A Sweet Story

Around Valentine’s Day advertisements appear in which a beau gives a potential lover a red heart-shaped box of rich chocolates. Candy releases pleasure chemicals into the brain, so it symbolizes the sweet feelings in a relationship. The giver intends to make an impression and imply that their love is durable, lasting a good long time.

Who doesn’t like a bit of sweetness now and then? And if it comes from someone that you care about, it gives a warm, pleasant feeling.

Your task is to write a story in which candy plays an important part. It could begin with the making of chocolate by a chocolatier or the buying of the candy at a store that specializes in expensive chocolates.

Your protagonist can be the maker, the giver or the recipient, whichever you feel the most comfortable writing.

Readers will want some form of tension. It could come in the creation of something new, some recipe that doesn’t work out right at the beginning. Perhaps the giver agonizes over the perfect choice of candy, be it the hearts with imprinted sayings, peanut-butter stuffed chocolates or expensive truffles in a gold-foil wrapped box.

And then there’s the recipient who might now expect or appreciate the gift or the giver!

Narrative description is important, but so is dialogue. The dialogue could contain some humor as well as angst.

Have fun with this one.

Monster Attack

            Do you remember the first movie you saw in which a monster arrived, creating havoc wherever it went? Most likely you were both horrified and entranced. Your eyes were glued to the television as the monster destroyed buildings, tossed cars and grabbed people off the street.

            Today the horror genre is incredibly popular. Moviegoers seem to eagerly await the next new monster, whether it comes from sea, air or land. There’s something intriguing about a foreign entity spewing drool and fire as it crushes a famous city.

            Your task is to write a story in which a monster invades a city that you know well. By choosing a known setting, you can include realistic concepts such as existing buildings and street names.

            Your protagonist can be the monster or the hero who fights to save the world. Descriptions is important so that readers can visualize your monster as well as the place, time and actions taken to fight it.

            Include dialogue as well so that readers understand what’s going through your protagonist’s mind.

            Have fun with this one.

Hidden Images

We don’t always see what’s right before our eyes. We’re distracted by our phone or by conversations with friends as we walk. We might be rehearsing in our minds what we’re going to say or thinking about an upcoming event.

Because we’re not paying close attention, we miss things happening around us. There might be a senior citizen trying to cross the road, a starving dog cuddled up in an empty store front or a magnificent holiday display in a nearby square.

Your task is to write a story in which your character misses key elements in the scene. Make the items or issues large enough, in terms of importance, that not seeing them impacts the story arc.

Description will be critical as well as dialogue. Keep your character talking so that readers can see, through words, what’s happening in the scene.

Have fun with this one.

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.

Fruitless Search

            Have you ever spent a great amount of time looking for something only to find that it wasn’t there? What emotions did you experience? Anxiety, frustration or perhaps even relief if what you searched for wasn’t something you really wanted to find.

            Every writer knows that their protagonist has to want something from the onset of the story. The goal is to find it, buy it, unveil it, at all costs. During the search, the character goes through a series of trials, some benign, others quite dangerous. The vast majority of stories end with success. Whatever it was that the character wanted at the beginning has been secured.

            But what would happen, how would the story change, if instead of achieving his goal, the character fails? If he was optimistic as he set off on his search, what is he feeling at the end? If he was pessimistic at the onset, not really wanting it but setting off on the quest anyway, is he relieved when it eludes him?

            Your task is to write the story of the dead end. Your protagonist wants something so badly that she immerses herself in the search. Trials appear that slow her down. At the end, she cannot find that which she desired.

            Description is important, but to be able to understand what your character wants, include dialogue. He has a companion on his journey, or she meets up with friends and shares her exploits.

            Have fun with this one.

In the Listings

            The next time a flyer for an open house arrives in your mail, save it. Look at it carefully, studying the layout, the furniture, the decorations. If it’s within driving distance, go take a look. Check out the neighborhood. How far apart are the lots? How close are the nearest schools? What types of businesses are nearby?

            Attend the open house so that you can walk through the rooms and step into the backyard. If photos are displayed, check them out. Who lives here? A family? A group of friends?

            What stories would they tell if you could interview them?

            Using your imagination, write an interesting story that takes place in this house. Is it a murder mystery? An invasion of pests? A romantic-comedy? Ghosts floating about?

            There needs to be tension for the story to be interesting. Begin by mapping out your characters. What do they want? How hard are they willing to work to get it?

Include both description and dialogue. Maintain a good pace so that the story does not get bogged down.

Have fun with this one.

Magical Realism

Magical realism is a literary genre in which the world in which the story takes place, is realistic, with normal beings, places and objects. However, there is an undercurrent of magic or fantasy in which the line between the worlds in blended. For example, magical or supernatural phenomena exist in a setting that the author does not invent.

            Fairy tales are a good example because the characters live in houses, eat food, wear the clothes of the times, but something happens, an invasion of that reality, that changes the overall story arc. Characters have traits such as levitation, telepathy or telekinesis that they employ to get what they want, influence people or outcomes, or entertain and bedazzle others.

            Imagine flying carpets, bowls that dance and ghosts that haunt an occupied home.

            Your task is to write a story that incorporates some degree of magical realism. Begin by choosing what type of magic exists in the world, whether or not it can be controlled, and who, if anyone, can manipulate the magic.

            The story can be serious with potentially deadly outcomes or have a bit of humor when things/objects act in ways that do not occur in the real world.

            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.

Chance Encounter

            Some of us are outgoing and enjoy talking to complete strangers. We relish every opportunity to meet others, share stories and seek common ground.

Others of us find such meetings intimidating. We avert our eyes, turn our heads and walk quickly away.

What happens, however, when you run across someone you don’t know when you are alone in a situation that allows for no escape? For example, you’re hiking in a local park, enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing as you walk up and down hills. That is until someone you’ve never seen before comes up from behind or appears on the horizon?

There’s no place for you to go to avoid the individual. Think about what emotions you experience as you go over what limited options you have.

Your task is to write a story in which your character finds herself in such a situation. Begin by establishing the setting and her feelings about being there. Let readers walk along with her, seeing what she sees, hearing what she hears, smelling what she smells and feeling the dirt beneath her feet.

Suddenly the stranger appears. Readers want to know what she experiences at that moment in time.

Assume dialogue takes place. Who initiates it and what do they talk about? When it’s time to continue their separate journeys, how does she feel as the stranger leaves?

Have fun with this one.

Water Cooler Gossip

            Imagine the scene: a group of employees gathered around the cooler, sipping on ice water, sharing news about everyone that wasn’t in the group. They speak of divorces, poorly behaved children, who’s cheating on who and who’s lost money on the stock market. Then there’s the subject of who isn’t doing their job, who’s spending too much time flirting with the boss, and who’s up for promotion. So much gossip, so little time.

            Change the scenario to a group of parents standing outside the school waiting for their kids to emerge. What stories do they share? Who’s being talked about and why?

            These are the scenes that can make for a juicy story. There’s tension and drama. Dialogue and description. Cattiness and seriousness. So much opportunity waiting to be told.

            Your task is to write the water cooler scene. People it with enough characters to make for a lively discussion, but not too many for you to handle. Make sure that their disparate personalities and interests come forward.

            You might have them focus their energy talking about one individual, making for an easier writing. Or, if you’re feeling brave, allow the conversation to cover a wide variety of topics.

            Have fun with this one.