Tough Decision

Every now and then try writing a story in which your protagonist is faced with an extremely difficult decision. Think life-altering.

For example, what if one of his children was accused of murder? And he knew that the child was innocent? Would the father confess to the crime to save the kid?

Perhaps a good friend needs a kidney transplant and your character is a good match. However, your character has some complications that makes the surgery a bit risky.

Your task is to write a story in which a tough decision has to be made. Choose something that has serious outcomes, perhaps even life-threatening. What’s important is to make the stakes so high that he has to weigh the options.

Dialogue is important so that readers see discussions being made, questions being asked and answered and the social dynamics involved.

The story can be realistic based on research you’ve done, or fantasy, in another place and time.

Make the tension clear, palpable.

Have fun with this one.

Decisions, Decisions

            A recent study reported that adults make as many as 122 decisions a day. Some are quite ordinary, such as figuring out when to get out of bed, what clothes to wear and what television programs to watch.

            We also make decisions that affect our lives in quite serious ways. For example, when choosing a career, some might look at the money to be earned while others might consider job satisfaction over anything else. Teachers are notoriously underpaid when taking into account the college coursework required. Despite knowing that they might never be paid what someone with a comparable education would in the private sector, teachers want to have an impact, they want, essentially, to watch their charges grow and learn.

            Your task is to write a story in which your characters make decisions, both big and small. Readers will want to watch as they discuss their options. This allows readers to see how the characters think. Show the results of the decision as well. It might be more interesting if the results are not what the characters wanted.

            Have fun with this one.

Pivotal Point

            Do you remember a time when something occurred that altered your life? Perhaps it was a move cross-country or changing your major in college. It might have been falling in love when you had no intention of ever marrying. Maybe you got what you thought was the job of your dreams only to find out that you found it so boring that you hated going to work.

            When something happens that causes you to change course, that’s a pivotal point in your life.

            Every good story, whether in a book, movie, play or television show, has a pivotal point that sends the protagonist down a different road. Sometimes the road is so bumpy and rough that the protagonist will turn around and go the other way. But many times, they push on, determined to see where that first path leads.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character faces such a pivotal point. You can have him ignore it and just carry on, but what fun would that be? Instead let your character make the change. Plot points will include lots of events that make the choice uncomfortable, that makes the character question what he has done.

            Use both narrative and dialogue to tell the story.

            Have fun with this one.

Reality Check

A reality check is utilized as a means to clarify or correct a misconception. If properly delivered, it can you makes the individual recognize the truth about a situation, especially by countering any difficulties and challenges that seem to prevent success.

Imagine wanting to lose weight. You research dieting techniques, go shopping for the recommended foods, tell yourself that tomorrow you will begin. Tomorrow comes and for lunch you order an ice cream sundae with the works. By the time you’ve finished it, you’re stuffed and miserable. You tell yourself that you failed, that you are a failure and will always be a failure so there’s no hope.

Taking time to reflect might allow you to see that it was just one slip up and that the rest of the day is open to success. One failure does not doom the plan.

That’s the benefit of a reality check. It helps us to step back and evaluate our performance as just one part of a whole.

Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist needs a hefty reality check. Begin by narrowing down the area that you feel most comfortable writing about. Make the stakes high enough and the desired outcome large enough that the character has to want to succeed so badly that he is willing to work at it. Put the story in motion, then have the character experience a failure and disappointment.

Include both narrative and dialogue.

Have fun with this one. 

The Big Decision

            You’re most of the way through the novel. The protagonist has struggled over many obstacles and seems to be on the road to success. Suddenly a chasm-sized barrier is in the way. She has two possible choices to make. She can turn around and retrace her steps or find a way across. A decision has to be made that could potentially alter her life.

            What she chooses is determined by the characteristics readers have seen in the individual. A timid person or one with low self-esteem will turn around while the character with tons of self-confidence will plow ahead.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist is confronted with a choice that would make a huge difference in his life.

            Begin by making a list of possible obstacles. They can be realistic or fantastical, depending upon the type of story that you are writing. Once you have chosen the primary obstacle, add possible solutions. Once again, solutions depend upon the genre you have chosen.

            Your character is proceeding along, the obstacle arises. A choice is made. Make sure that readers will believe the outcomes and that the emotions that your character experiences come through.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

Difficult Choices

            Recall a time when you were faced with two possible choices. At the time, one definitely seemed better than the other, but the least favored choice would be easier to accomplish.

            For example, you could go to college and earn a Master’s Degree, a choice that might enhance employment opportunities. However, it will take at least a year to complete.

            On the other hand, you could expand your current skills by attending workshops, seminars or weekend trainings. Each one you complete goes on your resume, making it appear that you are constantly working on improving yourself.

            The choices might be more mundane such as whether to have the beef enchilada drowning in sauce and cheese or the tortilla soup. Both are delicious, but one has far fewer calories.

            Your task is to write a scene in which a character faces two choices. Make sure that both are compelling and offer some type of reward. Your character must take time to consider both equally.

            To make the story more interesting, add in another character. This allows for dialogue, which provides opportunity for depth and detail.

            Have fun with this one.

Paying the Bills

Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be able to pay your bills on time and so have excellent credit. When you need a new car, no problems. You are automatically approved for a loan. You decide to buy a condo and the lender smiles as they hand you papers to sign.

Maybe you’re struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table. You pay off the gas company so you have heat and light but postpone payment to the credit card company. You know this puts you in risk of losing the card, but you have no choice.

Your task is to write a story in which paying the bills plays an important role. You can tell the story of an individual who has no financial worries until something happens that puts him at risk. Or you can share the concerns of someone who is just getting by.

The important point is to ensure that your readers feel the joy or the pain, that they walk in the shoes of your protagonist. Dialogue would be important as well as narrative descriptions. Seek a balance between the two.

Have fun with this one.

Pausing for a Reality Check

Impulsivity is a plus in certain fields of employment. Imagine being faced with a decision that has to be made now, not ten minutes from now or after consulting with a team of experts. Quick thinking and fast reactions save lives in an emergency, solve problems in a production line, and move people safely out of a burning building. Take-charge people can be a benefit to an organization.

Now imagine a scene in which acting impulsively causes serious problems. The man rushes into a burning building to save his cat, gets trapped and has to be rescued by firefighters who could potentially be injured or killed in the process. Or say she’s driving a car, the light turns green and she jumps out into the intersection because it’s her turn. A car running through the light hits her, killing her passenger and breaking several bones in her body.

In both cases pausing before acting would save lives.

This is called taking a Reality Check. Before acting, you stop for a few seconds and analyze the options or the motivations for your thinking. It can be a powerful tool when employed correctly.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character needs to utilize the Reality Check method. Create a complex setting in which important decisions have to be made. Perhaps your character acts rashly, leading to a domino effect of negative consequences.  Maybe your character is the victim of someone who made a poor decision. Readers will need to feel the danger, sense the thinking process and care what the result is.

Have fun with this one.

Great Decisions

Recall a time when you had to choose between a variety of things, ranging from great to small. Some gave immediate short-term rewards while the most desired required patience and determination to accomplish.

Perhaps you wanted a forbidden soda and a candy bar of your own. What went through your mind as you stood before the range of possibilities? What did you choose and why? As you ate and drank, what sensations did you experience? And when you were finished, were you satisfied? If so, why?

Now think of something you wanted as an adult. A new car? Hybrid or electric? Automatic or manual? Sedan or SUV? What research did you do before making a decision? What factors influenced the vehicle that you chose? Once you drove it off the lot, what emotions arose? Were you satisfied with your decision?

Your characters make great decisions as well. The things they want depend upon personality, socioeconomic status and need.

Your task is to write a scene in which the readers will see the entire story from beginning to end. Because this could easily become narrative, the challenge is to bring the process alive through dialogue and action. Tension must also come to play in order to prevent the story from being flat.

Have fun with this one.