“First” Weather Event

This is a good activity whether you are writing about yourself or about your character.

Working from your memory can often become fodder for a greater story, or a chapter in a novel. It’s been written that we should write what we know, so what better place to begin than from things we experienced?

Your task is to make a list of “firsts” in terms of weather. For example, the first snowfall, first tornado warning, first flood. Do you see any themes running through them all? Think about your feelings as you were in the midst of each. Think about your reactions, whether they be fear, joy, or even the no-reaction.

Which makes the best story? Choose that one and write.

Remember that it can be memoir or fiction.

Reread looking for emotional reactions and details.

Have fun with this one.

Opening Doors

Think of all the times that doors have opened in your favor. I’m not just referring to physical doors, but the literal ones as well. For women it was breaking through the glass ceiling and being hired to do a job traditionally seen as a man’s. A good example is our Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was admitted to a law school that had never before had a female student. Imagine how hard she fought to get there and to remain there.

Our characters also pass through many doors in their lives. It could be making it through the first job interview to get hired at a fast food joint. Or maybe it was when they were chosen as a soloist in the church choir.

Your task is to think of several doors that opened in one of your character’s lives. Begin by making a short list of at least five things. Next to each record why that door was important and also how it changed that person’s life.

Choose the one that you feel most comfortable writing about. Tell the story, remembering to include sensory details. We want to feel the anxiety before, during and after waiting for the door to open. We need to walk in her shoes as she goes through the process.

In order to make it more interesting, put obstacles in the way. Perhaps the door is far from home or the door opens at an inconvenient time. Maybe there is rejection at first, followed by disappointment, which then turns to joy.

Have fun with this one.

Reacting to Loss

Last week I misplaced my ID that allows me to participate in activities at the local senior center. Needless to say, I was devastated, for without it, technically I am not supposed to go in the center.

I looked everywhere. The last place I remember it being was in a pocket of my shorts. But which pair? I figured the ones in the laundry, so that’s where I began my search. When I didn’t find it there, I went through the pockets of every pair I own. Then I searched jeans and jackets and sweatshirts, all to no avail.

Granted this is not a huge loss, for I could pay to get a new one. So far I’ve been scooting by the check-in desk with a stoic face. It’s been working as no one has challenged me.

Imagine that your character has lost something important. What would he do? Where would he search? How would he feel?

Some of us react quite strongly to any loss, no matter how trivial. Then when something much more important is lost, panic overwhelms us.

Think about your character’s personality. The reactions that she experiences need to align with the type of person she is. For example, if she is rather laid back, then she might shrug and gone on with life. If she’s more reactionary, then she might become frantic with worry.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character has lost something important. This will most likely be exclusively narrative, so remember to include lots of details. Where possible bring in another character and let there be dialogue that is relevant to the loss.

When you are finished, reread to see if the loss and ensuing search make sense.

Have fun with this one.

Exhaustion

When we’re tired, we are often cranky and unpleasant to be around. It’s not that we don’t get enough sleep on purpose, sometimes it just happens.

Imagine your character out-of-sorts. What does she say and do? How does she treat others? React to what others say?

Picture him at work or at a bar. What happens when someone criticizes something he just completed or bumps into him in the crowd? Does he hurl insults? Come up fighting? Or does he simmer and walk away?

Your task is to write a scene in which your exhausted protagonist mingles with others. First, think of the scene. Then people it with at least two others, possibly co-workers or maybe random strangers. Lastly put things in motion.

Be true to your character’s personality. A shy person most likely will not explode in a loud tirade, but a boisterous individual might.

When you are finished, reread and edit. Add details, dialogue, action.

Have fun with this one.

 

One Day to Live Again

If given an opportunity, which day in your life would you choose to relive?

Is there a time that you said or did something that you regret? If so, what would you do differently? How would this change the outcome?

We all do things that later cause us grief. It might have been a snide comment in response to being treated poorly by a friend or family member. It might have been an act as simple as not dividing the cake into equal portions and giving someone you were angry with the smallest piece. Granted, this is not a huge event, but it speaks to an underlying tension.

Your task is to write from the heart. Recall a situation that, if given a chance, you would do differently. Begin with the scene. Put us in the moment, whether it is a situation at work or an encounter in a coffee shop.

Choose your character. It can be first person or third. If third, keep the character’s actions as close to what really happened as possible.

Put things in motion. Try to recall the things that were said, the emotions, and the reactions.

Think about how you felt after it was over. For how long were you in remorse? Write about that feeling, wishing that it had never happened.

This will not be a fun activity, but one from which you can learn. Your characters say and do things that they should regret.

Good luck with this one!

Heartbreak

All does not go well in every relationship. People date, determine that they like each other, maybe even think it’s love, and then the other person pulls away.

We have all experienced heartbreak at some point in our lives, and so should our characters.

Consider one of your favorite characters, regardless of age. Now put that individual in a romantic relationship.

If the character is young, it could be the devastating loss of a parent due to indifferent. If a teen, the loss of that first love.

How would you write that scene?

Your task is to choose a character that is either one you are currently working with or create a new one. Consider the possible romantic relationships that could ensue.

Narrow the possibilities down to one and write. You must take into account all the emotional turmoil that tears the person apart for it to be considered true heartbreak.

Once you have written the scene, reread and see if the emotions come through. If not, then edit making sure that the scene has emotional viability.

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.