The Big Proposal

Do you recall the day that your significant other proposed? Where did it happen? How did you react? What did you tell others after it happened?

Some of us prefer quiet, gentle proposals while others want something huge and dramatic. Imagine the proposal on the jumbo-tron at a baseball game. What if you weren’t in love with that person? With thousands watching, if you decline, think of the resounding hiss!

Your task is to write the story that shows the scene played out, in glorious details, for your chosen protagonist. You can choose to write from the POV of the one doing the proposing or the one being asked. Readers will want to see it played out from inception of the idea to the end result.

One place to begin is by making a list of potential scenarios. Think from minimalistic to grandiose. Narrow it down to the one that you feel most comfortable writing, the one that best suits your character’s personality, the one that makes the most exciting scene.

Have fun with this one.

Hit Refresh

Have you ever wanted to get a new start? Let’s say that a relationship that you’d like to develop began with you saying or doing something dumb. If you could get a do-over, what would change?

Think back to when you began your current career. If you could, would you go back and head in a different direction? If so, why? What choice would you make today?

Just as you might enjoy getting a fresh start, so will your protagonist.

Your task is to imagine a scene that went badly. Write it, in all its gory details. How does your character react to the choices she made? As she reflects, what plan of action does she come up with to change the trajectory of her poor decisions?

Write that as well. Readers will want to suffer with her as she analyzes what she did that’s upsetting and as she attempts to make things right. Details are crucial. Readers want to see her face turn red, hear the pace of her breathing change, feel her tears as she suffers.

When you are finished, reread looking for tension, conflict, reflection and change.

Have fun with this one.

Reflections or Resolutions?

Every year at this time we torture ourselves by setting goals to achieve in the coming year. We intend to stick to them, for at least a week, then chastise ourselves when we fail.

What if we chose to reflect over what we did or didn’t do over the past year? How much more helpful would that be?

For example, I could set a goal to lose ten pounds. Or I could revel in the fact that I lost fifteen! Which would be more inspiring? Which would encourage us to push forward?

Your task is to decide which to choose for yourself or for your protagonist. This might not be a long scene as it merely sets the stage for what is to come. Instead write about the thinking process that your character goes through.

A little dialogue would help. Imagine two characters interacting and evaluating each other’s process. That could create tension especially if one character regales the other over repeated failures despite setting the same resolutions every year.

Have fun with this one.

Chasing Dreams

I used to tell my students that everyone has dreams unless they’re dead. I’m not sure they understood my meaning, but every now and then I’d get a chuckle.

There is truth to the statement, however. We dream about all kinds of things: the perfect car, making friends, winning a game, buying a house. Hopefully we accomplish some of our dreams for it would be sad if we didn’t.

Your task is to establish a series of dreams that your character holds dear. Winnow the list down to the one you feel most comfortable putting into a story. Remember that readers want to share the emotional journey that the protagonist experiences as she progresses from dreaming to accomplishment. Or failure.

Have fun with this one.

Tis the season, right? Stores are stocked with wondrous items that everyone you know must want. Commercials air hourly enticing you to wish for, to yearn for, that special something that only a loved one can give.

You can’t escape the pressure. You are expected to surprise folks with the best gift, handpicked just for them. You spend hours agonizing over ads, magazines and online sites. And then you wait for a gushing thanks.

Imagine your character going through this process. Where does he look? How hard does he search? How soon before the big date does he shop? What does he buy?

Your task is to write the story of the search, the choice and the giving. Remember that there must be tension to have a viable story, something that someone wants to read. To do this, think of all the things that can go wrong. Perhaps the item is out of stock and won’t be available until too late. Or maybe the correct size in the perfect color is sold out.

And then there’s the emotional impact of choosing. What goes through his mind? How anxious is he?

Will the recipient open the gift in the giver’s presence? That might change the choice of gift as well as increase tension.

Have fun with this one.

Welcome Home

After being away from home, who greets you at the door? A child? Spouse? Beloved dog? Maybe a neighbor or a renter?

How does it make you feel to be loved so much that someone waits for your return?

Now think about your protagonist. Close your eyes and visualize who greets her.

Your task is to write that story. Your readers will want to see the details and feel her emotions. They yearn to experience what she’s going through, down to the smallest detail. For example, does the puppy pee on the floor? The cat rub her legs? The birds chirp loudly?

Perhaps not only happy things occur. Maybe someone left a message on the answering phone that a relative is gravely ill or has died. Or that they are coming for a surprise visit arriving in an hour. How does you character react to those bits of news?

Remember that all stories need conflict and tension, so while writing the happy arrival story include some piece of conflict.

Have fun with this one.

Staying up Late

When I was in high school I obsessed over grades. I stayed up all night, many nights, reviewing material for tests and quizzes. Although I was exhausted the next day, I believed that the effort paid off.

In college I continued the behavior. Was I always mentally sharp? Probably not, but I was so anxious about not doing well and fearful of losing my scholarship, that I continued.

Think of a time that you stayed up. What was the reason? The outcome? Did you accomplish what you hoped to? Did you do it just once or many times?

Now think of the story you can tell.

Your task is to write a story in which your character stays up all night doing something. Remember that a story needs conflict and tension, so how are you going to include those? Could there be a near-accident? Lecture from a parent? Too sleep-deprived to walk across campus?

Make the details compelling enough so that your readers will want to read to the end.

Have fun with this one.