Clutter

Have you ever been in a home in which every flat surface is covered with piles of stuff? How do you feel when there? A bit claustrophobic? Does the dust that hasn’t been removed cause breathing problems? Do you not want to touch anything, eat anything, walk down the halls for fear of things toppling over?

Maybe it’s your house that’s congested with stuff. Maybe it gives you comfort to be surrounded with so many things. Maybe you grew up poor and little of your own. Maybe you have good intentions to clear things up, but never get around to it. Or maybe the thought of getting rid of even one item causes panic to set in!

Your task is to create a character who is in one of the situations.  She is either the uncomfortable one or the keeper of stuff. Your reader will want to walk in her shoes, see with her eyes, feel with her fingers, be touched by her heart.

Write the story, remembering to build tension, to create conflict, to allow the emotions of your character come through.

Include enough details that the reader understands how bad things really are, but not so many details that there is no story. Strike a balance between narrative and action. Include an antagonist who tries to inspire the character to clear the mess up. Use dialogue, not narriative!

Have fun with this one.

Cleanliness Matters

First appearances are incredibly important. Snap judgements are made shortly after a person walks into a room. Same when we enter someone’s living space: depending upon neatness, we evaluate our feelings toward an individual.

Our characters are also defined by neatness. Well-groomed hair says a lot about how they feel about themselves. Same goes for the scrubby, dirty look that tells the viewer that either he hasn’t bathed in a while, or that he doesn’t care.

Your task is to create a credible description of your character. Think beyond clothes, hair, nails. Consider the state of the bedroom, apartment, kitchen. If possible, draw a picture of the individual and of the residence.

Next write a scene in which someone meets your character for the first time. How do people react? Describe the faces they make. The actions they make. Next take someone to the residence. Again, describe faces and actions.

Reread, looking for sufficient descriptors so that the reader clearly sees what you intend for her to see. If there are ambiguities, add information.

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!

Unlocked Doors

Some of us live in areas where no one locks their doors at any time, day or night, whether they are at home or away. Imagine what that must feel like! To know, to believe, that your privacy is protected without benefit of fancy security lights, cameras and companies.

Most of us, however, would not feel comfortable knowing that the doors were unlocked. We would worry about someone coming in uninvited and riffling through our drawers and cabinets.

We would panic at the thought of waking up with someone in our bedroom, looking at us as we sleep. We would have nightmares or possibly be unable to sleep at all.

Bring to mind a character that you would like to write about. What kind of person is this character? Does she tremble at the thought of invasion or is she so confidant in the safety of her neighborhood that she never worries about locking doors?

Your task is to incorporate this in a scene. Be realistic. Safety often depends upon where the person lives. For example, someone living in a high-rise in the downtown of a large city might never feel safe leaving the door unlocked, while someone out in the country might not care if the doors are locked or not. Or maybe it’s the reverse!

Have fun 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.

Cleaning out the Junk

We all have junk stored somewhere in our homes. It might be on the shelves out in the garage or buried in a closet, but it’s there. We hang onto camping gear that we haven’t used in years, clothes that don’t fit and by the time they do, will be out of style. We shelve books that we read once and believe that we’ll read again next to those that are waiting to be read.

We collect, thanks to friends, cookbooks that have never left the shelf. We have spices that are out of date and cookware that is badly in need of replacement.

And storage containers! Think of all the ones we keep but never use!

If we’ve got junk, then our characters do as well. This is something for you to think about. What kind of junk does she have and where does she keep it? Why does she hang onto these things?

What does he intend to do with all the stuff he has hidden away? Is he going to have a garage sale or give it away?

Even if you never use this information in a story, know what your characters have saved and what they intend to do with it informs us as to motivations and intent.

Your task is to think of one of your characters. What kind of person is he? Athletic? Then perhaps there’s a ton of equipment in a closet. Artistic? Then maybe there are canvases or clay stashed away.

Make a list of the interests your character has had in the past and currently has now. Think of all the things she’s attempted to master over the years.

Then under each activity, list the materials that go with each activity.

When you are finished, choose one activity and one stash of equipment.

Write a scene in which she is faced with her stuff. What decisions does she make and why?

Have fun with this one.