Leap of Faith

How much can a reader tolerate in terms of stretching what is logical? This is something that all writers must consider, but often the extreme boundaries of that leap of faith are determined by the genre.

For example, in fantasy we expect unimaginable things to happen. We yearn for magic, magical beings, unusual occurrences, strange environments. If these elements are missing, then the story might lack tension.

Contemporary fiction, and even historical fiction, needs to be grounded in reality of readers will not believe the story.

What happens when reality is so extreme that it seems impossible? Readers must take a leap of faith.

Your task is to write a story that pushes the bounds of reality, but that remains believable.

Have fun with this one.

A Danger to Others

We all have an Uncle Joe whose eyesight is failing, uses a walker, has trouble remembering, and yet still drives. He’s a danger to himself and others, but refuses to give up his car keys for fear of losing his independence. What do we do in this situation?

There are no easy answers. You can hide the keys when he’s in the bathroom, call the DMV and report him as a dangerous driver or call the police when he goes out to drive. Joe will hate you for the rest of his life. So might his wife, kids, grandkids, neighbors and anyone else who is on his side.

Your task is to conjure up a character who should not be driving and someone who confronts this person. To get ideas, do a little research online. Come up with at least three different scenarios and possible outcomes. Choose the one that presents the most conflict, for remember, conflict creates tension and tension makes stories interesting.

As you write, look for ways to insert conflict. Joe does not give up on the first attempt. He might become guarded and hide the keys in the freezer. In fact, he might not relinquish the keys until he’s had an accident or almost ran over a small child!

Reread, looking to see where you can add details that invite the reader to buy into the story.

Have fun with this one.

In Peril

Dangerous situations arise in books and movies with great regularity. There are several reasons, but probably the most likely is that when a character is in peril, the viewer/reader is at the end of her seat, intently hoping that all works out well in the end. Such situations increase tension, and a story without tension is flat.

A good source for discovering dangerous situations is the news. It seems as if children frequently fall in holes or drains. Drivers get trapped in cars that have been smashed in accidents. Hikers get stranded in bad weather. Whales go astray and find themselves trapped in ice.

Your task is to write an original story in which your protagonist, whether human or not, is in peril. It needs to be logical and treacherous enough that the reader will understand that it is a life or death situation. Don’t water it down. Throw in a number of complications.

Begin with the scene, be it a frozen pond, abandoned well or ice-slick highway. Describe what befalls the protagonist and how he feels. Next list an ascending list of complications that occur, taking into consideration that no rescue is as simple as it looks on television. Rescuers often need multiple interventions in order to free the individual.

Write the story, remembering to ratchet up the suspense with the addition of each complication.

Have fun with this one.

Changing the Topic

How often have you been conversing with someone about a given topic when, without preamble, they kick off another topic? It probably happens more than you’d prefer. Or maybe you’re the one who jumps around?

Just as in real life, your characters must encounter people who refuse to stay on topic. How they react to this individual says a lot about the character.

For example, is the other senile? If so, is your character patient or react rudely?

What if the person is the boss? How then does your character act?

Your task is to write a scene of dialogue in which no more than three individuals are in a discussion. Make the topic realistic for the situation.

As the conversation moves along, one of the characters changes the topic. How do the others react? Do they follow that thread or steer the conversation back to the original topic?

Reread, looking to see is information pops through about your characters. If not, rewrite.

Have fun with this one.

Deepest Longing

When I was a child I didn’t yearn for dolls or fancy dresses. I wanted to feel special, to feel loved. To be treated as an equal to my older brother.

As a teen I wanted social acceptance which was never going to happen because I dressed in old-fashioned homemade clothes. On top of that I was painfully shy. When I realized that college might be an option, I yearned to go anywhere that got me out of the home.

As you can see, my longings had to do with being loved, being accepted and escaping home.

Your characters must have yearnings that compel their interests and desires. These yearnings need to be so powerful that the reader senses them and identifies with them. They also must present fairly early in the work so as to establish the motivations behind what your character says and does.

Your task is to take a character that will appear in a story. Put the name at the top of the page. Then create a list of at least five yearnings that would drive that individual’s actions.

Choose the most dynamic thing on the list. The one that could spur the most controversy. Maybe even get your character in trouble.

Begin writing, keeping in mind that the yearning appears early on. Do not directly state the yearning, but rather find a way to show it through dialogue or action.

Reread. Does it shine forth? Can you feel the character’s desires?

Have fun with this one.

 

Too Busy

Recall one of your busiest weeks. What all was on your calendar? How much did you actually accomplish? How were you feeling at the time?

Bring to mind one of your characters.

Your task is to create a week filled with too many obligations and not enough time to complete them all.

Begin by making a list that matches your character’s profile. Include at least one item for each day of the week.

Do not eliminate anything! Instead write the story of that week, being sure to include the character’s feelings as each day begins and ends, as each event approaches, as she prepares for the event, as the event is taking place.

Let us see inside the mind of the character. We want to feel what she feels, walk inside her along the way.

This will not be easy. It can also result in what appears to be a laundry list of activity.

When you are finished, edit the story down to the most exciting and interesting activities, the ones where feelings shine forth.

Have fun with this one.

The Predictable Ending

When we read a book we like to guess how it is going to end. We want something logical, that makes sense based upon the action.

On the other hand, we also like to be surprised. We may enjoy the predictable, but we are startled when everything we thought was going to happen, does not.

So what do you do as a writer? If you stay with predictable, will your readers lose interest? Possibly. Why not try for an unexpected ending, something that readers don’t see coming. Even if your story doesn’t have a major twist in plot, there could be a shift that takes the readers in a direction that they couldn’t imagine.

Your task is to take something that you have written, a finished piece that maybe isn’t quite working the way you wanted, and change the ending. Instead of the butler doing it, maybe it was the car-share driver. Instead of getting the dream job, she gets hired to do something unrelated, but enjoyable.

The important thing is that your new ending must be satisfying. It must be justified by all that has happened in the story and therefor supported by the narrative.

Once you have rewritten the ending, reflect upon your work. Is it more satisfying? Does the surprise change the narrative so that predictability is altered? Hopefully you will discover something new in the process.

Have fun with this one.