Forgiving Oneself

Because we are human, we are fallible. Not many days go by in which we do not commit a mistake of some kind. Perhaps it’s a misinterpretation of someone’s words. Maybe we cook something too long in the oven, making it practically inedible. It could be entering data incorrectly into a program that skews results of the project.

Our mistakes are large and small, of minimal importance and of huge import. Some are so egregious that it’s near impossible to find redemption. Often we dig holes so deep that the sky does not shine for weeks.

Your character also makes mistakes. It is through her response to those errors that the reader learns something about her inner strength. An individual who apologizes and moves on has different skills than one who blames others and takes no responsibility for his actions.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character does something that creates a stir. It’s important that it be large enough to create tension, that it upsets the normal routine of life.

You might want to use dialogue as a tool to show what has transpired. Readers want to walk with our character through the entire process. Show us the event, the reactions of others, the feelings of your character and the end result. Details are important.

Have fun with this one.

Perfect Strangers

Recall a time when you interacted with a stranger. Was it while standing in line at the grocery store? Going through security at the airport? Asking advice at a bookstore?

Was it a positive experience?  If so, why? What occurred that allowed you to feel good about the interaction?

Did you initiate the conversation? If so, what words did you use?

Your task is to place a character in a comparable situation. She is out and about. She runs into someone she doesn’t know, most likely will never see again, yet strikes up a conversation.

Be sure to describe the scene in sufficient detail that we hear the sounds, smell the smells, taste whatever is being offered, but not so much detail up front that the story never gets started.

Give us emotions. Fear? Dismay? Pleasure? But not all at once. Allow us to travel the range of emotions as the character experiences them. Much of this will have to take place in dialogue form.

Then give us a satisfactory ending.

Have fun with this one.

Natural Disasters

Let’s face it: things happen. Life is not a bowl of chocolates or cherries or cookies. It’s messy, even if we eliminate all the emotional baggage and just focus on the environment.

All over the world weather causes damage. Fires. Floods. Mudslides. Tornadoes and hurricanes. Famine and drought. Fissures and earthquakes. Lightning strikes, ice, hail and snow.

And when these things happen, people’s lives are affected.

Your character, even when living in a fantasy world, experiences a natural disaster or two. This has to be reflected in the story. Not just the event, but also the character’s reactions.

Your task is to write a scene in which some force of nature comes tumbling down in the way of your character’s life. I suggest choosing a phenomenon with which you are most familiar.

For example, in the SF area where I live,  earthquakes are not all that uncommon. But we’ve also recently experienced four years of drought followed by this year’s torrential rains. A reservoir overflowed, the emergency release point on a dam crumbled, and the overflow washed away in a sea of mud. Homes were evacuated, bridges and streets collapsed and water seeped into basements, parks, and parked cars.

If I were to write a story that takes place in the spring or fall, I would need to add in rainfall, hail, sleet and maybe even a little snow on the highest peaks.

Think of the location for your scene. Then make a list of potential disasters that could occur. Choose one. Then write.

Remember to include what your character sees, thinks, feels, tastes and hears. Include emotional reactions. Have some type of damage occur so that your character has to take action.

When finished, reread looking for places where you can strengthen description and response.

Have fun with this one.