Most Important Person

Hopefully each of us has been touched by someone who truly cared and to whom we gave our love. This person might have been a relative, unless you grew up in a dysfunctional family, and then that special one might have been a teacher, boss or neighbor.

Think of the gifts this person gave you. They might be physical, such as a new bike or a longed-for book, but they might also have been emotional, such as love, kindness, unconditional caring.

Your character has also been touched by a special person. Who is that individual? What has she done for your character? In what ways is the life of your character enriched?

Has that most important person passed away or is he still alive? If alive, have the roles now been reversed? Your character now gives to the special person? In what ways?

Your task is to write a scene in which their lives intersect. Remember that we need to feel the depth of the relationship, the love between them (assume that this is not physical love, but rather supportive).

Reread, looking for key words that allow us to see the feelings on display.

Have fun with this one.

Deepest Longing

When I was a child I didn’t yearn for dolls or fancy dresses. I wanted to feel special, to feel loved. To be treated as an equal to my older brother.

As a teen I wanted social acceptance which was never going to happen because I dressed in old-fashioned homemade clothes. On top of that I was painfully shy. When I realized that college might be an option, I yearned to go anywhere that got me out of the home.

As you can see, my longings had to do with being loved, being accepted and escaping home.

Your characters must have yearnings that compel their interests and desires. These yearnings need to be so powerful that the reader senses them and identifies with them. They also must present fairly early in the work so as to establish the motivations behind what your character says and does.

Your task is to take a character that will appear in a story. Put the name at the top of the page. Then create a list of at least five yearnings that would drive that individual’s actions.

Choose the most dynamic thing on the list. The one that could spur the most controversy. Maybe even get your character in trouble.

Begin writing, keeping in mind that the yearning appears early on. Do not directly state the yearning, but rather find a way to show it through dialogue or action.

Reread. Does it shine forth? Can you feel the character’s desires?

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.

The Sadness of Heartbreak

Love is a powerful emotion. It draws us in, lures us into believing that it will last forever. We willingly succumb to its promise of a life-fulfilling dream.

And then tragedy happens. The lover turns out not to be all that wonderful or he suddenly declares that he is no longer interested. She is caught walking arm-in-arm with another or he is rumored to have seduced someone into his bed.

Heartbreak hits and we are so depressed that it’s hard to get out of bed.

Or does it?

Imagine how your protagonist will react when dumped by her lover. Create a list of possible reactions. Try to come up with at least five that make sense based upon your character’s personality.

Choose the one that you find the easiest to write but that also has some juice to it.

Your task is to write the story that shows your character in the thralls of heartbreak.

When you are finished, reread, looking for depth of emotion. You want your readers to feel the pain.

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.

 

Things They Hate

Everyone hates something or someone.

Think about it for a moment: In the world, there is an endless variety of things that cause us to cringe. For some it might be going to the dentist. For others it might be a particular food.

Some of us hate narcissists who only speak/care for themselves. Some of us hate people in our office who have jumped ahead of us on the corporate ladder.

Because it is natural to hate, your character must have strong dislikes.

Your task is to make a list of things that annoy your character. Come up with at least five different categories. Then narrow it down to the one that you can incorporate into a scene.

Choose the one that makes you the most passionate. Your feelings will impact your character’s reactions, so this is why it’s important to select one that really irks you.

After you’ve established that which your character hates, write the scene in which the hated object appears. Be sure to include sensory markers. We need to feel the character’s anguish through sight, smell, taste, touch, sound.

When you are finished, reread to see if the hate comes forth. If it does, then you have accomplished the task. If it doesn’t, then what do you need to do to strengthen the emotional response?

This will not be an easy task.

Have fun with it anyway!