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The Inside Scoop: What we’re looking for this season

Every season is designed to invite stories that explore a different theme that readers enjoy. Havok is designed as an ongoing contest in which a winner is picked for each genre day of the week (mystery, science fiction, humor, thriller, and fantasy) and each monthly theme. Those top thirty will eventually be collected into an anthology designed to give readers a unique experience, both cohesive and chock-full of variety.

For a better chance to nail this season’s theme and get noticed by our editors–and have a better shot at inclusion in the anthology–here’s the inside scoop about our current season and what we’re looking for.

Season Nine: World Tour

Havok’s ninth season is designed to give readers a taste of cultures from around the world. The majesty of the local geography, the vibe of their urban sprawl, the taste of their unique foods, and the cultural traditions, myths, and fables that shape their outlook on life. As always, we want PG-13 (or less) in terms of graphic violence or sex, and please do your research and show respect to the cultures you explore in your stories.

Overall Tips

  • One of the ways to write about cultures outside your own is to include a character from outside that culture. A visitor, tourist, missionary, stranded traveler, writer on a research trip (ha!), married couple on their honeymoon, fugitive from justice hiding out–pick one! This character can experience the foreign culture and draw their own conclusions about it, giving us a way to write about something new even if we don’t understand it completely.
  • Avoid painting any culture as evil or wrong. If negative aspects are mentioned, balance them with positive ones to show the complexity of human nature. Remember, things that one culture thinks are taboo may be sacred to another.

How to integrate Earth’s many cultures into Havok’s genres

Mystery Monday

  • Investigate a crime committed in the location. Research unusual or unique local laws that a tourist might accidentally break.
  • Have a character confused by puzzling local behavior and then solve the mystery by revealing the cultural traditions behind them.
  • Your character could track down a rare animal or plant (to photograph, to capture, to harvest).
  • Solve a disappearance (works for any location).
  • Tackle a historical or archeological mystery.
  • Your cryptozoologist or paranormal detective is on the case! What are they investigating in this corner of the world?

Techno Tuesday

  • Feature any location in a futuristic setting. What does Egypt look like in the year 2430? Is Japan one giant, multi-island-spanning metropolis 300 years from now? Where on Earth is the world’s first interstellar starport located? How do Scottish farmers react to the advent of alien tourism on their island in 2913?
  • Imagine how innovative technology might solve current problems: economic limitations, industrial challenges, transportation constraints, food availability, etc.
  • What if a local disaster created a unique opportunity? A huge meteor levels a town but provides rare metals that create an economic boom, for example.
  • When a Big Tech company releases mobile AI learning units throughout the world, what interactions may occur? (These AI units may be android-like or kiosks or–use your imagination!)
  • Virtual reality allowed two people from wildly different cultures to fall in love. What now?
  • When an ancient European hunter gatherer (or medieval peasant) discovers a strange device that transports him to the future, where does he end up? What happens?

Wacky Wednesday

  • What unique local cultural tradition or law suggests an opportunity for hilarious misunderstanding?
  • What is something highly prized by locals that an outsider could accidentally break or lose with comedic consequences?
  • When a carefully planned trip goes awry, the jokes just write themselves.
  • In pursuit of a bit of local lore (or cuisine), a character goes to absurd lengths.
  • Your character has good intentions but everything they do to fit into the local culture goes wrong.
  • On a dare, your character does something ridiculous on their visit to….[fill in the location].
  • Research funny stories from exchange students or tourists and use one for inspiration.

Thriller Thursday

  • Someone’s life is at stake. Are they climbing a great mountain? Traveling down the great river? Did they get caught in a huge storm? A stampede? Did they break a local law with dire consequences? Eat a poisonous food?
  • High stakes can be fueled by a countdown. Your character may be rushing to deliver a key ingredient for a high-profile wedding feast or sacred ritual. Your character might be trying to exit the forbidden territory before their trespass is discovered (not to mention they have taken a forbidden item from the area)!
  • A stock broker (or camel seller) has their most thrilling day of trading yet.
  • Your paranormal investigator has traveled a long way to finally meet their match.

Fantasy Friday

  • Explore fables, legends or obscure cultural myths of the area.
  • Take a contemporary fantasy approach and show how a modern-day fairy, wizard, dryad, or shapeshifter keeps their secret identity in that part of the world.
  • Reveal the supernatural forces at work in that part of the world. Which humans are aware of these influences? Who is able to resist them?
  • Your fantasy writer character is surprised to come face to face with the very legend they are researching.
  • Your character experiences something while visiting an exotic locale that cannot be entirely explained by science.

Country Lists by Monthly Theme

Wondering which countries are included in the five regions of our monthly themes? Here you go:

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