Good Intentions Gone Awry

            Imagine doing something nice for someone just to have it backfire. Instead of the happy smile you expected and the gushing thanks, you see only furrowed brows and quizzical looks. You ask yourself what went wrong. Perhaps you figure it out, perhaps you don’t.

            Does failure prevent you from trying to please someone else at a future date? Or do you try to come up with something different you could do, something more suited to the individual in mind?

            Good intentions don’t always work the way we intended. It could be that the person thinks you’re trying to get a favor in return, or maybe your act unintentionally insulted them. Perhaps the gift was a duplicate of something they’d had for a long time and you just never noticed it sitting in the house. Maybe the item is in a garish color that you love, but doesn’t fit in their color scheme.

            Whatever the reason, we have to accept the fact that not all our good intentions are welcomed.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist attempts to do something nice for a friend, a coworker, a boss or a neighbor. Begin by making a list of things she could do. For example, she could make cupcakes or offer to mow the lawn. Next think of the antagonist and how she might react that shows displeasure.

            Description is needed at the beginning to establish scene, motivation and to describe the offering. Dialogue is required to show the interactions.

            Have fun with this one.

Negotiation Tactics

            We’ve seen the car you want on the lot. The salesperson has been dogging you, spouting the merits of this car or that. You take the one you’re most interested in out for a test drive with the salesperson riding in the back seat, singing the praises. When it’s time to buy, the salesperson offers one price, you go under. Negotiations ensue.

            You interview for a job that you have all the skills for. You expect a certain salary, the PR officer offers a lower one. You drop your expectations a tad, but ask for benefits to make up the difference. Negotiations ensue.

            There are many scenarios in which haggling takes place. How you enter the fray says a lot about who you are. For example, if you personify the injured party, you might not get what you want. On the other hand, if you come off too aggressive, then nothing will go right.

            Your task is to write a story in which negotiating plays a major role. First establish the setting, including the where, when, why and what for. Make it something large enough that it truly matters. It needs to have value, either in terms of money or social status.

            Dialogue will be critical as readers will need to be there as the bargaining takes place. Remember to include emotional reactions, such as facial expressions, body posture, words chosen.

            Does your character win the negotiations or not? Witnessing someone be a sore loser might have more emotional impact than watching him succeed.

            Have fun with this one.

Marriage and Infidelity

            There are books, movies and television shows that show couples falling in love. Their eyes sparkle whenever they are together. They hold hands, wrap each other up in hugs and passionately kiss. Everyone can see they are in love, so it’s no surprise when they marry.

            In real life, much of that does happen. Couples join are joined together with the words promising a life filled with joy, a life with struggles, a life that will last forever.

            Things happen, however, that challenge their bond.  Illness can shake up the relationship. Financial stress can cause friction. Children misbehave. Problems with the home arise.

            The worst, however, is when one partner breaks the relationship through infidelity.

            Your task is to write a story about marriage. You can choose to have your characters live happily ever after or the relationship can fall apart. What’s important is to let the readers feel the emotions that bring them together, and in the case of infidelity, the emotions that drive them apart.

            Set up a plausible scene, keeping in mind that details such as a sparkling ocean or pounding rain can signal reactions. Dialogue is critical. Readers will need to see the words spoken, both when falling in love and then when angry words cause pain and suffering. Find a good balance between the two.

            Have fun with this one.

Shopping Day

            Imagine that you have a difficult teenager who needs new clothes. You arrange a day and time to take her to the mall. Even that takes some effort as she whines about having to go with you. The car ride is oppressive and silent. The walk through the mall is laced with opportunities to incur her wrath. She snubs her nose at stores you can afford and will only enter those you cannot.

            The struggle over clothes that you deem appropriate and affordable is embarrassing. Her eye-rolling and thin-lipped glares annoy you to the point that you almost give in and let her have whatever she wants just to get it over with.

            Were you ever that teenager? Can you recall a time when you made life difficult for your family? If not, are you a parent of a child who frustrated you? Who embarrassed you in public?

            Your task is to write a story in which it’s time to go shopping. Your character can be the teen or the parent. Tension is important to tell the tale. Use a combination of narrative and dialogue: narrative to set the scene, dialogue to show family dynamics.

            How will the story be resolved? Will there be a meeting of minds or will conflict continue throughout? Will the teen end up with clothes or will the parent march them out, empty-handed?

            Have fun with this one.

Planning a Memorial for Your Protagonist

As we journey through life we encounter many people in many different circumstances. At work we have a business persona that’s built around the job requirements. We behave differently at the gym, bowling alley, bar or tennis courts, where we are able to relax and talk about personal interests. At church we follow the lead of our pastor, minister, or rabbi in terms of how we act during and after the service. At home we have family to consider.  

            In all these situations we present ourselves differently and so we will be remembered differently after we’ve passed away. Some might recall a jolly fellow who loved joking with colleagues while others would think of a stern disciplinarian or a stickler for rules. Perhaps they recall a person who would give you anything you needed while others would consider you stingy and selfish.

            Your task is to plan a memorial service for your protagonist. Fill the service with people from all walks of life. Imagine them grouped together, sharing stories. What will they say about the protagonist? Now have the groups break up and regather with others from family or gym. What happens when mixed perceptions arise? Will there be surprises or conflicts?

            The story can be somber or sad, sweet or angry. Include dialogue so that feelings can come forth.

            Have fun with this one.

Contentious Night Out

            Think back to a gathering around a table. It might have been at your grandparent’s house or at a restaurant with acquaintances from work.  The possibility existed for conflict because of Uncle Joe’s drinking or Sally’s argumentative nature. For a time things went well. No angry words. No sources of conflict. The kids behaved themselves and the adults weren’t saucy.

            Then someone mentioned an old fling or a bigger kid shoved a smaller one to the ground. Heated words were exchanged. Feelings were hurt. Relationships were strained to the breaking point. If it was a work party, perhaps someone got fired. People stormed off in a huff.

            Your task is to write that story. The important thing is to make sure that at least one argument takes place and that retaliation causes friction that perhaps cannot be mended.

            Dialogue is critical to allow readers to be at the scene of the action. Details play an important role, especially if attendees arrive wearing the wrong attire or the expected food is not served or the weather is extreme.

            Have fun with this one.

Sappy Love Story

           Some of us are suckers for a good tear-fest. Even though we know that, at the end, the couple will realize they are deeply in love, our hearts still melt at the closing scene. We’ve followed their trajectory, the ups and downs of their relationship, the friends and family who pull them apart or push them together, and ride the roller coaster of emotions.

            Despite their predictability romance stories are immensely popular. In olden days the characters were heterosexual lily-white uncomplicated people without a criminal past. Today’s readers want people that look, think and feel like them.

            Your task is to write a romance story. When you choose your characters think about what readers are looking for. If you are comfortable with diverse characters, then put them in the lead.

            The characters meet, but is it love at first sight or do complications arise? Readers like the give and take of relationships, so conflict is necessary. Perhaps they share a good moment which is ruined by something stupid said or done.

            Make your story compelling. Draw in your readers with an inciting incident and then hold them spellbound as they wait for that final moment.

            Have fun with this one.

Anticipation

Your birthday is coming up and you’re aware that a party has been planned. You think you know who’s coming, you wonder if Jesse, a childhood nemesis, will have the audacity to appear.

Anew job opportunity has opened up and if you’re offered the position, it means more money and responsibility, but you’ve got to ace the interview.

There are many events that arise in our lives that cause angst. The anticipation alone makes us sweat, interferes with sleep, and causes our hands to tremble. We rehash possible negative outcomes, analyzing each reaction that we might have.

Anticipation is a complex emotion. It is a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen in the near future that leads to restlessness, difficulty focusing, a sense of uneasiness, and an attempt at avoiding participation in the event. In story form, anticipation can trigger scenes of tension and conflict between characters that alter familial relationships and ruin friendships.

Your task is to write a story in which anticipation plays a major role. Choose a scene in which emotions run high, affecting how the character thinks, acts, speaks. Include narrative and dialogue so that readers can see how anticipating the event influences the story arc.

Have fun with this one.

Love at First Sight

Picture yourself in a crowd. A variety of people are milling about. Perhaps it’s a birthday party or maybe it’s a dance at the community center. You spot a good friend on the opposite side of the room and as you wind your way through the seemingly tangled mess of humanity, a face appears that takes your breath away.

Is that love at first sight? It might be depending upon what happens next.

What is your story of falling in love? Have you ever shared it with someone outside of the immediate family? If you did, what was their reaction? If not, why?

Your task is to write a story in which characters meet and something happens. A spark. A tingle. A magical moment. It can be fiction or nonfiction. You could make it predictably sappy or there can be friction between the two as they navigate their way.

Begin by setting the scene. This might be a time to have weather details included, for isn’t spring the time of love? Allow your readers to feel the environment through sight and sound.

Make the developing relationship interesting enough so that readers want to know more.  Bring in complexities and complications. Use dialogue to enhance the progression of the romance.

Have fun with this one.

Long Lost Friend

Do you remember what it felt like when a friend that you hadn’t seen in a log time crossed your path? Did you experience joy or dread? Did seeing her call up fond memories of places you’d gone and things you’d seen? Maybe she tormented you, called you names, and so you fear that she’ll start it up again?

We’ve all experienced the appearance of someone from our past, so this is a story that all readers can relate to. Begin with the characters. Who are they and what happened in their past that perhaps they preferred to keep buried?

Now imagine a story in which a character runs across someone from the past.

Your task is to tell that story. Complexity is crucial for readers need to feel those conflicting emotions.

Begin with the setting.  The place and time ground readers in the story. Expand to include emotional reactions as you explore how the characters feel and react. Use dialogue to draw readers into the relationship.

Have fun with this one.