Disaster of a Picnic

Picnics can be a whole lot of fun. Imagine a group of people gathered around the table eating food that different ones had prepared. Grandma’s potato salad is legendary. Jack’s terrific at the barbeque. Kathy makes to-die-for macaroni salad and Pat’s lemon meringue pies are a hit everywhere.

Board games are played. Cards come out. The younger kids play volleyball or kickball or go wade in the lake. Birds chirp. Dogs bark. Laughter surrounds you until something goes wrong.

As a writer these are the moments that enliven stories for they allow us to create situations where conflict and tension drive the plot forward.

Your task is to write a scene in which things begin to unravel. It could be that Joe pulls out a flask and taints the lemonade. Or perhaps the mayonnaise in the salads spoils in the hot sun. Perhaps a little one runs into a pole and…well, you get the idea.

Sensory details are important if you want your readers engaged.  They want to hear, see, taste, touch and smell the things going on around them as they participate in this picnic. Bring in dialogue as well so that readers can observe as the group unravels.

Have fun with this one.

Natural Disasters

Some believe in a Mother Nature who clearly has a mind of her own. If often feels that way when unforeseen things happen causing great devastation.

For example, yesterday on the news I saw footage of a huge landslide that oozed down a mountain, blocking a major freeway going up the coast of California. I also saw videos of tornadoes and flooding that destroyed countless homes. Then there are the massive fires in Florida.

We could also consider the effects of hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, to name just a few more.

Imagine your character faced with one of these disasters. What would she do? Think? Feel? Would she tremble and cower or take action, stuffing family possessions into the car and bolting away? Would she hide in the bathroom and pray or run down the street, begging for help?

How your character reacts tells us a lot about his personality.

Your task is to first make a list of possible disasters. I would stick to ones you have either experienced firsthand or know a lot about. Try to get at least five things on that list.

Next, narrow it down to the top two that you feel most comfortable writing about. In your mind, place your character in the midst of these two disasters. In which one would her reactions be most viable? Which would allow you to create the most dramatic story?

Once you’ve figured out the disaster, come up with the story line. Where is your character and what is he doing when the disaster is about to hit? What steps does she take when she knows it is coming?

What does he do right before it hits, while it is going on, and then immediately after it ends?

This is the story you will write. When you are finished, reread, looking for places where you can strengthen emotional reactions. Where the setting needs spicing up. Then edit.

Have fun with this one.