Unusual Meal

            Think of a meal you planned for a group. Most likely there were appetizers, a main course that consisted of a variety of dishes, followed by dessert.

            The quantity depends upon how many invited. If it’s a meal for two, you didn’t need large dishes. But, if you invited ten, then you need casseroles, cakes, and bowls of fruits and salads.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character prepares a most unusual meal, one that consists only of desserts.

            Perhaps there are cupcakes in the shapes of stuffed mushrooms and cookies that look like crackers layered with slices of cheese. The entrees are pies that resemble different types of pizza and cheesecakes molded into meatloafs.

            Imagine what the guests will say! In your story, show your character cooking the items as he talks to someone. Through dialogue we see into the protagonist’s mind as she explains what she’s doing and why.

            Descriptions will show the setting, which includes the table, decorations, and the overall depiction of the room.

            Have fun with this one.

Roadside Meal

            How many times have you been away from home and stopped to eat? What types of places do you normally choose? Fast food chains? Sit-down restaurants? Or something in between?

            When you scan the menu, do you have go-to preferences? Some go for hamburgers, while others choose salads. Some like sweet potato fries, eggs over-easy, chocolate cream pie.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is traveling and stops for a meal. Depending upon the restaurant, she either reads from a menu board or from a handheld menu.

What does she order? Is it served cold or hot? How does it taste? From her reactions, you tell if it’s as she expected and whether or not she’s satisfied.

If there’s waitstaff, when someone checks in, your character responds by saying what she likes or doesn’t like, whether she’s satisfied or might like to order additional items.

To make it interesting, have someone strike up a conversation with your character. A little tension builds because this person is annoying or clinging and doesn’t take the hint that she’d like to eat alone.

Have fun with this one.

Forms of Punishment

            Every society, every home, has its own forms of punishment.

            In some homes, naughty kids are sent to timeout while others might be beaten until blood seeps from open wounds. Some kids might be denied privileges while others are locked away in the prison of their bedroom, or in worse case scenarios, in an actual prison somewhere in the home.

            Society might punish offenders with community service or therapy, while others are beheaded or hung to die. Some are tarred and feathered while others have to clean up garbage along interstate highways or on beaches.

            In a fair situation, the punishment fits the crime, but in far too many, prison sentences are too long or too harsh depending upon the color of one’s skin or how much money the family has.

            Your task is to write a story in which punishment takes on a crucial role. You decide if it’s the family that enforces the pain or society. Does the offender continue to live at home or is she detained in a cell? Is the cell in a clean facility, or in a dank dungeon?

            The protagonist can be the victim or the enforcer. What’s important is that your readers feel the suffering, the pain, the humiliation.

            Have fun with this one.

Do Not Disturb

            There are times when we want to be left alone. We’re stressed out after a hard day at work or we’re working on a project that demands our complete concentration.

            When someone intrudes, we might get angry, upset, frustrated.

            We wish for the “Do Not Disturb” sign, to post on our computer desk or in our study. That way our kids, spouse, phone callers will leave us alone.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist wants nothing more than to be left alone.

            Give him a task that requires concentration. It could be yardwork, repairing an appliance or tool, writing a report or reading a book.

            Bring in characters who try to break into the solitude, then make sure that the protagonist reacts appropriately. Obviously, there should be serenity at first, the intrusion, and then the feelings of anger or frustration.

            Setting and dialogue are critical here.

            Have fun with this one.

Uninvited Guest

            No one likes it when guests crash the party. Even if they are well-behaved, they might bring unwelcome baggage, causing conflict that will ruin the event.

            Try to recall a TV show with such a scenario. If it’s a comedy, then weird and hilarious things will happen, such as drinks being spilled or someone being pushed into the pool.

            If it’s a thriller or drama story, then there might be a murder, a theft, or threats to one and all.

            Your task is to write a story in which a guest(s) appears at an event without an invitation. Setting is important, but more so the emotions displayed by the host(s) are critical.

            The host might try to close the door, keeping that person out. Or she might let the person in, trying to avoid a scene.

            The guest should do something outrageous, like swill several bottles of beer or dump over the punch bowl. Maybe toss something on the BBQ that sets the canopy on fire.

            You want action followed by reaction.

            Have fun with this one.

Zoom Meeting Issues

            Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us participate in many zoom meetings on a regular basis. We’ve all become aware of things that annoy or distract. Perhaps it’s important to establish basic ground rules at the onset and then periodically remind people of what they should and shouldn’t be doing. For example, it the group is large, the it might make sense for everyone to mute their microphones in order to keep background noise to a minimum.  Another issue is an improperly place camera, for example, a camera pitched so high that you only see a person’s forehead, or one so low that you only see the desktop.

            Another problem arises when participants are doing other things, such as jogging, working on another monitor or chopping onions. These movements distract others, pulling them out of the conversation. It also sends a message that the individual is not fully engaged, often considered disrespectful to the group.

            Not being prepared is also a major problem. For example, your book group is discussing the assigned novel, but you chose not to read it. Unless the topic is one that you know something about, it’s hard for you to participate. In that case, a few voices are heard while the others sit silently.

            Your task is to write a story in which a zoom meeting goes wrong. Perhaps someone is only wearing underwear which is revealed when he stands to get a cup of coffee. Or maybe a person’s dog insists on sitting on the owner’s lap, completely blocking the person’s face. There are myriads of things that could go wrong.

            Have fun with this one.