Contested Boundaries

All throughout the history of our world rulers have lead incursions into neighboring countries, seizing land, and changing boundaries in order to seize valuable natural resources or to gain access to water routes. Often the battles have been fierce with both sides losing hundreds of warriors.

To the victors went the spoils which included family treasures, verdant fields and the virginity of women. All was justified under the loose definition of what constitutes victory.

Close your eyes and imagine what that world must have been like: living in fear, burying valuables in the fields, constantly running and hiding. What story comes to mind?

Your task is to write a story in which one army invades a country.  First decide the setting, which includes place and time. Equip your army with weapons of war and then send them on their way. Will your army be victorious or not? Use narrative to describe the scene and the action, but include dialogue as well so readers can understand how your characters are thinking and feeling.

Gore is okay if that’s what you want to write, but a humiliating defeat is just as terrible without blood and guts.

Have fun with this one.

Code of Conduct

A code of conduct is a set of rules that outlines the norms of behavior, the responsibilities and proper practices of an individual within a society or organization. It sets what behaviors are considered acceptable and which are not. Many of these are written in the form of laws for which punishments are enacted if an individual chooses to break the code. However, many are unwritten, such as not spitting on the playground, cleaning up after yourself and not trampling the flowers in your neighbor’s garden.

Knights of yore had codes that defined behaviors that they couldn’t do, such as not slaughtering civilians, taking care of their steeds and those of their opponents when captured, and communicating effectively for the benefit of all. They also couldn’t make an opponent suffer needlessly and if someone, even a brethren, was fleeing, to kill them swiftly and mercilessly.

Your task is to list a series of codes of conduct for your society. Once you have a sufficient amount, you will write a story in which someone breaks the code. The offense could take place within a powerful modern-day company or in a fantasy world based loosely on the Middle Ages.

Once the code is broken, what happens next decides where the story goes. The offending person could be your protagonist who willingly made the choice because it conflicted with a personal belief system or it could be an entire army that refuses to follow a command that it deems offensive. Conflict arises which leads to tension. As it is resolved, your protagonist might have to make decisions affecting her ability to survive.

Have fun with this one.

Living Conditions

Picture a pastoral scene where tidy thatched cottages are nestled between rows of green hedges. Walk inside and take a look around. Useful pottery lines handmade shelves. A kettle hangs over a fire and items of clothing hang from wooden pegs high up on the wall.

Now imagine a teeming city. Perhaps the streets are muddy or maybe they are made with cobblestones. Wooden buildings several stories high line both sides. Laundry hangs out of some of the windows. Children’s voices echo as they kick a ball down the street. Inside the floor is a dingy linoleum or maybe stained carpet. Cooking smells mingle creating an unpleasant odor.

Very different living conditions, right? Where your story takes place influences how people live. The wealthy will not have the same needs as the poor. This is an important element to consider when writing a story.

Your task is to first create a list of possible living conditions for your story. Include enough detail that it comes alive. Next select the one that will make the most interesting scenario and write.

You could take us down memory lane or off to a futuristic settlement. Maybe you prefer a certain historical period and so want to use those conditions in your story.

When you are finished, reread looking for the details that allow readers to walk with your character.

Have fun with this one.

Components of a Good Antagonist

You’ve created an awesome protagonist, someone the readers will identify with, root for, cry over and stay with for the duration of the story. The problem is that, without an antagonist, there is no tension. No challenges for the protagonist to overcome.

Come up with an antagonist who is equal in stature with your protagonist. Both have to have interesting backstories. Both must face challenges. Both have worlds around them. What makes the story move is when the stories and challenges intersect.

Just as your protagonist has skills and weaknesses, so does your antagonist. While the readers want your protagonist to be stronger of the two, there has to be enough resistance to make the protagonist work at winning.

Your task is to create an antagonist who is a good match for you character. This individual must be strong enough, talented enough, smart enough to be almost an equal to your character. Someone who will give your character a run for his money. Someone who will resist, who will fight, who will not go down easily.

Put them in a scene in which they will duke it out verbally, or physically if that is your wish. But however the battle occurs, it must be one in which readers will be fascinated by the story and read until the final word. In other words, the two characters must present a complicated relationship that, at the end, allows the protagonist to stand in the spotlight after facing a good fight.

Have fun with this one.