Awards Won

I was not one of those kids who won things. I never earned a certificate for perfect attendance or for high grades. Girls seldom participated in sports back then, so I never won a ribbon for participation. I didn’t play an instrument, wasn’t artistically gifted and never entered a competition.

I do remember, quite clearly, the first time I did win something. I was ten. My family had gone to my dad’s union picnic. A BINGO game was held for kids.  I didn’t win the first few games, which was no surprise, but I played anyway. The last game was called. My blocks quickly got filled. All of a sudden I realized I had a BINGO! I raised my hand and was instantly recognized. An adult checked my game board. I truly had won! They called me to the front where I was presented with a tiny piece of candy. It didn’t matter the prize, for I had won. That’s all that I could think of.

Your character has probably had some type of similar experience. Ribbons were earned, certificates were given, and promotions handed out. It’s up to you to decide.

Your task is to create a list of awards won. Make sure that the contests match the character’s personality and interests.

Narrow down the list to the most important one, the one whose story you can tell.

Write the story, making sure to include sights, sounds, feelings of the character and others.

When you are finished, reread. Look for places where you can strengthen details.

Have fun with this one.

 

Favorite Toys

Every generation has had unique toys with which to play. My mother loved her handmade dolls and clothes. My father played sports. My generation had board games, models to build and a variety of construction toys, such as Lincoln Logs and Erector Sets. I remember bland green army men that went with the same color tanks and trucks. I had a few dolls, but none of them held my interest.

Your protagonist also played with toys. Depending upon age, those toys might range from the plastic soldiers to 3-D video games.

Our access to toys define us as being of a certain age and socioeconomic status. So it is with your character.

You might have to do a little research, but to complete your task you must create a list of five distinct toys that your character plays with.

Do not just list, but if possible, copy a photo of the toy, preferably in use.

After you have finished, choose two toys that you feel most comfortable including in a scene.

The next part of your task is to write a scene in which the character interacts with the toy. It could be taken from when the character first receives the toy or from a point later in life when the character rediscovers the toy.

Remember to describe the item in such a way that the reader can see it, hear it, even feel it. We want to experience it as fully as your character does.

Have fun with this one.

Reacting to Loss

Last week I misplaced my ID that allows me to participate in activities at the local senior center. Needless to say, I was devastated, for without it, technically I am not supposed to go in the center.

I looked everywhere. The last place I remember it being was in a pocket of my shorts. But which pair? I figured the ones in the laundry, so that’s where I began my search. When I didn’t find it there, I went through the pockets of every pair I own. Then I searched jeans and jackets and sweatshirts, all to no avail.

Granted this is not a huge loss, for I could pay to get a new one. So far I’ve been scooting by the check-in desk with a stoic face. It’s been working as no one has challenged me.

Imagine that your character has lost something important. What would he do? Where would he search? How would he feel?

Some of us react quite strongly to any loss, no matter how trivial. Then when something much more important is lost, panic overwhelms us.

Think about your character’s personality. The reactions that she experiences need to align with the type of person she is. For example, if she is rather laid back, then she might shrug and gone on with life. If she’s more reactionary, then she might become frantic with worry.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character has lost something important. This will most likely be exclusively narrative, so remember to include lots of details. Where possible bring in another character and let there be dialogue that is relevant to the loss.

When you are finished, reread to see if the loss and ensuing search make sense.

Have fun with this one.

The Sadness of Heartbreak

Love is a powerful emotion. It draws us in, lures us into believing that it will last forever. We willingly succumb to its promise of a life-fulfilling dream.

And then tragedy happens. The lover turns out not to be all that wonderful or he suddenly declares that he is no longer interested. She is caught walking arm-in-arm with another or he is rumored to have seduced someone into his bed.

Heartbreak hits and we are so depressed that it’s hard to get out of bed.

Or does it?

Imagine how your protagonist will react when dumped by her lover. Create a list of possible reactions. Try to come up with at least five that make sense based upon your character’s personality.

Choose the one that you find the easiest to write but that also has some juice to it.

Your task is to write the story that shows your character in the thralls of heartbreak.

When you are finished, reread, looking for depth of emotion. You want your readers to feel the pain.

Have fun with this one.

Exhaustion

When we’re tired, we are often cranky and unpleasant to be around. It’s not that we don’t get enough sleep on purpose, sometimes it just happens.

Imagine your character out-of-sorts. What does she say and do? How does she treat others? React to what others say?

Picture him at work or at a bar. What happens when someone criticizes something he just completed or bumps into him in the crowd? Does he hurl insults? Come up fighting? Or does he simmer and walk away?

Your task is to write a scene in which your exhausted protagonist mingles with others. First, think of the scene. Then people it with at least two others, possibly co-workers or maybe random strangers. Lastly put things in motion.

Be true to your character’s personality. A shy person most likely will not explode in a loud tirade, but a boisterous individual might.

When you are finished, reread and edit. Add details, dialogue, action.

Have fun with this one.

 

Collections

When I was young, I loved comic books. Because we had little money, I seldom was able to buy new ones from the store. Instead I yearned for the days when my dad would drive into the city to the used book store.

It was an amazing place! Stacks of books and magazines covered table after table. It would have taken hours to sort through everything, but it didn’t matter to me because I headed straight for the comic books.

For very little money I could exit with an armful of new magazines to read. It was heavenly. The best thing was that I saved the books and so was able to read them over and over again.

When we moved to California I had to leave my collection behind. I was very sad.

What about your character? What does he collect?

Close your eyes and picture his house. What things hang on the walls? What sit on flat surfaces? What is on shelves or hidden away in closets?

These things reveal a lot about the character. For example, when I think of stamp collectors, I think of rather bookish individuals with magnifying glasses in hand. When I think of baseball card collectors I picture athletes in exercise gear.

Your task is to match a collection to your character’s personality. Then write a scene in which he is engaged in his collection. He could be admiring it, talking about it, sorting through it or selling some of it.

When you are finished, reread. What does your writing reveal that you might not have known before?

Have fun with this one.

Recently I attended a conference in Mendocino, CA. One of my afternoon sessions was about memoir writing. While I am not working on memoir, I hoped to learn something or at least be reminded of something that I might have forgotten.

The instructor talked a bit about scene. We all know that a given scene contains time and place. It can be past tense or current tense, or if you are interested in giving it a try, future tense.

Scene must have a purpose, a reason for being. It is going to show us something about the protagonist and maybe at least one antagonist. The opening scene inspires the reader to keep going.

A good writer will include sensory details so that the reader can “see” the scene. For example, are there chocolate chip cookies baking? Imagine the smell, the taste, the melted chips. Maybe the garbage hasn’t been taken out for a while. Imagine that smell and how it makes you feel.

Not all opening scenes have dialogue, but if possible, include some that create conflict or tension.

The main purpose of the opening scene is to ground the reader in place and time.

Your task is to write that opening scene of a story that’s been rattling around in your head. Remember to include sensory details and to create conflict.

Have fun with this one.