Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: writing challenge

Most Common Words Writing Challenge ~ And, The Winner Is . . .


Blogs are a strange writing medium.

Over time, the single posts become related to each other—through links, tags, and cross-referencing.

Take the Writing Challenge Series:

Post on June 10, 2011Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…

The Challenge is issued

Post on July 29, 2011First Response To Our Writing Challenge :-)

Someone takes a nibbleone chapter with 100 of the 1200 Most Common English Words is written

Post on March 26, 2012More from The Writing Challenge With The Most Common Words

Someone else enters the Challenge—I get it wrong and think they’re adding two chapters to the first one—nope; new person, two chapters of a new story

Post on April 16, 2012Yet More From The Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common English Words In A Story

The second contestant gets to five chapters—500 of the Most Common Words used—and I create a downloadable file for folks to read

Today’s PostBarbara Blackcinder completes the Challenge—12-chapter-story with 100 of the Most Common Words in each chapter—working from the end of the List to the beginning

And, in case you’re not a link-hopping blog reader, here’s the link that let’s you download the List of The 1200 Most Commonly Used Words In The English Language.

And, here’s a link that let’s you download Chased  by Barbara Blackcinderthe Winner of Our Challenge!! :-)

Plus, Barbara has done us the favor of making the most common words show up Red in the manuscript

Enjoy and, please, come back and leave Barbara some feedback or a comment.
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

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More from The Writing Challenge With The Most Common Words


For some people, writing challenges are something they can’t refuse.

I’m not one of those people but I did create one :-)

In June of 2011, I wrote the post, Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…

Then, in July, Gwenette WriterSinclair wrote the first chapter of a story with the first 100 words in the list of 1200 most common words in English. < That link will let you download a Word .doc with the list.

Gwenette’s chapter is in the post, First Response To Our Writing Challenge :-)

Gwenette seemed to indicate she was going to write 12 chapters with 100 words each but time went by and I suppose other things grabbed her attention.

Then, the other day, Barbara Blackcinder gave me two more chapters using 100 words each from the list of 1200. She put them in the Comments sections of the two posts linked-to above.

Well, I couldn’t avoid pulling Barbara’s chapters from the Comments and creating this post.

The thing is, Barbara decided to start from the end of the list so we now have the beginning and end of a story :-)

Barbara’s chapters are below but I must now ask—anyone feel challenged enough to write the middle of the story??

Ch. 11 – Words 1000-1099:

I picked up a pencil and turned over on old stage program that happened to be located there. I began writing down how we had arrived about our present condition. Even though I hadn’t intended to, I had used a pamphlet out of our library for my rough copy. I was thankful that I had an extra copy since I had gone with my husband before he slipped out of the realm of ordinary. To classify him now would take a dictionary.

I was determined to discover a way to clear our names. I blew a feather away with the back of my hand and looked for an angle that would get us out of this serious difficulty. Whenever I wrote seriously I needed a cup of coffee, and a turn of the thermostat to lower the climate in the den. I fiddled with the model of an athletic statue standing on the desk, noting its muscles and the details of its bronze casting.

Nobody was allowed in the den when I wrote. I had used all the force I could to convince the family to stay out, and I hoped I wouldn’t have to review the rules like I would with a bad employee. Actually I had used the newspaper to find my latest part time job over on Pacific Avenue. It was one instance where I wanted to prepare to be just where I needed to be and didn’t need to repeat a multitude of telephone calls before the job was settled. The best part was that it was doing one of my favorite things and I immediately grabbed the opportunity. My mind was swimming with the anticipation of the job.

But first I had to iron out this chapter in our past history, spelling out some form of prose to make peace with our numerous debtors, especially with the leader of the pack, the bankers holding our mortgage. In any event, if that wasn’t put off soon, I would not be able to take this job and our whole family would be put in a dangerous position. There would be no place on the planet to live together. I threw out my plan of action to escape our demise and made fifty copies of it. Surely I wouldn’t need that many, if the bakers would agree I wouldn’t need the rest of the magazine of ideas that I had entered on my pieces of paper. I suggested all kinds of calamities to them, including the dissolution of my married status, a knife that would cut off my family from each other, and even suggested that the bank might be trying to railroad me into this disaster (I did indicate that this was just something that they might observe during the height of my rant, not something I was accusing them of).

I did stop to reflect on the sheer height of the bank’s building, a structure standing like a silent soldier, holding my secret and other innumerable secrets within its walls. I would be like a bicycle run over by a tank if they decided to come after me. I might as well forget about any flight and take to drinking and riding the bottle into an asylum rather than go into a jail somewhere for being destitute.

I did belong to several social groups, some of which had connections to big dollars, but I sincerely doubted if they would address my problem. Instead they would run like insects at the sight of my falling out of their financial circles. They were not students of reality and their only concern was to increase their wealth. My chance of being in their service would remain in my ability to keep my appearances intact.

Once I had been in the hospital when they had made a mistake in the charge, and nearly bankrupt me before the president of the hospital intervened and corrected the false charges. It turned out that a certain doctor had a design on me and wasn’t shy about ruining my family so that he could take advantage of it for his own foul purposed. The next time I saw him he did receive a stiff knee in the groin. I think I mashed his potatoes pretty good and he didn’t continue his assault after that. He barely climbed into his leather chair as I left his office. I don’t even think he squeaked to his secretary soon afterwards.

I hadn’t given him any quarter for what he had attempted, and I surely wasn’t going to thank him for it. I wasn’t popular with him after that, but every time I went to buy groceries I had to laugh about him holding ice to his genitals beneath his desk. I’m sure they’re still sore. His financial circles included bankers as well.

So I knew the banking industry wasn’t exactly going to support us, any more than making some gross symbol or gesture to keep their own image clean. I expected that they would rather use a rubber baseball bat on us rather than sending us a dozen letters with threats for non-payments. At one time I had to consider going to the police when their agents wouldn’t accept our word and leave us alone on the street. Accosting my children wasn’t going to happen.

Ch. 12 – Words 1100-1200:

I recommend that you get a license if you are going to open this factory, I don’t care if it is for a social club or not. The idea of doing this without the legal steps is very frightening to me. Before long you will lose the case and the court will attach our house and combine its worth with everything else we don’t own until we don’t have a standard of living to cling to.
And if that doesn’t ruin our standing and identity in the city, think of the daily grief we will endure from all of our friends and relatives. Our effort to avoid them will be like trying to stop from having kids using the rhythm method. We might as well arrange to move into the poor house cause we will not have the ability to balance our budget, as tiny as it will be.

I swear Roger, you will be the instrument of my death if you keep up with these stupid schemes. Remember that terrible plan you had to ruin the quality of your advertising by using foreign language to make your sales sound more exotic? It never occurred to you that no one knew what you were selling. I admire your courage to attempt these schemes, but could we prevent going bankrupt and collect some money from one of them? I swear I get sick to my stomach every time you try to improve our standard of living.

If you would apply your skills to something rational maybe you would have been offered a financial hand for your skills and could pronounce your project worthy of putting some of their money behind.

Perhaps if you’d connect your brain and get it to function like someone rational you could make a couple of people help you and stop wasting both your time and effort. Our assets are frozen, we have no means of transportation, and worse, our apartment has no curtains and we have an audience every time we walk around the living room in our birthday suits. I had to cancel cable television because the neighborhood kids were watching dirty movies by using their own remote while we weren’t home. How is that for a good influence for our environment?

I like being a citizen of this town, but if the police collect any more evidence we will be having a conversation with a judge that will affect where we live, as well as who we live with. We’ll be heating up the motor in the car and be flying past the construction sites on the highway. We’ll by flying down the road like a disease looking for an accident as an excuse for sympathy. Although we may already need to be barbecued to get anyone’s concern with our lives.

I dunno, maybe we should organize some kind of legal papers and author a protest to the city council before they think we are some kind of illegal operation, instead of someone trying to make excellent medicine. That we do have principals, that my husband isn’t selling leather furniture made out of dead camels from the Mideast.

After I went to the college the other day to look for available financial courses, I found some nasty notes in our mailbox. I also listened to a whisper from an excited neighbor. He said he had physical proof that ghosts could account for the recent messages being left there. He didn’t realize that I saw him put them there after dark.

I tried to let his wife know the situation yesterday, but she was driving through traffic while I was telling her, so the success of her hearing me kind of disappeared. I get the feeling though that she has issues with our personal character. It’s like she frequently tries hard to recognize that we aren’t perfect rather than just giving us the benefit of the doubt.

She started saying that we were not healthy for the neighborhood when I tried to discuss it, but we were going by some heavy equipment at the time and she didn’t hear me. Instead she said she had just read an article about people who do activities like we supposedly do in the altogether, so I didn’t make any progress. She said several individuals, including her daughter had witnessed our cavorting in the living room.

We have no political force since her husband is the city councilman, and has the required signatures to vote us right out of the city. There is no educating these people that this is not our style of living, and that we are good parents. I couldn’t talk to her while we picked through the vegetables cause she would lose her temper all over again.

I tried to explain to her that her daughter was with the kids watching television through our window as she drove into the garage, which would explain why she would lie about us running around naked. Finally she said that I had just made an very powerful enemy and stuck me with a title that I didn’t think God-fearing people ever used in polite company. Indeed! What a tongue on that woman!
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

The Story of Chaos ~ New Writing Experience


I love introducing people to friends I have who are insanely creative!

Even better to introduce you to the insane character of an insanely creative writer!!

Rebekah Webb is the creative writer.

On Book Island, in the virtual world Second Life, she’s Hakeber Haber.

Her insane character, Car Johnson, reads stories from his life at the Writers’ Block Cafe on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Rebekah and Car did a duel-interview for us back in August and Car once interviewed a crayon box.

Well, all three personae have a new venture: The Story of Chaos ~ An insane challenge where you call the shots!

Here’s their explanation:

“The Story of Chaos is a challenge, where you help write the story. Part choose your own adventure, part tale, you will have your chance at the end to decide what happens next. The challenge will be mine, to try and make the story as serious as possible, while encouraging you to post the most ridiculous choices you can think of. Have the character attacked by an alien or discover his long lost twin in the form of a talking flea.

“Just make sure that you only post what happens immediately next.”

Sound fun?

Believe me Rebekah and Car and Hakeber are up for any challenge you care to throw their way :-)

Oh! I can’t leave the post till I plug Car’s book—The Life and Times of Car Johnson–only $1.99 for the e-book.
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Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

First Response To Our Writing Challenge :-)


Back in June, I created a  Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…

Looking back at that post, I’m surprised someone figured out how to meet the challenge since I was fairly vague; and, many folks probably thought I meant the 1200 most common words were the only ones people could use :-)

Happily, someone saw through my foggy description and took on the challenge. Gwenette WriterSinclair picked up the gauntlet and has produced chapter one of twelve chapters. As she put it:

Just to keep it interesting . . . Used in order (almost:), each 100 words defining a chapter.

Ch. 1 – Words 1-100:

One wonders where all this comes from . . . and where it will go:)

{ If you want to look for the words as you read, here’s the download link to the 1200 most frequently used words in the English language. }

And, here is her Chapter One:

Currently Untitled

© 2011, Gwenette Writer Sinclair

To the sound of your voice and scent, I am drawn.

A memory in me is you.  That it leaves him out – for he was always on the outside . . .
are we surprised?  So you are with me here, yes?  His eyes closed; they are asleep. See?
Being this far from you, for so long, and now I have you here by me . . .
but in one breath, you are gone.
Had I only stopped breathing . . . but I had not.

What was I thinking when I found you? I have forgotten that, and all the memories that were you, when we were us and he was outside.  They are gone again and there is no place where I can find you. You are gone and his eyes – which are open now – each will watch me.  Their gaze wanders only when they look for you.  “Where is she?” If I listen, I do hear his whisper.

I do wonder how he came to be watching. Out, beyond the walls, up above the trees, every night I do see them. His eyes always open, hiding in the dark with stars all about.  Others only see the stars. Many knew him then, but none can see him now. Some pretend, hoping I will stop crying so very many, many tears.   I wonder that the water of my tears and the winds of my long sighs do so little to fill my empty heart.  These tears would stop if my eyes could look into yours, but no one has found you. “The two were like one.” I do hear them whisper. “More time . . . . . .over it.” Their whispers echo in my dreams.

I would rather die than forget, but the memories flee from my sorrow. At every day’s first light I make new memories from ones captured in poems, captured in pictures . . . captured in people I wake at dawn with the sounds of my breaking heart.  I watch and wait for his eyes to close against the new light. The moon sets, the stars fade behind the clouds, the sun rises. Sunlight floods over the hills, down the canyon and onto my sheets, onto my cheeks drying each tear.  My tears only slow, but never stop. His eyes stop watching, but only for the day.

I wander each day to find you, to find my way, to find my words. I need just the right words that will call you back to me.  You will come running to me, the sounds of your laughter filling the canyon. I look for you in the barns;  I wait for you in the gardens. You know the words that will tell me the secret of where you have gone.  Where have your words gone?  Our story is lost in your silence.

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I’ll post the other chapters as I receive them from Gwenette, or others who may take up this challenge :-)

Plus, here’s Gwenette’s Facebook Page and her Virtual World Development site.
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Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…


EDIT: [ This is the most-read post on this blog ~~~ be sure to check out the others
in “Top Posts & Pages” in the left side-bar ]

“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

It’s said Ernest Hemingway wrote that six word story. I checked my list of the 1200 most common English words and “sale” wasn’t there but “sell” was. “Worn” wasn’t there but “wear” was. All the other words were there except “shoes”. Not even “shoe” was there

Of course, that particular list may not be definitive but there is another list of 1000 most common words that has “shoes”.

Even though I’m not the kind of person who actually takes writing challenges, I’ve noticed that many of my blogging buddies do :-)

So, the challenge is on!

I got my first list of most common words quite awhile ago and saved it till I could figure out how to use it in a blog post.

This quote from Mark Twain gave me the idea for my challenge: “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

And, even though the first list I’m going to give you may not be definitive, from the description given about its sources, it certainly sounds useful: “This list is from Rebecca Sitton’s “Spelling Sourcebook”, pages 77-82. It is a ‘cross-referenced compilation’ of several massive word studies, including the American Heritage Word Frequency Study (Carroll, Davies, Richman), and several other studies, including the work of Gates, Horn, Rinsland, Greene and Loomer, Harris and Jacobsen.”

So, even though I doubt any of my readers will take the challenge, I’ll still spell it out:

You can use any of the 1200 words in the list at that last link (which is a downloadable Word .doc) or go to the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center website to use a slightly different list of only 1000 words ( and, it has “shoes” :-). That last list is on ten pages of 100 words each, and it’s beginning description is priceless:

“The first 25 [words] make up about one-third of all printed material in English. The first 100 make up about one-half of all written material, and the first 300 make up about sixty-five percent of all written material in English.”

You can write a story of any length but I hope you’ll make it fit into the comments section of this post (or, send it to me at amzolt (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll put it in a follow-up post). And, finally, you can use both lists and, if you don’t see the exact form of a word (like there’s no “worn” but “wear” is on the list), you can change tense or plurality

The Challenge Is Over :-(
But…
Find out who the winner was :-)

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