Dealing with Death

We don’t like to kill off our main characters. It is a way to bring a book to an end, but not a very satisfying one. Instead we kill off secondary characters that impact the protagonist’s life.

How to incorporate death? Shakespeare was a terrific example of how to write death scenes. Think of Romeo and Juliet. From the very beginning, all kinds of people die. The Montagues and Capulets turn the town into a war zone with sometimes daily street fights. Initially those who succumb are minor characters, but with the death of Mercutio and Tybalt, things change.

The death scenes are dramatic. Mercutio stumbles down steps while he curses both houses and declares that tomorrow the worms will be eating his body. Tybalt dies to conclude a sword fight that, according to perceived skill, he was sure to win.

Then Juliet drinks a potion that makes her look dead. She’s sealed in the family tomb, which then Romeo enters. Seeing her dead, he drinks a poison after holding her hand, commenting on her facial color. He dies. She wakes. She hopes for a drop of poison. Finds none, so stabs herself.

Lots of death in a 2 ½ hour play!

Your task is to write several scenes in which at least one main character dies. First figure out the method. Next craft how quickly the death occurs. Also consider the reactions of others in your story. What impact does death have on them?

Write the story, keeping in mind that emotional states play a huge roll in this segment. Is the death scene serious or comic? Both are plausible based upon the tenure of the story.

Have fun with this one.

Promises Made, Promises Broken

When someone says they going to do something, we expect them to follow through without endless nagging. This belief is formed during our childhood years. When a parent or guardian says, “I’ll be there in a minute,” we watch to make sure they appear. When they do not, our expectations change. We become jaded toward promises.

Depending upon how many times we have been disappointed by broken promises affects our outlook in life. Too much heartbreak feels like rejection.

Your task is to write a scene in which someone is promised a preferred outcome which never happens. You must include psychological and emotional details in order for the story to be compelling.

Reread. Does disappointment come through? If not, edit.

Have fun with this one.

A Danger to Others

We all have an Uncle Joe whose eyesight is failing, uses a walker, has trouble remembering, and yet still drives. He’s a danger to himself and others, but refuses to give up his car keys for fear of losing his independence. What do we do in this situation?

There are no easy answers. You can hide the keys when he’s in the bathroom, call the DMV and report him as a dangerous driver or call the police when he goes out to drive. Joe will hate you for the rest of his life. So might his wife, kids, grandkids, neighbors and anyone else who is on his side.

Your task is to conjure up a character who should not be driving and someone who confronts this person. To get ideas, do a little research online. Come up with at least three different scenarios and possible outcomes. Choose the one that presents the most conflict, for remember, conflict creates tension and tension makes stories interesting.

As you write, look for ways to insert conflict. Joe does not give up on the first attempt. He might become guarded and hide the keys in the freezer. In fact, he might not relinquish the keys until he’s had an accident or almost ran over a small child!

Reread, looking to see where you can add details that invite the reader to buy into the story.

Have fun with this one.

Changing the Topic

How often have you been conversing with someone about a given topic when, without preamble, they kick off another topic? It probably happens more than you’d prefer. Or maybe you’re the one who jumps around?

Just as in real life, your characters must encounter people who refuse to stay on topic. How they react to this individual says a lot about the character.

For example, is the other senile? If so, is your character patient or react rudely?

What if the person is the boss? How then does your character act?

Your task is to write a scene of dialogue in which no more than three individuals are in a discussion. Make the topic realistic for the situation.

As the conversation moves along, one of the characters changes the topic. How do the others react? Do they follow that thread or steer the conversation back to the original topic?

Reread, looking to see is information pops through about your characters. If not, rewrite.

Have fun with this one.

Too Busy

Recall one of your busiest weeks. What all was on your calendar? How much did you actually accomplish? How were you feeling at the time?

Bring to mind one of your characters.

Your task is to create a week filled with too many obligations and not enough time to complete them all.

Begin by making a list that matches your character’s profile. Include at least one item for each day of the week.

Do not eliminate anything! Instead write the story of that week, being sure to include the character’s feelings as each day begins and ends, as each event approaches, as she prepares for the event, as the event is taking place.

Let us see inside the mind of the character. We want to feel what she feels, walk inside her along the way.

This will not be easy. It can also result in what appears to be a laundry list of activity.

When you are finished, edit the story down to the most exciting and interesting activities, the ones where feelings shine forth.

Have fun with this one.

Too Much Tension?

Is there such a thing? Can a story have too much tension?

One way to check is to read a story or see a movie that is a thriller. Try to choose something where the action starts at the beginning and never lets up. A good example is the movie Ben is Back starring Julia Roberts.  The tension runs from beginning to end, with no let up. There is no scene in which the characters are not frightened or concerned or worried or frantic.

As a viewer, I was in overload after twenty minutes. I wanted some sort of release. There is one scene in which it was possible to have that release, but the camera focused on Ben and what he was feeling.

Your task is to write a scene in which tension is constant. Choose a setting that is appropriate for that level of tension. It could be a bank robbery, a kidnapping, an attempt at escape, running from evil (or from the law). Keep the focus on the emotions of your main characters.

When you are finished, reread or ask someone else to read. How do you feel as you read? Is there too much tension or the right amount considering the setting?

Next rewrite the scene with moments in which there are lighter actions. Then reread.

Which version works best?

Have fun with this one.

Positive Comments

Imagine that you have three good friends. You’ve known each other for many years. You’ve traveled together, eaten together, shopped together. You’ve shared many wonderful moments and overcome difficulties that might have separated others. Through thick and thin you have remained friends.

What would they say are your most positive characteristics? Think beyond the obvious. For example, not just comments about your physical appearance or how clothes fit your body. What would they say?

Your task is to think about a character in one of your stories and the people that she considers friends. Make a list of those individuals.

Next to each name write at least one positive thing that the person would say about the character. Each person must say something different based upon experiences they have shared.

Choose a place in the story where you can insert at least one positive comment from the character’s friend. How does that play out? What does the character say or do in reaction?

Make sure it feels realistic and not forced.

Have fun with this one.