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.

Precious Gems and Metals

Olympic athletes are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Beaus often gift their intended with diamonds set in silver. Pearls, topaz, emeralds and many others are prized for their beauty. Platinum and aluminum are valued for beauty, yes, but also for their ability to be crafted into useful items. Coins have been molded out of metals since ancient times. Cars, bikes and motorcycles all rely on metals for construction and operation.

Walk through your home and take notice of everything that contains metals or gems. Take note of how each item is used and where it came from, whether as a gift or something you bought for yourself. How valuable is each now?

The value and usage of precious materials, throughout the ages, has depended upon the culture of the region. More advanced areas crafted weapons and embellishments out of metals and gems. Less developed areas used them for trade to get those things they needed to survive.

Your task is to think about a situation in which precious gems or metals play an important role in the story. Your protagonist wants something and perhaps she can procure whatever that is by using these materials. For example, she wants to impress a date, so she wears a diamond necklace. Maybe his father’s birthday is coming so he scours the stores to find pearl cuff studs.

Include details and dialogue that allow readers to see the thinking processes that go on, the purchase or trade, and the end result.

Have fun with this one.


A New Baby

Anyone who’s been around a newborn understands how such a tiny, helpless being can upset the functioning of a home. Pitiful cries can’t be ignored and so guardians come to the rescue day and night. Stinky diapers have to be changed and washed. Everyone’s clothing gets soiled with vomit. It’s a seemingly endless litany of squalls and needs.

If the newborn is a cat or dog, there are still issues. They suffer separation anxiety when removed from mom. The cries are plaintive, but often unheard when the owners are off at work. Potty training can be challenging when the animal doesn’t “get” it as quickly as one might hope. There are walks to take, leash-training, special foods to prepare.

The impact of newborns doesn’t occur in many genres of stories. Romance and Women’s Literature are where the problems are most commonly found. But why can’t there be babies in Science Fiction or Horror?

Perhaps an astronaut becomes pregnant while on the International Space Station or the serial killer is nursing a toddler. Imagine how this would change the story.

Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist has a newborn of some kind. Choose a place to begin that has the most tension for that’s what will hook your readers. Description is essential, both internal and external. Readers will want to know what’s going through minds and how the infant is impacting lives.

Have fun with this one.

Taking a Stand

When we’re little, we have very little power inside the family as well as at school. However, we learn through experience and observation how to wield what power we have to get what we want.

As we get older, the issues that matter to us take on larger perspective. We might organize social groups at school, leverage our family for a car or manipulate friends to accompany us on questionable trips.  People listen because we hold some degree of power within those groups, and by taking a stand, we convince them  that we are the one to lead, to be followed, to be in charge.

This becomes especially important if we are asked to deliver a speech, run for political office or take an active role in a community group. We have to have strong enough opinions that are clearly enough articulated, researched and supported by evidence that our target audience will jump on board.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character voices opinions and tries to convince others to follow her lead. Set the stage first by taking your readers into the time, place and purpose of the gathering.  Dialogue is important as we need to hear the words used in the attempt to lure others into the desired outcome.

Your character does not have to be successful. If that happens, readers need to understand why.

Have fun with this one.

Disaster of a Picnic

Picnics can be a whole lot of fun. Imagine a group of people gathered around the table eating food that different ones had prepared. Grandma’s potato salad is legendary. Jack’s terrific at the barbeque. Kathy makes to-die-for macaroni salad and Pat’s lemon meringue pies are a hit everywhere.

Board games are played. Cards come out. The younger kids play volleyball or kickball or go wade in the lake. Birds chirp. Dogs bark. Laughter surrounds you until something goes wrong.

As a writer these are the moments that enliven stories for they allow us to create situations where conflict and tension drive the plot forward.

Your task is to write a scene in which things begin to unravel. It could be that Joe pulls out a flask and taints the lemonade. Or perhaps the mayonnaise in the salads spoils in the hot sun. Perhaps a little one runs into a pole and…well, you get the idea.

Sensory details are important if you want your readers engaged.  They want to hear, see, taste, touch and smell the things going on around them as they participate in this picnic. Bring in dialogue as well so that readers can observe as the group unravels.

Have fun with this one.

Dance Party

Do you recall the first dance you attended? How old were you? Did you go with a date or with a group of friends? Where was the dance? Were you anxious or excited? Did everything go okay at the dance? If not, then that is the story you want to tell.

Imagine that at some time in their lives, our characters went to a dance during high school, college, or as adults with friends. Perhaps she didn’t want to go, but too much pressure was applied. She fussed over her outfit, hair and makeup. She complained all the way there. Once inside, what happened?

Your task is to write the story. It can be the first dance he attended or the most recent one. Choose a situation when some form of conflict would arise. The bigger the conflict, the more interesting the story becomes.

Details are important to establish setting. Think ambience. Decorations. Music. Food. Drink. Were there only people he knew or total strangers? Did someone get so drunk that they acted outlandishly?

Have fun with this one.