Autobiographical Fiction

When I was a small child my father worked at a union-based factory in Dayton, Ohio. His union organized a variety of family-programs that were held throughout the year.

During the Christmas party Santa distributed gifts after some type of entertainment was held for the kids. One of the few entertainers I remember was the famous Sherry Lewis with her sock puppets. Since I’d seen her on television, I was enthralled.

 At another party the entertainer was a TV cowboy. I don’t remember his name and since there are no pictures for me to rely on, I would have to fabricate much of the setting and action if I chose to write the stories.

While I can’t write a nonfiction piece, I can modify the events so as to create original characters and situations.

Your task is to think of an event that is a bit fuzzy. If you’ve got them, look at photos that from that time and place. What did it look like? What smells might there have been? What foods served? Was it indoors or outside? Backyard, playground or school?

Were you small compared to others your age? Were you thin or heavy? What color was your hair? What would you have been wearing? Who was present and how did they behave toward you?

If there’s a comic element, then your story has to be light. If serious, then some form of trauma should exist.

Have fun with this one.

The Well-Disguised Spy

            Recall a time when you were able to hear and see what was happening from a position of advantage. No one could see you and so no one knew you were watching. What did you discover? Was the husband cheating on the wife? Attempting to bribe a school administrator? Offering for sale valuable piece of jewelry?

            What did you do? Keep it a secret, thinking it was none of your business? Or did you report what you’d witnessed to an authority?

            This is the story that needs to be told.

            Your task is to write a story from the point of view of the spy, the character that no one knew was watching.

            This person could be real, or imaginary, or even an animal, such as the pet cat.

            Intrigue is a must. Make the event something important, something that changes relationships, the economy or even the power of government.

            Have fun with this one.  

The Awkward Date

            Did you ever go on a date that didn’t turn out well? What went wrong and how did it make you feel?

            Imagine if you’re a teenager and going on your first date. What emotions do you experience? Who do you tell? What do you wear? Where does your date take you and do you have a good time, or are you miserable? Does he kiss you when he brings you home? Or walk away?

            Imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. Make a list, then narrow it down to the two or three that might make for an interesting story.

            Your task is to write that story, building in plenty of tension and drama. Make the characters complex and interesting. Use dialogue and narrative description so that your readers are right there, experiencing the fraught evening.

            Have fun with this one.

Bad Weather

            Try to recall a time when you wanted to be somewhere, or go somewhere, but a bad storm was coming. You are afraid to leave as you might get caught in it, but you also want to get home as soon as possible. You might pack the car, listen to every weather report, all the while trying to make the right decision.

            Do you stay or do you go? What happens either way can make for an interesting story.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is facing bad weather that has the potential to affect travel plans.

            Be sure to use lots of dialogue as this is the stuff that can lead to heated arguments. Once the decision is made, bring on the storm and let the emotions play out. Perhaps tornado forces them to hide in the basement, or the snow storm catches them without chains and therefor they slide off the road. Perhaps there are  flight delays that strand them at an airport where tempers flare.

            All kinds of exciting things can happen.

            Have fun with this one.

The Chef

             When someone brags about their cooking, our mouths begin to water. Prime Rib? Yum. Crème Brule? Yummier.             Imagine being invited to their house for dinner. You salivate over the food expected, wondering what marvels the chef will prepare.            What happens if the meal isn’t? What if something seems a bit off? Do you eat the meat anyway, wondering if it was a bit spoiled? Do you grimace at the off-color appearance of the grilled veggies?            Your task is to write the story of the chef who isn’t that great. The beginning is with the bragging, the talk of how wonderful he is, with the invitation to a meal.            Perhaps formal invitations are sent out only to a select few. Guest bring nothing as the meal will be stupendous!            Things go wrong, however. Imagine watching him standing at the barbeque, dropping a piece of chicken on the ground, wiping it off, returning it to the grill. Does his guests eat it? Or shy away?            What if the salads sit in the sun? What if the ice waters down the tea? What if the desert melts?            Many misadventures can arise.            Have fun with this one. 

Thrift Store Treasures

            Many people enjoy going to thrift stores, looking for unexpected finds. They finger through racks of clothing, hoping for something they didn’t know they needed, but now love.

            They explore the shelves of dishes, toys, bedding and even hats, eagerly searching for just the right thing to put in their houses.

            Sometimes they go home empty-handed, but almost always they find something.

            Your task is to write the story of an avid thrifter. Make the character come alive through the exploration of one thrift shop after another. Have a companion go with. That way they can share what they find, laughing at the downright unusual, rejoicing with each discovery that makes them smile.

            Clothing has to be tried-on. Send the shoppers to the dressing “room”, which often is no more than a curtained-off area.

            There should be laughs when it doesn’t hang right, and smiles when it fits perfectly.

            Your task is to tell the story of these two shoppers, from beginning to end. It would be nice to throw in a little tension, such as what happens when they want the same item.

            Have fun with this one.

A Strange Day

            Many children’s books revolve around something unusual that happens, something that takes the child character completely by surprise. Often dreams are the catalyst, but there can be other triggers as well.

            Children love to play make-believe. They fabricate complex, ever-evolving stories with magic, beasts, queens and kings. Knights and dragons. All kinds of creatures, large and small.

            Your task is to write a children’s story based on the premise that something strange happens, something unexpected and so unusual that the child had no way to predict the inciting incident.

            Have fun with this one.

Visions

Close your eyes. Relax, allowing your mind to drift wherever it wants to go.

What do you see? Hear? Smell?

Are you somewhere in your past or seeing a vision of the future? How does it make you feel? Sad? Lonely? Frightened? Hopeful or happy?

What story comes to mind? Is it from your childhood or perhaps when you were much older?

Your task is to write that story, complete with all the emotions that hit you when your eyes were closed. You could begin with a line such as, “When I looked back, I…”

Bring the people in the story to life. They also have emotional reactions to the time and place. There might be conflict. There might be an argument. There might be cooperation and joy.

Use both narrative and dialogue to make the story sing.

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.