One Day to Live Again

If given an opportunity, which day in your life would you choose to relive?

Is there a time that you said or did something that you regret? If so, what would you do differently? How would this change the outcome?

We all do things that later cause us grief. It might have been a snide comment in response to being treated poorly by a friend or family member. It might have been an act as simple as not dividing the cake into equal portions and giving someone you were angry with the smallest piece. Granted, this is not a huge event, but it speaks to an underlying tension.

Your task is to write from the heart. Recall a situation that, if given a chance, you would do differently. Begin with the scene. Put us in the moment, whether it is a situation at work or an encounter in a coffee shop.

Choose your character. It can be first person or third. If third, keep the character’s actions as close to what really happened as possible.

Put things in motion. Try to recall the things that were said, the emotions, and the reactions.

Think about how you felt after it was over. For how long were you in remorse? Write about that feeling, wishing that it had never happened.

This will not be a fun activity, but one from which you can learn. Your characters say and do things that they should regret.

Good luck with this one!

Unlocked Doors

Some of us live in areas where no one locks their doors at any time, day or night, whether they are at home or away. Imagine what that must feel like! To know, to believe, that your privacy is protected without benefit of fancy security lights, cameras and companies.

Most of us, however, would not feel comfortable knowing that the doors were unlocked. We would worry about someone coming in uninvited and riffling through our drawers and cabinets.

We would panic at the thought of waking up with someone in our bedroom, looking at us as we sleep. We would have nightmares or possibly be unable to sleep at all.

Bring to mind a character that you would like to write about. What kind of person is this character? Does she tremble at the thought of invasion or is she so confidant in the safety of her neighborhood that she never worries about locking doors?

Your task is to incorporate this in a scene. Be realistic. Safety often depends upon where the person lives. For example, someone living in a high-rise in the downtown of a large city might never feel safe leaving the door unlocked, while someone out in the country might not care if the doors are locked or not. Or maybe it’s the reverse!

Have fun with this one.

A Responsible Person

Many people take care of others. I know of grandparents who watch their grandchildren five days a week while the parents work. I also know of people who have their elderly parents living with them.  In both cases, there is a degree of responsibility that transcends what we consider our responsibility as parents.

For whom is your character responsible? This is an important consideration. Even if your character lives alone, there must be someone in his life that demands attention. Is it a close friend who needs rescue? Is it a parent who cannot manage his finances without supervision? Is it a grown child who is still under the parent’s insurance?

Your task is to create a dependent for a character, then establish the degree of responsibility that the protagonist has for this dependent. Make it substantial in order to bring tension to the story.

Write a scene in which something occurs that tests the relationship. Perhaps someone falls ill, either the caretaker or the dependent. Perhaps someone falls and can no longer live alone. Perhaps someone loses financial independence and cannot afford to stay in her apartment any longer. Perhaps a natural disaster occurs that destroys the person’s home…and both caretaker and dependent have to make other arrangements.

There are many things that can occur that create tension. Your job is to choose one and write about it.

Have fun with this one.

Do-over

Our characters are not perfect. Just like us, they make mistakes.

Sometimes the mistakes are little, like forgetting to buy corn at the store. Sometimes the mistakes are huge, like accidentally saying something insulting about the boss just as she’s walking through the door.

These are the things that our character might want to replay. Next time he goes to the store he’ll make a list. The next time she is angry with the boss, she’ll keep her thoughts to herself.

Your task is to make a list of things that your character would like to do over. Go beyond the trivial. Trivial things are important, but they usually don’t alter lives. Huge mistakes, however, can cost a job, get a person kicked out of an apartment or cause serious injury to someone when distracted while driving.

Try to come up with five major things that are plausible for your character.

Narrow your list down to the top two. Next to each, write what your character would do differently in order to change the outcome. Maybe the outcome isn’t changed; maybe it’s what the character does to make amends.

Finally your task is to write a scene to an existing story in which your character reflects on an action then does something to change the eventual outcome.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

If your character took time to reflect about the things she’s done, what would she think about those decisions? Would she be pleased or would she wish she had done things differently?

Self-reflection should be an important part of your protagonist’s life. If he chose to act in a certain way and it backfired, without self-reflection he might continue along the same path, making the same incorrect choices over and over, never learning from his experiences.

Your task is to choose one of your characters to analyze. Make a list of decisions that the character has already faced or will soon face. Next to each decision, record how it panned out for him.

If every decision works out for the best, ask yourself if this reflects real life situations. Unless she is particularly prescient, I seriously doubt that all decisions end up with positive outcomes.

The next step is to consider what lessons the character takes from each decision made. Self-reflection should be a huge part of this step. How can you show her thought processes?

This will not be an easy task, but it will give you insight into the inner makings of your character.

Have fun with this one.

Weather Problems

No matter how much we would like it to be, skies are not always blue.

Clouds turn the world dark gray. Winds blow. Rain pours. Snow falls. Visibility drops and roads turn treacherous.

Your stories need to reflect real life.

Your task is to take a piece that you have written and add in the weather. Go beyond sunny days and clear blue skies.

Perhaps put your protagonist in a low-visibility situation where the roads are slippery. Think about how your protagonist would react.

Have fun with this one.

Childhood Experiences

While we might not be writing about the childhood of our protagonist, but we must take into consideration what type of childhood the individual experienced.

For example, a child who was surrounded by love, nurtured and encouraged to explore different ideas, will grow into a different adult than one who grew up in negativity, in chaos, in fear.

Your task is to select at least one of your characters and create a bullet list that details the kind of life that person had as a child and teen. On one side, list the experiences. On the other, the effects. Try to list at least ten things.

The third thing to consider is whether or not the individual has moved beyond any adverse effects. If the character has, how did the person so this?

Once you’ve completed your task, then select a scene to rewrite, taking into consideration what the character experienced growing up. You don’t need to mention the events, but keep them in mind as your character negotiates the day.

Have fun with this one.