Do-over

Our characters are not perfect. Just like us, they make mistakes.

Sometimes the mistakes are little, like forgetting to buy corn at the store. Sometimes the mistakes are huge, like accidentally saying something insulting about the boss just as she’s walking through the door.

These are the things that our character might want to replay. Next time he goes to the store he’ll make a list. The next time she is angry with the boss, she’ll keep her thoughts to herself.

Your task is to make a list of things that your character would like to do over. Go beyond the trivial. Trivial things are important, but they usually don’t alter lives. Huge mistakes, however, can cost a job, get a person kicked out of an apartment or cause serious injury to someone when distracted while driving.

Try to come up with five major things that are plausible for your character.

Narrow your list down to the top two. Next to each, write what your character would do differently in order to change the outcome. Maybe the outcome isn’t changed; maybe it’s what the character does to make amends.

Finally your task is to write a scene to an existing story in which your character reflects on an action then does something to change the eventual outcome.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

If your character took time to reflect about the things she’s done, what would she think about those decisions? Would she be pleased or would she wish she had done things differently?

Self-reflection should be an important part of your protagonist’s life. If he chose to act in a certain way and it backfired, without self-reflection he might continue along the same path, making the same incorrect choices over and over, never learning from his experiences.

Your task is to choose one of your characters to analyze. Make a list of decisions that the character has already faced or will soon face. Next to each decision, record how it panned out for him.

If every decision works out for the best, ask yourself if this reflects real life situations. Unless she is particularly prescient, I seriously doubt that all decisions end up with positive outcomes.

The next step is to consider what lessons the character takes from each decision made. Self-reflection should be a huge part of this step. How can you show her thought processes?

This will not be an easy task, but it will give you insight into the inner makings of your character.

Have fun with this one.

Weather Problems

No matter how much we would like it to be, skies are not always blue.

Clouds turn the world dark gray. Winds blow. Rain pours. Snow falls. Visibility drops and roads turn treacherous.

Your stories need to reflect real life.

Your task is to take a piece that you have written and add in the weather. Go beyond sunny days and clear blue skies.

Perhaps put your protagonist in a low-visibility situation where the roads are slippery. Think about how your protagonist would react.

Have fun with this one.

Childhood Experiences

While we might not be writing about the childhood of our protagonist, but we must take into consideration what type of childhood the individual experienced.

For example, a child who was surrounded by love, nurtured and encouraged to explore different ideas, will grow into a different adult than one who grew up in negativity, in chaos, in fear.

Your task is to select at least one of your characters and create a bullet list that details the kind of life that person had as a child and teen. On one side, list the experiences. On the other, the effects. Try to list at least ten things.

The third thing to consider is whether or not the individual has moved beyond any adverse effects. If the character has, how did the person so this?

Once you’ve completed your task, then select a scene to rewrite, taking into consideration what the character experienced growing up. You don’t need to mention the events, but keep them in mind as your character negotiates the day.

Have fun with this one.

Surprise Twists

Stories that are too predictable are boring unless they are written for a little kid. Children find the repetition, the expected end result, comforting in a way that teens and adults might find downright unsatisfactory.

When you’re crafting a story, watch your endings. It’s okay if the good woman wins, but along the way there should be unexpected twists that throw the reader off.

For example, you know the woman will fall in love with the account executive, but put some angst in the story. Maybe they disagree over something huge, like how to behave at a party or how to dress for a day at the beach. The woman overdresses while the man underdresses.

That’s probably not big enough to cause angst. What if a former girlfriend shows up? Imagine the problems that would create. The man looks at her with a sparkle in his eye. Maybe he touches her in a way that implies their former romance. The current girlfriend sees it, becomes enraged and stomps away.

Maybe the woman loves the man, but he has no intentions of leaving his home while she’s been offered a job in New York City. The job is almost too big to pass up as it’s the job she’s always wanted. Maybe the city where the man lives is so tiny that the woman can’t find a comparable job within commuting distance.

How do they reconcile the differences?

Readers will want to know, and so will read on.

Your task is to pull up an old story of yours. Reread it looking for the surprise twist. If there is none, what can you add to ratchet up the tension?

If there is, how long did you string the tension along before resolving the issue? Make sure that there is sufficient angst to make readers edgy.

Have fun with this one!

Heartbreak

All does not go well in every relationship. People date, determine that they like each other, maybe even think it’s love, and then the other person pulls away.

We have all experienced heartbreak at some point in our lives, and so should our characters.

Consider one of your favorite characters, regardless of age. Now put that individual in a romantic relationship.

If the character is young, it could be the devastating loss of a parent due to indifferent. If a teen, the loss of that first love.

How would you write that scene?

Your task is to choose a character that is either one you are currently working with or create a new one. Consider the possible romantic relationships that could ensue.

Narrow the possibilities down to one and write. You must take into account all the emotional turmoil that tears the person apart for it to be considered true heartbreak.

Once you have written the scene, reread and see if the emotions come through. If not, then edit making sure that the scene has emotional viability.

Have fun with this one!

Laryngitis

            Imagine if your character lost his voice but still had to go to work and interact with others.

What would he do? How would he communicate?

Thanks to technology, there is the internet and computers with email and word processing programs that would help.

I don’t own a cell phone, but I imagine that there is a means to use one to place orders at restaurants or to ask for things at a store.

But what if your character doesn’t have those things either because of the place or time of the story, or because of socioeconomic factors that prevent the ownership of those things? What would your character do?

Your task is to write a scene in which your character has to interact with at least one other person, but cannot speak. The laryngitis is so severe that she cannot even croak out a few syllables in order to make herself clear.

Have fun with this one.