A Hike in the Park

The day begins beautifully. The sun is shining, the sky blue, the temperature mild. With water and sunglasses you head into the woodsy park, intent on reaching the top of the peak because you’ve heard of the sweeping views of the bay. But on the way something happens.

Imagine your worst-case scenario. Perhaps there’s a rut in the trail and when you’re watching a deer bound down a hill, you step in it and twist your ankle. It might be broken or badly sprained, but whatever the cause, there is no way you can hike out without help.

Maybe you encounter a mountain lion, coyote or bear. It snarls and flashes huge teeth. You can’t go forward as it’s blocking your way.

Think of the stories to tell!

Your task is to send your character on a hike that begins benignly but then takes a bad turn. She might be in terrible peril or she might be stunned or injured. The one requirement is that she must be afraid and unable to proceed without help.

To make the story more interesting, you should have at least two characters so that there can be dialogue. Conversation will allow us to see the situation through words spoken.

Remember to include details as this is a story that demands sensory input to enable your readers to be there and experience the situation alongside the characters.

Have fun with this one.

Ballads, Love Songs and Lullabies

            In times before written word, music was used to transmit the cultural stories that bound a person to a community’s history. Balladeers were valued members of society because they had the skill to keep memories alive. Music was an important part of the culture.

Love songs and lullabies have a common purpose: to tell someone how much they are loved. At a wedding, the first dance of the newly married couple is done to a song that has special meaning to them. It is often a love song.

Babies grow up hearing the special songs that their parents heard, and that their grandparents heard. The songs can cause giggles or put little ones to sleep. Because of the handing down of lullabies, the words seldom change despite the impacts of time and technological change.

Your task is to write a scene in which a ballad, love song or lullaby plays a major role. You can research songs that are part of a given culture or write new ones of your own.

Decide when, where and why the character will sing the song or hear the song for the first time. Also consider how the character reacts when the song is performed. Emotional details are important.

Have sun with this one.

The Antisocial Teen

A surly teenager hurls insults at her mother and stomps upstairs, slamming her door behind her. This time it’s because Mom won’t let her go to an unsupervised party at an older boy’s house. Last week it was because Mom refused to pay for body piercings, and a few days before that it was an argument over the skimpy outfit the daughter intended to wear to school.

The son of a single man steals his dad’s precious 1964 hot rod and wraps it around a tree. The boy blames a deer, raccoon and a drunken friend, none of which amuse Dad. The teen is failing most of his classes due to absences and disciplinary problems. On top of that the kid only wears black: t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, shoes, socks and has three earrings on his right lobe.

Both stories speak about not just familial issues, but social ones as well. The kids seem to have made poor choices in friends and the parents, while doing their best, are struggling.

Your task is to write a story about an antisocial teenager. You might want to do a little research into issues facing teens in whatever time period you choose. Also consider exploring parenting tips and what types of counseling is available.

Obviously there will be a lot of drama, a lot of tension, and tons of conflict possibilities. Don’t put too much in one scene as then it’s over the top and too hard for readers to process. Consider spacing events out as the story progresses. Remember that dialogue and actions are important. This will not be a happy story, so make the best of it that you can.

Have fun with this one.

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.

Handling Grief

Until we’ve lost a loved one, we don’t know how we’ll handle the loss. We might be the wailing type or the silent weeper. We might be stoic, telling ourselves that he had suffered long enough or that he’s now in a better place.

We might clear out the closet the day after the funeral or hand onto every piece of clothing she wore for several years, clinging to the memories of times who wore each item. We might not want to sleep in the bed we’d shared or remain in the house we bought or we might replace everything that reminds of us her in order to move on.

Your character experiences loss as well. Imagine a scene in which a loved one dies. Taking into consideration your character’s personality, how will she react? It might be completely in “character” or she might surprise readers by doing something completely unexpected.

Begin by listing two different possible reactions. Next to each, make bullet points of behaviors that match. In the next column list behaviors that are the opposite. Think about which combination makes the most interesting story. Write, remembering that for readers to “see” emotional reactions there most likely has to be some dialogue. Include sufficient details to enrich the story.

Have fun with this one.

Tattoo Choice

Imagine yourself walking into a tattoo parlor. First of all, why would you do it? Where would you place the tattoo? What design would you choose and why?

Would you want the name of your significant other emblazoned on your arm or would you prefer a dragon dancing across your back? Perhaps you would want the face of someone you admire on your thigh or a geometric design encircling your lower leg.

What you choose and where you have it placed says a lot about who you are.

Your task is to write a scene in which a character decides to get a tattoo. Readers will want to walk with the character through the entire process. Think of the decisions to be made, the mental turmoil involved. In order to bring in the readers, you might need dialogue.

Sensory details are critical. Think of sights, smells, taste, sounds and feelings. Does it hurt? Is there a smell as the tattoo is burnt into the skin? Does the character get faint? Is water offered or another drink? Does he take something to calm his nerves?

Reread, remembering that conflict is important.

Have fun with this one.

Fierce Desire

Can you recall a time when you wanted something so badly that thinking about consumed your thoughts? It was something so special, so dear, so precious that you couldn’t imagine life without it. It might not have been expensive, but it would be worth millions to you.

Who did you tell about it? How did you describe it? What was the waiting like?

When you asked for it, what was the reaction? Did you hear snickers or laughter? Did you receive promises that were never kept? Or did you get the item?

How long did you have to wait? Was it months? For a special day?

Your task is to write a scene in which your character desperately wants something. It can be something small or something large. It can be relatively inexpensive or something that costs quite a bit.

Begin with the discovery of the item. Where did he see it? Why does he want it? How does he see his life changing with it?

This might be a difficult story to write because most of it will take place inside the character’s head. Dialogue will help, however. In fact, it might be good to have your character express desire to a number of different individuals so as to see how each reacts.

Have fun with this one.