Your Favorite Place

            Close your eyes and visualize the place that makes you the happiest, the most calm. The place that inspires a feeling of awe. Listen to the sounds. Breathe in and take in the smells of the flowers, the earth, food cooking. Reach out and touch the bark of trees, the silkiness of flower petals, the gravel beneath your feet.

            Use your imaginary camera and take a picture and then another one. Pick up a paint brush, dip it in some paint and create a replica of what you see in your imagination.

            Think about how you feel. Are your shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing slowed? Did a sense of calmness flow over you?

            This is your happy place.

            Your task is to create a comparable place for your character. Begin by imagining him in a variety of places and situations. Where does he feel most fragile, most overwhelmed? That’s not it, but it’s important to the story. Now think about one or two places where she’ll feel relaxed. Where the sense of awe comes to her.

            That’s the spot where a portion of the story will occur.

            Write a scene in that place. Add in other characters to people the situation. Remember to include sensory details here and there so that readers will enjoy being there as well.

            Have fun with this one.

Searching for Treasure

            Did you ever create a buried treasure map and then lead your friends on a hunt through the neighborhood? What, if anything, did you find?

            Thinking back to ancient times, explorers went all over the world looking for elusive treasures to bring back to their countries, for glory for themselves as well as for their kings/queens. Nothing stopped them, not inhabitants of the land nor weather.

            They killed with no mercy, took what they wanted, then moved on to begin another quest.

            Fantasy stories often revolve around the search for treasure, be it precious stones, mighty gods or hidden castles.

            But is there treasure in your house? Imagine digging through a closet and finding something you’d thought lost. Perhaps it reminds you of grandma or a favorite uncle. Maybe it’s an article of clothing that you thought you’d given away. Try to recall how you felt.

            Your task is to write a story in which treasure is sought and perhaps found. Capture the emotions as the explorer sets off, the travails of the journey, the conquests made and lost. Use both narrative and dialogue to develop the scene. Take your readers on the search by using sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.

Setting Scene

Recently I attended a conference in Mendocino, CA. One of my afternoon sessions was about memoir writing. While I am not working on memoir, I hoped to learn something or at least be reminded of something that I might have forgotten.

The instructor talked a bit about scene. We all know that a given scene contains time and place. It can be past tense or current tense, or if you are interested in giving it a try, future tense.

Scene must have a purpose, a reason for being. It is going to show us something about the protagonist and maybe at least one antagonist. The opening scene inspires the reader to keep going.

A good writer will include sensory details so that the reader can “see” the scene. For example, are there chocolate chip cookies baking? Imagine the smell, the taste, the melted chips. Maybe the garbage hasn’t been taken out for a while. Imagine that smell and how it makes you feel.

Not all opening scenes have dialogue, but if possible, include some that create conflict or tension.

The main purpose of the opening scene is to ground the reader in place and time.

Your task is to write that opening scene of a story that’s been rattling around in your head. Remember to include sensory details and to create conflict.

Have fun with this one.

Inspiration Sources

Objects hidden in drawers and closets or stuffed on garage shelves can be the inspiration for good stories.

Think about some of the things you have stuffed deep in the back of your closet. Old shoes worn on a hike to the top of Yosemite Falls? A sparkly dress from your high school prom? A pair of pants that you wore when you weighed 100 pounds more than you do now?

The stories these objects would tell are priceless.

Prom night might have been a disaster. Your date showed up late, and instead of wearing a tux, he borrowed a too-big suit from his older cousin. It hangs like a robe and in spots, is shiny from use. He wore his old tennis shoes, scuffed and dirt splotched.  No tie. Wrinkled pink-dyed shirt from when a pair of his sister’s panties went through the white wash.

At the dance, he drank heavily, spiking the punch with a flask he had tucked into his inside pocket. The more he drank, the more uninhibited his unskilled dancing became. He laughed and talked so loudly that everyone in the room heard every word he slurred out.

Or maybe you want to write about that hike. It was a gorgeous spring day with billowing clouds hovering overhead. At first the walk was a gentle climb, but as time passed, the path turned to gravel and the elevation increased. Then you hit a section a switchbacks so sharply pitched that, at each turn, you had to stop to gather breath and strength.

When you finally made it to the top, your view was blocked. A tree/cloud/crowd got in your way. Or maybe you were too afraid of heights to look out. Or maybe you collapsed from exhaustion.

Your task is to go on a search of your house or apartment. Look deep into the darkest corners. Push aside the t-shirts you no longer wear. Find one thing that carries you back into your past.

Hold it. Smell it. Cuddle it. Sit in a chair with it in your lap and feel the fabric. The stiches. The hem. The collar.

If shoes, turn them over and look at the soles. Imagine where they’ve been. The places they’ve carried you to. The troubles they’ve seen.

And then write. Tell the story. If you want, you can stick to the truth, but if you feel inspired, embellish. Add details and dialogue and action, enough to make the story interesting for others to read.

When you finish, reread. Look for areas where you can strengthen the story by subtracting, adding or replacing.

Have fun with this one!

 

The Issue of Health

There is no such thing as a complete healthy human being. We all have issues, of some sort or another, varying in intensity from mild to severe.

Even young children are afflicted with something or other. For example, it is not uncommon for kids to have ear infections or to suffer the flu.

Teens might struggle with bladder infections, cramps or the common cold.

Then there are sprains, strains and broken bones.

As we age, we run into even more difficulties. We might need glasses or hearing aids. We might have difficulty swallowing or lose some degree of balance.

The challenge this week is to write a story/scene in which your protagonist has some type of health issue. Before you write, think about how it affects his/her life. Does it mean sitting in the front row in a classroom? Walking with a cane? Using a walker or wheelchair?

There needs to be conflict to make the story interesting, so use the health issue as an impetus for the conflict. Perhaps people get tired of shouting to be heard or maybe the character is color blind and so runs a red light.

Your task, then, is to add complexity to your character. Make her real, dealing with actual issues that all of us struggle with at one time or another.

Good luck with this one.