Rebellion

            Imagine a scenario where the citizens are upset with the ruling power. They’ve been tortured, imprisoned, forced to work in unsafe conditions and have little to eat. There is no hope for improvement as long as the current leaders are in power.

            Attempts to negotiate have repeatedly failed. Rumor has it that an assassination is in the works, so armed military patrols the streets. It’s a dire situation.

            Many stories have been written using this scenario as a base for sowing discord. Given a chance to write the story, how would yours differ?

            Your task is to develop a scene in which rebellion is looming. Is it coming within the ranks of the aristocracy or from the peasants? Is it in a single city or throughout the empire? Who is leading the rebellion?  Disenfranchised royals? Defecting soldiers?

            What is the desired result and who would step up and be in charge assuming the rebellion is successful? What changes would be enacted, and would those be acceptable to all?

            How many would die and what weapons would be used? Does magic come into play?

            There are many things to consider to make this story stand out.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

Functional Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the combined facilities and structures that a society needs for its economy to function. It includes bridges, roads, telecommunications systems, water and sewage systems and electrical grids. Airports, tunnels, hospitals, lighthouses, public schools, parks and other public spaces also fall under the umbrella of infrastructure. The degree to which each is developed tells a lot about that society.

A primitive society might have dirt roads and wooden dams while a technologically advanced community would employ systems that perhaps have yet to be developed.

When creating the setting for your story, these elements might not play a major role, but they could. Imagine if an earthquake breaks the walls of a dam and water pours down river, flooding cities in its wake. Perhaps the local hospital is so overrun with accident victims that additional cases have to be transported to other communities.

Your task is to create a story in which something happens that threatens an element of the infrastructure. Begin by settling on the one event that you feel the most comfortable writing about. Place your characters in the scene, taking into consideration how the event will affect each and how they will react, realizing that people behave differently when threatened.

You can start with the disaster right from the beginning, or establish the “normal” world so that readers understand what life was like before things went wrong. Dialogue and narrative are both important. Narrative puts readers into the heart of the action while dialogue exposes the fears, the concerns, the reactions of characters in the story.

Have fun with this one.

Tell Me a Story

Storytelling requires imagination to create worlds and people that add interest, depth and tension. Gauging the audience is one way to determine which elements to emphasize. Young children love a bit of tension but want happy endings. Teens love violent and potentially deadly encounters and don’t mind if a minor character dies along the way.

Recall a time when you were asked to tell a story. What popped into your mind? A fairy princess and a dragon? A fierce warrior and an evil wizard? Did the story begin with a placid description of the scene and major characters? At what point did the quest begin and who was the hero on the quest?

Your task is to write a story that you might one day share with someone. Begin by defining the audience by age and preference for type of story. Then design the setting and establish the primary characters.

Next is the call to action, the point when someone, perhaps a queen, sends the hero out to conquer or retrieve something that endangers the kingdom or whose disappearance alters the fate of the world as it is. Along the way challenges arise. What are they? How does the hero overcome each? Is the hero hurt? If so, how does this impact her ability to continue the pursuit?

Is the hero successful? Not all heroes are, but when they fail, sometimes they are still honored and respected simply for the act of trying. What is the prize and does the hero earn it?

Have fun with this one.

Magical Beings

Think about a fantasy story that intrigued you. The images that come to mind will encompass the elements of the world itself (the setting), the characters and their quests (heroes and antagonists) and the magical beings that either help or hinder the success of the quest.

While not all fantasy includes faeries and other such creatures, many do, especially those for younger readers. Belief in alternate realities inspires many children to explore different types of stories.

If you intend to write fantasy, one factor that you need to consider is how to populate your world. Will there only be humans in conflict with other humans as they attempt to find or steal some type of object (such as the Holy Grail)? Or will orcs, wargs, ogres, wizards, trolls and other magical beings participate in the telling? If so, how will they enrich the story?

Your task is to write a story in which at least one type of being plays a major role. First do some research to discover the known options. If none of them appeal to you, create your own by beginning with its physical appearance and then by bestowing a combination of uses and powers.

How will the presence of this being influence the story? Will it be friend or foe to your protagonist? In what ways will it affect the telling? It can either move the action forward or slow it down by presenting obstacles for your character.

Have fun with this one.

Scientific Challenges

Back in ancient times, science was not well-developed or respected. One reason was because scientists were seen to be heretics in conflict with the teachings of the church. Eventually the church realized that the medical advancements were important to improve the lives of their members.

The Roman Empire changed attitudes toward research and development. Studies lead to inventions, theories and scientific research. For example, Romans created the first system of plumbing to remove waste. They built aqueducts using arches, designed a primitive cooling system using the hollow spaces in columns and concrete to strengthen buildings.

How a society looks at science influences beliefs and practices. A progressive nation might revere scientists and place their research on a pedestal, while developing country might utilize science to enhance agricultural output.

Your task is to write a story in which science plays an important role. Narrative will be important for setting the scene, but dialogue will allow readers to see how science fits into that world. Your story can take place in the past or future, it can be realistic or fantastical.

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.

Magic in Your World

Most fantasy stories include magic in some form. As a writer of fantasy, you must consider various aspects of magic, such as who wields it, to what degree, and to what purpose. Also weigh at what cost to the user, especially if the user experiences weakness and needs time to recover in order to be back at full power.

In order to be believable, magic must be consistent. For example, if the wielder can quell fire, why doesn’t he when the cabin in which he is sheltering is set on fire by an enemy? If magic is unpredictable, that might be fodder for an unusual story, but will readers buy into it?

A good way to keep track of the ways in which magic plays into the drama is by keeping notes and checking them frequently. Record the person, power, cost and use. As characters’’ powers change, remember to return to your chart and list them as well.

Another factor is public attitude toward magic in your world. Is it revered or feared? Is it a common trait or rare? Is it honed through learning and practice or wild and uncontrollable?

Your task is to create a list that documents who has magic, what type and how it is used. Once this is complete, write a story in which magic influences the outcome, either positively or negatively.

Don’t overdo it. A little magic can be more powerful than a devastating wizards’ dual.

Have fun with this one.