook this can be a little challenging, so here are some ideas: Use your favorite character from a book you've read, or contact one of scribe pals and ask them for a character bio of their character, the one you like the most.

Do not pester the creator of the character for information. Use what you have to create your piece.When you have your selected character write a scene/vignette and have them do one of the following:

1) get into trouble 2) get out of trouble 3) cause trouble

Length 500 words or less

IMPORTANT: Try not to use the character's given name.  When you're done, post your piece here. After you post your piece the rest of us are going to try and guess who it is. If you don't want to do that, share your character piece with friends and family and see if they can guess who you have written.

 CHALLENGE for 5/11/11 to 5/18/11
The first sentence, the hook, must pose a QUESTION, whether blatant or subtle, the latter of which is more popular. This QUESTION can be answered right away, in which case you need another asap, or make the reader hang. Here is the challenge.

Write a first sentence using those guidelines. It can NOT be from or for an existing work. Follow it with a paragraph also using the same guidelines, as if you were writing a book. (you can use these for a book later, you just need something new here.)

 EXAMPLES of first sentences: "H*ll, said the Duchess"~Agatha Christie

The flames bounced off the wall and back into his face." ~ Millard the MK Jones

CHALLENGE for 4/27/11 to 5/11/11

Take your current work in progress, or an idea that has been battering around inside your head, and write a summary for it in the form of a movie trailer.  It can be no longer than 300 words, and if you have the time and ability to do so, feel free to create and actual  'book summer movie trailer' for your work in progress. Be sure to link from our page here to your video if you make one!

 CHALLENGE for 4/23/11 to 4/27/11
(short challenge this week due to Holy Week)

Write a scene using one of these castle sets.  Drench it in description; what does this place smell like, sound like, look like, feel like, and how does the air or the water  around it taste? Totally submerge the reader in this place. The length and feel of what you create from the pictures is entirely up to you but make this sense of place exercise so real  your readers feel like they were pulled through the paper and actually visited your castle

Extra credit: Write the same castle set/scene but turn it around. If you wrote day, now write night. If you wrote enchanted, now write cursed. If you wrote uneasy and unsettling, now write the same scene harmless and pleasant. 

Castle Set One

Castle Set Two

Castle Set Three

CHALLENGE for  4/13/2011 to 4/20/11

Write a scene using 90% dialogue. While you can add in description or actions of the characters you choose, that should be used sparingly. The idea here is to hone dialog and let it carry the scene without having action and motion take over. 


"He's a brute! A lout! The man, sorry" Valentine choked "The drow doesn't have the manners of a wild boar. In fact" he flailed an arm "I'm pretty certain if you invited a wild boar over for supper and that elf you'd find that the boar was better behaved than he!"

Michaeli'ina paused, her hands full of sticking plaster and bandages and scowled at him. 

"I am trying to get this over your nose and not on your cheek or your neck or the top of that idiotic ginger head of yours. Sit still, or I'll have Datrious come and sit on you to make you be still." 

Valentine Capp leaned back against the bulkhead and muttered. 

"Do you want to share with the rest of the room what curses and dark hearted thoughts you have rambling around in that mouth of yours? No?" she cocked a brow, her hands poised above the rapidly swelling nose in the middle of his black and blue freckled face. "Very well then, be quiet and let me work. And while I work sir, you can listen. Just because he is not of your people does not make him a boar or a demon or anything else." She gently bent the bandages over his nose, wincing for him. "If he had given you half the insults you gave him, why, I believe you'd have acted just the same as he has. Mocking a man or an elf or a drow or a dragon or the king of all the ice asteroids" she rushed onward as he opened his mouth to protest "Is not going to make them a friend."

"I don't want him as a friend!" the words snapped sharply as Valentine struggled up.  Michaeli'ina winced, drawing back from him.

"Maybe not. But you once believed that this life was not about what you wanted. You've changed."

From Valentine In Boots, (C) Michelle Audrey Black 2011 all rights reserved.

CHALLENGE for 4/5/11-4/13/11

Write a highly emotional scene using at least two of your characters. Display the emotions through actions and dialog but do not TELL the reader what the emotions are. Do not use internal monologue or external  narration to explain what the characters are feeling.   This doesn't need to be a complete story, just a scene. The more emotional the scene, the better! Don't be afraid to let your characters break things and have tantrums!


Sam slapped the wet mop head against the floor, swiping great greasy strokes over the kitchen's red linoleum. His knuckles whitened around the rough wood  handle and he sucked in hard breaths through his clenched teeth.  "We'll see who gets to go to the ball and meet the princess. We'll just see who gets to go. My brothers can't keep me here forever." Yanking the spindly tool back and forth he stabbed at the powdered cheese clumps and freckles of oil, imagining they were the pimpled faces of his twin older brothers.  "I'm father's  child!  I'm just as much his son as they are! And if the other pizza delivery boys are allow to go to the ball, well then I should be allowed to go as well!" His growled words bounced off the shiny stainless steel cabinets and work surfaces. "This isn't over, not by a long shot!"

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