Family Dynamics

Imagine a family gathering in which a variety of aunts, uncles, cousins and elders mix and mingle throughout the house and backyard. Most of the time pleasantries are exchanged and rules of engagement are followed.

But then someone has a little too much to drink or Johnny pushes Steven off the swing or Aunt Carol’s casserole gets knocked off the counter or someone overhears juicy gossip about themselves. All hell breaks loose, right?

That’s the story that you want to tell. Not the goody-goody everyone’s pretending to like everyone. Readers want to tension, the fights, the nasty words tossed about. We want to see what happens. Who’s involved. The words/actions. Who tries to intervene. Who laughs. Who gets hurt.

Your task is to write a fascinating story about family times that go awry. Remember to include details. The skirt tucked into Sally’s panties. The zipper of George’s slacks that gets stuck. The smell of rancid lettuce rotting in the afternoon sun.

We want good things to happen, sure. If not, the story would be over the top. Give us pleasant happenings, but then an incident that triggers disaster.

Have fun with this one.

Tips to Improve your Storytelling

We are writers. We write because we are compelled to get words on pages. We write whether or not anyone will ever read a single word that we’ve put down.

That being so, when we write, we want to do the best possible job.

Following are some tips how to do precisely that:

  1. Be specific in your choice of words, making sure that you’ve provided clarity.
  2. Make sure that the events you’ve included are relevant and add interest and depth.
  3. Stick to the story that you are telling. Don’t diverge into tangents unless those bits add details that can’t be included in any other way.
  4. Remember that a good story must have good characters that play a role in the plot development.
  5. Choose themes to explore that are universal in nature, such as love, death, bromance, friendships because you want readers to relate to the story plot.
  6. And, of course, bring readers into the scenes by using as many of the five senses as possible, but do so without lumping them all into the first few paragraphs.

Your task is to write a short story incorporating as many of these tips as possible, almost like using a checklist. This might not be the best story, so treat it as practice for future excellent stories.

Have fun with this one.

Forgettable Memory

Not all memories are good ones. All of us can recall at least one incident that embarrassed us, humiliated us or angered us. Or maybe it was something we did that we wish we never had.

Think of the story this could become! Fill in with sensory details and it becomes rich and full of life.

Your task is first to make a list of five events that you wish had never happened. Then choose the one which would be the easiest for you to write about.

When you write, embellish with dialogue and details. There must be tension, so bring in a person that enriches the telling.

Have fun with this one.

Components of a Good Antagonist

You’ve created an awesome protagonist, someone the readers will identify with, root for, cry over and stay with for the duration of the story. The problem is that, without an antagonist, there is no tension. No challenges for the protagonist to overcome.

Come up with an antagonist who is equal in stature with your protagonist. Both have to have interesting backstories. Both must face challenges. Both have worlds around them. What makes the story move is when the stories and challenges intersect.

Just as your protagonist has skills and weaknesses, so does your antagonist. While the readers want your protagonist to be stronger of the two, there has to be enough resistance to make the protagonist work at winning.

Your task is to create an antagonist who is a good match for you character. This individual must be strong enough, talented enough, smart enough to be almost an equal to your character. Someone who will give your character a run for his money. Someone who will resist, who will fight, who will not go down easily.

Put them in a scene in which they will duke it out verbally, or physically if that is your wish. But however the battle occurs, it must be one in which readers will be fascinated by the story and read until the final word. In other words, the two characters must present a complicated relationship that, at the end, allows the protagonist to stand in the spotlight after facing a good fight.

Have fun with this one.

 

A Time When You got Lost

Imagine that you are driving to an unfamiliar place before GPS appeared on your phone. You’ve got a map and so far, everything has gone fine. The exit appeared when you expected it to, the street to turn right on showed up within blocks. But after the left turn, you are not where you were supposed to be.

Instead of office buildings, you are in a housing development where junk litters every yard and groups of young men laze about porch steps. A drunk stumbles down the street, weaving in and out of a row of old cars parked along the curb.

You don’t know what went wrong.

Your task is to tell that story. Your readers will want to be with you, from when you happily left home until that feeling of being lost washes over you.

It’s important to include emotions, for without them, there is no story. We want to feel your happiness, satisfaction, then fear. We want to be with you as you navigate your way out of the mess.

Have fun with this one.

Writing From Experience

Another technique to use when you can’t think of a story to tell, is to write from a specific incident in your life.

For example, write about the time you were betrayed by another. This could have taken place when you were a child, or when you were in high school, or even as an older adult. You want to choose something that had an impact on who you are today.

If you are not writing about yourself, but rather a character in your story, choose an occurrence in her life that would have a comparable impact.

Your task is to first create a list of events that you might be able to write about. For example:

  1. Your first experience in deep water.
  2. The first time someone asked you out and the date that followed.
  3. Your first pet. This can be your initial reaction to it, your feelings over time, how devastating it was when it died.
  4. The time when you met someone who later became important in your life.

Once you have created your list, or working from the one above, write the story. Try to include as many details as you can, making sure that you tickle the senses. If you are writing about yourself, but you really wanted to use the details in a fictional story, then rewrite those parts that change the point of view.

Have fun with this one.

A Special Birthday

Think back in time to a birthday that was unique in some way. Perhaps it was your first party and Timmy Pearson ate so much cake that he barfed all over your Mom’s favorite throw rug.

Maybe it wasn’t your party, but your best friend’s when you were both teenagers. Someone brought a pint of vodka and dumped it in the punch. Everyone got drunk and silly. There was lots of close dancing, kissing and serious making-out.

Maybe your party was ruined when your Uncle Joe showed up, being the bully and braggart that he was, and stole your thunder by making it all about him.

Think of the stories you can tell!

Your task is to write about a special day that either you remember happening to you, or one that you want your character to experience. Details are important, so include foods eaten, drinks consumed, behaviors exhibited.

Dialogue is important so that personalities and interactions rise forth.

Your reader wants to be in the moment, to feel as if they are in the room, seeing and experiencing everything as your character does.

Reread, looking for details that make the story jump.

Have fun with this one.