Skipping Ahead

You’re on about page twenty in a story that you imagine becoming a full-length novel. You’ve introduced the protagonist and placed her in a sticky situation.

You feel as if the beginning is solid, but a scene comes to mind that you see happening much further ahead. It’s a compelling story, with lots of tension and drama.

You’ve framed it in your notes, but you want to write it now, not wait until you’ve written another one hundred pages.

What do you do?

Write it! Include all the details that have been haunting your thoughts.

Is there a reunion between former friends who parted ways when they went off to college? What do they say or do?

Maybe there’s an accident and the other driver is a former boyfriend who broke her heart when he declared that he loved another. Is he single? Divorced? Just recently out of a serious relationship? Are there sparks between him and the protagonist?

Or perhaps your character is the victim of a crime. He’s lying bloody and beaten on the sidewalk after a group of men stole his wallet.

Your task is to write that scene including as much detail as possible. Include realist dialogue and actions. Develop the scene as fully as possible.

When you are finished, reread it to see if there is drama, tension, intriguing pacing.

Have fun with this one.

The Unexpected Adventure

It’s often fun to go places we’ve never been and do things we’ve never done, but not always.

Imagine what would happen, how you’d feel, if your plans fell apart and suddenly, without warning, you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected adventure.

What would you do? How would you feel? What things might you say? Who would you contact?

Your task is to either choose a character that you have already written or create a new character. Place the character in scene. At first everything goes smoothly, but then something happens that changes everything. Your character finds himself in a new situation, one not of his choosing.

As you write, remember to include sights, sounds, reactions. Does he go along with the change or fight against it? Does he enjoy the new experience or lament that he is not where he intended to be?

As the story proceeds, what happens? Does the character embark on this journey or fight her way back to the original plans?

You’ve got a lot to think about here.

Have fun with this one.

Shake Things Up

You’ve written your story. The protagonist is complete. She faces her fears and wins. Love conquers all. Business is good. The house is purchased and the yards tended.

What more does your story need?

How about bringing in a new character? If your character is a happy-go-lucky fellow, then make the new character a dour, oft-depressed individual.

Say your protagonist is a moody teen, then give him an optimistic classmate who just moved into the school.

Putting together diametrically opposed characters adds tension. They won’t always agree and so will sometimes argue…or ignore each other. Such conflict forces the protagonist to face her innermost fears. It creates turmoil and upsets the story details, often adding interest for the reader.

Your task is to take a piece that you’ve completed. Develop a character that is opposite to your protagonist in at least one major way. Insert that new character into the story in a time and place that surprises the reader. Finish the story, making sure that the new character maintains a place of importance.

At the end the new character can walk away…or the two characters can become lifelong friends. It’s up to what helps the tension in the story.

Have fun with this one.

The Impact of Weather

I am lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where the weather is mild. We think it’s cold if it gets down into the 50s and hot in the 80s. It doesn’t snow here, but occasionally we get sleet or hail. Then we stared, gaped jawed, in amazement.

We don’t have tornadoes or hurricanes either. We can get torrential rain that lasts for a few days and the fog comes in over the Golden Gate Bridge, cooling our nights.

However, people here do stupid stuff when weather impacts driving safety. They’ll drive at 70 mph even though rain splashing off the roadway restricts visibility or when the fog is low to the ground, making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of the car.

They’ll go out in the morning without first checking the weather, so might be caught unaware by cool temps and rain.

It’s not unusual to see vacationers, who thinking SF in the summer will be warm, scrambling to buy sweatshirts and jackets.

Imagine if your character went out in a rainstorm or was foolish enough to walk the beach as a hurricane approached. What might this reveal about your character?

Would the reader consider her foolish or brave?

What if she failed to bring her pets inside when a massive snow storm was approaching? Again, what does that reveal about her and her feelings for animals?

Your task is to create the bio for your character. First of all, taking into consideration where the story takes place, what weather events are likely to occur there. Make a list.

Next to teach item record how your character could react. Don’t just think of logical outcomes, but the illogical as well. Remember that doing stupid things often makes for a more interesting story line!

After you’ve created your list, choose the one event that you feel most comfortable writing. Include sensory perceptions and reactions. Don’t leave out important details that describe not only the weather, but how your character behaves.

Have fun with this one.

Opening Line

We’ve all heard how important the first line of any story is. We’ve written them and then rewritten them a hundred, no, a thousand times and still wonder if it’s good enough.

Here are a few thoughts about opening lines:

  1. Does it create a sense of intrigue or peak the readers’ interest? If not, what can you do to make it so?
  2. Doe it truly reflect what the story is about or does it create a false impression? That first line should “fit” with the story, not just be a lead to grab attention.
  3. Does it allow for an escalation of tension? If not, what needs to change to make it function in that way?
  4. Does it introduce the protagonist? Or does it present the conflict? In some way it has to do these things. If not, the reader will not be interested.
  5. And, as we all know, does it hook the reader and make the reader want to keep going? But…the hook cannot be a false premise.

Your task is to write five different opening lines for a story that’s tumbling about in your head. After this is done, apply the above five thoughts to each of the lines.

Select the strongest line and write.

Try to get past the first page, then stop and reflect on that first line. Is it working? If not, what can you change so that it does?

Have fun with this one.

 

Escape Plans

We’ve all found ourselves in uncomfortable situations. When we do, we have to find a way to extricate ourselves and get away, far away, as fast as possible.

For example, networking in a bar. A young man approaches. He wears jerk across his forehead. He oozes a feeling of superiority. He smirks, winks, opens with a stupid pick-up line. How do you get away?

What if you’re stuck in traffic with only fifteen minutes to go before an important meeting begins? How do you avoid the congestion?

When you are young, being in a classroom can be stifling. You are stuck in a desk for at least an hour, no escape possible until the bell rings. You hate the subject but know you have to do well enough to graduate. How do you stay focused without dreaming about what you’re going to do during break?

Your task is to make a list of possible situations for your character. Each must be appropriate for the character’s age and personality. Try to come up with at least three different ones.

Choose the one that you think you can incorporate into a story. Next make a list of things that your character can do to escape. Again, each must be a viable option.

Once you have narrowed the escape options down to one, then begin writing. When you are finished, reread to make sure that both the situation and the escape plan are realistic.

Have fun with this one.

 

Cultural Background

Often we identify with a specific culture. This impacts how we speak, think, eat and pray.

For example, if you are Hispanic, you might eat a lot of traditional foods, speak Spanish, think in Spanish and attend church services in Spanish.

Then there are people like me that don’t identify with a specific culture. For example, there are relatives in my distant past who came from Germany, Ireland and Prussia, but I don’t consider myself any of those. You could say that I am white European, and I suppose that it does impact a good part of what I do, but I cannot point to any specific activities that define me as European.

When you create a character, you should take cultural background into consideration. It does not have to be a defining characterization and need not be mentioned in the story, but it could be.

Your task is to think of some aspect of yourself that defines you in terms of cultural background. Write about a time when culture influenced an activity in your life.

Have fun with this one.