Hike in the Woods

            You’ve made plans to join friends for a hike in the woods. You’ve never been there before, but one of your friends claims to have been there several times before and so knows the trials. What could go wrong?

            Think of all the possibilities, from mundane to terrifying, that could happen. Stalked by a wolf? Injured by a hunter who mistook you for a deer? Lost when you went down an unfamiliar path? Slipped on a treacherous hill and careened over the edge? The list is endless.

            Your task is to write a story in which your hike goes wrong. Begin by looking at photos of forests to get an idea of how tall the trees are, how deep the forest, how narrow the path. Become familiar with the types of trees, edible plants, poisonous fauna. Research building shelters, finding shelter in caves, overhangs and amongst briars.

            Create your hiking group. Include a variety of personalities: the overconfident, the narcissist, the timid, the follower. How they interact will impact the flow of the story arc.

            Set the story in motion. Remember to build up tension as your characters walk along.

            Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

            Sometimes it’s good to look back over the things we’ve said and done. It gives us a new perspective as to whether we should have approached a given situation differently or if what we did still feels okay.

            If we would change things, how would we do it? Would we walk up to the person and apologize? Send an email? Text? The method we choose might affect the outcome in ways that we hadn’t foreseen.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character realizes that she didn’t behave the way she should have. She then contacts the injured party to try to make amends.

            This should be a tension-filled situation. Your character has no idea how the other person will react. She’s going to be nervous and possibly rehearse what she’s going to say. She might practice with a trusted friend before the meeting.

            The other person could accept the apology with grace or could strike out with hurtful words. Both scenarios work because sometimes we need a feel-good ending.

            This situation calls for dialogue and body-language. Include sensory details so that readers know exactly where the meeting takes place.

            Have fun with this one.

The Lie

            Most of us knows someone who lies on a regular basis. He lies about big things and small, at work and at home. He lies to his friends, family and peers at work. He cannot help himself.

            Most of his lies seem minor, but when added together, he becomes an untrustworthy person. If he says he ate at Boudet’s, the most expensive restaurant in town, or that he dated Cheryl a few years back and he dumped her because she smelled. No one believes him, laughs it off, and walks away.

            But when he lies about a job that he didn’t finish, or blames someone for losing his work, those lies affect not just his peers, but his company.

            Your task is to write a story in which a lie impacts a number of people and possibly affects the outcome of a situation. Take into consideration what the liar will do to try to hide the lie so that the truth is never revealed.

            Dialogue is important for readers will want to hear the liar repeating his story over and over. Description is critical for readers need to see, hear and feel the reactions of the liar and those to whom he lies.

            Have fun with this one.

Pause to Reflect

Impulsivity can lead someone in the wrong direction, in a relationship, on a job search, or even out on a hike. Imagine a person who, after knowing someone for two minutes, jumps into a serious relationship, only later to discover that the lover is married. Or think of a situation in which an individual believes she heard a piece of scandalous news and then runs to the boss. Or a hiker who takes off without a map, intentionally goes off-trail because he thinks there might be a terrific view just around the boulder, only to become hopelessly lost.

Impulsive behaviors can get a person into serious trouble.

Now consider how different the results would be if, before rushing off, the person paused to reflect. For example, after writing an angry email, what if he put it aside for an hour, thought about it, then deleted it. The outcome would be completely different.

Your task is to write a story in which impulsive behaviors negatively impact your character’s life. Dialogue would be useful here to give readers insight into what your character is thinking. Descriptions are also important to allow readers to understand where the character is.

Have fun with this one.

Following Directions

            From an early age we learn the rules, what to do, when to do it and when to stop. We are taught where to do something and for how long. Lining up begins when we are young and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

            What we are seldom taught, however, is how not following directions impacts others.

            For example, imagine you’re on a trip with forty other people. The tour director tells you to be on the bus before eight in the morning. You figure the bus won’t leave until 8:10, so you don’t bother to appear until 8:11. Your inability to follow directions impacts the rest of the group.

            All games have directions. Children are taught to follow them in order to make the game fair. What happens when someone feels above the “law”? They are called cheaters.

            The same term can be applied to adults as well.

            Your task is to write a scene in which following directions plays an important role. It might be interesting to have some characters who always comply, some who sometimes comply and some who seldom, if ever, comply. The combination builds tension, something needed to make a story interesting.

            Have fun with this one.

Sweltering Conditions

            Summer is upon us and temperatures are rising. Lucky people have air-conditioning or can seek shelter in a cooling spot. However, not everyone is blessed with ways to cool off.

            Free-standing fans provide limited relief if a person sits right in front of it, but do little for a family of four. Or for a classroom full of steaming children or a church filled with parishioners.

            Imagine the stories that arise from being overheated. Fights break out because tempers rise. Tears are shed. Clothing is stripped off. Hoses spray cooling water, but not when there is a drought. People might take a drive if their car’s air works or go stroll through a nearby shopping mall.

            These are all temporary solutions. What happens when the electricity goes out or people have to return to the overheated offices, classrooms and homes?

            Your task is to write a scene in which the heat is overwhelming. Begin with the setting. Are your characters on the road, at work or at home? How do they cool off? How does the heat impact relationships?

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue, remembering that tensions are going to arise. There might be angry words tossed about or actual fisticuffs.

            Have fun with this one.

Cheapskate Travelers

Imagine that your character goes out to eat with friends.  He orders a number of drinks, appetizers, an expensive entree and a desert. The food is delicious. The service excellent.

The bill comes. Each person is expected to contribute their fair share, with tax and tip.

What does your character do? Does he contribute an appropriate amount of money or short-change the rest of the party?

On the other hand, what happens if he tips amply but the others don’t? Does he say something?

What happens when everyone pays with cash except for one person who pulls out a charge card? And that person collects the cash and stuffs it in his wallet. How do the others know how much he tipped? Do they say something or accept that they’ll never know?

On the other hand, what if your character doesn’t pay for all he ordered and consumed? How do the others feel? What do they say and do?

Your task is to write the story.

Have fun with this one.

Health Issues

            Have you noticed that when people of a certain age come together that the bulk of the conversation has something to do with health? High cholesterol, diabetes, vision and hearing, aches and pains and limited mobility. They compare medications and what doctors have said about the various issues.

            Often the condition of teeth pops up, with some bragging about a lack of cavities while others bemoan having another tooth removed.

            They discuss what types of foods are now prohibited and that they miss or share recipes for low caloric foods.

            On and on they go, often circling back to original topics because they forgot what’s been hashed over.

            Your characters, when they reach that age, would do the same. Begin by establishing what health issues your characters have. It would be beneficial, for conversations sake, if they didn’t share the same ones. They could have the same doctor, but perhaps it might add complexity if they did not. The same would be true for the medications that they are taken.

            Picture what would happen if one character believes his issues are worse, or more important. He trivializes hers, minimizes the severity of her ailments and maybe even contradicts her doctor’s recommendations.

            Interesting, tense-filled conversations arise that could lead to the dissolution of the relationship.

            Have fun with this one.

The Dishonest Salesperson

            Did you ever have an encounter with a salesperson who you believed was less than honest? What did he/she do or say that led you to that opinion? Was it a tilt of the head, a glance over the shoulder, or a smirk? Perhaps it was the tone of voice or words said. Maybe even the way paperwork was handled.

            How did he/she make you feel and what did you do in response?

            Some people accept the situation because they needed whatever the person was selling. For example, there’s a car that fits in your price range, a make and model that you’ve been interested in. You desperately need a car, today. You feel that there’s something shady going on, but you don’t have the time to shop around some more. The person knows this, and so has the upper hand.

            There are many other situations in which something similar could take place.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character encounters the dishonest salesperson, or, your character could be the salesperson.

            Establish the setting so that your readers will feel at home in the scene. Give enough of a description of the salesperson so that readers will create the first impression that you want them to have. Set things in motion through dialogue and narrative.

            Tensions will develop. It’s up to you to decide how far the reactions will go. There could be words, there could be fisticuffs, there could be a shooting.

            Have fun with this one.

Most Deserving of Forgiveness

            So many things happen as we grow up. If we’re lucky, we had kind and thoughtful parents/guardians. But maybe we didn’t. We grew up hating them as people and for the things they said and did.

            In school we might have been blessed with wonderful friends, but we also might have been victimized by bullies whom we hated with all our might. The same might have happened on the job or with people we met in conferences, workshops and around the neighborhood.

            We might have retaliated verbally or, when young, by physical acts of aggression.

            Now we regret the things we’ve done, but also want to forgive the people who hurt us as a way of moving on.

            Who on your list is most deserving of forgiveness?

            Your task is to write either a personal essay in which you discuss the topic or create a story in which your protagonist is facing the same dilemma. Readers will need background, but not presented all at once. Find a way to weave it into the scene, either through dialogue or scene.

            Build in tension so that readers understand how the aggressors made you or your character feel.

            Have fun with this one.