Unexpected Inheritance

            When someone we know dies, the first thought that comes to mind is sorrow. We will miss them if they were close, and possibly regret not knowing them better if they were not. We buy a sympathy card and if possible, attend the funeral services.

            We don’t rub our hands together in anticipation of whatever benefits the estate might give us.

            Or maybe we do.

            What happens when inheriting something is the furthest thing in your mind? And when you find out you are getting a portion of the estate, what goes through your mind?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is the beneficiary of an unexpected inheritance. It can be as large as a piece of land or as small as a two-dollar bill.

            Make it interesting and perhaps a bit humorous. Let readers see the range of your character’s the reactions, from grief, to shock, to surprise and elation.

            Use both description and dialogue to make for an interesting story.

            Have fun with this one.

            After searching for a new shirt, you find one in your size that fits. You carry it to the register, already picturing how wonderful you’ll look wearing it. You hand the clerk your card. It fails to go through.

             The payment is due on your car insurance. You use your credit card. It supposedly has insufficient funds.

            Embarrassed is too mild a word to describe how you feel.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character attempts to spend money using a credit card, but is denied. This story needs to shows the range of emotions that she goes through. There might be disbelief at the beginning, followed by hopefulness. Possibly anger. Frustration. Definitely embarrassment.

            Begin with the setting: place and time. Readers need to be there as he selects the items for purchase or is waiting in line to pay at a service center. The story could take place at a supermarket, car repair shop or insurance office.

            There will be dialogue between your character and whoever is processing the payment.

            Have fun with this one.

The Gift

Everyone has received an unusual, and often, unwanted gift. A nonsmoker might be given a gorgeous crystal ashtray or a nondrinker might receive a subscription to an online wine club. For some, these might be cherished and appreciated items, but for others, a bit of a bother.

If you don’t want the gift, what do you do with it? If you know where it came from, you might be able to return it without a receipt. But in the case of the online wine club, you have to find someone who would love a monthly bottle of expensive wine.

Your task is to write a story in which your character receives something he didn’t ask for and definitely doesn’t want. The item can arrive in the mail or be presented in person. Describe the character’s anticipation as she opens the gift, then her reaction when she sees what it is.

Even if the gift comes by mail, include dialogue. He could show it to a friend and have a good laugh about it, or he might call the giver and politely thank them even though it’s a lie.

Make it interesting and funny.

Have fun with this one.

A Sweet Story

Around Valentine’s Day advertisements appear in which a beau gives a potential lover a red heart-shaped box of rich chocolates. Candy releases pleasure chemicals into the brain, so it symbolizes the sweet feelings in a relationship. The giver intends to make an impression and imply that their love is durable, lasting a good long time.

Who doesn’t like a bit of sweetness now and then? And if it comes from someone that you care about, it gives a warm, pleasant feeling.

Your task is to write a story in which candy plays an important part. It could begin with the making of chocolate by a chocolatier or the buying of the candy at a store that specializes in expensive chocolates.

Your protagonist can be the maker, the giver or the recipient, whichever you feel the most comfortable writing.

Readers will want some form of tension. It could come in the creation of something new, some recipe that doesn’t work out right at the beginning. Perhaps the giver agonizes over the perfect choice of candy, be it the hearts with imprinted sayings, peanut-butter stuffed chocolates or expensive truffles in a gold-foil wrapped box.

And then there’s the recipient who might now expect or appreciate the gift or the giver!

Narrative description is important, but so is dialogue. The dialogue could contain some humor as well as angst.

Have fun with this one.

Hike in the Woods

            You’ve made plans to join friends for a hike in the woods. You’ve never been there before, but one of your friends claims to have been there several times before and so knows the trials. What could go wrong?

            Think of all the possibilities, from mundane to terrifying, that could happen. Stalked by a wolf? Injured by a hunter who mistook you for a deer? Lost when you went down an unfamiliar path? Slipped on a treacherous hill and careened over the edge? The list is endless.

            Your task is to write a story in which your hike goes wrong. Begin by looking at photos of forests to get an idea of how tall the trees are, how deep the forest, how narrow the path. Become familiar with the types of trees, edible plants, poisonous fauna. Research building shelters, finding shelter in caves, overhangs and amongst briars.

            Create your hiking group. Include a variety of personalities: the overconfident, the narcissist, the timid, the follower. How they interact will impact the flow of the story arc.

            Set the story in motion. Remember to build up tension as your characters walk along.

            Have fun with this one.

Unfulfilled Desires

            Do you remember when you were a child and your birthday was approaching? You anxiously awaited opening presents and not finding the gift you’d hinted about for weeks. You experience a range of emotions, from shock, disappointment and anger. Visualize your face and body as those feelings wash over you.

            Make the stakes higher. A dream position opens up and you believe that you are most qualified for the job. You’ve got more experience in the areas needed than anyone at the company. You’ve got a good relationship with the boss, or so you think, that will make you the number one choice. The problem is that the boss created the position for his nephew.

            Perhaps you’ve been house-hunting and the perfect one appears. You go to the open house and fall in love. You put in a bid, believing that you’re the best qualified since you’ve got a pre-approved loan. What you didn’t know was that everyone was bidding way over the ask price. The person who gets the house offered one million more than the market value.

            In each case unfulfilled desires have the potential to drag the person down a long, dark road.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character yearns for something, believes she is going to get it, then doesn’t. Make the stakes high enough that when things fall apart, the character spins out of control.

            Use both narrative description and dialogue.

            Have fun with this one.

Reality Check

A reality check is utilized as a means to clarify or correct a misconception. If properly delivered, it can you makes the individual recognize the truth about a situation, especially by countering any difficulties and challenges that seem to prevent success.

Imagine wanting to lose weight. You research dieting techniques, go shopping for the recommended foods, tell yourself that tomorrow you will begin. Tomorrow comes and for lunch you order an ice cream sundae with the works. By the time you’ve finished it, you’re stuffed and miserable. You tell yourself that you failed, that you are a failure and will always be a failure so there’s no hope.

Taking time to reflect might allow you to see that it was just one slip up and that the rest of the day is open to success. One failure does not doom the plan.

That’s the benefit of a reality check. It helps us to step back and evaluate our performance as just one part of a whole.

Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist needs a hefty reality check. Begin by narrowing down the area that you feel most comfortable writing about. Make the stakes high enough and the desired outcome large enough that the character has to want to succeed so badly that he is willing to work at it. Put the story in motion, then have the character experience a failure and disappointment.

Include both narrative and dialogue.

Have fun with this one. 

Unexpected Results

            Imagine going in for blood work like you always do. You’re fairly cavalier because this is something you do on a regular basis. Later that day you get a call from your doctor, explaining that the tests have revealed a change in your health.

            Perhaps you have been working at the same job, for the same pay, for several years.  You have no hope for promotion because it’s a small family-run company and no one is retiring anytime soon. You head into work because it’s the only job around. Your boss calls you into her office.

            You’re a student taking college classes in order to gain knowledge and skills for a particular job. You’ve been preparing for midterms, studying hard every night. When you enter the classroom, you feel confidant that you’ll ace the test. When the professor returns the tests, you get a surprise.

            There are many instances in which we expect a certain outcome and then are shocked when it doesn’t happen. Think of the stories those become!

            Your task is to write a story in which the protagonist desires and expects a certain outcome, but then doesn’t get it. Be sure to include description and dialogue so that emotions come through.

            Have fun with this one.

Fruitless Search

            Have you ever spent a great amount of time looking for something only to find that it wasn’t there? What emotions did you experience? Anxiety, frustration or perhaps even relief if what you searched for wasn’t something you really wanted to find.

            Every writer knows that their protagonist has to want something from the onset of the story. The goal is to find it, buy it, unveil it, at all costs. During the search, the character goes through a series of trials, some benign, others quite dangerous. The vast majority of stories end with success. Whatever it was that the character wanted at the beginning has been secured.

            But what would happen, how would the story change, if instead of achieving his goal, the character fails? If he was optimistic as he set off on his search, what is he feeling at the end? If he was pessimistic at the onset, not really wanting it but setting off on the quest anyway, is he relieved when it eludes him?

            Your task is to write the story of the dead end. Your protagonist wants something so badly that she immerses herself in the search. Trials appear that slow her down. At the end, she cannot find that which she desired.

            Description is important, but to be able to understand what your character wants, include dialogue. He has a companion on his journey, or she meets up with friends and shares her exploits.

            Have fun with this one.

Delivering the Eulogy

Delivering the Eulogy

            When we lose someone we love, whether it be human or animal, our grief can be quite profound. We go through a series of emotions, from shock to grief to acceptance. Unfortunately we are still deep in the first two when we are asked to eulogize the individual.

            What memories do you share? Do you speak about the time Spot stole the neighbor’s underwear from her clothesline or do you bemoan all the walks you didn’t have the time to take?

            Should you begin with a funny incident from a person’s life to cheer things up a bit or stick to the most solemn moments that you recall?

            Imagine that your character has lost someone that he loves. Perhaps he’s not comfortable with public speaking, but because he knew the individual well, he is the most qualified to deliver the eulogy.

            Begin by deciding who died. If it’s a person, what is the relationship between the two? How close were they? What things did they do together?

            If it’s an animal, when did the critter come into the character’s life? In what way did the animal impact the character? What kinds of things did they do together?

            Your task is to write the story of death and eulogy. Include both description and dialogue. Make sure your readers feel the emotions of the character. And that you’ve set the scene with relevant sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.