Scott Westerfeld
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Story Starter

October 17th, 2012

A pre-nanowrimo warmup for you . . .

At the last minute on a Friday afternoon, you and a few friends decide to go camping in the nearby lake district. You throw together a few sleeping bags, one tent, some food, and a few extra clothes. Sure, you’re not the most experienced campers, but you’re going to have fun anyway.

The drive is longer than you think, thanks to some bad navigation and car trouble, so it’s almost midnight when you arrive at the campsite. You eat a cold meal, erect a somewhat shambolic tent, and then all crawl in together for a good night’s sleep. Not a brilliant start to your mini-vacation, but tomorrow is going to be awesome.

The problem is, you’ve managed to pitch your tent right over a rather large rock, which you somehow didn’t notice in the darkness. And now it’s in the middle of your back. The tent’s a bit too crowded to avoid this rock. So finally you climb out, ignoring the protests of your friends, and reach beneath the tent to retrieve it.

And here’s the weird thing: trapped beneath the rock was a piece of paper.

You take this paper back into the tent, where you all crowd around it with a flashlight. It’s a hand-scrawled note that says . . .

a) “I’ll be back just after midnight.”

b) “Here lies Rusty, who asked too many questions.”

c) “This place is plagued with midges.”

d) Put your own story-starting note in the comments thread below!

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Don’t forget the meet-up over at the Westerforum. I’ll be there to answer all your questions (within human limits).

Here are the details:

October 20, 2012

7PM Eastern US/4PM US West Coast
Sunday morning at 10AM in Sydney

83 Responses to “Story Starter”

  1. 1
    October 17th, 2012 04:42

    Yay, first comment!

    e) The aliens have taken all my friends. The squirrels tell me I’m next.

  2. 2
    October 17th, 2012 04:55

    2nd comment! I agree with #1

  3. 3
    October 17th, 2012 04:56

    2nd comment! I agree with number one!

  4. 4
    October 17th, 2012 04:57

    I don’t like it when computers act crazy.

  5. 5
    October 17th, 2012 04:59

    lol well this sounds a lot like the start of my camping trip with friends on the labour day long weekend :P minus the rock and the tent being cramped (1. we had lots of room 2. it was too much room-we were freezing cold and the boys had to join us the next night for extra body heat :P)
    never set up in the dark….it’s not fun but we managed :P (ahaha we even got lost too and had car trouble a bit :P)

    anywho, e) the end is near……the end.

  6. 6
    October 17th, 2012 05:26

    e) Endless madness to the reader of this note.

  7. 7
    The Robot
    October 17th, 2012 05:28

    e) You’re probably wondering why I gathered you all here today…

  8. 8
    October 17th, 2012 06:59

    Love all of the e)’s! Great ideas! Sorry I can’t think of any. :(

  9. 9
    October 17th, 2012 12:08

    e) If you’re reading this, then I guess the voices weren’t lying after all.

  10. 10
    October 17th, 2012 12:23

    “Ths place is plagued by midges.”

    Change midges to Ichneumonidae wasps and then you have a nightmare for a story.

  11. 11
    October 17th, 2012 14:51

    e) if you’re reading this, IT’S TOO LATE TO TURN BACK. come join the rest of us… MWAHAHA!
    although @10, the wasps are a great idea.

  12. 12
    October 17th, 2012 16:23

    f) This won’t make sense now, but in the future it will all happen. When you finish put the note back a day before now. “Iron Is In It”

  13. 13
    October 17th, 2012 20:57

    e) Indian burial ground. You have been warned. Love all the other ideas. : )

  14. 14
    October 17th, 2012 21:19

    e) If you can read this, we need you. Go to 347 Angler’s drive. Bring a dessert.

  15. 15
    October 17th, 2012 22:00

    d) They’re coming fast… I can’t stay. Meet me at the story cliffs.

  16. 16
    October 17th, 2012 23:24

    you guys are coming up with really great stuff. :) i was reading it and thinking “wow scott-la, what a childish prompt” but you all are taking it in really cool directions. i thought i was a pretty imaginative writer, but i guess i was wrong.

  17. 17
    October 17th, 2012 23:24

    e) you think you’re reading this, but you aren’t.

  18. 18
    October 18th, 2012 01:36

    i just got some other ideas:
    e) turn around. now. i know you want to!
    or e) when i found this note, my flashlight went out. yours will too in 3… 2… 1… CLICK!

  19. 19
    October 18th, 2012 02:39

    e) To the Dark Lord, I know I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more. R.A.B

  20. 20
    October 18th, 2012 03:45

    e) I can see your nose hair.

  21. 21
    Black cat
    October 18th, 2012 03:50

    e) meet me at the lake to go boarding they have new rails to ride (b sure no 1follows and at midnight on the ..

  22. 22
    Joo Dee
    October 18th, 2012 05:34

    z. HI!

  23. 23
    October 18th, 2012 05:59

    e) meeting at 0500. Bring no one else. -V

  24. 24
    Miss G
    October 18th, 2012 07:16

    My cousin and I came up with a scary tune for the note lol
    E) 1,2 They’re coming for you
    3,4 They’re looking at you
    5,6 They’re inside with you
    7,8 You better be afraid
    9,10 It’s already too late
    Hahaha this brought out our halloween spirits out and we can just imagine it being said by a little girl or boy in a scary voice in the middle of the night as they casualy dismiss the note XD
    Hope this is good :)

  25. 25
    October 18th, 2012 08:42

    d): “The slightly-overcooked pizza turned me into a super-hero bird!” (sort-of Spongebob reference.) or “This place is overfilling with midgets! They’re coming! Oh, wait, they’re dwarves. Dwarves with laser blasters and sousaphones! What sort of place is this?” ;) My prompts are more silly than spooky. Original, I suppose.

  26. 26
    October 18th, 2012 14:48

    everyone likes SpongeBob references! yay! btw, @24, i’ve never heard that version of the song before. how did you get it? here’s the one i know, it’s a bit more classic horror movie, i guess:
    1,2, They’re coming for you
    3,4, They’re at your door
    5,6, Bones will snap like sticks,
    7,8, You’re too late
    9,10, You’ll never breathe again
    11,12, – *SHRIIIEEEEK!*

  27. 27
    Love Armstrong
    October 18th, 2012 16:37

    @7, dang it. I was gonna say that! lol. All these ideas are so cool! Sorry, I can’t think of anything. :/

  28. 28
    October 18th, 2012 18:24

    “Effugere ? periculum”
    It means “flee from (the) danger.” And no, I am not the only person in the world who’s learning the ancient, dead language of the Romans.

  29. 29
    October 18th, 2012 18:25

    Whoops, the “?” Was supposed to be an “e” with an accent mark.

  30. 30
    Miss G
    October 18th, 2012 23:17

    @26 We had been watching a lot of scary shows lately and while having dinner, I began to read it out loud to the story to him, he asked me what else and I just told him that we can pick the following options or come up with one so we began to think of something until the old classic movie Carrier, popped in my. The scene that had created our little take on was when the little girls outside are jumping jump rope. So we just thought, what if people died out while campaign and one by one the teens were taken and every time someone was taken a little girl or boy could be heard singing? So that’s where we started throwing back to each other sentences to see what we thought and bam, our on Carrie version popped up :D

  31. 31
    steampunk-d Gray
    October 19th, 2012 00:24

    e.) at the risk of sounding cliche, I’ve been expecting you ;)

  32. 32
    October 19th, 2012 01:39

    e) “Hurry up and read these instructions, you haven’t got much time…”

  33. 33
    Person with Hat
    October 19th, 2012 03:06

    e) I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. You just seemed too… alive.


  34. 34
    October 19th, 2012 04:24

    C. (But I am a stickler for funky creatures!)

  35. 35
    October 19th, 2012 04:28

    Emmiline, you just made my day. XD

    e.) You shouldn’t have moved that rock.

    Heh, I’m not very original with these. ^^;

  36. 36
    October 19th, 2012 04:51

    @28, i know, right? i mean, who’s going to actually use Latin in life? seriously, no one goes around talking to other people in Latin. at least Latin teachers can sometimes be…interesting, though.

  37. 37
    Person with Hat
    October 19th, 2012 05:16

    b) here lies Rusty, who was eaten by Tazza.

  38. 38
    Person with Hat
    October 19th, 2012 05:18

    Hey Scorpio- Ferret? You live in Boston, right? Did ya feel the earthquake?

  39. 39
    October 19th, 2012 05:28

    @28- Effugere is the infinitive form. It means “To flee”. What you want is “Effuge!” which is the imperative form.

  40. 40
    October 19th, 2012 05:29

    Which means “Flee!”

  41. 41
    Midshipman K
    October 19th, 2012 05:53

    e) I’ll steal you, Johana….

    (Or, if you’re in a comedic mood: I peel you, banana….XD I just saw that movie. I thought it was a barking comedy!)

  42. 42
    October 19th, 2012 08:06

    “E) At 12′oclock on the full moon, the 13th hour shall begin and Tartarus will rise under the green night sky. Note: Be wary of the shadows.”

    Guess the reference.

  43. 43
    October 19th, 2012 08:52

    Cool Comment 19 :)

    e) I hope you read this in time, I can hear the giant wasps coming and I think I’ll have just enough time to hide this message before they catch up to me. I’m headed for the cave. Hope you make it. M.B.

    That’s kind of random . . but, giant killer wasps!

  44. 44
    I Hate Hunger Games
    October 19th, 2012 08:56

    e) If you can read this, you have just picked up the stone. That stone is pure emerald and I found it first, I have just gone back to get the car but PUT IT BACK RIGHT NOW COS ITS MINE NOT YOURS, OKAY? Leave it! I’m warning you . .


  45. 45
    Tintin Lover
    October 19th, 2012 09:01

    Ha ha ‘I hate Hunger Games” ! Awesome. Anyway:

    e) If you’re reading this, I have to warn you, that stone had this massive spiders nest under it (I picked it up then screamed put it back down) so I put this warning under it to warn anyone. Not like it’ll help, the spider’ll probably eat it but whatever . . I hope nobody decides to camp here. Just warning you: basically every stone under here is a spider hot spot! Don’t stay more than 5 seconds or you’ll literally be swarmed!

  46. 46
    Tintin Lover
    October 19th, 2012 09:04

    Oh and by the way Scott WHERE IS THE BONUS STUFF?? You know, like on the Bonus Stuff page? There’s nothing there except the Leviathan cover! I’ve been waiting years for more . . :’(

  47. 47
    Midshipman K
    October 19th, 2012 09:13

    @42: The Mark of Athena? That’s all I can think of….

  48. 48
    October 19th, 2012 20:49

    “Go away, leave this place.
    on a side note if you ignore me this will be the greatest adventure of your life. i mean call me crazy but I wouldn’t listen to me either.”

  49. 49
    October 19th, 2012 20:52

    cuz you know you could do anything with that really…

  50. 50
    October 19th, 2012 20:58

    oh or “put that rock back or you’ll unleash a deadly…scucca… whoops just realized its too late for you… sorry guys.”

  51. 51
    October 19th, 2012 21:03

    e) GROUND!
    this was written with Edgar Allen Poe’s pen… so you get swallowed by the earth.

  52. 52
    October 19th, 2012 21:11

    OH EVEN BETTER. e) the zombies are closing in. I don’t have much time. my research has concluded that the fifth element, the Philosophers Stone, the White Stone by the River, may cure them but we are running out of time. soon we will be outnumbered and overwhelmed.

  53. 53
    October 19th, 2012 23:05

    Come and find me, please.

  54. 54
    October 19th, 2012 23:10

    the note should either say what B says or

    “You have only ten minutes of life left if you do not move-FAST

  55. 55
    October 20th, 2012 01:32

    @38, yeah. well, sort of. nothing bad happened, just a drink started shaking, then that was it. lasted 10-ish seconds total. kind of random: my little sis was rocking the table a bit, so we blamed her, and then -News Flash!- earthquake data is released. we had to apologize…

  56. 56
    Person with Hat
    October 20th, 2012 03:09

    @55- I thought it was my brother stomping around upstairs. Alas no… not everything turns out to be his fault.

  57. 57
    October 20th, 2012 09:29

    For my earlier comment at #42:

    I guess no one here is a gamer. :(

  58. 58
    October 20th, 2012 10:06

    f) I bet you’re wondering what happened to e).

  59. 59
    October 20th, 2012 10:23

    e) You probably didn’t notice that rock before. That would be because it wasn’t there.

  60. 60
    October 20th, 2012 12:15

    comment 1
    I just asking for intrest, has anyone actually heard of the band beirut.
    I like there songs but can’t find anybody else that knows about them.

  61. 61
    October 20th, 2012 12:16

    Their (instead of there)

  62. 62
    October 20th, 2012 19:46

    @60 i’ve heard of them, but not actually listened to their songs.. what kind of music do they play? rock? heavy metal? pop?

  63. 63
    October 21st, 2012 07:53

    e) 34°40?00?N 119°45?04?W

    The Mother’s range, a lone grouping of th
    past the overhang, straight for three m
    jump the river, four along the ba
    caves, you’ll have to

    move qui

    …Scott never said it had to be a whole piece of paper. Why not a ripped off section of vague directions?

  64. 64
    October 21st, 2012 09:59

    @57: I am certainly a gamer. But I do not understand that reference.

  65. 65
    Middy Miles
    October 23rd, 2012 02:06

    Aw, man. Fitzroy has an official name?
    Because, you know, all evil characters are name Sebastian. Can it at least be his middle name? Or vice versa?
    And plus, I have a friend whose name is Robert, and we call him Singe, which is really confusing because in my fanfic that’s Newkirk’s nickname. So, yeah.

  66. 66
    Middy Joe
    October 23rd, 2012 04:47

    e) The Undertaker is holding you hostage and will only let him go if you make him laugh. BE WARNED: Using Sebastian does NOT count….

  67. 67
    Middy Joe
    October 23rd, 2012 04:49


  68. 68
    Flight Girl
    October 23rd, 2012 05:50

    e)Under the willow,
    And through the stream,
    The haunted path shall take you,
    Hurry on, quickly now,
    Before it too late

    yeah im not feeling very original right now…

  69. 69
    October 23rd, 2012 08:34

    @65: I knew you’d respond to Fitzroy’s official name. In a negative way. ;) But isn’t that in the next post?

  70. 70
    Middy Joe
    October 25th, 2012 03:16

    I want Fitzroy to be named Sebastian too!!! Also, Sebastian is the name of the hot-demon-butler in Black Butler.

  71. 71
    Big Moon Sea
    October 26th, 2012 17:31

    BEIRUT! I really like Elephant gun.

  72. 72
    Nick Diamond
    November 2nd, 2012 08:06

    Hey how come right at the start of Leviathan Alek says his 16th birthday is almost here but he never has a party in the books or anything?????!!!!!

  73. 73
    November 6th, 2012 06:46

    Either a message to a long-dead penpal containing a spell that will open a portal to a magical dimension and solve a mystery that has lain dormant for centuries.

    Or my other personal favorite of d) AAAAAAARRRGggghhhhhhhhhhh

  74. 74
    November 11th, 2012 16:35

    e). Don’t say no one warned you about the garden gnome rebellion…

  75. 75
    November 12th, 2012 00:30

    What’s with all the e)s? I thought d) was supposed to be the made up one.

  76. 76
    Andre Treston
    January 20th, 2013 14:15

    i like to spend my mini-vacations on a tropical island with lots of coconut.`

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  77. 77
    just a fangirl
    February 16th, 2013 08:07

    e) Read this note.

  78. 78
    Hiking Gear
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  81. 81
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  82. 82
    February 5th, 2014 14:27

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