Our characters are not perfect. Just like us, they make mistakes.

Sometimes the mistakes are little, like forgetting to buy corn at the store. Sometimes the mistakes are huge, like accidentally saying something insulting about the boss just as she’s walking through the door.

These are the things that our character might want to replay. Next time he goes to the store he’ll make a list. The next time she is angry with the boss, she’ll keep her thoughts to herself.

Your task is to make a list of things that your character would like to do over. Go beyond the trivial. Trivial things are important, but they usually don’t alter lives. Huge mistakes, however, can cost a job, get a person kicked out of an apartment or cause serious injury to someone when distracted while driving.

Try to come up with five major things that are plausible for your character.

Narrow your list down to the top two. Next to each, write what your character would do differently in order to change the outcome. Maybe the outcome isn’t changed; maybe it’s what the character does to make amends.

Finally your task is to write a scene to an existing story in which your character reflects on an action then does something to change the eventual outcome.

Have fun with this one.

The Stupidest Thing

Things happen.

Zippers get caught. Drinks get spilled. The dog steals the turkey. Kids fall and break bones.

The potential for disaster surrounds us. Every step is an accident waiting to happen. Whenever we slice open an envelope or handle a piece of paper, a cut is possible. We can fall whether going up or down stairs. Step in doo-doo in our own backyard or when walking down the street.

It happens to all of us, often when doing the stupidest things.

Your characters must have the opportunity to have accidents in order to be more human.

One thing we tend to forget as writers is that comic episodes relieve tension and allow for a temporary remove from danger. As long as the comedic event doesn’t completely derail the story, readers find them refreshing.

This is your task: Think of a character whose story you are working on. Make a list of accidents that could logically happen. Try to get at least ten things on your list.

Walk away for a bit to allow these ideas to bounce around in your mind. When one of them speaks to you, then jot down, in bullet form, how you see the event playing out. Think of setting, trigger, timing, and outcome.

Also think about how it will work in your story. Will it happen in the beginning, middle or end? If in the beginning, then it sets the tone for the entire piece. Is that what you want for your story? If so, then great. If not, then bury the scene further into the action.

There is a similar problem if the event ends the story. While an upbeat ending might be what you’ve been looking for, if it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the story, then your readers will be dissatisfied.

Your task is to either write an original story or to rework a familiar one. Add in an event that relaxes the tension just a bit. Don’t make it too long. Just enough to change the pace.

Have fun with this one.