Your Favorite Place

            Close your eyes and visualize the place that makes you the happiest, the most calm. The place that inspires a feeling of awe. Listen to the sounds. Breathe in and take in the smells of the flowers, the earth, food cooking. Reach out and touch the bark of trees, the silkiness of flower petals, the gravel beneath your feet.

            Use your imaginary camera and take a picture and then another one. Pick up a paint brush, dip it in some paint and create a replica of what you see in your imagination.

            Think about how you feel. Are your shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing slowed? Did a sense of calmness flow over you?

            This is your happy place.

            Your task is to create a comparable place for your character. Begin by imagining him in a variety of places and situations. Where does he feel most fragile, most overwhelmed? That’s not it, but it’s important to the story. Now think about one or two places where she’ll feel relaxed. Where the sense of awe comes to her.

            That’s the spot where a portion of the story will occur.

            Write a scene in that place. Add in other characters to people the situation. Remember to include sensory details here and there so that readers will enjoy being there as well.

            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.

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.

Eating Out

There’s something magical about eating in a restaurant. Choosing exactly what you want from a menu is thrilling when normally you have to eat what’s served to the whole family. Every single person is the group can have a different entrée! Amazing.

Where you eat depends upon many factors. If you are traveling you might opt for fast food so that you can get back on the road as quickly as possible. If you are meeting friends, then you select someplace that gives you time to chat and simply be together.

If you are celebrating a special event, you might go for a high-end restaurant with tablecloths and linen napkins. If it’s with children it might be a pizza joint with games for entertainment.

Your characters most likely eat out sometimes, for all the reasons that we do.

Your task is to create a list that corresponds with your character’s preferences, depending upon the circumstances. Think across the spectrum. You can use names of real places or create new ones.

Write a scene that involves eating out. You might begin with the discussion of where to go, or bring in the reader at the restaurant while eating is taking place. Look for the scene with the most drama, the most interest.

Remember that tension is important, so perhaps there’s an argument between at least two of the participants.

Have fun with this one.

 

Draw a Map

Back in the old days when going somewhere new you’d pull out a paper map and highlight the streets to be crossed in order to arrive when and where you were going. Today we rely on portable devices that show in real time where we are and tell us when to switch lanes, when to turn, when we have arrived.

Before you write a story we need to establish a map. If it takes place in a real city, real neighborhood, procure a paper map. Drive on the streets that you will use, making note of businesses such as fast food, medial centers, shopping opportunities. Mark schools, churches and traffic lights.

Take pictures of houses, plants, trees. Crosswalks. Intersections. Stop and wind down your windows. Listen to the birds. Smell the flowers in bloom or the pollution from industry or car exhausts.

In other words, cover the scene so completely that it lives in your mind and on paper.

Your task then is to go for a drive. Take a camera and paper and pen. Stop periodically to snap images and to record sights, sounds, smells. Spend an hour or so over each day over the period of time that your story will cover. Winter, spring, summer and fall might be changes to the area that play important parts in the story.

Create an album or folder on your computer and access the information before you begin each writing session.

Have fun with this one.