Most Important Person

Hopefully each of us has been touched by someone who truly cared and to whom we gave our love. This person might have been a relative, unless you grew up in a dysfunctional family, and then that special one might have been a teacher, boss or neighbor.

Think of the gifts this person gave you. They might be physical, such as a new bike or a longed-for book, but they might also have been emotional, such as love, kindness, unconditional caring.

Your character has also been touched by a special person. Who is that individual? What has she done for your character? In what ways is the life of your character enriched?

Has that most important person passed away or is he still alive? If alive, have the roles now been reversed? Your character now gives to the special person? In what ways?

Your task is to write a scene in which their lives intersect. Remember that we need to feel the depth of the relationship, the love between them (assume that this is not physical love, but rather supportive).

Reread, looking for key words that allow us to see the feelings on display.

Have fun with this one.

Children in the Home

Some people don’t want to have children, but others do. Some only want one child, while others want a whole passel.

Children add complexity to a relationship. They have needs that have to be met, they have interests that need to be enriched, they like and dislike many things. They can be whiny, difficult beings. They can also be charming and pleasant to be with.

Your task is to write a scene in which the protagonist has at least one child. Remember that a good story has tension, so make something happen that causes conflict within the family unit.

Dialogue is important in this task. It would be difficult to show conflict between parent and child without conversation. Also remember that the child’s voice and choice of words need to be appropriate for the age. No adult voice for the child.

Reread. Where necessary, add details. Make changes whenever the child doesn’t speak or behave like a child.

Have fun with this one.

Leap of Faith

Some things are just too good to be true and require us to set aside belief in order to accept what we see. This is called a leap of faith.

Often we leap when reading fantasy for the writer takes us to worlds unknown and we become witness to talents and skills that, perhaps, don’t exist in the real world.

Your task is to write a piece in which you force readers to stretch their imaginations. Take us to a world of wonder, a world in which things happen that defy explanation.

Begin by listing possible occurrences or skills in this world. Recall things you’ve read or seen, but add an original twist to each. Then narrow it down to three or four that you think you can incorporate into a story.

Write, making sure that your world is unique and interesting, that causes us to scratch our heads and wonder if it could be true. You can take us to far off lands, perhaps even into space, or back to the past, to a time in which scientific explanations could not cover all the strange things that occurred.

When finished, reread, looking to see if your story is believable and if there are sufficient details to draw readers in.

Have fun with this one.

Preparing for a Critique Group Experience

You’ve just joined a writing group, workshop or conference in which your work will be critiqued. You will also be asked to read the writing of the other participants and to be prepared to discuss each piece.

To be an active participant, you must do your homework. This means reading each submission with an eye for what works and what doesn’t, but not with a red pen in hand correcting every typo or grammatical error.

What happens if you can’t think of anything good to say? Look harder. It’s your job to recognize each gem with your written comments. It’s easier to talk about what you didn’t like, but if you don’t offer positive feedback, the writer may not hear your ideas for improvement.

Your job is to understand the writer’s goals and to help the writer achieve them. To do this, you must read each piece several times, taking notes each time. When you run across a beautiful description or nice turn of phrase, write. When dialogue works, write. When the setting makes sense, write. When the characterizations work, write. When you are drawn into the story, write. Point out the best parts of the piece and the strengths of the writing.

Be respectful. Make comments that are specific, but.do not be discouraging or so negative that the writer’s eyes fill with tears.

Your task is to take a piece of writing and critique it. Find something online, not your own work. Practice these skills.

Have fun with this one.

Dealing with Death

We don’t like to kill off our main characters. It is a way to bring a book to an end, but not a very satisfying one. Instead we kill off secondary characters that impact the protagonist’s life.

How to incorporate death? Shakespeare was a terrific example of how to write death scenes. Think of Romeo and Juliet. From the very beginning, all kinds of people die. The Montagues and Capulets turn the town into a war zone with sometimes daily street fights. Initially those who succumb are minor characters, but with the death of Mercutio and Tybalt, things change.

The death scenes are dramatic. Mercutio stumbles down steps while he curses both houses and declares that tomorrow the worms will be eating his body. Tybalt dies to conclude a sword fight that, according to perceived skill, he was sure to win.

Then Juliet drinks a potion that makes her look dead. She’s sealed in the family tomb, which then Romeo enters. Seeing her dead, he drinks a poison after holding her hand, commenting on her facial color. He dies. She wakes. She hopes for a drop of poison. Finds none, so stabs herself.

Lots of death in a 2 ½ hour play!

Your task is to write several scenes in which at least one main character dies. First figure out the method. Next craft how quickly the death occurs. Also consider the reactions of others in your story. What impact does death have on them?

Write the story, keeping in mind that emotional states play a huge roll in this segment. Is the death scene serious or comic? Both are plausible based upon the tenure of the story.

Have fun with this one.

Disappointments

We don’t always get what we want. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s one thing if you wish to win the lottery, and then don’t. With the odds stacked against you, you don’t expect to win anyway.

However, what if you put in for a promotion which you felt was your due reward for excellent work, and then the job goes to a colleague with less experience and a poor work ethic? You will be angry, possibly even quit to find work elsewhere.

Your character’s can’t get everything they want either.

Your ask is to write a story in which your character wants something but doesn’t get it. Remember that the readers need to experience the range of emotions that come with desire and disappointment.

Reread. Do emotions come through?

Have fun with this one.

Illusions

Do you have illusions of grandeur? Do you see yourself as the

CEO of a company? Do you imagine yourself inventing a computer application that you then sell for a million dollars?

At what point do these dreams cease to be achievable and fall into the realm of illusions?

Your task is to think of something that your character hopes to achieve. Make it far beyond what might possibly happen based upon your character’s skill set.

Write the story that speaks about that illusion. Perhaps she achieves it, perhaps she doesn’t. The readers will want to see what she does, hear what she says, feel her emotions all along the path.

Have fun with this one.