Shopping Extravaganza

            There’s nothing more exciting than heading off to the mall for a morning of shopping. Even if you have little money to spend, there are windows to peruse, clothing to inspect, dreams to build.

            You might begin by simply strolling up and down the mall, stopping to see what wonders are on display. On the next go-round you enter only those stores that intrigued you. Up and down aisles you go, occasionally holding up an item for inspection. You check the make, the style, the price, the quality, all the while imagining yourself wearing it.

            Does it go with anything you currently own? Is it too similar to things you’ve got at home? Is it worth the price or should you wait for a sale?

            All these thoughts go through your mind as you meander about.

            Imagine your character going on a shopping spree. What kinds of things hold his interest? Which stores invite him in? What items does she choose to inspect up close? Does she make immediate decisions or mull things over? Does he leave to see what comparable things other stores offer or make the purchase right then and there?

            Your task is to send your character on a nice, long shopping trip. He can go alone or bring a friend. She can try on things in her own dressing room or share with a friend. Lunch might be included as well as dinner after.

            Will the day go smoothly with lots of laughter and pleasant conversation or will arguments ensue? At the end, will he have purchased anything? If so, what? If not, why not? Dialogue might be the stronger as it allows for the give-and-take between characters as they discuss the merits of each item.

            Have fun with this one.

Sweltering Conditions

            Summer is upon us and temperatures are rising. Lucky people have air-conditioning or can seek shelter in a cooling spot. However, not everyone is blessed with ways to cool off.

            Free-standing fans provide limited relief if a person sits right in front of it, but do little for a family of four. Or for a classroom full of steaming children or a church filled with parishioners.

            Imagine the stories that arise from being overheated. Fights break out because tempers rise. Tears are shed. Clothing is stripped off. Hoses spray cooling water, but not when there is a drought. People might take a drive if their car’s air works or go stroll through a nearby shopping mall.

            These are all temporary solutions. What happens when the electricity goes out or people have to return to the overheated offices, classrooms and homes?

            Your task is to write a scene in which the heat is overwhelming. Begin with the setting. Are your characters on the road, at work or at home? How do they cool off? How does the heat impact relationships?

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue, remembering that tensions are going to arise. There might be angry words tossed about or actual fisticuffs.

            Have fun with this one.

Music Preferences

            Music wasn’t always an important part of my life. I don’t remember singing childhood ditties or making up my own songs as I played with dolls. My parents never sang to me and when we did listen to a radio, it was usually tuned to melodramas. We did sing in church, but because I was slow to learn to read, I couldn’t join in.

            I bought myself a tiny transistor radio when I was twelve. My favorite station played pop music, comfy singalong tunes with catchy beats. I subscribed to a magazine that printed the lyrics to every popular song. That became my bible. Whenever I was alone in my room, I turned on the radio and sang along. My love of music carried me through my tumultuous teens, twenties and all the ensuing years until my current ripe old age.

            How has music impacted your life? Has it played a minor or major role?

            Your task is to write a story in which music affects the protagonist, either in a positive or negative way. What age is she? Where does she live (city, state, country). What is her family situation (socioeconomic, single-parent, half-siblings). What are her favorite subjects in school (think about all the different grades, from Pre-Kindergarten to university).

            Does she share her love of music or keep it to herself? Does she sing in the shower or on stage? In a church choir or with a band? If band, what type and do they tour? All these considerations affect story.

            Have fun with this one.

Attitude Toward Medicine

            In much earlier times medicine was often the use of herbs, chants and even bloodletting.  Different kinds of plants were thought to heal specific ailments and injuries. During Medieval times the brewing of potions took on magical aspects when combined with chants and spells designed to ward off evil.

When trading grew into a major enterprise, travelers brought back different plants and beliefs that expanded the understanding as to how medicine was understood and utilized. Materials were tested and studies were done to verify or dispute what was known about various herbal treatments.

Modern society now relies on mixtures and tablets developed through scientific research in university and private labs. Doctors write prescriptions for what they believe is most likely to help their patients.

How we feel about medicine is influenced by where we live, what our families believed and how much we trust medical professionals. Others factor are availability and cultural practices.

Your task is to write a story in which the use of medicine plays a role. Setting is critical for that controls your character’s attitude toward medicine. Narrative is necessary to describe scene, but dialogue will allow readers to see into the minds of the people in our story.

Have fun with this one.

 

A New Baby

Anyone who’s been around a newborn understands how such a tiny, helpless being can upset the functioning of a home. Pitiful cries can’t be ignored and so guardians come to the rescue day and night. Stinky diapers have to be changed and washed. Everyone’s clothing gets soiled with vomit. It’s a seemingly endless litany of squalls and needs.

If the newborn is a cat or dog, there are still issues. They suffer separation anxiety when removed from mom. The cries are plaintive, but often unheard when the owners are off at work. Potty training can be challenging when the animal doesn’t “get” it as quickly as one might hope. There are walks to take, leash-training, special foods to prepare.

The impact of newborns doesn’t occur in many genres of stories. Romance and Women’s Literature are where the problems are most commonly found. But why can’t there be babies in Science Fiction or Horror?

Perhaps an astronaut becomes pregnant while on the International Space Station or the serial killer is nursing a toddler. Imagine how this would change the story.

Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist has a newborn of some kind. Choose a place to begin that has the most tension for that’s what will hook your readers. Description is essential, both internal and external. Readers will want to know what’s going through minds and how the infant is impacting lives.

Have fun with this one.

The Antisocial Teen

A surly teenager hurls insults at her mother and stomps upstairs, slamming her door behind her. This time it’s because Mom won’t let her go to an unsupervised party at an older boy’s house. Last week it was because Mom refused to pay for body piercings, and a few days before that it was an argument over the skimpy outfit the daughter intended to wear to school.

The son of a single man steals his dad’s precious 1964 hot rod and wraps it around a tree. The boy blames a deer, raccoon and a drunken friend, none of which amuse Dad. The teen is failing most of his classes due to absences and disciplinary problems. On top of that the kid only wears black: t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, shoes, socks and has three earrings on his right lobe.

Both stories speak about not just familial issues, but social ones as well. The kids seem to have made poor choices in friends and the parents, while doing their best, are struggling.

Your task is to write a story about an antisocial teenager. You might want to do a little research into issues facing teens in whatever time period you choose. Also consider exploring parenting tips and what types of counseling is available.

Obviously there will be a lot of drama, a lot of tension, and tons of conflict possibilities. Don’t put too much in one scene as then it’s over the top and too hard for readers to process. Consider spacing events out as the story progresses. Remember that dialogue and actions are important. This will not be a happy story, so make the best of it that you can.

Have fun with this one.

Grandma’s Been Cooking

Imagine a scene in which company arrives for a family meal. Grandma insisted that she’d fix all the food, thank you very much. The problem is that she’s a notoriously horrible cook. She’s mastered an edible apple pie, a tolerable beef stroganoff, and a passable version of green bean casserole.

Perhaps Grandma’s a sous chef at a three-star restaurant. Her entrees are amazing, but are made from ingredients so obscure that the grandkids won’t touch therm. Because everything requires meticulous planning, she spends days preparing. Meanwhile she neglects cleaning the house, showering, setting the table. There are no drinks for kids or adults, but plenty of escargot.

What type of cook is your character’s grandmother? What does through his mind whenever Grandma invites him for dinner? Does he bring funeral potatoes over her protests? Does he pick up a lemon meringue pie from the bakery on his way even though Grandma’s feelings will be hurt?

Your task is to write the story. Begin with the invitation. Does it arrive by snail mail, email or phone? What emotions pass through your character’s mind when he responds? What does he do to prepare? Draw out the scene from beginning to end, showing us the party, the dialogue, the emotions of all invited.

This could be a humorous story or a heartbreaking one depending upon how you set the stage.

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.

Terrifying Experience

Imagine a time when you were so frightened that your heart pounded and you trembled in fear. Sweat beaded your brow and poured down your face. Tears filled your eyes. You tried to cry out, but no sound emerged.

What happened as time passed? Did your fear intensify or did it slowly ease? What helped you recover? Did you employ a calming strategy or did someone come to your aid?

Your character might also experience a terrifying event. When you tell the story, remember to use clues to make the scene tension-filled. Your readers want to feel the fear, to walk with your character throughout the entire process, from beginning to end.

Your task is to write the story. Begin with an everyday scene. Your character is going through life as usual when something happens that is so frightening, so terrifying that her fight or flight mechanism is triggered. She can flee, but she cannot shed her hear until readers have traveled in her shoes.

Have fun with this one.