Keeping a Journal

Many writers find it helpful to carry a journal around so as to be able to record things they see, feel, hear, taste, sense.

In terms of images, one way to accomplish this is to stop periodically and observe. List in phrases everything that comes to mind. Notice textures, colors, designs, sounds and contrasts. For example, the sun is shining but it is pouring!

At this time it is not important to analyze your observations, but to record them.

Your task is to take a walk at least once a week. You can cover the same territory every time or seek out different places. As you walk, stop and write. What colors are the leaves, if there are any? What noise does the wind make? Birds? Is there water trickling or rushing?

Next go online and bring up images that correspond to your recordings. Save them in a special file.

When you look at the images, what emotions rise to the surface? Contentment or unease? Why? Is there an incident in your past that relates?

Write a scene using at least three of the images you have saved. Reread looking for details and emotions.

Have fun with this one.

An Activity for when you are Stuck

Freewriting is an excellent activity when your mind is drawing blanks. Sometimes all you need is a word(s) to stimulate a story or memory.

Your task is to:

  1. Make a list of between ten and fifteen words that may or may not be related.
  2. Word choices might have something to do with sights, sounds, tastes, textures in your known world, or in a world that you want to create.
  3. Narrow the list down to seven to ten words that you feel you can incorporate in your writing.
  4. Write for at least ten minutes, using each word in its own sentence.
  5. When finished, remove all but one word, the one that calls to you.
  6. Write a short narrative that focuses on the feelings and images that your word inspires.

If you now have something that you can expand into a story, well, good luck!

Have fun with this one.

Being Brave

Some people are naturally brave. They climb trees without fear of falling. They strap on skates and speed down bumpy sidewalks untroubled by the possibility of breaking bones. They challenge their teachers, and then when older, their boss. Are they brave or foolhardy?

There are many of us how exercise caution at all times. We look one way, then the other, and then back again before putting a tentative foot in the pedestrian crossing. We double-tie our shoes and carry backpacks on our fronts. We sit at the rear of crowded rooms trying to blend in. Perhaps we are overly cautious, or perhaps we understand that plowing through life can be a bit dangerous.

Which type of person are you? What about your character?

Your task is to write a story about a time when you or your character did something requiring bravery for the first time. It could be when you stood up for yourself when a teacher falsely accused you of cheating. Or maybe when your date took you rock climbing without knowing your fear of heights.

As you write make sure to include the emotional details. We need to know who you are and how you are feeling. First you need to establish what is considered the “normal” world of the character. We need to understand who this individual is before experiencing that moment when she stands up for herself the first time.

Have fun with this one.

 

 

Focus on Space

            Look about the room in which you are currently in. What’s on the walls? What kind of furniture? Does everything match or is it a hobnob collection? Is it comfortable or functional?

Think about another space, such as workplace or favorite coffee shop. Picture them in your mind. How would you describe them?

Imagine that you are in a space that holds memories, either good or bad. How did the room smell? What triggered your emotional reactions? Did the quality of light affect your feelings?

Your task is to write a story, either real or imagined, that takes place in the space which most resonates with you. People it with folks that interact with you or your protagonist.

Include not just descriptions, although they are important to setting the tone, but also dialogue that evokes the emotions that you want to resonate.

Reread looking for places where you can add additional details and conversation.

Have fun with this one.

“First” Weather Event

This is a good activity whether you are writing about yourself or about your character.

Working from your memory can often become fodder for a greater story, or a chapter in a novel. It’s been written that we should write what we know, so what better place to begin than from things we experienced?

Your task is to make a list of “firsts” in terms of weather. For example, the first snowfall, first tornado warning, first flood. Do you see any themes running through them all? Think about your feelings as you were in the midst of each. Think about your reactions, whether they be fear, joy, or even the no-reaction.

Which makes the best story? Choose that one and write.

Remember that it can be memoir or fiction.

Reread looking for emotional reactions and details.

Have fun with this one.

The First Step

As the topic of a story is formulating in your mind, you must come up with the  the probing question that the story is going to solve.

For example, in a coming-of-age story  a teenager desires to be included in the popular group. The question might be “How do you join a group when you are an outsider?”

The quest for an answer drives the character’s motivation. At the end either the protagonist is now a part of the desired group or has come to an epiphany that membership is not what she really wants.

What if the main character sees an injustice in society and wants to correct it. The  moral question would be “How do I motivate others to help me and what steps do I take to make things right?’

The character sees kids going hungry which impacts their ability to learn. How will the protagonist provide healthy meals on a consistent basis?

Another question is motivation. What happened to the protagonist that made her see the problem/issue? Why does she feel the need to correct the situation? What knowledge does she have that allows her to be the organizer?

Your task is to create a situation in which your character has a burning moral question that he is compelled to satisfy. First, define the question. Then make a list of possible solutions.

Establish the society in which the character lives, works, plays. Put things in motion and see what happens.

Reread. If you are satisfied, great. If not, what changes need to be implemented?

Have fun with this one.

What did the Villain do?

If you’re a fan of thriller books and movies, you’ve seen a lot of evil. There’s always at least one villain who plans and executes a crime against an individual or a group of people. Sometimes people die. Sometimes they are horribly maimed. Sometimes they suffer life-changing mutilations. In all cases the victims suffer.

Your task is to choose a modus operandi for your villain to put into operation. Makes sure it is something that your villain has the capability and knowledge to execute. For example, if your villain is strong, then a murder by strangling, stabbing or beating is plausible. If electronics are involved, then the villain must have technological knowledge. If firearms are involved, the reader might need to know how the villain learned to shoot.

Here is a list of possible crimes. Choose on that you feel most comfortable putting in a story.

___ smoke inhalation              ___ beaten to death                ___burying alive

___ drowning (intentionally)  ___ hanging                            ___killing by machine gun fire

___poisoning                           ___ pushing in front of train  ___ running down with car/truck

___ shot with pistol/rifle         ___ slit throat/slashing            ___smothering

___ single stab/multiple stabbing                                            ___strangling

As you write, remember to include not just details, but emotions. We need to feel the villain’s and victim’s emotions.

Have fun with this one.