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.

Distinctive Fragrance

            Try to recall a time when wearing cologne was commonplace for both men and women. Put yourself in that time and place. Which ones did you like? Which ones made your nose wrinkle?

Which lingered long after the wearer had passed through?

For example, back when Old Spice was quite popular with men, when you were near someone wearing it, how did it make you feel?

Now consider a woman wearing Channel #5.

Your task is to write a story in which a character is wearing a distinctive cologne. That cologne must play a major role. For example, what if the burglar had been wearing the Channel? Or the rapist the Old Spice?

What images would your victim call forth?

Include as many sensory details as you can.

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.

Bad Company

            You move three thousand miles away from nagging family. You’ve settled into your new, unfettered life when the dreaded call comes: your parents are flying out, intending to stay for a month. Imagine the feelings that you experience, from the sinking of your stomach, to the palpitating of your heart, to the outright panic.

            Instead of your parents, what if the guest is your sister-in-law who doesn’t understand the use of deodorant? No matter how many times she’s been shunned due to her body odor, nothing changes, and once she’s passed by, that odor lingers. Now she wants to borrow your empty bedroom for just one night, or two at most. You know, from experience, that the room will have to be sprayed repeatedly and aired out with a fan running for days.

            In both cases, if you decline, you will be in hot water, so you shrug it off as just another burden to shoulder. It won’t be that bad, right?

            Your task is to write a story in which company comes that either your character didn’t invite or would never invite for one reason or another.

            Tension, from the moment of the invitation, is critical. Allow readers to feel the emotions experienced by your protagonist as the event progresses. You can add in twists, such as an extended stay, to moving in, to other problematic behaviors such as excessive drug use.

            Have fun with this one.

Dealing with a Phobia

            Many of us are scared of heights, spiders and yapping dogs. We might be terrified of boats, riding on public transit or walking alone at night. The degree to which our phobias impact our lives varies from person to person.

            Seeing any size dog might cause your character to cross the street or turn around and go back home. A spider crawling on the wall might temporarily freeze your character, increase heart rate and impact breathing, paralyzing her until she forces herself to grab a shoe and smash it repeatedly.

            There’s a difference between not climbing a ladder and not going out after sunset. The first might prevent him from cleaning the gutters while the second might stop him from enrolling in classes at the university, accepting a longed-for job or jogging in a nearby park.

            Your task is to write a story in which the phobia seriously impacts your character’s life. Perhaps if when she steps outside and hears a dog barking somewhere, she goes back inside and slams the door. Maybe she stays there, missing dinner with friends or even not going to work, which results in broken friendships or a lost job.

            It might be interesting to hear how your character explains his phobia to others, so include dialogue. Sensory details will be paramont, so make sure we hear, smell, see, feel, and possibly taste very bit of that fear.

            Have fun with this one.

Deep In Debt

            A new car every year, shopping sprees where thousands of dollars are spent, investing in questionable start-ups, and trips abroad every few months rack up so much debt that it’s nearly impossible to repay. Add to that gambling at the race track, membership at an exclusive country club and the yacht that he just had to have.

            Maybe it’s not a lavish lifestyle, but rather medical bills for cosmetic recontractions, cancer treatments or surgeries for the kids, placing tubes in the ears.

            Whatever the reason, your character is deep in debt. How she handles the situation says a lot about her character.

            Does she negotiate with each lender, agreeing to whittle down the amount owed? Perhaps she offers favors in payment, declares bankruptcy or marries a wealthy person who can pay off her debt.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist finds himself in substantial debt. The amount has to be so large that he has no way to settle the bill. Of course, that amount depends upon the individual’s situation.

            A person having little might owe a thousand, and be unable to pay. A person owning a lot might owe millions.

            Both situations make for interesting stories.

            Have fun with this one.

Word Scramble

            Story ideas come from interesting places. It could be something in the news, a conversation overheard while commuting to work, or from family issues that continue to plague.

            When inspiration is taking a vacation, something you can do is put together a list or semi-related words to use in either a poem or story.

            Below are two lists of such words. You can turn them into verbs or plural nouns. You can add endings creating adverbs or find synonyms that better express your thoughts. You do not have to use all the words, but try to do so. The more you write, the more likely you are to come up with an idea.

            Kindness                                                                    Fire

Tenderness                                                                              smoke

Sympathy                                                                                inferno

Gentleness                                                                               flame

Goodwill                                                                                 burning

Warmth                                                                                   flare

Merciful                                                                                  brimstone

Love                                                                                        hearth

Goodness                                                                                crackle

            Your task is to write a story using as many of the words from one of the lists. Either lean toward the creation of setting. The first might describe the protagonist, while the second the environment.

            Have fun with this one.

An Authority Figure Interferes

            We’ve all experienced authorities who get in the way. A supervisor gives us an assignment to complete on your own, then hovers and interferes. A police officer who follows you everywhere as if you are a criminal. A parent who refuses to let you grow up. A teacher who is a jerk, calling you insulting names.

            How you handle these people says a lot about you. Definitely about your personality, as some of us can more easily shuck off the jerks, while other suffer alone, at home. Some of us turn to respected confidants while others hold everything inside. Some might report the individual to a higher up or file a complaint, while others find a new job.

            Your task is to write a story in which an authority figure gets in the way. Make the person a bit difficult, but give her a bit of charm. Have him say inappropriate things, yet be supportive of new ideas. All of us have two sides, so make this person the same, which will create conflict within the story.

            Have fun with this one.