Life’s Lessons

            As we progress through life, we hopefully learn as we go along. For example, we might discover that it’s better to tell the truth than to fabricate a believable, consistent lie. It might be better if we don’t watch scary movies when home alone or go out in the dark without a good flashlight. When asked to babysit, don’t agree to it if you can’t stand being around kids, or if it’s those particular kids that you hate.

            If we hate seafood, perhaps we should admit that before agreeing to meet friends at a restaurant that only serves fish. Maybe we shouldn’t agree to go to a party where an obnoxious relative will hold court or promise to send a gift when we don’t know what the person would like.

            There are so many lessons that we learn along the way that it’s impossible to list them all.

            Your character will have learned things as well.

            Your task is to write a scene in which that character has to either admit to a mistake or learns something important about herself. The lesson can be small or large. It can change her life or not. It can cause hurt to herself or others.

            Make the setting in which she has to learn this lesson interesting. Include people that challenge her. Use a combination of dialogue and narrative.

            Have fun with this one.

Drive-by Religion

            During times of stress, we might look for reassurance from our faith. But what happens when entering a church building is not possible? What do you do?

            Recently many faiths offered parking lot services, including blessings, confessions and communions. Drivers got in line, and when they neared the minister, expressed their need, received whatever they asked for, then drove away. It was an innovative way to reach people in times of extreme need.

            Your task is to write a scene in which someone enters the drive-by line and something untoward happens. It doesn’t have to affect your protagonist, but instead a person in line in front of him. Think of stories you’ve heard about someone paying the toll for drivers following along behind. Is it possible to ask for blessings for the next three cars in line? Might the driver reach out and touch the minister, pulling her inside the car? When the minister cries out, what does your character do?

            Think of all the possibilities of things that might happen. Choose the one that makes for the most interesting story.

            Have fun with this one.

Masquerade

            People seem to love dressing up in costume and going to parties. If the mask is good enough, even the best of friends can’t identify the wearer. This allows freedoms to say and do things that perhaps the participant would never do.

            Some masquerades are quite elaborate. They take place at huge houses or McMansions. There are spiraling staircases, gilded trimmings, caterers about and even an orchestra playing dance tunes. Decorum is maintained according to caste expectations.

            During Halloween there are also parties, but they might feature salads made up to look like human insides, games designed to gross out participants, and freaky music echoing off the walls.

            Your task is to write a scene in which a masquerade plays a major role. Make things interesting by having something unexpected and untoward happen. Think murder or grand theft. Perhaps an unwanted sexual encounter. Stumbling drunks and flirtatious behavior.

            The setting is crucial. Readers want to be drawn in by opulence or the fright-factor. Descriptions of what participants are wearing is also important. When the story gets going, dialogue will make things come alive.

            Have fun with this one.

Change in Routine

            Your character gets up every morning at six, showers, fixes a cup of coffee and a piece o toast, then drives to the metro station. She hops on the next train for a forty-minute ride. Before going into the office, she stops at the coffee shop in the lobby and buys a second cup of coffee, this one loaded with goodies.

            Once her computer is on, she checks for important emails that might require action. After that, she focuses on her job, ignoring conversation flowing around her until ten, her official break. Her day continues in a similar vein. Day after day, she follows the same routine.

            What would happen if her alarm didn’t go off or if there was no hot water? What if her coffee machine was broken or the train didn’t arrive? What if her coworkers gathered around her desk and sang Happy Birthday?

            How would she react to the changes?

            How we handle change says a lot about us. Some of us are quite rigid and want things to stay the same, both at work and at home. Some of us enjoy change as it adds mystic and variety.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character’s routine changes. You decide whether or not this is a good thing, whether it causes undo tension or not. Readers will want to see the “normal” world at the beginning, then witness the change and the emotional reactions that ensue.

            Have fun with this one.

Rebellion

            Imagine a scenario where the citizens are upset with the ruling power. They’ve been tortured, imprisoned, forced to work in unsafe conditions and have little to eat. There is no hope for improvement as long as the current leaders are in power.

            Attempts to negotiate have repeatedly failed. Rumor has it that an assassination is in the works, so armed military patrols the streets. It’s a dire situation.

            Many stories have been written using this scenario as a base for sowing discord. Given a chance to write the story, how would yours differ?

            Your task is to develop a scene in which rebellion is looming. Is it coming within the ranks of the aristocracy or from the peasants? Is it in a single city or throughout the empire? Who is leading the rebellion?  Disenfranchised royals? Defecting soldiers?

            What is the desired result and who would step up and be in charge assuming the rebellion is successful? What changes would be enacted, and would those be acceptable to all?

            How many would die and what weapons would be used? Does magic come into play?

            There are many things to consider to make this story stand out.

            Have fun with this one.

Forms of Government

Every society has at least one leader. How that leader came to power is determined through the type of government that exists. For example, in a matriarchy women are most powerful within the government and within families. A geriatric society holds elders in high esteem. Many fantasy stories feature cruel dictators who torture and imprison enemies in order to maintain tight control.

One way to decide what type of government your world will have is by doing research into various forms that have existed throughout history. Model yours after the one that you feel most comfortable writing about.

Remember that there can also be shadow groups that are trying to influence or seize power. You can have secret societies, militias, strong religious leaders and guilds or unions that control decisions made.

Your task is, once you’ve chosen the form of government, to write a scene in which conflict arises because of a challenge to the throne or seat of power. The purpose of the scene is to propel the story forward, to provide tension through obstacles that your main character has to overcome.

Have fun with this one.

Creatures in Your World

While monsters and fantastical creatures aren’t a necessary ingredient in science fiction and fantasy, but they add a great deal of fun to the story. Such beings could be described as anything that hasn’t been seen before, that has the potential to be frightening due to unknown powers, or known beings that are presented in unusual ways.

Everyone knows what a shark is, but the enormous, vicious one in the movie Jaws was terrifying because of its proportions, perseverance, and power.  The rest of the world contained the usual flora and fauna.

Your world can contain a little of both living side-by-side. Or everything is completely new yet fulfills roles that known animals do, such as be used for pulling, lifting, riding, and as food sources.

Your task is to create a list of four different monsters that will people your world. Give them names, characteristics and physical descriptions. It would be important to also know what powers each has and whether or not they are subservient to humans.

Write a story in which one monster plays a key role. It can be the protagonist who is intent to conquer the world or the antagonist to a hero who intends to save the world.

Have fun with this one.

Scandalous Affair

The tabloids that sit near cash registers call readers with stories of extramarital affairs, terrestrial sightings and deformed bodies. To get the stories, paparazzi follow real people about trying to catch them in uncompromising positions and interview folks who have outlandish stories to tell. If the magazines didn’t sell, they wouldn’t be on the market.

Your task is to write the story of all fiction stories, the one based on gossip, lies and exaggerations. Your character should be well-known in your world. Perhaps she’s a TV reporter or the police chief of a large city. Maybe he just signed a billion dollar contract with a new sports club or bought a car dealership that sells hundreds of vehicles a week.

Think big, glamorous, exciting. Most likely your character is regularly seen on television and heard on the radio talk shows.

Because of her popularity rumors swirl about. Has she been seen with ______? Was he cuddling with _____? Did he really say that? Did she wear that? Are they a couple even though they are both married?

What happens needs to be enticing to readers. Drama and tension are critical to this genre. Employ dialogue and interactions with a variety of people. Terse words would stir some people’s juices. Love scenes will entice others.

This is your opportunity to be outrageous.

Have fun with this one.