The Effects of Isolation

People, are by nature, social beings. We love spending time with those we care about. Even when forced to interact with casual acquaintances or workmates, we can find someone that has something in common with us and enjoy each other’s company.

What happens when we are isolated for some reason? Sickness forces us to confine ourselves to home. Even if we live with family, we will shut ourselves up on a bedroom, limiting contact and hopefully exposure. For how long can we tolerate isolation before it impacts us negatively?

Picture a person with poor social skills who lacks friends. What does he do? How does he spend time? What goes through his mind?

What about victims of crime who are locked into cells? Prisoners held in isolation from the rest of the population?

Think of the stories you can tell.

Your task is to create an individual who is apart from society. You might want to do some research into the psychological effects of isolation. Read a few case studies. Then make a bullet-point list of a reason that your character is isolated and how she reacts.

Write the story. Make sure there is conflict and tension. Perhaps your character is teased or tortured in some way. Maybe she is ignored or ridiculed.

When you are finished, reread and rewrite, adding in sufficient details to increase tension.

Have fun with this one.

 

Opening Doors

Think of all the times that doors have opened in your favor. I’m not just referring to physical doors, but the literal ones as well. For women it was breaking through the glass ceiling and being hired to do a job traditionally seen as a man’s. A good example is our Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was admitted to a law school that had never before had a female student. Imagine how hard she fought to get there and to remain there.

Our characters also pass through many doors in their lives. It could be making it through the first job interview to get hired at a fast food joint. Or maybe it was when they were chosen as a soloist in the church choir.

Your task is to think of several doors that opened in one of your character’s lives. Begin by making a short list of at least five things. Next to each record why that door was important and also how it changed that person’s life.

Choose the one that you feel most comfortable writing about. Tell the story, remembering to include sensory details. We want to feel the anxiety before, during and after waiting for the door to open. We need to walk in her shoes as she goes through the process.

In order to make it more interesting, put obstacles in the way. Perhaps the door is far from home or the door opens at an inconvenient time. Maybe there is rejection at first, followed by disappointment, which then turns to joy.

Have fun with this one.

Free Time

Some listen to music while others hike up steep hills. Some garden while others paint. Some write letters. Take long walks with friends. Read a book. Design cards. Eat out. Go to movies or the theater.

No matter how obnoxious the character, at some point he relaxes with a preferred activity, so give him one. It would be more startling if the activity is in direct conflict with the character’s viciousness. For example, a serial killer cuddling up with a tiny kitten. Or a bank robber playing Mozart on a grand piano.

All of your characters need to have at least one preferred leisure activity. We need to see them not just at work, but doing something that allows them to break free of the hassle of their work lives.

Your task is to select a character that you know and love. Make a list of at least five different activities that she would enjoy. Choose some that require physical activity, some that require some degree of skill or talent, and some that almost anyone can do.

Choose one of them to incorporate in a scene.  When you write, allow us to see your character relaxed, enjoying the activity. Allow us to feel what she feels, see what she sees, hear what she hears.

Somewhere during the activity, let there be an interruption. Have her react appropriately. Is she annoyed? Angry? Or does she welcome the distraction?

When you are finished, reread looking for the emotional reactions.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Compassion

The way you think about yourself influences the decisions you make and the things you do. It affects confidence levels which can either reduce or increase the likelihood of you trying new experiences.

Often our self-compassion comes to us as a voice in our head. What does yours tell you? What does it sound like? Is it male or female? Is it encouraging or discouraging? Does it inspire you or tear you down?

If you think of yourself in a kindly manner, you treat yourself with respect, kindness, compassion and with acceptance, even though you might not be as perfect as you would like to be someday.

Your task is to write about yourself. Imagine that you are with a good friend and you are feeling a little down. What would you like that friend to say or do? What is the likelihood that the friend will say anything? What is in that friend’s personality that controls how they will react to you?

Your scene is most likely imaginary, but it doesn’t have to be. You can write about something that happened as a nonfiction story or you can add fictional elements that switch the story to one that you wish had happened.

As you write, ask you friend to treat you with kindness, compassion and caring.

When you are finished, ask yourself if you could treat yourself this way. If not, why?

Have fun with this one.

Sing Your Praises

We are amazing people. We do fabulous things. We create, cook, design. We play sports. We exercise. Socialize. Relax.

We are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles. We are good friends. We are loyal to a fault. We take care of others. We offer emotional and financial support.

However, no matter how wonderful we are, we don’t sing our own praises. We sit back and wait for others to compliment us. Sometimes this happens as part of a conversation in which a few kind words are dribbled out. Sometimes it never happens.

Your task is to write a missive to yourself that compliments you in all ways possible. Be generous and kind. Leave nothing out, no matter how trivial.

One way to do this is in list format. Close your eyes and picture yourself on a typical day. Write down at least one thing that you do that could be considered praiseworthy. Write it down. Then think of one more. And another and another.

Work on this list for several days. Don’t worry about connectedness between items.  Don’t worry about organizing them in any way, Just write.

When you think you have a complete list, then organize items in some type of logical way.

Write.

When you are finished, reread. Add more items. Delete others. Expand some.

Have fun with this one.

Positive Comments

Imagine that you have three good friends. You’ve known each other for many years. You’ve traveled together, eaten together, shopped together. You’ve shared many wonderful moments and overcome difficulties that might have separated others. Through thick and thin you have remained friends.

What would they say are your most positive characteristics? Think beyond the obvious. For example, not just comments about your physical appearance or how clothes fit your body. What would they say?

Your task is to think about a character in one of your stories and the people that she considers friends. Make a list of those individuals.

Next to each name write at least one positive thing that the person would say about the character. Each person must say something different based upon experiences they have shared.

Choose a place in the story where you can insert at least one positive comment from the character’s friend. How does that play out? What does the character say or do in reaction?

Make sure it feels realistic and not forced.

Have fun with this one.

 

Letter of Recommendation

When we apply for a job, we are asked to submit letters of recommendation. We choose people who will most likely say positive things about us. Who will highlight our skills in such a way that a future employer will hire us.

Granted not everyone gets a good recommendation. Someone who is lazy or often absent or late or misses important deadlines or does shoddy work will not get positive results. Even so, they have to try to come up with names of people who will want to see them succeed in a new endeavor.

Your character might need letters of recommendation at some point in the story. Who would he ask? What is the relationship between the character and those individuals?

Your task is to first create a list of three people who the character would go to for letters.

Next to each person’s name list the ways that the character has worked with this person and what that person might say about the character.

When that is finished, write a scene in which the character approaches the person to ask for a recommendation. This will be shown through dialogue. Keeping true to your character’s personality, have him act the way that he would in such a situation. For example, would he be humble or cocky?

This will not be an easy scene to write, but give it your best effort. While you might never use this scene in a story, it should reveal information about your character that you might not have had before.

Have fun with this one.