Clutter

Have you ever been in a home in which every flat surface is covered with piles of stuff? How do you feel when there? A bit claustrophobic? Does the dust that hasn’t been removed cause breathing problems? Do you not want to touch anything, eat anything, walk down the halls for fear of things toppling over?

Maybe it’s your house that’s congested with stuff. Maybe it gives you comfort to be surrounded with so many things. Maybe you grew up poor and little of your own. Maybe you have good intentions to clear things up, but never get around to it. Or maybe the thought of getting rid of even one item causes panic to set in!

Your task is to create a character who is in one of the situations.  She is either the uncomfortable one or the keeper of stuff. Your reader will want to walk in her shoes, see with her eyes, feel with her fingers, be touched by her heart.

Write the story, remembering to build tension, to create conflict, to allow the emotions of your character come through.

Include enough details that the reader understands how bad things really are, but not so many details that there is no story. Strike a balance between narrative and action. Include an antagonist who tries to inspire the character to clear the mess up. Use dialogue, not narriative!

Have fun with this one.

The Issue with Changing our Minds

Picture a person who has opinions, but then, after listening to someone with different ones, changes her mind. What feelings does that incite in you? Do you think she’s awesome for taking into consideration what others say?

Or do negative connotations come to mind? For example, what does it mean to be wishy-washy or a flip-flopper?

Your task is to place a character in a situation where his opinion on a given subject is revealed, then challenged. Perhaps one of the best ways to establish this is through dialogue rather than narrative.

In what types of social situations do people discuss issues that might create tension between opposing beliefs? That’s where your character needs to be.

Make sure that the discussion gets heated. Readers would get bored if your character isn’t passionate or doesn’t get agitated when challenged. Perhaps think about how you react. That might be a good starting point for your story.

Have fun with this one.

Time to Quit

Are quitters really losers or is there a good reason to walk away? Is it more important to stick with something than to admit that it doesn’t appeal to you? This is something that people grapple with daily.

No one wants to been seen as a loser, someone who drifts from one activity to another, mastering none. When applying for a job, future employers might not consider a talented hire someone who has spent a few months working at one job and then another.

Your task is to create a character who either is a serious quitter, someone who has tried a variety of things and given up, or someone who hates what he’s doing but won’t quit for fear of being seen a loser.

Write from your heart, taking into consideration your beliefs about quitting. Put your character in a situation that is familiar to you, perhaps something that you have experienced.

Remember to include emotional details, for it is with the heart that these types of difficult decisions are made.

Have fun with this one.

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.