Flora and Fauna in Setting

            The terms flora and fauna refer to the plants and animals of a particular place at a particular time and are dependent upon the specific region, climate and time period. These environments could be grasslands, redwood forest or savannah.

            Native flora refers to those plants that are to the area. They grow without human help or cultivation. Another category is horticultural flora, plants grown for food or consumption. One example is the giant redwood tree found in Northern California and can range in age from 800 to 1500 years old. A variety of birds and animals life there. 

Another type of plant is found in the deserts of Angola,  one with large leaves that wilt during dry times and swell when there are rains.

            Likewise fauna falls into similar categories. Animals live above and under water, in deserts and in rainforests. They can be tiny creatures like protozoans and large like elephants. They exist in artic tundras and in coral reefs. Specific types of birds must have environments conducive to their life. Same is true for all animals, big and small.

            Your task is to define a setting by its flora and fauna. Make two lists, one for each. If necessary, research what would grow/live in the environment that you are considering. After your list is complete, think of a way that the elements influence story. For example, tusk hunters kill elephants in order to make money to survive. Squirrels remove nuts and fruits from trees before humans can harvest them. Deer eat flowers and leaves.

            Write a story in which flora and fauna play an important role.

            Have fun with this one.

Rebellion

            Imagine a scenario where the citizens are upset with the ruling power. They’ve been tortured, imprisoned, forced to work in unsafe conditions and have little to eat. There is no hope for improvement as long as the current leaders are in power.

            Attempts to negotiate have repeatedly failed. Rumor has it that an assassination is in the works, so armed military patrols the streets. It’s a dire situation.

            Many stories have been written using this scenario as a base for sowing discord. Given a chance to write the story, how would yours differ?

            Your task is to develop a scene in which rebellion is looming. Is it coming within the ranks of the aristocracy or from the peasants? Is it in a single city or throughout the empire? Who is leading the rebellion?  Disenfranchised royals? Defecting soldiers?

            What is the desired result and who would step up and be in charge assuming the rebellion is successful? What changes would be enacted, and would those be acceptable to all?

            How many would die and what weapons would be used? Does magic come into play?

            There are many things to consider to make this story stand out.

            Have fun with this one.

Crimes of Passion

            How far would you go to get what you want? Would you lie to a friend potentially destroying the relationship? Steal from a store knowing that if you got caught, you could go to jail? Date a married person even though it would end the marriage and destroy a family? Cause the overthrow of a government or CEO of a company?

            When emotions run high people often behave in uncharacteristic ways, putting themselves and others in peril. Acting to satisfy an emotional need could lead to crimes of passion. Doing and saying things that put ourselves and others at risk are caused by obsessions, strong emotional responses that overwhelm rational thinking.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character commits a crime of passion. Begin by creating a profile of your character, recording the things that she’s interested in, things she does, the way she acts. Next choose the one that can be expanded into an obsession, a desire so strong that she will ignore warning signs.

            Narrative is important, but so is dialogue, for through conversations personalities are revealed. Tension through danger drives the story.

            Have fun with this one.

Stereotypical Characters with a Twist

            Picture the butler who answers the door. What is he wearing? What does he say and do? We probably all have the same image: he’s an older gentleman with a British accent dressed in a tux with tails. He instructs the visitor to go into the drawing room, and then heads off to summon his master.

            In mysteries the butler is often the top suspect in a murder. Despite the reserved image he portrays, underneath that calm lays an angry, vengeful man.

These are stereotypical characters because they are flat people that fill out the cast. They generally appear in quick bursts then drop into the background. Throughout the telling, these characters exhibit little or no growth and have limited impact on the story arc.

            Now picture the lowly farm boy toiling in the heat of the afternoon dredging soiled hay from the horses’ stalls. What is he wearing? What does he say and do?

            What if the butler gets fired and has to become the lowly farm boy? What if the farm boy is actually the son of a prince in a faraway land? Because the farm boy and the butler experience life-changing events, their impact on the story has gone from being minimal to critical.

            Your task is to write a scene in which what first appears to be a stereotypical, flat character and offer a twist in the plot that belies what the reader thinks to be true. You can use the characters mentioned or introduce a different one. For example, what if the wise old woman lacks skills to be a mentor or the orphan who is thought to be the descendant of royalty really is just a street kid?

            Have fun with this one.

Life’s Journey

            Characters are a product of their life’s experiences. The things they seen and done are major influencers in who they are at the time of the story. From birth, the people in their lives affect what they believe, what foods they eat, the clothing they wear, the attitude to education that they have.

            Imagine a character who grows up in a loving, fostering home. His attitude toward obstacles life presents will be completely different from obstacles that pop up in the life of someone who was abused in some way. It makes sense. In the first situation the character might love challenges and new experiences while the second individual might be fearful and prefer hiding at home.

            When you create a character you need to construct their life’s journey as a background into who they have become. This is different from a character arc. The arc traces the character’s trajectory throughout the story, encapsulating the events that change her as the story progresses.

            The life’s journey shows the path that she walked as the years passed by.

            Your task is to create a life’s journey for a new character that you would like to include in a story. Graph paper might be the best source as it allows for increments of time spaced out in measured blocks. Start at a point when they first event occurred. This could be birth or the first day of school. Add elements that played important parts, both negative and positive.

            When finished, using the data you’ve detailed, write a memoir-like story of his life.

            Have fun with this one.

Searching for Love

            What would you do to find the love of your life? Would you hang out in singles’ bars or join a singles’ club? If a friend tried to set you up with a blind date, would you go? Perhaps you’d sign up for one of those online matching sites? If you heard about an event only for singles, would you go?

            What would you wear? Your normal every-day clothes or a fancy outfit? Hiking boots or polished dress shoes?

            Before the date, what preparations would you make? Haircut, pedicure and nails? Massage or acupuncture? Visit a mystic to hear what might happen in the future?

            Your task is to imagine that you are writing a love story. Work out the details of your character. Think beyond the physical. Consider socioeconomic, education completed, job status, living conditions and personality. What does your character want from a partner? A one-night stand or a long-term marriage? Children and pets? Common interests or differences so as to learn from each other?

            Once you’ve done all the background work, it’s time to write. Establish setting, remembering that place and time period are major considerations. Include narrative and dialogue supported by action. Will this be a love-at-first-sight story or will there be conflict before love occurs?

            Have fun with this one.

Contested Boundaries

All throughout the history of our world rulers have lead incursions into neighboring countries, seizing land, and changing boundaries in order to seize valuable natural resources or to gain access to water routes. Often the battles have been fierce with both sides losing hundreds of warriors.

To the victors went the spoils which included family treasures, verdant fields and the virginity of women. All was justified under the loose definition of what constitutes victory.

Close your eyes and imagine what that world must have been like: living in fear, burying valuables in the fields, constantly running and hiding. What story comes to mind?

Your task is to write a story in which one army invades a country.  First decide the setting, which includes place and time. Equip your army with weapons of war and then send them on their way. Will your army be victorious or not? Use narrative to describe the scene and the action, but include dialogue as well so readers can understand how your characters are thinking and feeling.

Gore is okay if that’s what you want to write, but a humiliating defeat is just as terrible without blood and guts.

Have fun with this one.

Geographical Features

            Geography is the study of places and the relationships with the people who live there. It looks at the physical properties of the Earth’s surface and how those elements affect impact life. It concerns itself with the how and why things are distributed or arranged in particular ways on Earth’s surface and it seeks to understand how things that are located in the same or distant places influence one another over time and why the people who live in them develop and change in particular, and sometimes unique ways.

Geographical features are naturally occurring such as the composition of soil, the height, width and breadth of mountains, the types of clouds that typically form over a given area, and the presence of natural bodies of water regardless of size or shape.

The geography of an area doesn’t just determine whether humans can live there, it also determines their lifestyles in terms of available food and the types of shelter needed to survive the climate patterns throughout seasons.

Because of the impact of geography, it can play a major role in story. A scene set in the mountains of Appalachia will be completely different than one the takes place on a southern California beach.

Your task is to write a scene in which geography affects how your character lives and the choices he makes. Sensory details will be key in establishing atmosphere. Remember to include dialogue, action and narrative.

Have fun with this one.

Anticipation

Your birthday is coming up and you’re aware that a party has been planned. You think you know who’s coming, you wonder if Jesse, a childhood nemesis, will have the audacity to appear.

Anew job opportunity has opened up and if you’re offered the position, it means more money and responsibility, but you’ve got to ace the interview.

There are many events that arise in our lives that cause angst. The anticipation alone makes us sweat, interferes with sleep, and causes our hands to tremble. We rehash possible negative outcomes, analyzing each reaction that we might have.

Anticipation is a complex emotion. It is a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen in the near future that leads to restlessness, difficulty focusing, a sense of uneasiness, and an attempt at avoiding participation in the event. In story form, anticipation can trigger scenes of tension and conflict between characters that alter familial relationships and ruin friendships.

Your task is to write a story in which anticipation plays a major role. Choose a scene in which emotions run high, affecting how the character thinks, acts, speaks. Include narrative and dialogue so that readers can see how anticipating the event influences the story arc.

Have fun with this one.

Choosing the Time Period

Every story exists within a particular time period. Historical novels are normally centered in the past, ranging from the earliest days of man to the near present. Think cave men and last year.

Futuristic stories might be on Mars after its been settled, on a spaceship as it zooms toward a distant planet, or on Earth after an apocalypse.

When a story occurs affects weather, clothing, buildings, communication systems, all kinds of infrastructure issues and many more. If you’re an expert on a particular era, perhaps you don’t have to research to get information, but most of us will have to spend a substantial amount of time gathering data.

Your task is to write a story that takes place in a time period other than now. Begin by listing three different ideas that intrigue you. Choose the one you will enjoy learning more about. Research until you come up with enough information to develop your world.

Include sensory details so that your readers will grasp when and where the events take place, but be careful not to employ an information dump to do so. Weave together story and details, dialogue and narrative.

Have fun with this one.