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Writing Prompt #2

May 10, 2010

Go to any class on creativity and the one technique you’ll probably run into time and again is the classic standard: newspaper articles. You can do so many things with the headlines alone: juxtapose them into a bizarre mashup, pick a word at random from several at once and piece them together, or just read them straight and imagine what the story is about. Then you have the stories themselves. My personal favorites are Yahoo’s News of the Weird.

But I like to take this idea once step further. In case you’ve never seen it before (and I can’t imagine you haven’t – it’s been around forever), allow me to introduce you to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. For decades, Robert LeRoy Ripley and his journalistic heirs have scoured the globe for stories of the unusual and downright bizarre. Of course, where “scouring the globe” was once literal, it now probably involves a lot of web surfing. But still, it’s inspiring. So inspiring, in fact, that I subscribe to a daily email, which I get through comics.com. Probably once a week, I see an entry that excites my particular brain chemistry in such a way that I absolutely have to save it for later. These usually go into my “undeveloped ideas” folder, where they ferment until sufficiently intoxicating.

Below are just a few factoids I’ve collected over the years. Again, pick a number from 1 to 5. That’s your prompt: jot down the first story idea that comes to mind. Noodle around with it a bit and see if the story wants to move. If so, follow it. If not, pick a different number and try again.
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Believe It Or Not #1: Steganography

Steganography is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity.

Believe It Or Not #2: 1.5 Billion Heartbeats

Mammals in the wild – whether they live for 2 years or 100 – tend to have about the same number of heartbeats in their lifetime: 1.5 billion.

Believe It Or Not #3: The Fuller

In ancient times, a person who worked as a “fuller” had the job of stomping on woolen cloth soaked in a tub of urine to make the wool suitable for use.

Believe It Or Not #4: Edwin Shackleton

82-year-old Edwin Shackleton tried to use as many methods of transportation as he could during 2009. He ended up using 136 different methods.

Believe It Or Not #5: Butt Berry Parasite

The Myrmeconema Neotropicum is a parasitic worm that infects tropical ants. it causes the ants’ butts to swell like berries so that birds eat them, thus propagating the worm.

Well? Come up with anything interesting?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mishell Baker permalink*
    May 10, 2010 9:39 pm

    If by “anything interesting” you mean a new way of referring to my downstairs neighbors, then yes.

  2. May 11, 2010 11:52 am

    lol I’m going to guess which term you’re using.

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