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.

Without a Trace

Mystery stories often revolve around a disappearance. A woman, last seen getting into her car in a parking garage is never seen again. The family dog, an AKC Champion, is stolen from a fenced backyard. The lawyer representing a case against a government official doesn’t appear in court.

The rest of the story revolves around the search. Who is leading the search, whether police, detective or ordinary citizens. Where they look, what cluse they find, the roadblocks they hit and who all they suspect.

There are highs and lows. A clue is found that leads to a near miss, followed by periods of time in which wheels are spun. Suspects are cleared and more are added to the list. False leads given by the public. Misinformation published in the news that only confounds the search.

Your task is to write a story in which someone or something goes missing. You can make it a police procedural or a cozy mystery. Your protagonist can be a no-nonsense detective or an average citizen who refuses to stop investigating.

Include narrative and dialogue. Setting is important, remembering to describe each new location. Sensory details add to the mystery, so don’t forget to toss them in.

Have fun with this one.

Press Release

            Something interesting happened just as your character walked in the door. Perhaps a move star tripped over a wrinkled edge of a rug. Maybe a politician kissed a woman, not his wife, in an extremely romantic way. It could be a car accident outside the doors that nearly killed a popular older woman or the elevator that got stuck between floors trapping inside a small boy who’d accidentally strolled inside.

            Because your character is a budding journalist, she seizes the opportunity to write up a press release and deliver it to the local paper’s office. On top of that, she’d had her phone out and managed a few good shots, plus a short video, which she takes to the small TV station in the next town.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist is the one who caught the story. Write up the press release and have her try to get it published somewhere, anywhere.

            As writers, we understand rejection. Perhaps your character doesn’t because everything she wrote for her high school paper got printed.

            You might include her interviews of witnesses, showing the give-and-take as she struggles to get valuable information.

            Have fun with this one.

An Old Acquaintance

            Sometimes we leave behind people we’ve known for very good reasons. The person might have been abusive or a braggart. Perhaps a relationship that went nowhere. Maybe you moved so far away that continuing a friendship was challenging.

            Often when we switch jobs, we never see those coworkers again, either by choice or because it just doesn’t happen. The same is true when we marry. Singles often prefer to spend time only with other singles. Once children are born, then families prefer to spend time with other families.

            What happens when someone from your past suddenly reappears? Imagine the emotions you experience, ranging from surprise to dread. It also depends upon where you crossed paths. If it’s in the grocery store, you might exchange pleasantries and that’s it. If it’s at work, then you’ll have to interact with this individual as long as you both work at the same job.

            Your task is to write a story in which someone from the past appears. You need to decide whether it’s a joyous reunion or one fraught with tension. The type of meeting determines the emotional tone of the piece. Or, it could be a little of both: tension at first, bumps along the way, then acceptance and perhaps something more than friendship.

            Have fun with this one.

The Party

            The backyard is festooned with balloons and colorful banners. The clown has been hired, the bounce house inflated and the cake delivered. The grill is ready to cook hot dogs and hamburgers. Games are stacked and the pinata is hanging on a tree branch. The guests arrive and initially all goes well.

            The boss rented a banquet hall in an upscale hotel. The caterer has hired staff, ordered the food for the buffet and stocked the bar. Floral bouquets are centered on each table. The band is warming up and the chef is rushing around the kitchen overseeing the preparations. The employees drift in by ones and twos, head for the bar and settle at tables.

            Something always go wrong. It is inevitable. It might be a child skinning a knee or a priceless vase shattering into tiny pieces. Most likely there will be at least one argument after a goodly amount of booze has been consumed. Perhaps hair will be pulled, a chest punched or a pair of drunks will roll down a hill.

            Your task is to write a story in which a series of unfortunate events occur. Begin with rather inconsequential issues that escalate into increasingly larger ones. As tension builds, your characters’ true personalities will show.

            Have fun with this one.

The Invitation

            A small card comes in the mail that you weren’t expecting. You hope it’s something good. Perhaps an invitation to a friend’s baby shower. Or to a bridal shower. She’s finally getting married!

You begin planning. What to wear, what to buy. Maybe even what dish to bring in case it’s a pot luck.

Finally, after dreaming about all the possibilities, you open the card. What goes through your head as you slide the card out of the envelope? As you look at the pretty picture on the front? As you slowly open the card and read the words?

Your task is to write a story in which your character experiences the range of emotions that accompanies the arrival of an invitation in the mail.

Set the stage with the setting, with the character, by employing both narrative and dialogue. Obviously this means there must be a secondary character, someone with whom discussion can take place.

Have fun with this one.

Being Invisible

            There are many ways in which individuals are unseen that have nothing to do with fantasy.

            Obese people have felt that invisibility for most of their lives. Clearly, they can be seen: who could miss a two-hundred-pound (or more) person strolling through a store? No one, but that doesn’t consider the shocked looks, the averted eyes, the glued eyes, the snickers, laughs and cruel jokes.

            Often when Caucasians see a person of color approaching, they give the same types of looks, the averted eyes, the terrified looks, the crossing to the other side of the street. While the person of color is as visible as the obese person, scared reactions tend to discredit those feelings.

            Your task is to write a story in which invisibility plays an important role. You can choose fantasy to tell your story or base it on the real world. What’s important is to catch the essence of what being invisible means and how it influences events.

            Have fun with this one.

The Chef

            Some are excellent cooks. They can make something grand out of ordinary things. On the other hand, many can’t cook worth a lick. There are also those in the middle: with the help of recipes, they can put palatable food on the table.

            Your protagonist might have secret talents that aren’t revealed in the story, but that influence his actions in some way. For example, he meets friends for lunch at a fancy restaurant. He’s the only one that understands the names and descriptions, surprising everyone. From there perhaps he invites them over for a gourmet dinner.

            Or maybe he’s so clueless about the menu that he selects a simple salad, trying to be safe.

            Your task is to write a story that involves food in some way. If your character is a marvelous cook, write a scene in which something happens that alters the taste or consistency of the meal. You can do the reverse with the lousy cook: she concocts an entrée that’s the hit of the pot luck.

            Description is important, but build tension through dialogue. There must be conflict of some kind, either internal or external, or even both.

            Have fun with this one.

Favorite Activity

            Recall a time when you participated in an activity for the first time, only to discover that you truly enjoyed it. Perhaps you liked it so much that you incorporated it into your life. When given a chance, you’d go for a hike, toss out a fishing line, make something from yarn or go bowling.

            These activities enriched your life by adding a texture that was missing. Stories were told based upon your exploits or creations shared that you made with fabric, wood or yarn. Friendships developed among those who shared your interests. Together you went places and did things that perhaps you still recall in vivid detail.

            Your character needs to have a favorite activity. It might not be the driving force of the story, but it’s there in the background. It influences the way she thinks and interacts.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character either discovers an activity that she enjoys or participates in one that she hates. Details are important. Dialogue is needed to bring the character into the activity, for most often we are drawn to new experiences through people in our circle. Bring in the senses and the emotions. Readers will want to be there as your character explores the activity, from beginning to end.

            Have fun with this one.

The Gift

Everyone has received an unusual, and often, unwanted gift. A nonsmoker might be given a gorgeous crystal ashtray or a nondrinker might receive a subscription to an online wine club. For some, these might be cherished and appreciated items, but for others, a bit of a bother.

If you don’t want the gift, what do you do with it? If you know where it came from, you might be able to return it without a receipt. But in the case of the online wine club, you have to find someone who would love a monthly bottle of expensive wine.

Your task is to write a story in which your character receives something he didn’t ask for and definitely doesn’t want. The item can arrive in the mail or be presented in person. Describe the character’s anticipation as she opens the gift, then her reaction when she sees what it is.

Even if the gift comes by mail, include dialogue. He could show it to a friend and have a good laugh about it, or he might call the giver and politely thank them even though it’s a lie.

Make it interesting and funny.

Have fun with this one.