Going Viral

You have (or a character has) created a computer virus that is capable of spreading to every computer, tablet or smartphone in the world. It takes over the device's screen and displays something else instead—a message, an image, an animation, etc. What does it display, and why?
Author:
Publish date:

[If national prestige, $5,000 in cash, coverage of your win in Writer's Digest and more great prizes are what you're looking for, enter the Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition.]

On January 30, 1982, a computer virus called Elk Cloner was released "into the wild"—that is, it spread outside of the computer system on which it was written—becoming the first virus to start spreading to other computers on its own. The program, which targeted Apple II computers and spread to other computers via floppy disk, was coded by then-high school student Richard Skrenta, whose primary motivation was to annoy his friends.

Although the virus did cause some incidental damage, its main function was to display the following poetic message every 50th time the infected machine started:

Image placeholder title

Writing Prompt: You have (or a character has) created a computer virus that is capable of spreading to every computer, tablet or smartphone in the world. It takes over the device's screen and displays something else instead—a message, an image, an animation, etc. What does it display, and why?

Image placeholder title
FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

FightWrite™: How Do People Who Don’t Know How to Fight, Fight?

If your character isn't a trained fighter but the scene calls for a fight, how can you make the scene realistic? Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has the answers for writers here.

April PAD Challenge

30 Poetry Prompts for the 2021 April PAD Challenge

Find all 30 poetry prompts for the 2021 April Poem-A-Day Challenge in this post.

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

The Problem of Solving a Mystery When You're the Prime Suspect

Mia P. Manansala, author of Arsenic & Adobo, explains how writers can help their main character solve a mystery when they're the prime suspect.

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.

Pam Jenoff: On Writing About Isolation While Isolated

Pam Jenoff: On Writing About Isolation While Isolated

Bestselling author Pam Jenoff shares how she explored themes of isolation in her latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star, while writing during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.

8 Ways to Add Suspense to your Novel

8 Ways to Add Suspense to Your Novel

Authors Mark and Connor Sullivan are no strangers to utilizing suspense in their novels. Here, they share their top 8 tips for writers to do the same.

Lynn Painter: On Rom-Coms and Escapism

Lynn Painter: On Rom-Coms and Escapism

Author Lynn Painter discusses the strengths of the romantic comedy genre and how she utilized them in her novel Better than the Movies.