Too Busy

Recall one of your busiest weeks. What all was on your calendar? How much did you actually accomplish? How were you feeling at the time?

Bring to mind one of your characters.

Your task is to create a week filled with too many obligations and not enough time to complete them all.

Begin by making a list that matches your character’s profile. Include at least one item for each day of the week.

Do not eliminate anything! Instead write the story of that week, being sure to include the character’s feelings as each day begins and ends, as each event approaches, as she prepares for the event, as the event is taking place.

Let us see inside the mind of the character. We want to feel what she feels, walk inside her along the way.

This will not be easy. It can also result in what appears to be a laundry list of activity.

When you are finished, edit the story down to the most exciting and interesting activities, the ones where feelings shine forth.

Have fun with this one.

Too Much Tension?

Is there such a thing? Can a story have too much tension?

One way to check is to read a story or see a movie that is a thriller. Try to choose something where the action starts at the beginning and never lets up. A good example is the movie Ben is Back starring Julia Roberts.  The tension runs from beginning to end, with no let up. There is no scene in which the characters are not frightened or concerned or worried or frantic.

As a viewer, I was in overload after twenty minutes. I wanted some sort of release. There is one scene in which it was possible to have that release, but the camera focused on Ben and what he was feeling.

Your task is to write a scene in which tension is constant. Choose a setting that is appropriate for that level of tension. It could be a bank robbery, a kidnapping, an attempt at escape, running from evil (or from the law). Keep the focus on the emotions of your main characters.

When you are finished, reread or ask someone else to read. How do you feel as you read? Is there too much tension or the right amount considering the setting?

Next rewrite the scene with moments in which there are lighter actions. Then reread.

Which version works best?

Have fun with this one.

Opening Doors

Think of all the times that doors have opened in your favor. I’m not just referring to physical doors, but the literal ones as well. For women it was breaking through the glass ceiling and being hired to do a job traditionally seen as a man’s. A good example is our Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was admitted to a law school that had never before had a female student. Imagine how hard she fought to get there and to remain there.

Our characters also pass through many doors in their lives. It could be making it through the first job interview to get hired at a fast food joint. Or maybe it was when they were chosen as a soloist in the church choir.

Your task is to think of several doors that opened in one of your character’s lives. Begin by making a short list of at least five things. Next to each record why that door was important and also how it changed that person’s life.

Choose the one that you feel most comfortable writing about. Tell the story, remembering to include sensory details. We want to feel the anxiety before, during and after waiting for the door to open. We need to walk in her shoes as she goes through the process.

In order to make it more interesting, put obstacles in the way. Perhaps the door is far from home or the door opens at an inconvenient time. Maybe there is rejection at first, followed by disappointment, which then turns to joy.

Have fun with this one.

Free Time

Some listen to music while others hike up steep hills. Some garden while others paint. Some write letters. Take long walks with friends. Read a book. Design cards. Eat out. Go to movies or the theater.

No matter how obnoxious the character, at some point he relaxes with a preferred activity, so give him one. It would be more startling if the activity is in direct conflict with the character’s viciousness. For example, a serial killer cuddling up with a tiny kitten. Or a bank robber playing Mozart on a grand piano.

All of your characters need to have at least one preferred leisure activity. We need to see them not just at work, but doing something that allows them to break free of the hassle of their work lives.

Your task is to select a character that you know and love. Make a list of at least five different activities that she would enjoy. Choose some that require physical activity, some that require some degree of skill or talent, and some that almost anyone can do.

Choose one of them to incorporate in a scene.  When you write, allow us to see your character relaxed, enjoying the activity. Allow us to feel what she feels, see what she sees, hear what she hears.

Somewhere during the activity, let there be an interruption. Have her react appropriately. Is she annoyed? Angry? Or does she welcome the distraction?

When you are finished, reread looking for the emotional reactions.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Compassion

The way you think about yourself influences the decisions you make and the things you do. It affects confidence levels which can either reduce or increase the likelihood of you trying new experiences.

Often our self-compassion comes to us as a voice in our head. What does yours tell you? What does it sound like? Is it male or female? Is it encouraging or discouraging? Does it inspire you or tear you down?

If you think of yourself in a kindly manner, you treat yourself with respect, kindness, compassion and with acceptance, even though you might not be as perfect as you would like to be someday.

Your task is to write about yourself. Imagine that you are with a good friend and you are feeling a little down. What would you like that friend to say or do? What is the likelihood that the friend will say anything? What is in that friend’s personality that controls how they will react to you?

Your scene is most likely imaginary, but it doesn’t have to be. You can write about something that happened as a nonfiction story or you can add fictional elements that switch the story to one that you wish had happened.

As you write, ask you friend to treat you with kindness, compassion and caring.

When you are finished, ask yourself if you could treat yourself this way. If not, why?

Have fun with this one.

Positive Comments

Imagine that you have three good friends. You’ve known each other for many years. You’ve traveled together, eaten together, shopped together. You’ve shared many wonderful moments and overcome difficulties that might have separated others. Through thick and thin you have remained friends.

What would they say are your most positive characteristics? Think beyond the obvious. For example, not just comments about your physical appearance or how clothes fit your body. What would they say?

Your task is to think about a character in one of your stories and the people that she considers friends. Make a list of those individuals.

Next to each name write at least one positive thing that the person would say about the character. Each person must say something different based upon experiences they have shared.

Choose a place in the story where you can insert at least one positive comment from the character’s friend. How does that play out? What does the character say or do in reaction?

Make sure it feels realistic and not forced.

Have fun with this one.

 

Evening Out

Most love getting out for an evening. Recall how you feel when you get dressed up to go to the theater, visit friends or go into the big city for a frolicking night of fun.

When you dressed, were you thinking of what you’d eat for dinner? The great conversations you’d have? Seeing the people that you haven’t seen for a long while?

Your characters experience the same emotions. When you plan an evening out for them, remember to include details about the range of feelings that pass through. There will be a bit of anxiety, a bit of nervousness, a bit of dread if this isn’t something that your character enjoys.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character and another are preparing for a night out. Think of all the possible preparations involved. If there are children, then perhaps a babysitter is needed. If it’s a potluck, food has to be cooked. Clothing has to be chosen, hair done and makeup applied. Perhaps a bottle of wine is opened and another brought to the party.

Write several pages, then reread, looking to see if you captured the emotions. If you did, great. If not, what’s missing? Reread again, this time looking for places to amplify and expand emotions. Consider adding dialogue so that we see and feel the interplay between characters. Make the dialogue realistic for your story.

Have fun with this one.