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.

 

Cleanliness Matters

First appearances are incredibly important. Snap judgements are made shortly after a person walks into a room. Same when we enter someone’s living space: depending upon neatness, we evaluate our feelings toward an individual.

Our characters are also defined by neatness. Well-groomed hair says a lot about how they feel about themselves. Same goes for the scrubby, dirty look that tells the viewer that either he hasn’t bathed in a while, or that he doesn’t care.

Your task is to create a credible description of your character. Think beyond clothes, hair, nails. Consider the state of the bedroom, apartment, kitchen. If possible, draw a picture of the individual and of the residence.

Next write a scene in which someone meets your character for the first time. How do people react? Describe the faces they make. The actions they make. Next take someone to the residence. Again, describe faces and actions.

Reread, looking for sufficient descriptors so that the reader clearly sees what you intend for her to see. If there are ambiguities, add information.

Have fun with this one.

 

Favorite Books

Whenever someone asks me which book is my favorite, I have to honestly say that I love all kinds of books. I read constantly. Usually I am reading two books at the same time. And I read across genres.

What about your character? What does she like to read? What is it about her preferred genre that she enjoys?

Your task is to generate a list of at least five different things that your protagonist reads. Include a variety of materials, including papers and magazines.

Once you have established the list, narrow it down to the two that you feel could be influential in a story.

Put things in motion. Perhaps she is in the library reading her favorite periodical. How does she react? What feelings run through her head? What happens when someone walks up and interrupts her reading?

Write the story. When you finish, reread for details. Make sure that something compelling happens.

Have fun with this one.

Awards Won

I was not one of those kids who won things. I never earned a certificate for perfect attendance or for high grades. Girls seldom participated in sports back then, so I never won a ribbon for participation. I didn’t play an instrument, wasn’t artistically gifted and never entered a competition.

I do remember, quite clearly, the first time I did win something. I was ten. My family had gone to my dad’s union picnic. A BINGO game was held for kids.  I didn’t win the first few games, which was no surprise, but I played anyway. The last game was called. My blocks quickly got filled. All of a sudden I realized I had a BINGO! I raised my hand and was instantly recognized. An adult checked my game board. I truly had won! They called me to the front where I was presented with a tiny piece of candy. It didn’t matter the prize, for I had won. That’s all that I could think of.

Your character has probably had some type of similar experience. Ribbons were earned, certificates were given, and promotions handed out. It’s up to you to decide.

Your task is to create a list of awards won. Make sure that the contests match the character’s personality and interests.

Narrow down the list to the most important one, the one whose story you can tell.

Write the story, making sure to include sights, sounds, feelings of the character and others.

When you are finished, reread. Look for places where you can strengthen details.

Have fun with this one.