Perfect Strangers

Recall a time when you interacted with a stranger. Was it while standing in line at the grocery store? Going through security at the airport? Asking advice at a bookstore?

Was it a positive experience?  If so, why? What occurred that allowed you to feel good about the interaction?

Did you initiate the conversation? If so, what words did you use?

Your task is to place a character in a comparable situation. She is out and about. She runs into someone she doesn’t know, most likely will never see again, yet strikes up a conversation.

Be sure to describe the scene in sufficient detail that we hear the sounds, smell the smells, taste whatever is being offered, but not so much detail up front that the story never gets started.

Give us emotions. Fear? Dismay? Pleasure? But not all at once. Allow us to travel the range of emotions as the character experiences them. Much of this will have to take place in dialogue form.

Then give us a satisfactory ending.

Have fun with this one.

Complex Characters

When creating a character a good place to begin is to create backstory. Include the basics such as complete name (if named after someone or if name has significance to family), age (incidents at birth, toddlerhood, teen years), occupation (something he enjoys or hates?), marital status (looking? Engaged? Committed? Divorced?) and residence (city, state, country, type of dwelling, owned or rented or leased, living with someone and relationship to others in the house).

Wow! That’s a lot of information, most of which you will never use. As detailed at that is, however, it will not create the type of complex character that interests readers. Complexity often comes through a weaving together of villain and protagonist, a melding of relationships and story.

We might meet the villain first, see him doing something rather ordinary such as cooking a meal or carrying a load of lumber at work. He might be a grouch or overly pleasant, a sycophant or misogynist. Now we don’t like him as much. In fact, he is grating on our sensibilities.

Your task is to have your character come up against the villain for the first time. Is there friction? Or do they bond over drinks? Remember that there must be tension, so does something happen that angers the villain or terrifies the protagonist? Make it interesting so that your character becomes a complex individual.

Have fun with this one.

The Issue with Changing our Minds

Picture a person who has opinions, but then, after listening to someone with different ones, changes her mind. What feelings does that incite in you? Do you think she’s awesome for taking into consideration what others say?

Or do negative connotations come to mind? For example, what does it mean to be wishy-washy or a flip-flopper?

Your task is to place a character in a situation where his opinion on a given subject is revealed, then challenged. Perhaps one of the best ways to establish this is through dialogue rather than narrative.

In what types of social situations do people discuss issues that might create tension between opposing beliefs? That’s where your character needs to be.

Make sure that the discussion gets heated. Readers would get bored if your character isn’t passionate or doesn’t get agitated when challenged. Perhaps think about how you react. That might be a good starting point for your story.

Have fun with this one.

Time to Quit

Are quitters really losers or is there a good reason to walk away? Is it more important to stick with something than to admit that it doesn’t appeal to you? This is something that people grapple with daily.

No one wants to been seen as a loser, someone who drifts from one activity to another, mastering none. When applying for a job, future employers might not consider a talented hire someone who has spent a few months working at one job and then another.

Your task is to create a character who either is a serious quitter, someone who has tried a variety of things and given up, or someone who hates what he’s doing but won’t quit for fear of being seen a loser.

Write from your heart, taking into consideration your beliefs about quitting. Put your character in a situation that is familiar to you, perhaps something that you have experienced.

Remember to include emotional details, for it is with the heart that these types of difficult decisions are made.

Have fun with this one.

A Thoughtful Gift

What goes through your mind when you choose a gift for someone?

Do you think of what kinds of things the person likes and already owns? Do you try to come up with something she’s never had before to the best of your knowledge?

What items do you look for? Food? Clothes? Doodads? Tickets to the theater, concerts or sports events?

Or do you rush into a store and pick up the first thing that you see, especially if it’s on sale, telling yourself that she’ll probably return it anyway?

Your task is to delve into this situation with a character. First establish the givee. Who is this person? What is he like? Is he picky or accepting? Grateful or greedy? Does he have varied tastes or only likes certain items? When you’ve given him gifts before, has he been gracious or rude?

Once you’ve established background, create the situation in which gifts are to be given. Wedding? Birthday? Anniversary? Promotion? Open house?

Next come up with at least one gift giver. Establish their relationship and put the story in motion. It’s important that we see the emotions as they happen. Think about word choices, facial expressions and what happens to the gift during the occasion.

When you reread, look for places where details don’t come clear enough. Edit.

Have fun with this one.

Take a Walk

Where do you get ideas for scenery? Take a walk!

Begin by checking out your neighborhood. Listen to all the sounds you here. Children playing. Adults laughing. Dogs barking. Trucks backing up. Music playing. Write it down.

What trees grow there? Are they in bloom? Growing fruit? How ripe is the fruit? Is anyone growing veggies in their side yard? Which kind? How many?

Flowers. Some people grow them, others don’t. Make note of what yards look like that have gardens. Are they neatly trimmed or massy, filled with weeds.

Your task is to record what you see, hear, and smell than use that information to write a story. Include details that give a dose of reality to the story.

When finished, reread, looking for places where you can expand description to add depth.

Have fun with this one.

Discovering Your Talent

Everyone is good at something, right? Are you a musician, writer or mechanic? Do plants bloom under your care? Can you design cards for all occasions? Organize messy closets? Sort through things you haven’t used in ages and part with them?

Maybe you’re not creative or good with your hands. Perhaps your talent is in the patience you have when faced with difficult situations. Maybe it’s your ability to understand the emotions of others. Is it that once you sign up for something, you give it 100%?

There are those who pitch in and o whatever is asked, even when the task is unpleasant. Or, maybe it’s your gumption, your determination to push on even through difficulties that might stump others in their tracks.

Your characters have skills and talents as well and it’s up to you to reveal them so that readers know a different side of those characters. It adds dimensionality and therefor builds interest.

Your task is to write a story, either real or made up, in which a skill is revealed through action. It might be useful to include dialogue as a way of spurring your character to participate, in whatever way she can, in an activity.

Remember to include emotions in order to increase tension. We need to see your character in t5he decision-making process as well as in the process of doing the activity.

Have fun with this one.