Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Ouija Board, Search Engine, Self-Help Book

WRITING PROMPT: Monday Matchup #15
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Write a story featuring a Ouija board, a search engine, and a self-help book.

Also, join editor/freelancer Chuck Sambuchino and me Thursday, Feb. 10, to learn how to make money writing articles for magazines and websites:

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7 thoughts on “Monday Matchup Writing Challenge: Ouija Board, Search Engine, Self-Help Book

  1. xixiwyhes

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  2. AmyBeth Fredricksen

    Writing a self help book was easy.  She’d done it before, not just once, but twice.  Her secret?  A mouse pad that was configured like a Ouija Board, coupled with the randomness produced by most search engines.  That, and a catchy pen name.  “Kennedy Walker” tended to confuse both Republicans and Democrats alike, whether they revered or reviled her.  The sell-through of her first book, “How to Be Politically Responsible” had surpassed the expectations of the meager lay down and it earned out in less than a month.
    Her second book, “How to Find Personal Fulfillment as an Unpublished Writer” was even more successful.  With the help of her trusty Ouija board, she had boiled it down to three essentials.  First, virtually stalk Sara Megibow via Twitter.  (Or the agent of your own choice, but Sara Megibow was eminently Tweet worthy!)  Second, find some common ground with Sara Creasy.  (Or any published author.)  Even if one could not actually succeed in getting one’s own query through the slush pile, one could still live vicariously through someone who had.  The third step was inarguably the most fun:  poke Betty Viola Blue till she snorts at you.  A large dose of sarcasm would help.  Book two sold out even faster than book one.
    With a publishing deadline hanging over her, she began her writing process.  Wikipedia was always the place to start.  She brought up the web page and selected “Random Article”.  She glared at the screen.  “Quang Vinh?”  Who was he?  A Vietnamese Justin Bieber?  She looked at the dates…  born in the eighties.  So, maybe not Justin Bieber… Justin Timberlake, perhaps.
    But the Ouija board had not failed her yet.  It was decided, the next book would have a musical theme.  “How to Become an Internet Singing Sensation” was already taken, unfortunately.  She turned to her Ouija board again.  She googled “search engines”, then closed her eyes and moved her mouse over the Ouija board till it felt just right, and she clicked.
    “Blekko?”  She shook her head.  What the heck was “Blekko?”  But she continued with her method, faithful it would lead her somewhere.  She typed in “Justin Timberlake.”  A photograph of birthday candles came up, saying “Justin Timberlake just celebrated his thirtieth birthday on January 31st!”  All right… she could work with that.  But how were birthdays important to music?  This was a sure sign it was time to turn to facebook. 
    Kennedy Walker had almost 2,000 facebook friends, thanks to an unhealthy addiction to “Castle Age”, and in spite of the fact that she unfriended everyone who ever mentioned “Farmville.”  She updated her status.  “What is the important link between teenage singing sensations and birthdays?”
    She counted to a hundred, then refreshed her profile.  She had a dozen responses, but they had quickly gone off topic and were discussing why the words to “Happy Birthday” were copyrighted, and under what circumstances could the copyright be ignored.
    Success.  The book wrote itself, and sold out in a week.

  3. AQG

    Helen set down the bright yellow book and rolled her eyes in frustration.
    "Oh God" she murmured.
    She looked at the cover thoughtfully, feeling her strength waver at the ridiculous cover that stared back at her from the clutter of the coffee table.
    A giant shiny red smiley face glared up at her from its place on the raincoat yellow book jacket. The lamplight of her tiny apartment flickered as the F train thundered across the tracks besides her building. The momentary loss of light seemingly set the large red eyes of the book into motion, and Helen was sure that it winked at her. A moment later her eyes fell on the jagged scramble of its teeth, the word "Happiest" grinned back at her in a menace of angles.
    Enough was enough she thought and kicked the book from the table. It slid across the floor and banged hard into her aging dell computer tower.
    The screen flickered on.
    She gazed for a moment at what at first appeared to be the familiar Google home screen, and then looked into the kitchen. Hanging crooked on the fridge was her to-do list. All of the lines had been scratched off except for the last. In bright red letters the words "Find Happiness" and they bared down on her like the eyes of some old painting.
    At her desk she could hear the hum and whir of the processor as she typed her request into the search engine.  There are moments in life where time seems to stop altogether, where our memories reach an event horizon and we know that they will spin out before us for the rest of our lives.  Just before she hit the enter key she realized that the colorful scrawl at the top of the screen was in fact not the word Google at all, but instead another word altogether.
    The worlds spelled “Golgotha” in whimsical primary colors. In her mind, Andy Warhol’s Skulls flashed in their brilliant neon tones and then it was too late. Her finger fell heavy on the “Search” key.
    Her tiny ship of inquiry set sail into the ocean made of 235 million daily queries and she waited anxiously to see what catacombs of the web this obvious malware might take her.  Am I crazy? Did it really say Golgotha?
    The screen went black, and in the moment she thought some bastard virus had fried her hard drive the words “Home Row” burned white on the screen. 
    She did as she was asked.
    Again the screen went black, and just as she was about to take her hands away from the keyboard the screen flashed another command.
    “ASK >”
    She typed her question, but before she could finish even the second word the screen fell black, then it angrily flashed the command again and again.
    “ASK > ASK > ASK>.”
    Again she began to type, and again she was cut off.
    Her fingers trembled above the keys of home row and she whispered her question into the dark of the room. Her face light by the light of the screen, her voice barely perceptible in its uncertainty she asked.
    “Where can I find happiness?”
    Her fingers hung just centimeters above the keys, and before she could stop herself the middle finger on her right hand was pulled down hard by some imperceptible force.  In her mind she could see could see her and her best friend Mindy in there brothers tree house. They had gotten an Ouija board from the big girls down the street and they sat amidst lit candles moving the marker and each one telling the other “It wasn’t me.”  That was not real.
    This was real.
    On the screen before her letters appeared as her fingers moved about the keys unconscious of their master’s desires. Now her digits did the bidding of some ghost in the machine.
    When it was over she shuddered and looked at the two words that flickered there before the screen went blank.
    L   O   O   K      O   U   T   S   I   D   E.

  4. G S Batty

    Ouija – Nada
    Sometimes it’s better to learn something the hard way. Maybe you won’t believe that statement because a “hard-way” lesson can be very painful or embarrassing or both.
    Anyone that has never had to learn a “hard-way” lesson is probably sniggering behind his or her healthy bowls of Oatmeal and Juniper Berries. Oatmeal and Juniper Berry eaters never learn things the hard way. They always know the correct way because they belong to the inside track association. You know…they always have the scoop or get the poop or are privy to the top dogs.
    Those of us that have been refused membership to that snobberly association (a lowly group of snobberys) can only struggle with the issues of everyday life. We have to face those issues and hope to come out unscathed or at least unscratched with a better grasp of the world that we exist in.
    I faced one of those issues just this morning. To most it would have been simple, but for me it turned in to “hard-way” lesson.
    However, at first I decided to go the “easy-way” and go to the latest information “guru”, Google. Unfortunately I typed in gaggle and received instructions on how to herd geese. I do not have any geese so I opted for my series of self help books that I have had for about 40 years.
    I was sure those books would come in handy someday and today was now someday. Unfortunately a family of rats had decided that the self help books made great nesting material. I was not able to learn if they read the part about “nest building” in the books before they chewed them up.
    Sometimes good things can happen when bad things happen. You know… the silver lining thing. Well, the bad thing was that the rats ate my books. The good thing…? I was conked on the head by an old Ouija Board that had been hiding on top of the books.
    I wondered if I had just been hit in the head by an omen. Obvious is not always so obvious to me but being conked by an Ouija Board is not easy to ignore.
    Any idiot could figure out that the Ouija Board had the answer that I was looking for and since I am the definition of any idiot, I laid the Ouija Board on the garage floor and ran my bare toes across the letters.
    The answer?…Get married again and let your wife do it.
    No thanks, I think I’ll learn this lesson the “hard-way”.
    gs batty

  5. Nathan Honore

    Joey had been on an overnight drunk for the last seven years. Accompanied by a soundtrack of David Bowie and the Pixies, he drank his way to the bottom. Rehab did not come easy, but when Joey emerged, he found something else to focus on: Ouija. A self-help book he got in rehab recommended filling the void his drinking once occupied. Ouija seemed reasonable enough.
    Every time Joey felt unsure about anything, he would go home to his shared apartment. He locked himself in his room, lit some candles and brought out the Ouija board. Most of the time it would tell him soothing phrases like “job well done”, “keep it up”, or “stay strong.” Joey loved guiding the heart shaped triangle and receiving the encouragement he needed. The spirits loved him, he decided. So he would spend most mornings, post-work afternoons, and evenings with the Ouija board.
    One afternoon Joey walked home and Google-ed himself. A co-worker recommended it. She said it was great fun. Joey loved great fun. He searched through three pages of results and nothing came up that was about him, Joseph Patrick Henderson. All that came up were Facebook and twitter accounts of other Joseph Patrick Hendersons. Joey started to sweat and his mouth was dry. “Do I not exist?” he thought. He quickly zoomed through another twenty pages of search results and received nothing. He ran to his room and looked under his bed. The Ouija board was not there. Joey panicked. He needed its guidance.
    When his roommate, Shawn, came home that night, he found the apartment in complete shambles. Furniture was turned over, lamps destroyed, and a hole in the TV. Shawn rushed to Joey’s room and found him hiding in his closet, clutching two empty six packs of Labatt Blue, the plastic still holding them together. Joey was soaked in the beer. Wide-eyed and shaking, Joey looked up at Shawn. He saw his precious Ouija board under Shawn’s arm. He lunged out of the closet at the board, knocking Shawn over. Shawn dropped it and ran out of the apartment, screaming obscenities. Joey opened the board and searched for guidance. His fingers guided and guided, but no words were forming. He continued.
    When Shawn returned, he was accompanied by three large men in white clothes and a stretcher. Joey was still sitting on the floor with the Ouija board. Joey looked up and said, “It won’t speak to me…will you speak to me?” The men in white said nothing as two of them grabbed him underneath his armpits, picked him up and placed him on the stretcher. They pulled the straps tight across his chest. He didn’t put up a fight. Joseph Patrick Henderson merely sang a song he had heard from a Dr. Demento collection years before: “They’re coming to take me away, ha ha, they’re coming to take me away, ho ho he he ha ha, to the happy farm, where life is beautiful all the time.”


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