Your Favorite Place

            Close your eyes and visualize the place that makes you the happiest, the most calm. The place that inspires a feeling of awe. Listen to the sounds. Breathe in and take in the smells of the flowers, the earth, food cooking. Reach out and touch the bark of trees, the silkiness of flower petals, the gravel beneath your feet.

            Use your imaginary camera and take a picture and then another one. Pick up a paint brush, dip it in some paint and create a replica of what you see in your imagination.

            Think about how you feel. Are your shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing slowed? Did a sense of calmness flow over you?

            This is your happy place.

            Your task is to create a comparable place for your character. Begin by imagining him in a variety of places and situations. Where does he feel most fragile, most overwhelmed? That’s not it, but it’s important to the story. Now think about one or two places where she’ll feel relaxed. Where the sense of awe comes to her.

            That’s the spot where a portion of the story will occur.

            Write a scene in that place. Add in other characters to people the situation. Remember to include sensory details here and there so that readers will enjoy being there as well.

            Have fun with this one.

Using Color in a Scene

            Close your eyes and call up a place that makes you happy. Take in the sounds, the smells, but most importantly, the colors.

            If you’re in your garden, there will be lots of greens: light, dark, edged with red and so on. There might also be an abundance of color if the flowers are in bloom.

            If it’s a vegetable garden, there might be things growing. Think oranges, reds, greens.

            Perhaps you think of the forest with tall trees looming overhead. Then browns will dominate the scene, with greens overhead.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character is inundated with color. Don’t narrate the scene, but use action and dialogue to make the colors stand out.

            Readers will want to experience that place through your characters’ eyes.

            Have fun with this one.

Through a Child’s Eye’s

            Do you remember the first time you went to a zoo? Drove through a big city? Rode a boat or a train? Going to a movie with a parent or a friend?

            Children experience the world with wide open eyes. The first time they do something it’s as if a miracle occurred. And it’s not just their eyes that show excitement, but their entire bodies.

            Because everything is new, raw, unexpected, children have no basis with which to compare whatever they are seeing. Their brains categorize experiences based upon that which they already know.

            For example, a child has already learned what a ball is, but imagine their awe when looking at a gigantic ball of rubber bands! It defies anything they know and so they examine it carefully, looking to see if it fits into those characteristics that, in their minds, define what makes something a ball.

            Your task is to write a story from a child’s point of view as she confronts a new experience. You must include the feelings of confusion, internal deliberation and awe.

            Have fun with this one.

Letters Written Home

            Imagine that you’ve been away from home for some time. You miss your childhood home, your family and your friends. You regularly write home, sharing whatever is happening in your life. Most of the time you recount rather boring details, but this time you’ve got something juicy to share.

            Is it something comedic that happened to you or that you witnessed? Did a coworker get caught under the influence or selling drugs? Has someone made a pass at you that ended badly?

Did you accidentally forget to pay for a scarf that you’d draped over your arm?

            There are so many possibilities!

            Your task is to write the letter, telling the strange happenings that either you did or that you witnessed. Try to insert comedy so that readers will get a good chuckle. Things should be bizarre, yet believable. For example, perhaps a tightrope walker crossed from one high-rise to another in a gusty wind. Imagine how the person teeters to stay on the wire. Maybe a gust tears away a piece of clothing which falls in a dramatic way.

            Let your imagination run wild.

            Have fun with this one.

Dream Encounter

The term “dream” represents a variety of things.

A dream can be something that occurs as you sleep. Sometimes the dream is based on factual encounters which then spin off into uncharted territory. Many times dreams are complete pieces of fiction that include monsters, dark spaces, falling from great heights and discussions that never took place.

Dreams can also be wishes. When young we imagine ourselves as ballerinas, firefighters or teachers because those are the heroes in our lives. As teenagers we dream about going to college or trade school, of becoming engineers, mechanics or computer science technicians. Later on, we dream of marriage and family, trips and excursions and the homes we’d like to own.

Owning items can also be considered a dream. Picture the perfect gown for a dance, the sports car you always wanted to drive, or the collection of baseball cards that you once saw at a flea market.

Your character has dreams. Imagine a scene in which that dream plays a significant role. What does he want? What emotions does he experience whenever he thinks about it? How hard will it be for him to achieve that dream? What happens when he doesn’t?

Write using a combination of narrative and dialogue. Make sure the yearning comes through.

Have fun with this one.

Losing Things

            Remember a time when you thought you had lost something. How much energy you spent looking depended upon how important the item was as well as how soon you needed it.

If you were packing for a trip and couldn’t find the documents for your presentation, you probably put a considerable amount of time into locating them. If, however, you had misplaced your comb, you most likely terminated the search and bought a new one.

What if it was an anniversary card for your best friend? A Father’s Day card for your loved one? Or the key to your house that you intend to give to your house sitter?  Perhaps it’s the blouse that matches the slacks you’re wearing for a special night out?

Or, if you’re extremely unlucky, you feel as if you’ve lost a piece of your mind.

Your character probably has lost a thing or two. How does that play out in a story?  If the item is a priceless heirloom, she might try to track down the last person who touched it.

If the object turned up missing after a burglary, your character might feel both bereft and violated.

If it’s his mind, his memory, he might go through periods of bereavement followed by periods of blankness.

Your task is to write a scene in which something is missing. Your character reacts to the loss in the way only she would. Narrative and dialogue are important. Description of the object, the emotions, and the search are critical.

Have fun with this one.

Shopping Extravaganza

            There’s nothing more exciting than heading off to the mall for a morning of shopping. Even if you have little money to spend, there are windows to peruse, clothing to inspect, dreams to build.

            You might begin by simply strolling up and down the mall, stopping to see what wonders are on display. On the next go-round you enter only those stores that intrigued you. Up and down aisles you go, occasionally holding up an item for inspection. You check the make, the style, the price, the quality, all the while imagining yourself wearing it.

            Does it go with anything you currently own? Is it too similar to things you’ve got at home? Is it worth the price or should you wait for a sale?

            All these thoughts go through your mind as you meander about.

            Imagine your character going on a shopping spree. What kinds of things hold his interest? Which stores invite him in? What items does she choose to inspect up close? Does she make immediate decisions or mull things over? Does he leave to see what comparable things other stores offer or make the purchase right then and there?

            Your task is to send your character on a nice, long shopping trip. He can go alone or bring a friend. She can try on things in her own dressing room or share with a friend. Lunch might be included as well as dinner after.

            Will the day go smoothly with lots of laughter and pleasant conversation or will arguments ensue? At the end, will he have purchased anything? If so, what? If not, why not? Dialogue might be the stronger as it allows for the give-and-take between characters as they discuss the merits of each item.

            Have fun with this one.

Sweltering Conditions

            Summer is upon us and temperatures are rising. Lucky people have air-conditioning or can seek shelter in a cooling spot. However, not everyone is blessed with ways to cool off.

            Free-standing fans provide limited relief if a person sits right in front of it, but do little for a family of four. Or for a classroom full of steaming children or a church filled with parishioners.

            Imagine the stories that arise from being overheated. Fights break out because tempers rise. Tears are shed. Clothing is stripped off. Hoses spray cooling water, but not when there is a drought. People might take a drive if their car’s air works or go stroll through a nearby shopping mall.

            These are all temporary solutions. What happens when the electricity goes out or people have to return to the overheated offices, classrooms and homes?

            Your task is to write a scene in which the heat is overwhelming. Begin with the setting. Are your characters on the road, at work or at home? How do they cool off? How does the heat impact relationships?

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue, remembering that tensions are going to arise. There might be angry words tossed about or actual fisticuffs.

            Have fun with this one.

Starting Over

            Who doesn’t like a fresh start? Well, many people might resent being told to scrap work and begin again. Imagine putting in hours designing what you thought was a winning presentation, only to find that it wasn’t what the boss had in mind. You’d be frustrated, angry and hurt.

            To many, however, having a chance to start over might bring a sigh of relief. Picture a student who received a poor grade on an important test. The grade is so low that it will pull down her grade point average, possibly endangering her scholarship. The professor, after learning that she has a previously undisclosed disability, agrees to give her more time. She redoes the test in the learning center. And…her grade is substantially higher!

            Both cases involve scratching the first attempt. Both have different feelings attached.

            Your task is to write a scene in which the protagonist has to start over. It can be in a relationship, at work or school, on a project for the house, or even writing a book. Emotional reactions will vary depending upon the situation that you set up.

            The first step is to establish character. An angry character will just get angrier while a passive one might just shrug it off. Someone prone to tears reacts differently from a stoic.

            Next come up with a challenge that has stakes attached. It could be a promotion, purchasing a house, or repairing a car.

            Have fun with this one.

Wish Giver

            Imagine that someone you know is dying. As you sit next to him, holding his hand, he asks you to fulfill his dying wish. He says it isn’t a big thing, but something that’s been on his mind for some time. What do you do?

            Your response will be leveraged by your morals and beliefs, by the time it might take to complete, and by costs involved. For example, he asks you to travel to Norway to visit a long-lost cousin. The expense and time such a venture would take determines how you respond.

            What if he asks you to paint the outside of his house so that his widow has a pleasant place in which to live? If you have the skills, time and money to pay for paint and materials, you might choose to get this done. In fact, you could organize a group of friends on a Saturday morning, all of whom come prepared with materials needed and the energy to complete the project.

            Your task is to write a story in which a dying person asks your protagonist to grant one last wish. To increase complexity, choose something that either goes against your character’s beliefs or something that requires a great amount of time and energy.

            How to begin? Set the scene through dialogue and description. Put readers in the room. Allow readers to see what’s happening, feel the relationship, and experience the range of emotions as your character understands what is being asked of him.

            Have fun with this one.