Significant Objects in Your Life

When we were growing up someone gave my mom a cookie jar that was in the shape of a monk. We called him Friar Tuck, as in Robin Hood. My mom would store cookies in there, but because it was not airtight, the cookies quickly became stale.

When we moved from Ohio to California in 1964, the jar came with us, one of the few items that made the trip. The jar sat proudly on my parent’s countertop no matter where they lived. When my dad passed away a few years ago, Friar Tuck was still there.

The jar represented all the moves, all the changes in my family’s life. Marriages, grandchildren, moves. Eventually the deaths of both of my parents.

Your task is to think of something that represents your life. It could be an object, a traditional food item, or a journey that the family made together over a period of years.

Perhaps the objects no longer exist, the food no longer prepared and the trip no longer taken, but the memories linger. The memories don’t have to be positive. It could be that every time you think of your sister’s special spaghetti it dredges up images of arguments, hurtful words tossed about like candy.

Write the story behind that object. Allow it to reveal events in your past that add up to a longstanding story about your relationship.

Have fun with this one.

Addictions

Addictions interfere with our lives. Drugs and alcohol impair our ability to function normally, to concentrate, to process and hold on to information.

Going to work under the influence, if caught, could lead to termination. Driving can cause death to innocents.

Imagine the impact on relationships, unless the partner also abuses.

These are the things that we must consider when crafting characters.

Is your character an addict or a one-time user? Does your character hang out with users or avoid users? Does your character occasionally use drugs or alcohol or take part on a regular basis?

Your task is to create a character and then decide how much of an addict, and addicted to what, that individual is. Write a scene in which the reader sees the character either avoiding substances or taking part.

If you are not familiar with how someone under the influence of a particular drug might act, do some research. You want your character’s actions to be as realistic as possible.

Have fun with this one.

Traveling Incognito

We are many different people.

At any given time we might be walking around as an employee at a job that we hate/love.

The next moment we might get a troubling phone call about our child, and then we put on our parenting hat.

Or maybe it could be a message from a spouse, telling us that he/she just got promoted/was in a car accident/got good news from the doctor.

We could be an exercise nut on weekends or avoid exercise at all costs.

We might be a meat lover or a vegetarian or maybe a little of both.

We might love to play board/card games or hate any type of game.

We could be a reader of books/newspapers/magazines or only watch television.

We might be addicted to our devices, spending hours reading postings, or we might not own a single portable device, including a cell phone.

Because we change from day to day, hour to hour, we must consider that our characters also change. If she doesn’t, then she won’t be interesting to follow. A flat character does not invite tension, and every good story needs tension to pull the reader along.

Your task is to either create a new character or pull up one that you think might benefit from a little expansion.

Make a list of all the different disguises this character wears. Narrow the list down to two or three that you could comfortably fit into a scene.

Write that scene, keeping in mind that with each step a character makes, the hat changes.

Have fun with this one.

One Day to Live Again

If given an opportunity, which day in your life would you choose to relive?

Is there a time that you said or did something that you regret? If so, what would you do differently? How would this change the outcome?

We all do things that later cause us grief. It might have been a snide comment in response to being treated poorly by a friend or family member. It might have been an act as simple as not dividing the cake into equal portions and giving someone you were angry with the smallest piece. Granted, this is not a huge event, but it speaks to an underlying tension.

Your task is to write from the heart. Recall a situation that, if given a chance, you would do differently. Begin with the scene. Put us in the moment, whether it is a situation at work or an encounter in a coffee shop.

Choose your character. It can be first person or third. If third, keep the character’s actions as close to what really happened as possible.

Put things in motion. Try to recall the things that were said, the emotions, and the reactions.

Think about how you felt after it was over. For how long were you in remorse? Write about that feeling, wishing that it had never happened.

This will not be a fun activity, but one from which you can learn. Your characters say and do things that they should regret.

Good luck with this one!

A Responsible Person

Many people take care of others. I know of grandparents who watch their grandchildren five days a week while the parents work. I also know of people who have their elderly parents living with them.  In both cases, there is a degree of responsibility that transcends what we consider our responsibility as parents.

For whom is your character responsible? This is an important consideration. Even if your character lives alone, there must be someone in his life that demands attention. Is it a close friend who needs rescue? Is it a parent who cannot manage his finances without supervision? Is it a grown child who is still under the parent’s insurance?

Your task is to create a dependent for a character, then establish the degree of responsibility that the protagonist has for this dependent. Make it substantial in order to bring tension to the story.

Write a scene in which something occurs that tests the relationship. Perhaps someone falls ill, either the caretaker or the dependent. Perhaps someone falls and can no longer live alone. Perhaps someone loses financial independence and cannot afford to stay in her apartment any longer. Perhaps a natural disaster occurs that destroys the person’s home…and both caretaker and dependent have to make other arrangements.

There are many things that can occur that create tension. Your job is to choose one and write about it.

Have fun with this one.

Childhood Experiences

While we might not be writing about the childhood of our protagonist, but we must take into consideration what type of childhood the individual experienced.

For example, a child who was surrounded by love, nurtured and encouraged to explore different ideas, will grow into a different adult than one who grew up in negativity, in chaos, in fear.

Your task is to select at least one of your characters and create a bullet list that details the kind of life that person had as a child and teen. On one side, list the experiences. On the other, the effects. Try to list at least ten things.

The third thing to consider is whether or not the individual has moved beyond any adverse effects. If the character has, how did the person so this?

Once you’ve completed your task, then select a scene to rewrite, taking into consideration what the character experienced growing up. You don’t need to mention the events, but keep them in mind as your character negotiates the day.

Have fun with this one.

Faith Preference

Does your protagonist attend a church? Pray regularly? Bless the meal before eating?

These are questions that you need to answer before you begin writing. Faith doesn’t have to be mentioned in your story, but faith could influence how a person reacts in given situations.

For example, your character is approached by a beggar on his way into a store. What does your character do? Does he give the beggar a dollar? Wish him well? Or stare straight ahead and pretend that the beggar isn’t there?

One way to begin is to list the religions that you know something about. Once you’ve completed your list, then go online and spend time researching each. Try to find out how someone who practices that faith acts toward others and what the basic elements of that faith are.

After each description, write a few bullet points that show how someone would act is they practiced that faith.

Be sure to include agnosticism, as that is also a possible choice.

Once you’ve completed this exercise, then choose the faith preference of your character(s).

As you write, keep in mind how that faith influences the day-to-day decisions that your main characters make.

This does not have to be a long piece as this is primarily an exercise.

Have fun with this one.