Autobiographical Fiction

When I was a small child my father worked at a union-based factory in Dayton, Ohio. His union organized a variety of family-programs that were held throughout the year.

During the Christmas party Santa distributed gifts after some type of entertainment was held for the kids. One of the few entertainers I remember was the famous Sherry Lewis with her sock puppets. Since I’d seen her on television, I was enthralled.

 At another party the entertainer was a TV cowboy. I don’t remember his name and since there are no pictures for me to rely on, I would have to fabricate much of the setting and action if I chose to write the stories.

While I can’t write a nonfiction piece, I can modify the events so as to create original characters and situations.

Your task is to think of an event that is a bit fuzzy. If you’ve got them, look at photos that from that time and place. What did it look like? What smells might there have been? What foods served? Was it indoors or outside? Backyard, playground or school?

Were you small compared to others your age? Were you thin or heavy? What color was your hair? What would you have been wearing? Who was present and how did they behave toward you?

If there’s a comic element, then your story has to be light. If serious, then some form of trauma should exist.

Have fun with this one.

Word Scramble Prompt

            Take the words explosive, terrified, Pepto Bismal, 346 and police station. Or, if these don’t inspire you, flip through the dictionary and write down the first five words you find.

            Your task is to use the words in a story. You can add endings or change the tense, but the words must be used, once you have settled on your five.

            Your story can be funny or serious, an outright comedy or a tragedy. It can be realistic or fantasy. Choose the genre and story type that you find easiest to write.

            Have fun with this one.

The Well-Disguised Spy

            Recall a time when you were able to hear and see what was happening from a position of advantage. No one could see you and so no one knew you were watching. What did you discover? Was the husband cheating on the wife? Attempting to bribe a school administrator? Offering for sale valuable piece of jewelry?

            What did you do? Keep it a secret, thinking it was none of your business? Or did you report what you’d witnessed to an authority?

            This is the story that needs to be told.

            Your task is to write a story from the point of view of the spy, the character that no one knew was watching.

            This person could be real, or imaginary, or even an animal, such as the pet cat.

            Intrigue is a must. Make the event something important, something that changes relationships, the economy or even the power of government.

            Have fun with this one.  

The Awkward Date

            Did you ever go on a date that didn’t turn out well? What went wrong and how did it make you feel?

            Imagine if you’re a teenager and going on your first date. What emotions do you experience? Who do you tell? What do you wear? Where does your date take you and do you have a good time, or are you miserable? Does he kiss you when he brings you home? Or walk away?

            Imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. Make a list, then narrow it down to the two or three that might make for an interesting story.

            Your task is to write that story, building in plenty of tension and drama. Make the characters complex and interesting. Use dialogue and narrative description so that your readers are right there, experiencing the fraught evening.

            Have fun with this one.

Thrift Store Treasures

            Many people enjoy going to thrift stores, looking for unexpected finds. They finger through racks of clothing, hoping for something they didn’t know they needed, but now love.

            They explore the shelves of dishes, toys, bedding and even hats, eagerly searching for just the right thing to put in their houses.

            Sometimes they go home empty-handed, but almost always they find something.

            Your task is to write the story of an avid thrifter. Make the character come alive through the exploration of one thrift shop after another. Have a companion go with. That way they can share what they find, laughing at the downright unusual, rejoicing with each discovery that makes them smile.

            Clothing has to be tried-on. Send the shoppers to the dressing “room”, which often is no more than a curtained-off area.

            There should be laughs when it doesn’t hang right, and smiles when it fits perfectly.

            Your task is to tell the story of these two shoppers, from beginning to end. It would be nice to throw in a little tension, such as what happens when they want the same item.

            Have fun with this one.

Visions

Close your eyes. Relax, allowing your mind to drift wherever it wants to go.

What do you see? Hear? Smell?

Are you somewhere in your past or seeing a vision of the future? How does it make you feel? Sad? Lonely? Frightened? Hopeful or happy?

What story comes to mind? Is it from your childhood or perhaps when you were much older?

Your task is to write that story, complete with all the emotions that hit you when your eyes were closed. You could begin with a line such as, “When I looked back, I…”

Bring the people in the story to life. They also have emotional reactions to the time and place. There might be conflict. There might be an argument. There might be cooperation and joy.

Use both narrative and dialogue to make the story sing.

Have fun with this one.

Deciding Where to Vacation

            Some of us are influenced by the countless brochures that flood our mailboxes. We turn pages, and then, a yearned-for trip appears! Perhaps we’d never thought of a cruise around the Cape, but the pictures look awesome.

            We also take advice from friends and family. If someone brags about a trip to Nepal, we might investigate and then go. Or not.

            And then there are those of us who look at a map of the world, drop a finger on a spot, and then that’s where we’ll go.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist decides to go on a vacation. She might investigate using a variety of methods, but the old-let’s-spin-the-globe and see where it lands might make for an interesting story.

            She would have to research the best time to go, the expected weather, things to do and see and accommodations, including travel.

            To make it more interesting, she invites someone to come along. This could be a parent, best friend or casual acquaintance. Maybe she finds a class being offered on the area, meets a group that’s going, and joins them.

            Make something unexpected happen so that there’s drama. If could be a sudden downpour that wipes out the main road, a romance that goes wrong, a heated discussion of where to go and how did we not find the way.

            Have fun with this one.

Misheard Lyrics             My dad could never remember all the lyrics to a song, so he infamously made them up. It could be annoying, but also downright funny. Sometimes his version made sense, but often it didn’t. And while he swore before us on a regular basis, when he used those same words in a song, it was often jarring.            I’d question myself if I really heard him say that, often convincing myself that, no, he’d never do that, knowing all the time that he had, indeed, cussed.            If you listen to the radio on a frequent basis, you’re exposed to hundreds of songs a week. Multiply that by 52, and you’ve now got a whopping 500-plus songs! And, if you’re a station explorer, you might hear even more.            Add in the music on television commercials, shows and movies, and the number skyrockets.            How can you possibly remember the lyrics to every song you’ve ever heard?             Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist frequently changes the words to songs. If she does so intentionally, why? And how do others around her react? Friends might tease, but acquaintances might be cruel in their taunting.            Have fun with this one.

New Person

            You’ve got an established story and you’re well into the plot. Perhaps it’s time to add something to jazz it up. Why not bring in an entirely new character?

            This character must add a twist to the story, something entirely unexpected. Make this individual’s flaw sufficient enough to alter the flow. Maybe he’s an antique collector who just happened to run across a hidden message at the back of a drawer. The note is yellowed and a bit crumpled, but it reveals….

            What if she belongs to a coven and believes that she can influence future events? How could she provide and interesting twist?

            The person might have magic or be a descendant of a powerful faerie line. If there was no magic so far in your story, think how this would up the stakes.

            Begin by making a list of possible individuals and what they would bring.

            Have fun with this one.

Examine House Listings

            Whenever you get stuck on setting, look up available houses in the neighborhood. Take a good look at the photos of each room. Check out the exterior as well, whether it’s a single-family home, an apartment or a condo.

            Can you picture your character living there?

            What happens inside the residence? A murder? A hot love affair? The birth of a child? Perhaps a devastating fire.

            Adapt the residence to fit your setting. Change the modern two-story house to an enchanted mansion on a street of Victorians. If it’s in perfect condition, give it a serious flaw, like a leaky roof or bathroom tiles that collapse inward when cleaned.

            How large of a family do you envision living there? If it’s a studio, perhaps you cram a family of four inside as it’s all they can afford. Or maybe a successful business woman buys the triplex in a new, swanky neighborhood.

            Now that you’ve established character and setting, craft the story. Make something intriguing happen, something that draws readers in.

            Invite other characters to populate your story, but make them all different, with spooky characteristics that clash.

            Have fun with this one.