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 Much Tension?

Is there such a thing? Can a story have too much tension?

One way to check is to read a story or see a movie that is a thriller. Try to choose something where the action starts at the beginning and never lets up. A good example is the movie Ben is Back starring Julia Roberts.  The tension runs from beginning to end, with no let up. There is no scene in which the characters are not frightened or concerned or worried or frantic.

As a viewer, I was in overload after twenty minutes. I wanted some sort of release. There is one scene in which it was possible to have that release, but the camera focused on Ben and what he was feeling.

Your task is to write a scene in which tension is constant. Choose a setting that is appropriate for that level of tension. It could be a bank robbery, a kidnapping, an attempt at escape, running from evil (or from the law). Keep the focus on the emotions of your main characters.

When you are finished, reread or ask someone else to read. How do you feel as you read? Is there too much tension or the right amount considering the setting?

Next rewrite the scene with moments in which there are lighter actions. Then reread.

Which version works best?

Have fun with this one.

The Effects of Isolation

People, are by nature, social beings. We love spending time with those we care about. Even when forced to interact with casual acquaintances or workmates, we can find someone that has something in common with us and enjoy each other’s company.

What happens when we are isolated for some reason? Sickness forces us to confine ourselves to home. Even if we live with family, we will shut ourselves up on a bedroom, limiting contact and hopefully exposure. For how long can we tolerate isolation before it impacts us negatively?

Picture a person with poor social skills who lacks friends. What does he do? How does he spend time? What goes through his mind?

What about victims of crime who are locked into cells? Prisoners held in isolation from the rest of the population?

Think of the stories you can tell.

Your task is to create an individual who is apart from society. You might want to do some research into the psychological effects of isolation. Read a few case studies. Then make a bullet-point list of a reason that your character is isolated and how she reacts.

Write the story. Make sure there is conflict and tension. Perhaps your character is teased or tortured in some way. Maybe she is ignored or ridiculed.

When you are finished, reread and rewrite, adding in sufficient details to increase tension.

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.

 

Evening Out

Most love getting out for an evening. Recall how you feel when you get dressed up to go to the theater, visit friends or go into the big city for a frolicking night of fun.

When you dressed, were you thinking of what you’d eat for dinner? The great conversations you’d have? Seeing the people that you haven’t seen for a long while?

Your characters experience the same emotions. When you plan an evening out for them, remember to include details about the range of feelings that pass through. There will be a bit of anxiety, a bit of nervousness, a bit of dread if this isn’t something that your character enjoys.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character and another are preparing for a night out. Think of all the possible preparations involved. If there are children, then perhaps a babysitter is needed. If it’s a potluck, food has to be cooked. Clothing has to be chosen, hair done and makeup applied. Perhaps a bottle of wine is opened and another brought to the party.

Write several pages, then reread, looking to see if you captured the emotions. If you did, great. If not, what’s missing? Reread again, this time looking for places to amplify and expand emotions. Consider adding dialogue so that we see and feel the interplay between characters. Make the dialogue realistic for your story.

Have fun with this one.

Cleanliness Matters

First appearances are incredibly important. Snap judgements are made shortly after a person walks into a room. Same when we enter someone’s living space: depending upon neatness, we evaluate our feelings toward an individual.

Our characters are also defined by neatness. Well-groomed hair says a lot about how they feel about themselves. Same goes for the scrubby, dirty look that tells the viewer that either he hasn’t bathed in a while, or that he doesn’t care.

Your task is to create a credible description of your character. Think beyond clothes, hair, nails. Consider the state of the bedroom, apartment, kitchen. If possible, draw a picture of the individual and of the residence.

Next write a scene in which someone meets your character for the first time. How do people react? Describe the faces they make. The actions they make. Next take someone to the residence. Again, describe faces and actions.

Reread, looking for sufficient descriptors so that the reader clearly sees what you intend for her to see. If there are ambiguities, add information.

Have fun with this one.

 

The Sadness of Heartbreak

Love is a powerful emotion. It draws us in, lures us into believing that it will last forever. We willingly succumb to its promise of a life-fulfilling dream.

And then tragedy happens. The lover turns out not to be all that wonderful or he suddenly declares that he is no longer interested. She is caught walking arm-in-arm with another or he is rumored to have seduced someone into his bed.

Heartbreak hits and we are so depressed that it’s hard to get out of bed.

Or does it?

Imagine how your protagonist will react when dumped by her lover. Create a list of possible reactions. Try to come up with at least five that make sense based upon your character’s personality.

Choose the one that you find the easiest to write but that also has some juice to it.

Your task is to write the story that shows your character in the thralls of heartbreak.

When you are finished, reread, looking for depth of emotion. You want your readers to feel the pain.

Have fun with this one.