Losing Things

            Remember a time when you thought you had lost something. How much energy you spent looking depended upon how important the item was as well as how soon you needed it.

If you were packing for a trip and couldn’t find the documents for your presentation, you probably put a considerable amount of time into locating them. If, however, you had misplaced your comb, you most likely terminated the search and bought a new one.

What if it was an anniversary card for your best friend? A Father’s Day card for your loved one? Or the key to your house that you intend to give to your house sitter?  Perhaps it’s the blouse that matches the slacks you’re wearing for a special night out?

Or, if you’re extremely unlucky, you feel as if you’ve lost a piece of your mind.

Your character probably has lost a thing or two. How does that play out in a story?  If the item is a priceless heirloom, she might try to track down the last person who touched it.

If the object turned up missing after a burglary, your character might feel both bereft and violated.

If it’s his mind, his memory, he might go through periods of bereavement followed by periods of blankness.

Your task is to write a scene in which something is missing. Your character reacts to the loss in the way only she would. Narrative and dialogue are important. Description of the object, the emotions, and the search are critical.

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.

Dance Party

Do you recall the first dance you attended? How old were you? Did you go with a date or with a group of friends? Where was the dance? Were you anxious or excited? Did everything go okay at the dance? If not, then that is the story you want to tell.

Imagine that at some time in their lives, our characters went to a dance during high school, college, or as adults with friends. Perhaps she didn’t want to go, but too much pressure was applied. She fussed over her outfit, hair and makeup. She complained all the way there. Once inside, what happened?

Your task is to write the story. It can be the first dance he attended or the most recent one. Choose a situation when some form of conflict would arise. The bigger the conflict, the more interesting the story becomes.

Details are important to establish setting. Think ambience. Decorations. Music. Food. Drink. Were there only people he knew or total strangers? Did someone get so drunk that they acted outlandishly?

Have fun with this one.

Growing Plants

Do you love flowers in bloom? The range of colors, shapes and sizes is amazing. Arranged in carefully tended plots, a garden is satisfying to the soul. A walk through one brings hope, joy and a sense of serenity unfound anywhere else.

Perhaps you prefer a vegetable garden, filled with all kinds of tasty goodies awaiting someone like you to pick and cook. Do you visit farmers’ markets and buy the freshest veggies? Maybe you have a plot at home where you grow a few of the things you most like to eat. It could even be a few clay pots on a balcony, or a couple on the back porch, but you are the caretaker of goodness to come.

Unfortunately there are people who can’t grow a thing. They study, watch videos, take classes, but everything they touch dies. Or if it lives, it never blooms or produces food.

Your task is to write a story in which a character interacts with plants in some way. It could be realistic fiction or fantasy, memoir or biography. Readers will want to see the details through the character’s eyes, smell the fragrances through the noses and feel the textures with the fingers.

You will need at least one other character to enrich the story in order to allow for dialogue. This could be a vendor, a farmer, a villain, a friend. Dialogue is important. Create a story arc with a series of acts that interfere with your character’s desired goals.

Have fun with this one.

Play Acting

Children love to pretend. They build forts out of sheets, dress up dolls, and talk to stuffed animals. The wearing of costumes is a real thrill, for when dressed as someone else, they assume personalities different than their own. They can bravely face foes when in the night they tremble at the thought of monsters in the closet. They can fly high into the sky despite being terrified of heights.

Many teens get involved in theater and choir during high school. They audition and hopefully win the roles they desired. On stage they are someone else. They might be the detective who solves the case, the soloist who normally only sings in the shower or the lover who woos a victim into a web.

Many adults enjoy play acting. Theater is a popular form of entertainment. Look at Broadway in NYC, big cities who lure in tours of Broadway plays and small local theaters who host events for crowds of a hundred. For thespians it’s a chance to be a child again, to put on the mantle of a character and to speak, move and behave like someone else.

Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist is involved in theater or choir. There should be an audition so that readers will walk through the process, feeling the hopes, excitement and possible tears with the character. Give us the tension, the anxiety that accompanies being on the stage.

Not all things should run smoothly. Readers want to see glitches arise and watch how the character handles such events.

Have fun with this one.

Play Ball!

Baseball. Basketball. Volleyball. Tennis. Rugby. American football, soccer and futbol as it’s known everywhere else. Playing sports is something almost everyone does sometime in their life.

For most of us we learn the rules of the games in our physical education classes. If a parent follows sports, then we spend hours watching on television.

Some of us play on recreational teams that become quite competitive, while others only play pickup games at local fields and courts.

Games can become contentious. Players cheat to get ahead. They illegally trip or push opponents. They step over lines then argue that they didn’t. Players who fall become injured, and if not hurt, get angry and fight back. Tensions rise. In professional sports it’s not unusual to see entire teams rush onto the field.

Your task is to write a story in which sports plays a major role. Choose a sport that you know enough about in order to tell the story. Make sure you understand the causes of tension and use them to draw the reader in. Details are critical. Dialogue is required.

Have fun with this one.

Through the Eyes of a Child

Do you recall the wonderment you felt as a child? The unabashed joy at each revelation, each new experience, each discovery? Things as simple as finding a partial shell buried in the sand or watching a pair of kittens scampering across the lawn gave us goosebumps. Everything we saw, felt, tasted, heard was filtered through our perceptions of the world.

Stories told at night held more power. Magic and fantasy were real. Goblins hid in our closets and under our beds. We believed in a variety of spirits that bestowed gifts and treasures. A wrapped present was a mystery that beckoned to be opened.

The world was pure and beautiful and amazing.

And then we grew up and reality slapped us upside the head. We became aware of the evil, the imperfections of the world and those around us. Our joy diminished. We became jaded, never again to experience the pure joy, until we had children of our own and could live the world through their eyes.

Your task is to write a story through the eyes of a child. Capture the inner essence of a child as he goes through life. Give him things to explore, to touch, taste, hear.

Details are critical for this story. Time will be slow because the reader will take each tiny step with the child. Record each minute discovery as we see through the child’s eyes.

When you reread, make sure there are sufficient details that allow readers to see from all angles.

Have fun with this one.

Family Dynamics

Imagine a family gathering in which a variety of aunts, uncles, cousins and elders mix and mingle throughout the house and backyard. Most of the time pleasantries are exchanged and rules of engagement are followed.

But then someone has a little too much to drink or Johnny pushes Steven off the swing or Aunt Carol’s casserole gets knocked off the counter or someone overhears juicy gossip about themselves. All hell breaks loose, right?

That’s the story that you want to tell. Not the goody-goody everyone’s pretending to like everyone. Readers want to tension, the fights, the nasty words tossed about. We want to see what happens. Who’s involved. The words/actions. Who tries to intervene. Who laughs. Who gets hurt.

Your task is to write a fascinating story about family times that go awry. Remember to include details. The skirt tucked into Sally’s panties. The zipper of George’s slacks that gets stuck. The smell of rancid lettuce rotting in the afternoon sun.

We want good things to happen, sure. If not, the story would be over the top. Give us pleasant happenings, but then an incident that triggers disaster.

Have fun with this one.

Writing From Experience

Another technique to use when you can’t think of a story to tell, is to write from a specific incident in your life.

For example, write about the time you were betrayed by another. This could have taken place when you were a child, or when you were in high school, or even as an older adult. You want to choose something that had an impact on who you are today.

If you are not writing about yourself, but rather a character in your story, choose an occurrence in her life that would have a comparable impact.

Your task is to first create a list of events that you might be able to write about. For example:

  1. Your first experience in deep water.
  2. The first time someone asked you out and the date that followed.
  3. Your first pet. This can be your initial reaction to it, your feelings over time, how devastating it was when it died.
  4. The time when you met someone who later became important in your life.

Once you have created your list, or working from the one above, write the story. Try to include as many details as you can, making sure that you tickle the senses. If you are writing about yourself, but you really wanted to use the details in a fictional story, then rewrite those parts that change the point of view.

Have fun with this one.