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.

 

A Disastrous Marriage

No one thinks about their marriage falling apart on their wedding day unless there have been hints of dysfunction. We vow to love and obey, through sickness and health, but when things happen, love sometimes takes a walk.

Sometimes the person we marry turns out to be very different once we are behind closed doors. She could be violent; he could be moody. He could have a line of mistresses; she could have an addiction to spending. Her parents might dislike the spouse so intently that they sour the relationship. His friends might be involved in criminal activities that endanger the family.

There are so many opportunities for something to go wrong that it’s amazing when marriages stay intact for so many years. Happy stories can feel contrived and are sometimes so saccharine that readers become disengaged, so bring on the troubles.

Your task is to write a story in which issues arise that lead to the destruction of the relationship. There’s going to conflict which you might want to show through dialogue. You might need to bring in other characters if they are the cause for the problems. Remember to balance dialogue with narrative.

Have fun with this one.

Family Game Night

Many of us older folks grew up playing card and board games. Some of us might have pleasant memories of friendly competition and conversations shared that brought joy and laughter. If the games took place on a regular basis, we probably eagerly looked forward to time spent with family and friends doing something that we could enjoy together.

However not all game-playing is friendly. Imagine a scene in which players are teased, harassed and humiliated. People scream at each other as they declare dominance in terms of gaming skills. Alcoholic beverages are consumed intensifying the belittling. The atmosphere is tension-filled because of the highly competitive situation. Instead of looking forward to those nights, dread looms over the announcement that the time has come to repeat the performance.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character takes part in game night. You choose whether there is friendly competition or cut-throat activities. Or maybe there is a combination of the two.

Begin by setting the scene and placing your character in the midst of the action. Perhaps there is debate as to which game to play, who is in charge and how it is determined who will go first. If younger players are involved, maybe they need help. If so, who takes on that role?

Dialogue and description are key.

Have fun with this one.

Ballads, Love Songs and Lullabies

            In times before written word, music was used to transmit the cultural stories that bound a person to a community’s history. Balladeers were valued members of society because they had the skill to keep memories alive. Music was an important part of the culture.

Love songs and lullabies have a common purpose: to tell someone how much they are loved. At a wedding, the first dance of the newly married couple is done to a song that has special meaning to them. It is often a love song.

Babies grow up hearing the special songs that their parents heard, and that their grandparents heard. The songs can cause giggles or put little ones to sleep. Because of the handing down of lullabies, the words seldom change despite the impacts of time and technological change.

Your task is to write a scene in which a ballad, love song or lullaby plays a major role. You can research songs that are part of a given culture or write new ones of your own.

Decide when, where and why the character will sing the song or hear the song for the first time. Also consider how the character reacts when the song is performed. Emotional details are important.

Have sun with this one.