Fruitless Search

            Have you ever spent a great amount of time looking for something only to find that it wasn’t there? What emotions did you experience? Anxiety, frustration or perhaps even relief if what you searched for wasn’t something you really wanted to find.

            Every writer knows that their protagonist has to want something from the onset of the story. The goal is to find it, buy it, unveil it, at all costs. During the search, the character goes through a series of trials, some benign, others quite dangerous. The vast majority of stories end with success. Whatever it was that the character wanted at the beginning has been secured.

            But what would happen, how would the story change, if instead of achieving his goal, the character fails? If he was optimistic as he set off on his search, what is he feeling at the end? If he was pessimistic at the onset, not really wanting it but setting off on the quest anyway, is he relieved when it eludes him?

            Your task is to write the story of the dead end. Your protagonist wants something so badly that she immerses herself in the search. Trials appear that slow her down. At the end, she cannot find that which she desired.

            Description is important, but to be able to understand what your character wants, include dialogue. He has a companion on his journey, or she meets up with friends and shares her exploits.

            Have fun with this one.

Delivering the Eulogy

Delivering the Eulogy

            When we lose someone we love, whether it be human or animal, our grief can be quite profound. We go through a series of emotions, from shock to grief to acceptance. Unfortunately we are still deep in the first two when we are asked to eulogize the individual.

            What memories do you share? Do you speak about the time Spot stole the neighbor’s underwear from her clothesline or do you bemoan all the walks you didn’t have the time to take?

            Should you begin with a funny incident from a person’s life to cheer things up a bit or stick to the most solemn moments that you recall?

            Imagine that your character has lost someone that he loves. Perhaps he’s not comfortable with public speaking, but because he knew the individual well, he is the most qualified to deliver the eulogy.

            Begin by deciding who died. If it’s a person, what is the relationship between the two? How close were they? What things did they do together?

            If it’s an animal, when did the critter come into the character’s life? In what way did the animal impact the character? What kinds of things did they do together?

            Your task is to write the story of death and eulogy. Include both description and dialogue. Make sure your readers feel the emotions of the character. And that you’ve set the scene with relevant sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.

In the Listings

            The next time a flyer for an open house arrives in your mail, save it. Look at it carefully, studying the layout, the furniture, the decorations. If it’s within driving distance, go take a look. Check out the neighborhood. How far apart are the lots? How close are the nearest schools? What types of businesses are nearby?

            Attend the open house so that you can walk through the rooms and step into the backyard. If photos are displayed, check them out. Who lives here? A family? A group of friends?

            What stories would they tell if you could interview them?

            Using your imagination, write an interesting story that takes place in this house. Is it a murder mystery? An invasion of pests? A romantic-comedy? Ghosts floating about?

            There needs to be tension for the story to be interesting. Begin by mapping out your characters. What do they want? How hard are they willing to work to get it?

Include both description and dialogue. Maintain a good pace so that the story does not get bogged down.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

            Sometimes it’s good to look back over the things we’ve said and done. It gives us a new perspective as to whether we should have approached a given situation differently or if what we did still feels okay.

            If we would change things, how would we do it? Would we walk up to the person and apologize? Send an email? Text? The method we choose might affect the outcome in ways that we hadn’t foreseen.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character realizes that she didn’t behave the way she should have. She then contacts the injured party to try to make amends.

            This should be a tension-filled situation. Your character has no idea how the other person will react. She’s going to be nervous and possibly rehearse what she’s going to say. She might practice with a trusted friend before the meeting.

            The other person could accept the apology with grace or could strike out with hurtful words. Both scenarios work because sometimes we need a feel-good ending.

            This situation calls for dialogue and body-language. Include sensory details so that readers know exactly where the meeting takes place.

            Have fun with this one.

Helping Hand

            Everyone needs a little help now and then. Perhaps while driving on the freeway your car gets a flat. Do you change it yourself or call for help?

            You see a senior citizen struggling with two heavy bags. He smiles and you offer to help. The man’s shoulders relax after you’ve relieved him of his burden.

            How we ask for help, how we react when help is given says a lot about us. Imagine the car driver barking into her phone, demanding a tow truck driver drop everything to come to her aid. What if the senior citizen yelled instead of being grateful? How would these reactions change the giver or receiver?

            Your task is to write a story in which a helping hand is needed or offered. Begin with a plausible situation, perhaps something you’ve experienced somewhere along the way.

Identify your protagonist’s personality, which is the key factor in determining how she behaves.

Establish the setting so that readers know where the event is taking place. Put your characters into motion. Use both description and dialogue to bring the story to life.

Have fun with this one.

Magical Realism

Magical realism is a literary genre in which the world in which the story takes place, is realistic, with normal beings, places and objects. However, there is an undercurrent of magic or fantasy in which the line between the worlds in blended. For example, magical or supernatural phenomena exist in a setting that the author does not invent.

            Fairy tales are a good example because the characters live in houses, eat food, wear the clothes of the times, but something happens, an invasion of that reality, that changes the overall story arc. Characters have traits such as levitation, telepathy or telekinesis that they employ to get what they want, influence people or outcomes, or entertain and bedazzle others.

            Imagine flying carpets, bowls that dance and ghosts that haunt an occupied home.

            Your task is to write a story that incorporates some degree of magical realism. Begin by choosing what type of magic exists in the world, whether or not it can be controlled, and who, if anyone, can manipulate the magic.

            The story can be serious with potentially deadly outcomes or have a bit of humor when things/objects act in ways that do not occur in the real world.

            Have fun with this one.

The Lie

            Most of us knows someone who lies on a regular basis. He lies about big things and small, at work and at home. He lies to his friends, family and peers at work. He cannot help himself.

            Most of his lies seem minor, but when added together, he becomes an untrustworthy person. If he says he ate at Boudet’s, the most expensive restaurant in town, or that he dated Cheryl a few years back and he dumped her because she smelled. No one believes him, laughs it off, and walks away.

            But when he lies about a job that he didn’t finish, or blames someone for losing his work, those lies affect not just his peers, but his company.

            Your task is to write a story in which a lie impacts a number of people and possibly affects the outcome of a situation. Take into consideration what the liar will do to try to hide the lie so that the truth is never revealed.

            Dialogue is important for readers will want to hear the liar repeating his story over and over. Description is critical for readers need to see, hear and feel the reactions of the liar and those to whom he lies.

            Have fun with this one.

Chance Encounter

            Some of us are outgoing and enjoy talking to complete strangers. We relish every opportunity to meet others, share stories and seek common ground.

Others of us find such meetings intimidating. We avert our eyes, turn our heads and walk quickly away.

What happens, however, when you run across someone you don’t know when you are alone in a situation that allows for no escape? For example, you’re hiking in a local park, enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing as you walk up and down hills. That is until someone you’ve never seen before comes up from behind or appears on the horizon?

There’s no place for you to go to avoid the individual. Think about what emotions you experience as you go over what limited options you have.

Your task is to write a story in which your character finds herself in such a situation. Begin by establishing the setting and her feelings about being there. Let readers walk along with her, seeing what she sees, hearing what she hears, smelling what she smells and feeling the dirt beneath her feet.

Suddenly the stranger appears. Readers want to know what she experiences at that moment in time.

Assume dialogue takes place. Who initiates it and what do they talk about? When it’s time to continue their separate journeys, how does she feel as the stranger leaves?

Have fun with this one.

Water Cooler Gossip

            Imagine the scene: a group of employees gathered around the cooler, sipping on ice water, sharing news about everyone that wasn’t in the group. They speak of divorces, poorly behaved children, who’s cheating on who and who’s lost money on the stock market. Then there’s the subject of who isn’t doing their job, who’s spending too much time flirting with the boss, and who’s up for promotion. So much gossip, so little time.

            Change the scenario to a group of parents standing outside the school waiting for their kids to emerge. What stories do they share? Who’s being talked about and why?

            These are the scenes that can make for a juicy story. There’s tension and drama. Dialogue and description. Cattiness and seriousness. So much opportunity waiting to be told.

            Your task is to write the water cooler scene. People it with enough characters to make for a lively discussion, but not too many for you to handle. Make sure that their disparate personalities and interests come forward.

            You might have them focus their energy talking about one individual, making for an easier writing. Or, if you’re feeling brave, allow the conversation to cover a wide variety of topics.

            Have fun with this one.

Phobias

People are afraid of all kinds of things, but most notably, creatures that silently creep about. Often such creatures have hairy legs, drop from ceilings, and build sticky webs. They might hide in shoes and then sting when you try to put shoes on. They might slither about the garden or in between corn stalks or hang from trees waiting for someone to pass by.

Some are afraid of heights, water, flying or riding in elevators. Many are terrified of going new places and trying new things.

If the phobia is mild, the person might take a deep breath before doing that which they fear. However, if the phobia is extreme, a person might lock themselves inside a dark house and refuse to leave.

Your task is to write a story in which a person’s phobia has a major impact on his life. Find a way to reveal the phobia without telling the readers exactly what it is. Setting development is critical, for it is the location that will show readers not only what the character fears, but how she reacts when confronted with it.

Have fun with this one.