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.

Laryngitis

            Imagine if your character lost his voice but still had to go to work and interact with others.

What would he do? How would he communicate?

Thanks to technology, there is the internet and computers with email and word processing programs that would help.

I don’t own a cell phone, but I imagine that there is a means to use one to place orders at restaurants or to ask for things at a store.

But what if your character doesn’t have those things either because of the place or time of the story, or because of socioeconomic factors that prevent the ownership of those things? What would your character do?

Your task is to write a scene in which your character has to interact with at least one other person, but cannot speak. The laryngitis is so severe that she cannot even croak out a few syllables in order to make herself clear.

Have fun with this one.

Physical Fitness

Many of us spend a lifetime worrying about how we look. We obsess over how our clothes fit, from whether or not we have freedom to move our arms to how tightly the fabric clings to our middles. And so must our characters.

Whether your character is stick-thin or portly, the level of physical fitness affects his approach to life.

Imagine a buff muscular man whose shoulders do not fit in a traditional store-bought suit. What does he do when his luggage is lost? Where does he shop? Does he settle for cheap large-sized clothes or go to a specialty shop? More importantly, how often does he work out? What is his exercise routine like? What does he eat and drink?

What about the svelte woman whose shape is Barbie-doll perfect? What types of clothes does she wear? How does she maintain this shape? Does she starve herself or eat items on fad diets?

And then there are the rest of us, those who aren’t GI Joe or Barbie. What shape is our body in? Do we have love handles? Do our breasts sag down to our bulging waist? Does he have a beer belly? Double chin? Arms that flop in the wind?

How does this body shape affect how we approach life?

Your task is to think of one of your characters in terms of shape and physical fitness. What a short bio in which you list height, weight, hair color, eye color, and then move downward. Include size of clothes and the degree to which clothes hide or cling.

Be as detailed as possible. Don’t be kind if your character is not in perfect shape. Be realistic.

Have fun with this one.

Catastrophic Illness

We don’t like to think about it, talk about it or write about it, but it happens. People fall ill, break bones and develop life-threatening conditions. It’s a fact of life and it affects people of all ages.

When we create our characters’ profiles, we need to consider whether or not those individuals will fall ill with something more severe than the flu. If you’re going for high drama, then perhaps illness works its way into your story.

Your task is to think of a character that you would like as a protagonist. Picture the individual in your mind, or to make things more concrete, go online and seek images of people who look like the character you have in mind. Save that image and consult it frequently.

Next create a list of five possible conditions that might befall that person. Don’t be gentle. Think huge and potentially life-altering.

Research those conditions and add bullets under each until you’ve created a fairly accurate picture of the illness.

Put together the image you’ve saved and one of the conditions, the one you feel most confident writing about.

Design the setting and a plot point, then write. You must keep in mind how this diagnosis affects the character’s mental and emotional state as well as how the character functions in the world. Your story need not end in death: in fact, it would be better if it did not.

Instead focus on the positives. How does someone with that condition work? Play? Interact socially and in a business manner? What kinds of things is the character able to do for relaxation? What would happen if your character had to travel by car, plane or train?

Tackle several of these issues in your story. Give us a character that we can care about, not a simpering whippet who cowers in a corner. Your readers will want to cheer on your character as he manipulates the world despite his condition.

Have fun with this one.

The Issue of Health

There is no such thing as a complete healthy human being. We all have issues, of some sort or another, varying in intensity from mild to severe.

Even young children are afflicted with something or other. For example, it is not uncommon for kids to have ear infections or to suffer the flu.

Teens might struggle with bladder infections, cramps or the common cold.

Then there are sprains, strains and broken bones.

As we age, we run into even more difficulties. We might need glasses or hearing aids. We might have difficulty swallowing or lose some degree of balance.

The challenge this week is to write a story/scene in which your protagonist has some type of health issue. Before you write, think about how it affects his/her life. Does it mean sitting in the front row in a classroom? Walking with a cane? Using a walker or wheelchair?

There needs to be conflict to make the story interesting, so use the health issue as an impetus for the conflict. Perhaps people get tired of shouting to be heard or maybe the character is color blind and so runs a red light.

Your task, then, is to add complexity to your character. Make her real, dealing with actual issues that all of us struggle with at one time or another.

Good luck with this one.