Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese bows (2)

Continuing from last time:

No. 5: The Heaven Shaker

Lore: wielded by Xue Ren Kui, a famous general in the Tang dynasty. In 661 AD, Xue Ren Kui was fighting against the Uighurs, a group of nomads from Northern Asia who were strong riders and whose bows could create winds that shake the heaven. In particular, his adversary was Hali Khan who had the nickname of the Master of Condor Shooters within Mt. Heaven (Tian Shan) who led an army of over a hundred thousand. In particular, he sent out over ten particularly strong warriors to challenge the Tang army, among them three of his most valued generals that were named Yuan Lung, Yuan Hu and Yuan Feng. It was said that Xue Ren Kui was totally unfazed and calmly drew back this bow three times in succession. The result was that each arrow found its target and Lung (Dragon), Hu (Tiger) and Feng (Phoenix) were all killed. This threw the Uighur army into turmoil and they all surrendered. This event was celebrated as the “Conquering of Mt Heaven by three Arrows” by the Tang soldiers and populace.

No. 4: The Condor Shooter

Lore: the weapon of Genghis Khan

No. 3: The Conqueror

Construction/Special Properties: The body of this bow is made from a metal called Xuan Tie (which is really a fictional metal) and weighs 127 Chinese grams (just over 76 kg in modern terms). Reputedly the bowstring of the Conqueror is the back sinew of a black semi-dragon (a black Jiao Lung). It was said that a black Jiao Lung is the ultimate representation for coldness and as such, the bowstring of the Conqueror is unusually strong and immune to both ice and fire as well as damage dealt by conventional weapons.

Lore: the weapon that Xiang Yu, aka Conqueror Xiang, always carries with him. He was a renowned hero, the Lord of the Chu Kingdom and the major competitor against Liu Bang who founded the Han dynasty. The story goes that Xiang Yu heard of a black Jiao Lung being a major menace to nearby villages around a river named the Wu Jiang (Dark River) and set out alone to find this dragon when he was 15. It was said that having found it, Xiang Yu fought with it for one day and two nights and finally killed it. After this deed, it was said that he extracted the main sinew from its back to make the bowstring of the Conqueror.

No. 2: The Sun Sinker

Lore: the bow that Hou Yi used to shoot down nine suns. There’s a myth about how for a period of time, there were ten suns in the sky. The result is that the earth became parched and the crops failed. People were dehydrated and fell into comas. Meanwhile, ferocious beasts were running rampart, which was previously living in lakes (that have now run dry) and forests (that have become as hot as if aflame). The plight of the mortal realms touched the immortals and the Heavenly King Ti Jun sent Hou Yi who was good at archery to help the mortals. Thus with the red bow that Ti Jun gifted to him, Hou Yi shot down nine of the sons, leaving only one in the sky.

No. 1: The Xuan Yuan Bow

Construction/Special Properties: Forged by Xuan Yuan Huang Ti or the Yellow Emperor (one of the legendary Three Soverigns and Five Emperors), from the trunk of a species of tree that is especially tough within Mt. Tai, the horns of a species of ox known as Yan Niu (Swallow-Ox or Ox of the Yan region, not sure), the sinew from a type of elk known as Jing Mi (Thorn-Elk?) and glue made from fishes in the river

Lore: The Yellow Emperor used this bow to kill his nemesis Chi You with three arrows to the heart. In the Investiture of the Gods (a classic Chinese novel, not quite as classic as one of the Four Classics but still very famous), this bow goes by the alternative name of Qian Kun Bow and was used by Li Jing (a mythical character that was a great general and then ascended to immortality) to kill a minor villain with a single shot

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese bows (1)

I almost forgot about today’s post but luckily I seemed to have developed some kind of reflex around posting on Mondays and Fridays (not bad since it’s close but not yet half a year since I started this blog).

Anyway, I have to admit that I’m still on my lethargy phase with respect to novel writing and random writing (except for the Live and Let Live series). At the Citadel, I’m cooking up another submission for the Villain quest and doing a whole bunch of research-based writing based on ancient China. So today I will be sharing some of these here.

Descriptive writing has ever been my short point so I’m going to point everyone to the following link containing pictures of these legendary bows: http://baike.baidu.com/view/1300606.htm”>. Note that the picture for no. 8 detailed here is missing as well as those for no. 5, 4 and 2 that will be posed up the coming Monday.

No. 10: The Dragon Tongue

Construction/Special Properties: reputedly its bowstring is made from the sinew of a dragon, giving it high speed and accuracy.

Lore: In the era of the Three Kingdoms, Lu Bu, the greatest warrior of that era, had used the Dragon Tongue to successfully shoot his halberd, thereby averting the awkward situation when Yuan Shu sent an emissary to force him to join in invading Liu Bei’s stronghold

No. 9: The Travelling Son

Construction/Special Properties: A strong bow, whose arrows fly at the speed that a *travelling son eager for homecoming wishes to travel at

Lore: the weapon of Hua Rong, ranked ninth among the one hundred and eight generals of the Water Margin (one of the 4 Chinese classics in literature) heroes, which together make up a grass-root rebellion group in the Northern Song dynasty.

Note: a travelling son is a generic term in ancient China for a son who is currently living far away from his parents. Back then, there’s a kind of a cultural dogma that’s against being apart from your parents encapsulated in the saying “when your parents are around, one should not travel far”. In reality, of course, some still do, especially for scholars for the purpose of studying and then later on if they become an official.

No. 8: The Divine Arm

Construction/Special Properties: Actually a crossbow whose body is made from a particular specie of mulberry trees, whose bowstring is made from silk, with the end of the bow being made of sandalwood and iron/steel making up the mechanic parts.

Lore: Some say it is wielded by the patriotic general Yue Fei who was instrumental in repelling the Jurchen invaders in the Southern Song dynasty but died at the hands of the corrupt official Qin Hui. Others say that it the multiple-shot crossbow invented by Zhuge Liang in the era of the Three Kingdoms.

No. 7: The Sentient Treasure

Lore: the weapon of Li Guang, a valiant general of the Western Han dynasty who was instrumental in repelling the Xiong Nu invaders (a race of nomads dominant in Central East Asia) and was given the nickname of General Fei or Flying General by them.

It was said that one day when Li Guang was out hunting, he saw a tiger crouching amidst a bush from afar and shot it. When he walked close, he found that it was actually just a stone but the arrow has sunk deep within the stone. Apparently a poet in the Tang dynasty had composed a poem that detailed this event.

No. 6: The Ten-thousand Stone

Construction/Special Properties: Composed from purple sandalwood that are harder than steel but much lighter

Lore: the weapon of Huang Zhong, one of the five Tiger General of the Shu Kingdom of the era of the Three Kingdoms (the others were Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and Ma Chao, basically the five greatest warriors of Shu). Huang Zhong was the eldest among them (in fact substantially older than the others) but he was such a valiant warrior that he managed to slay Xia Hou Yuan, cousin to Cao Cao and one of his eight Tiger Riders. Consequently, Huang Zhong was a classic image for a healthy and capable elder in Chinese culture. The name of this bow was a reference to weight (stone is a unit of measurement in ancient China since it was said that Huang Zhong can wield a bow that has the strength of two stones (a little over 19kg in modern terms) i.e. one needs to exert about 19kg of force to use such a bow. It was also said that he never missed a shot.

Chinese Lore- Gan Jiang and Mo Xie (2)

Firstly, I haven’t forgotten that I’m supposed to be posting a new snippet for Live and Let Live. However, I figured it would be weird if I did not continue with the lore of Gan Jiang and Mo Xie that I posted up at the start of this week. So the Live and Let Live snippet would be moved to next Monday and I will continue with the Chinese lore. Here goes:

Gan Jiang and Mo Xie are inseparable, whether as swords or individuals. The pair of swords are separately named for their crafters- Gan Jiang, the male sword, is named after the husband. Similarly, Mo Xie, the female sword, takes the same name as the wife. It was said that the smith Gan Jiang was very diligent while Mo Xie was a tender loving wife. Whenever Gan Jiang was working at the forge, his wife Mo Xie would be fanning him and swiping sweat for him.

When Gan Jiang was commissioned to craft a sword for the Lord of Chu, three months had gone past but the “essence of steel” used for the crafting wouldn’t melt. Gan Jiang sighed and Mo Xie cried. If the material wouldn’t melt, then the crafting would be a failure. And if the crafting failed, Gan Jiang would be killed by the Lord. But Gan Jiang could think of no failure and could only sigh.

Then one night, Mo Xie suddenly smiled. Seeing her smile, Gan Jiang became afraid. For he knew why she smiled. Gan Jiang told Mo Xie, “No, don’t do it.” Mo Xie said nothing but merely smiled. When Gan Jiang woke up, he found that Mo Xie wasn’t besides him. Broken-hearted, he hurried to where he knew Mo Xie was. What Gan Jiang saw was Mo Xie standing atop the forge like a fairy. Mo Xie saw the shape of Gan Jiang rushing towards her from afar in the morning light and smiled. She heard him yelling her name, in a bare croak. Mo Xie was still smiling but tears fell down her face at the same time. Gan Jiang was crying too. With a bleared vision, he saw Mo Xie falling. The last words he heard was “Gan Jiang, I haven’t died, we will be together yet….”

The material within the forge melted and the crafting was successful. Two swords, one male and one feminine, came out and Gan Jiang named them for himself and his wife. Gan Jiang only gave the Lord of Chu Mo Xie and kept the only sword himself. This news was soon heard by the Lord and he sent warriors who laid siege to Gan Jiang. In despair, Gan Jiang surrendered. Then he opened up the container in which he stored the male sword and asked, “Mo Xie, how can we be together?” The sword suddenly jumped out of the container and became a beautiful white dragon that soared away. At the same time, Gan Jiang also disappeared and the Mo Xie sword that the Lord of Chu kept besides him also disappeared simultaneously.

Meanwhile, within a desolate region thousands of miles away, there appeared a young white dragon in a big lake called Yan Ping Jing (modern Nan Ping within Fu Jian). This white dragon was beautiful and kind, summoning the most opportune climates for the local citizens. As time went on, this desolate region grew rich from good climate and rich crops, so much that the local city changed its name from “Poor city” to “Abundant city”. Yet, the locals often found that the white dragon was always looking up as if waiting for something on the surface of the lake. Some even saw that its eyes often contained tears.

Six hundred years had gone past. Through pure chance, the Mayor of Abundant City dug out a stone container hidden underground when he initiated reconstruction of the city wall. Within the container, there laid a sword that had the name Gan Jiang engraved upon it. The Mayor was overjoyed and carried this legendary sword besides him always. One day, when he went near the Yan Ping Jing, his sword suddenly jumped out of the scabbard on its own and into the water. Amidst his shock, the water roiled and then two dragons, one white and the other black, surfaced. The two dragons gave several nods to the Mayor in rapid succession and then twined their necks together in intimate movements. Then both of them sunk down into the water and disappeared. Then local citizens of the Abundant City discovered that the white dragon who always look about with tears in its eyes in Yang Ping Jing and rumoured to have been seen for six hundred years was no longer there one day. The next day, however, an ordinary couple moved into Abundant City. The husband was a very good smith but he only took commissions to make farming equipment and turned down any orders for crafting weapons. When he worked at the forge, his wife would always be found besides him either fanning him or wiping sweat for him.

Of particular interest is that the bit about Mo Xie sacrificing herself to quicken the crafting process is supported by scientific evidence. Specifically, it was found that the large amount of phosphorus contained within human bones (I think it’s within bones but not sure) can act to quicken the smelting process.

 

Chinese Lore- Gan Jiang and Mo Xie (1)

I’m still in my lethargy phase (sort of) so I’m going to recycle a bit of Chinese lore I just delved into for my Citadel submissions (for the What makes a weapon magic quest), which is on a pair of legendary swords. The male sword is called Gan Jiang while the female one is called Mo Xie, named for the husband and wife of a smith couple. There are two different legends surrounding this set of swords.

 

Today I will be sharing the first legend:

Gan Jiang and Mo Xie were citizens of the Kingdom of Chu (more like a province of China in modern terms). Being famous smiths, they were asked to craft swords for the Lord of Chu. It took them three years to finish and the product was a set of two swords. The slow completion time angered the Lord and made his mind turn to killing. Meanwhile, Mo Xie was about to give birth. Hearing of the Lord’s plans, Gan Jiang told his wife, “I took three years to finish the sword crafting for the Lord. He is angry and will surely kill me when I go to him. If you give birth to a son, then tell him the following when he grows up: look towards the mountain in the south once he sets foot outside the door, there’s a conifer tree growing on top of a stone, the sword is at the back.” Then he went to the Lord with the female sword only. Like Gan Jiang expected, the Lord was very angry and asked for a detailed examination of the sword. The sword examiner told the Lord, “The product should be a pair of swords, this is only the female one, the male one is missing.” This made the Lord even angrier and he order Gan Jiang killed.

The son that Mo Xie gave birth was named Chi (meaning Red). When he asked about his father, Mo Xie told him the words left by Gan Jiang. Thus Chi found the male sword and plotted to have vengeance on the Chu Lord. At the same time, the Chu Lord had been dreaming of a boy whose eyebrows are spaced wide apart, who swore vengeance on himself. Consequently, he put out a bounty for such a boy. Hearing of this news, Chi fled deep within the mountain. There he met a wandering swordsman who asked him what was the matter when he found Chi crying. Chi told him everything and he told Chi to give him the sword and his own head and said that he would help Chi to get his vengeance. Chi agreed and committed suicide. Chi’s corpse held both his own head and the sword in his hands but his body stood rigid. The wandering swordsman promised to not let him down and only then did his body fall down.

The swordsman presented Chi’s head to the Lord of Chu, which made the Lord overjoyed. The swordsman told the Lord that Chi’s head is the head of a brave warrior and that is should be cooked in a pot. The Lord followed his advice and yet Chi’s head remained intact even after three full days’ cooking. Moreover, the head actually jumped out of the cooking pot and stared angrily at the Lord. The swordsman said, “Lord, this child’s head cannot be cooked. Please come besides the pot and then I’m sure that the head will be cooked.” The Lord believed him and immediately walked to the side of the pot. The swordsman suddenly swung his sword towards the Lord and the head of the Lord fell into the cooking pot along with the sword. Then the swordsman beheaded himself and his head fell in too. Then all of the three heads in the pot were cooked and it was possible to distinguish between them. In the end, the pot of “head head” soup was separated into three equal portions and buried under the name of “The Tomb of the three Lords”. Now this tomb can still be found within the province of Yu Nan.

 

Chinese Lore- the Nine Sons of the Dragon

To be honest, I’m currently going through a phase that I call “Writer’s Lethargy”. So I’ve decided that it’s time for me to re-use old work and so today’s post will be a Chinese lore. In Chinese, there is a saying about the nine sons of the Dragon being all different, which is mainly to refer to the fact that siblings could be very different to each other (and possibly varying in ‘quality’). Below, you guess it, I’m going to describe each of them.

Qiu Niu- Depicted as a typical Chinse dragon, Qiu Niu is said to have a passion for music and its head often serves as ornamentation for the tops of musical instruments

Ya Zi- Depitced as a creature with the head of a wolf and a dragon’s body, its preference for killing makes it a common decorative component on sword-grips. Its name also appears in a Chinese idiom/proverb (the special four-charcter phrases in Chinese) describing vengeful personalities.

Chao Feng- Chao Feng itself is considered an incarnation of birds and takes the image of a phoenix. It is said to like precipices and therefore figurines of Chao Feng are placed on the four corners of roofs. However, these figurines are normally of a four-legged beast form.

Pu Lao- Another with the look of a typical Chinese dragon. Reputedly, it likes to cry. It is represented on the tops of bells, serving as handles

Suan Ni- A lion-like creature that likes to sit down. Figurines of it are commonly found upon the bases of Buddhist idols under the Buddhas’ feet.

Bi Xi/Ba Xia- A creature similar in form to a Trionychidae (a form of soft-shelled turtle which can be found in Asian diet, viewed as a delicacy and prized for the its supposedly health strengthening effects) which is said to be fond of literature. It is put on the sides of grave monuments. Alternativley, Ba Xia is a big tortoise that likes to carry objects. Figurines of Ba Xia are commonly the support structures for grave monuments.

Bi’an- A tiger-like creature which likes litigation. Figurines of it are placed over prison gates to keep guard.

Fu Xi- Unclear of its entire apperance but it is certain that it has the serpentine body typical of a Chinese dragon. Fu Xi looks after anything of an artistic nature and is depicted as spiraling in a vertical sense at the top of stone monuments

Chi Wen- It has the head of a dragon but the body of a fish. It likes swallowing and is placed on both ends of the ridgepoles of roofs to swallow all evil influences.

There is also an alternate version where Qiu Niu, Chao Feng and Fu Xi are replaced by the following:

Tao Tie- A horned, clawed beast with a tail roughly corresponding to the relevant body part of a cow, tiger and goat. Its face decorate a wide range of tools and storage devices made from an alloy of bronze, tin and lead whose name translates to Indigo Bronze. It is associated with gluttony and greed. In modern terms, part of its name is used in a term that refers to food connoiseirs.

Ba Xia (pronounced with different inflections than the Ba Xia in version A)- With a typical Chinese dragon’s apperance, Ba Xia is said to like water and his image is sculpted into the foundation pillar for bridges.

Jiao Tu- A conch or clam, which does not like to be disturbed. It decorates door knobs or the doorstep (in ancient times, door knobs have a flat surface which is in the shape of Jiao Tu’s face that is attached to a ring of metal which is used to knock)

Hope that would be of interest or use to someone and stay tuned for my post at the end of the working week (for Australasians, that is).

Chinese Lore- Tian Gou (Heavenly Dog)

Physical Description:

A fox-like creature whose head is white, said to be originating from a pre-histoical mammal.

Lore:

Originally seen as an animal that can counter evil, it somehow became the synonym to comets which are seen as bad omen in ancient China.

In particular, the Tian Gou eating the Sun or the Moon is a common story passed down through folklore, which was how the ancient populace explained the phenomenon of sun or moon eclipses. During such times, the populace often rang gongs, played drums or even used firecrackers so as to ‘scare away’ the Tian Gou. Closely related to this story is the legend that when Chang E stole the immortal pills rewarded to her husband Hou Yi for shooting down nine Suns (and thus only leaving one sun in the sky), Hou Yi’s hunting hound chased her all through her ascent up to the sky. Hearing its bark, Chang E hid herself in the Moon. Meanwhile, all the hair on the hound’s body stood up erect and its body kept on expanding. Then in one motion, it leapt up and swallowed the Moon whole.  When the Heavenly King and Queen heard about this event, they sent the Heavenly Guards to apprehend the black dog. When it was brought forth, the Heavenly Queen recognised it as Hou Yi’s hunting hound and gave it the title of Heavenly Dog and the responsibility of guarding the Southern Heavenly Door. As a result of the honour given to it, the hound spat out Chang E and the Moon. Thereafter, Change E made the Moon her home.

There is another story concerning how Chang Xian (an immortal in Chinese lore) shot the Heavenly Dog. In this story, the Heavenly Dog was obstructing the constellations from going to the mortal realm as children. When Chang Xian shot the Heavenly Dog and made it run away, the people were then able to get children and as a result, Chang Xian was known as “the children-giving Chang Xian”.

Chinese lore- Pan Hu

I love lore and myths in general and so I figured that I will start a new series of posts on Chinese lore that I’ve collated and manually translated across to English. My followers and other readers can read it for inspiration or just for entertainment. Anyway, it will be stored under the Inspiration sub-category for Writer’s Craft for those who might be interested in searching for the new series later. Here’s the first one of the series, which will be on a mythical creature called Pan Hu.

 

Physical Description:

A dog that has five colours on its body: indigo, white, red, black and yellow.

Lore:

In the time of Emperor Ku, an old woman working in the Palace was suspected of having tinnitus (an affliction of the ear) and was treated of it when the doctor extracted a small worm from her ears. She kept this worm as a pet in a gourd that has been cut in half with a covering lid. Not long afterward, this worm has turned into a dog that has five different colours on its body. The Emperor Ku found out about this event and named the dog Pan Hu- Pan which means a large dish (as in the physical object, not a large serving of food) and Hu is a gourd.

Emperor Ku was waging war against the Western Rong, who had an especially capable general. After numerous failures, the Emperor declared that he will marry his own daughter to the one who was able to present him with this general’s head as well as giving him many monetary rewards. After a while, Pan Hu came forth with the general’s head in its mouth.

Emperor Ku was at a loss as to what to do given that Pan Hu was a dog and his retainers all opposed the keeping of his promise in this regard. In the end, it was the Princess who came forth and persuaded the Emperor that Pan Hu was not just simply a dog and therefore his promise should not be easily broken. Thus, Pan Hu brought the princess with it to live in Mount South after the marriage.

Pan Hu and the Princess together had six sons and daughters respectively and the siblings married each other after their father’s death. The Princess returned to the Palace and told the Emperor about his grandchildren. The Emperor sent an envoy to bring back his grandchildren but none of them wanted to leave the mountain, preferring its quiet to the noises in a city. The Emperor heeded the desires of his grandchildren and gave them land in areas with famous peaks and plenty of water sources and gave them the title of Man Yi. Their descendants, thereafter also known as Man Yi have since scattered and lived in regions such as Liang Han, Ba Shu, Wu Ling, Chang Sha and Lu Jiang.

In an alternative version, it was said that Pan Hu was a worm that fell out the Empress’s ears and it was the Princess herself that kept and fed it. After it defeated the enemy general, it suggested that it would be able to turn into a man if he kept himself isolated within a large bell made of gold for seven days. Yet, on the sixth day, the Princess accidentally opened up the bell in her concern for Pan Hu and thus Pan Hu’s transformation was incomplete- he had become a creature with a man’s body but a dog’s head. Despite this, Pan Hu and the Princess still successfully married.

As with all of my serial posts except for Moonlake’s Book Discoveries, the posts for this series will happen at irregular intervals aka according to the whims of the author.

Most Ridiculous Excuse made up by a Villain

This is not really writing related but I’ve just finished watching a TV series where the villain made up the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard to justify his actions. I thought it might serve as inspiration somehow as a means of shedding light upon the extent to which the human brain is capable of conjuring excuses as a means of self-defence or just for entertainment values.

The TV series is a spy thriller set in modern day China and basically the villain is the father of the main character. The setup was that the son works for National Security whereas the father had been the secretary to a City Mayor, just recently retired due to terminal illness. When exposed for being “the mole” who’s been leaking out confidential information to international spies, the son went to visit the father and asked him why he betrayed his own country. His father’s answer was, “I did it for you.”

It was mentioned in passing in previous episodes that the main character’s parents had divorced during his childhood, with his father being re-married and totally neglecting him such that the main character was still harbouring a grudge against his own father now. Going back to the scene of the final confrontation between father and son, his father tells him that apparently he regretted his negligence of his son and wanted to make amends. Then the father went on to tell a story where he was tutoring his friend’s son (who was in primary school, at an age that brought back to him fond memories of his own son) on an essay whose topic is “Is money all-powerful?” and how he had originally told the child that he should write, “no, money is not all-powerful, in fact, it is quite dirty and lead people towards corruption.”. The child’s response to that was, “But money can help out children in Africa. Also, if money is dirty, then why is Chairman Mao printed on it?”. According to the father, this then led him onto the stray path he wandered onto because it suddenly occurred to him that he needed to set aside x amount of money for his son so that he can live a good life. He went on to see how through taking small bribes for a period, he achieved his original target but then inflation set in and he had to amend his target and the snowball effect basically set in.

My first reaction upon hearing this was “What?!” and I picture the main character falling into utter confusion over hearing this obviously made up excuse for falling towards the seduction of money.

And that’s all I want to share, for now.

 

Daily Inspiration Prompt

Given that it’s the new year (it’s the new year over here in Australia), I’m putting up my very first post on the topic that I feel has the closest association to the concept of freshness, about finding inspirations.

I’m going to put up a long comprehensive article about the different ways that one could find inspirations, just share with you the one way that I’ve been using so that I’ve been producing with ease 1 entry per day that goes into my Idea Journal for 3 months ever since I started on it. By the way, my Idea Journal is just where I file away any random ideas popping up that can go into my writing, for those unfamiliar with the term.

The mechanics:

My way is a simple exercise where random words are picked out in clusters and then free association is used to create an idea that links up all of them. I first got the idea from a book called The Creative Writers’ Workshop by Cathy Birch that I borrowed from my local library. I call it the 10 column exercise. As the name indicates, you make ten columns in a spreadsheet. In my case, they contain single words that fall into the following categories: locations, objects, personal characteristics, words that I like or unusual words, verbs, races in my settings, adjectives, catalyst events, systems of world elements and divination elements. Each column is of different lengths although I’m trying to build my spreadsheet so that each column will have 100+ entries. So far, there are still 4 columns that haven’t reached this requisite length and one of them is actually very close.

Besides this 10-column spreadsheet filled with words, you also need a calculator and some books for the process of picking out words according to my method. However, you can always make up your rules if you find that cumbersome.

My rules for picking out words were/are in 3 steps:

I would pick up a random book and flip to a random page. The last digit of the page would be noted down in my spreadsheet as the number of categories from which words will be picked out of. Lately, I’ve changed to the more convenient practice of looking at the time whenever I embark on this exercise. So if it was 9:05 when I opened up the spreadsheet and wanted to pick a bunch of words, then I would be pick out 5 words in total for that day.

I would then essentially repeat this page flipping exercise for the subsequent stages of picking out which specific columns to use and then the actual words themselves. I change books at each stage. At the last stage, I use the actual page number rather than its last digit and I divide this page number by the total number of items in the column and the actual word chosen is the one with the same row number as the remainder derived from this division. If the page number is a multiple of the total number of items in the column, then the last word on the column is chosen.

A further note about my method is that words from the same column can be picked out multiple times. For example, one day I had three locations turn up: steppes/lea, waterfall and palace.  On rare occasions (2 so far for me), the same word turns up twice. Come up with different rules of selecting words if you don’t like such aspects.

An illustration of what this process could yield:

One a particular day, this process had given me 6 words: fortune, oasis, pristine, satyr, ocean and dance.

I formed the following idea that link up all of them that could be dropped into any fantasy setting:

  • Pristine oasis forming on a desert next to an ocean
  • Satyrs dancing on the oasis which was taken as a sign of fortune by those who see the sight

On another day, a set of 5 words (oath/geis, steppes, smother, crystal, damask) yielded the following idea of a location for another in-work setting of mine that I have no real use for in terms of converting to fiction and so only occasionally get attention from me:

  • A crystalline steppe- where the grasses are actual crystals
  • The grasses can be woven into weapons of damask steel quality
  • The steppe becomes smothered by a geis that shrouds over it palpably