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.


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.


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.

Seasonal Effects

Close your eyes and picture a typical spring day where you live. What is the weather like? How do you feel? What things do you see, feel, touch? What foods do you typically eat? Where do you go only in the spring?

Write this down.

Move on to summer. What things do you only do in the summer? Record how you feel, think, what you see, taste, touch.

Do the same for autumn and winter.

Looking over your list, do you see a pattern?

Your task is to create a comparable list for your character. It makes no difference the genre of your writing. What matters is that your listings be accurate for the place and time of your work.

Once the list is complete, choose the season you feel most comfortable writing about. Place your character in the story with at least one other person. Turn on the action. Make sure to include those details that impact your character the most.

When you are finished, reread looking for sensory details. Make sure that you did not list them, but rather revealed them slowly, one at a time.

Have fun with this one.

Dealing with Long Lines

What would you stand in line for? A new cellphone? Concert tickets? The hottest tennis shoes? To vote in-person?

Our responses depend upon how important the issue is to us and to our family. If our teenager can’t live without the shoes, then maybe we would bring a chair, sleeping bag and food and would set up for an overnight stay.

If it’s tickets to a play or concert that is only in your area for one appearance, then maybe we would. Or wouldn’t. We might decide that it’s not worth all the hours of our time to wait.

Your character also has opinions about waiting. What would motivate her to stand in those long lines?

Your task is to create a list of at least five things that your character desperately wants. Keep the items consistent with her personality.

Next narrow the list down to one thing that which she most wants and is most willing to set personal comfort aside in order to get it.

Write the scene. Begin with discovering that the item is coming available. Dialogue would be appropriate. Have him express his desires, so clearly that the others understand.

Have the character wait. Include the emotions that pass through his mind as well as interactions with others in line.

Once the character has made the purchase, or has been foiled, tell us how he feels.

Have fun with this one.