Code of Conduct

A code of conduct is a set of rules that outlines the norms of behavior, the responsibilities and proper practices of an individual within a society or organization. It sets what behaviors are considered acceptable and which are not. Many of these are written in the form of laws for which punishments are enacted if an individual chooses to break the code. However, many are unwritten, such as not spitting on the playground, cleaning up after yourself and not trampling the flowers in your neighbor’s garden.

Knights of yore had codes that defined behaviors that they couldn’t do, such as not slaughtering civilians, taking care of their steeds and those of their opponents when captured, and communicating effectively for the benefit of all. They also couldn’t make an opponent suffer needlessly and if someone, even a brethren, was fleeing, to kill them swiftly and mercilessly.

Your task is to list a series of codes of conduct for your society. Once you have a sufficient amount, you will write a story in which someone breaks the code. The offense could take place within a powerful modern-day company or in a fantasy world based loosely on the Middle Ages.

Once the code is broken, what happens next decides where the story goes. The offending person could be your protagonist who willingly made the choice because it conflicted with a personal belief system or it could be an entire army that refuses to follow a command that it deems offensive. Conflict arises which leads to tension. As it is resolved, your protagonist might have to make decisions affecting her ability to survive.

Have fun with this one.

Rules and Regulations

Probably the first rules you remember had something to do with home: Make your bed. Eat all your food. Don’t hit Jimmy. Obey Mom.

As you moved into the world, you learned new rules, primarily around school and community: Finish your work. Don’t talk back to the teacher. Take turns on the playground.

Eventually rules dealt with work, driving, and keeping the city safe.

There were also unstated rules, things we understood that we had to obey even though no one articulated the reasons why. For example, no jaywalking, changing clothes frequently, looking neat out in public.

Your task is to write a story in which rules and regulations play a part. Rules will depend upon the ages of your characters and how you see them interacting with others. Your story can be realistic or fantasy, humorous or serious.

Have fun with this one.

The Joys of Water

Imagine a time when you immersed yourself in a slowly moving river. How quickly did you proceed? Did you run with abandon into the water and then dive in as soon as possible? Were you the cautious one, dipping in toes, then feet, then ankles, then standing there for a while getting used to the temperature?

Was there a boat ride that intrigued you? Perhaps someone had a canoe and the two of you paddled out into a sparkling lake on a sunny day. Gentle waves rocked you until a jet ski flashed by, spraying water into the boat and scaring you, believing you were going to capsize?

There might have been a trip to Yosemite in the spring when the waterfalls exploded over mountains and a roar filled the air.

Your task is to write a story in which your character is mesmerized by water. Establish the scene and the circumstances through the use of details. Time, temperature and weather will be critical. Secondary characters will enrich the scene, allowing the use of dialogue to establish conditions, emotions, and experiences.

Have fun with this one.

Hero’s Journey, Revisited

Once before we thought about the Hero’s Journey and how to put it into play in our writing.

If you still have questions, pick up a copy of Nevada Barr’s Destroyer Angel.

The heroine, Anna Pigeon, is a park ranger on vacation with friends in the woods of Minnesota. Anna floats down river, relaxing as she looks about her. Suddenly she hears a sound that is unexpected.

In just a few pages, we have established the heroine’s natural world, the forest and camping with friends, and then given her the call to act.

If she chooses to answer the call, she’ll beach her canoe and investigate. If she decides to ignore the call, she’ll continue floating about.

The hero’s journey is not an even uphill path. So it is for Anna, who must time and time again face challenges, come up with plans, and then execute.

Because I don’t want to give away the story, that’s as much as you’re going to get.

The important concepts are the first two steps: establishing the natural world, be it in a different world, in the past or contemporary, and people it with friends and coworkers. Secondly there must be some sort of impetus, something that wakes up the hero and challenges the hero to choose between two different paths.

For an exciting story, our hero chooses to come to the rescue. To seek the golden chalice, rescue kidnapped friends, destroy an enemy battleship.

Your task is to write the first two stages of the hero’s journey.

Create a character or choose one that you would like to develop further. Make a list of those things that are in that character’s world. You might not use them all, but it gives you a variety of choices from which to pick.

Now make a list of potential challenges or risks that the character might face. Choose only one or two, but make sure that one of them is compelling enough to spur the character to action.

Begin writing. Allow the reader to step into your character’s world. Let us hear the birds singing, the wind whispering in the trees, the children’s voices in the playground. Fill our nostrils with scents of cooking, broken branches, the damp of rotting leaves.

Keep in mind that it does not have to be an idyllic world. In fact, it can’t be if our hero is going to have to stand up and get going.

And that’s what comes next. The call. Somehow the character must become aware of a challenge, such as a home invasion, missing person, stolen item. Like a detective, then the character is spurred on to action.

When you finish, go back and reread. Look for places where you can strengthen the demand.

Have fun with this one.