War Relationships

Fighting in a war is not the normal place where friendships are formed, but by virtue of the close quarters in which soldiers live, work, and “play” bonds form.

Sometimes these friendships last beyond the end of service. Seeing each other reminds them of all that they shared, allowing the memories to heal, to bring closure, to recall those that were lost.

War stories are a popular genre right now. Walk into any bookstore and you will quickly find a variety of tales from the different wars: WW I, WW II and Vietnam. Many of the stories are from a soldier’s point of view. Just as many are about those who stayed behind: women, children, parents and friends.

Your task is to write a war story. Even if you never served, you probably know someone who did. First do some research about the war that interests you the most. Read survivor’s accounts. Read factual accounts. Take notes.

When you feel comfortable writing, tell the story that you feel most comfortable relating. Remember to include sensory details as well as to let the intense emotions that war evinces come forth.

This won’t be an enjoyable task, depending upon your opinion about war.

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.

Most Important Person

Hopefully each of us has been touched by someone who truly cared and to whom we gave our love. This person might have been a relative, unless you grew up in a dysfunctional family, and then that special one might have been a teacher, boss or neighbor.

Think of the gifts this person gave you. They might be physical, such as a new bike or a longed-for book, but they might also have been emotional, such as love, kindness, unconditional caring.

Your character has also been touched by a special person. Who is that individual? What has she done for your character? In what ways is the life of your character enriched?

Has that most important person passed away or is he still alive? If alive, have the roles now been reversed? Your character now gives to the special person? In what ways?

Your task is to write a scene in which their lives intersect. Remember that we need to feel the depth of the relationship, the love between them (assume that this is not physical love, but rather supportive).

Reread, looking for key words that allow us to see the feelings on display.

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.

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.