Free Time

Some listen to music while others hike up steep hills. Some garden while others paint. Some write letters. Take long walks with friends. Read a book. Design cards. Eat out. Go to movies or the theater.

No matter how obnoxious the character, at some point he relaxes with a preferred activity, so give him one. It would be more startling if the activity is in direct conflict with the character’s viciousness. For example, a serial killer cuddling up with a tiny kitten. Or a bank robber playing Mozart on a grand piano.

All of your characters need to have at least one preferred leisure activity. We need to see them not just at work, but doing something that allows them to break free of the hassle of their work lives.

Your task is to select a character that you know and love. Make a list of at least five different activities that she would enjoy. Choose some that require physical activity, some that require some degree of skill or talent, and some that almost anyone can do.

Choose one of them to incorporate in a scene.  When you write, allow us to see your character relaxed, enjoying the activity. Allow us to feel what she feels, see what she sees, hear what she hears.

Somewhere during the activity, let there be an interruption. Have her react appropriately. Is she annoyed? Angry? Or does she welcome the distraction?

When you are finished, reread looking for the emotional reactions.

Have fun with this one.

The Stupidest Thing

Things happen.

Zippers get caught. Drinks get spilled. The dog steals the turkey. Kids fall and break bones.

The potential for disaster surrounds us. Every step is an accident waiting to happen. Whenever we slice open an envelope or handle a piece of paper, a cut is possible. We can fall whether going up or down stairs. Step in doo-doo in our own backyard or when walking down the street.

It happens to all of us, often when doing the stupidest things.

Your characters must have the opportunity to have accidents in order to be more human.

One thing we tend to forget as writers is that comic episodes relieve tension and allow for a temporary remove from danger. As long as the comedic event doesn’t completely derail the story, readers find them refreshing.

This is your task: Think of a character whose story you are working on. Make a list of accidents that could logically happen. Try to get at least ten things on your list.

Walk away for a bit to allow these ideas to bounce around in your mind. When one of them speaks to you, then jot down, in bullet form, how you see the event playing out. Think of setting, trigger, timing, and outcome.

Also think about how it will work in your story. Will it happen in the beginning, middle or end? If in the beginning, then it sets the tone for the entire piece. Is that what you want for your story? If so, then great. If not, then bury the scene further into the action.

There is a similar problem if the event ends the story. While an upbeat ending might be what you’ve been looking for, if it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the story, then your readers will be dissatisfied.

Your task is to either write an original story or to rework a familiar one. Add in an event that relaxes the tension just a bit. Don’t make it too long. Just enough to change the pace.

Have fun with this one.