The Best Place You Ever Lived

Some people live in the same town, in the same house, their entire lives, while most move at least once over the course of their lifetime. Taking into consideration all the places you have lived, which one was your favorite? Why?

Perhaps it was because of the neighbors. They were friendly, open, and welcoming and your best friend lived right next door. Maybe it was that the location offered plenty of things to do, like roller-skating, hiking, swimming or exploring.

Whatever the reason, that place offered you something that no other has.

Your characters will have a favorite place as well. Begin by creating backstory for each of your main characters. Give them each a place and at least one reason. Those places might not appear in your story, but they continue to appear in the memories that your characters carry forward. They may even influence the things your characters say and do.

Your task is to write a story in which a favorite place appears in some way. It could play a prominent role or it could come up in discussion. In this story setting is important, but so are the memories.

Remember that not everyone in a family shares the same opinion about a given place. This could lead to some interesting discussions that create a sense of tension.

Have fun with this one.

Sunset Story

            Time of day affects the setting of a story. Imagine a broiling hot trek across an Arizona desert or an early morning hike on a Minnesota Lake in the dead of winter. Bot situations might be untenable without proper preparation and the correct gear.

            Try to recall the most spectacular sunset you have ever seen. Where were you? Who were you with? What made it memorable? Was it the company, the situation or the location? Perhaps it was a combination of all those things.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character experiences a sunset so profound that it touches her heart. The colors, the people she’s with, the location all come into play. What she’s doing just before sunset occurs sets the stage.

            As you write remember to include sensory details. Readers will want to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch everything that your character does. Dialogue is also important because it is through conversation that feelings will be revealed.

            Reread looking to see if the picture that you paint with words comes clear.

            Have fun with this one.

Setting Changes Affect Story

            You’ve outlined your setting including research into what it was like way back when. If lucky, you visited the cities and are familiar with buildings, streets and plants. Your plot takes the character all over that environment, in and out of predicaments determined by geographical elements.

            Have you taken into consideration how time changes the setting? Does it snow in winter, pour in the spring and roast in the summer? Is there only one season because the story is set on a planet, far, far away? If the setting changes/doesn’t change, how does this affect story?

            A time traveler might have to find clothes if they’re dropped into a winter landscape. Perhaps the desert figures significantly in the story as your character rides a camel over dunes. However, what if the story never changes location: it’s always in the same city, the same house, the same neighborhood? Change still has to take place.

            Your task is to write a story in which significant changes in setting occur that affect plot. Begin by listing those elements that would most likely happen based upon where you’ve chosen to set the scene. For example, during the length of the story will seasons change? Will a catastrophic weather event destroy homes, streets, lives?

            Once you’ve chosen the changes that can logically be incorporated into your story, begin writing. Remember to include details so that readers can “see” the changes both in nature and in terms of how the changes affect your character’s thoughts and actions.

            Have fun with this one.

Choosing the Time Period

Every story exists within a particular time period. Historical novels are normally centered in the past, ranging from the earliest days of man to the near present. Think cave men and last year.

Futuristic stories might be on Mars after its been settled, on a spaceship as it zooms toward a distant planet, or on Earth after an apocalypse.

When a story occurs affects weather, clothing, buildings, communication systems, all kinds of infrastructure issues and many more. If you’re an expert on a particular era, perhaps you don’t have to research to get information, but most of us will have to spend a substantial amount of time gathering data.

Your task is to write a story that takes place in a time period other than now. Begin by listing three different ideas that intrigue you. Choose the one you will enjoy learning more about. Research until you come up with enough information to develop your world.

Include sensory details so that your readers will grasp when and where the events take place, but be careful not to employ an information dump to do so. Weave together story and details, dialogue and narrative.

Have fun with this one.

Functional Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the combined facilities and structures that a society needs for its economy to function. It includes bridges, roads, telecommunications systems, water and sewage systems and electrical grids. Airports, tunnels, hospitals, lighthouses, public schools, parks and other public spaces also fall under the umbrella of infrastructure. The degree to which each is developed tells a lot about that society.

A primitive society might have dirt roads and wooden dams while a technologically advanced community would employ systems that perhaps have yet to be developed.

When creating the setting for your story, these elements might not play a major role, but they could. Imagine if an earthquake breaks the walls of a dam and water pours down river, flooding cities in its wake. Perhaps the local hospital is so overrun with accident victims that additional cases have to be transported to other communities.

Your task is to create a story in which something happens that threatens an element of the infrastructure. Begin by settling on the one event that you feel the most comfortable writing about. Place your characters in the scene, taking into consideration how the event will affect each and how they will react, realizing that people behave differently when threatened.

You can start with the disaster right from the beginning, or establish the “normal” world so that readers understand what life was like before things went wrong. Dialogue and narrative are both important. Narrative puts readers into the heart of the action while dialogue exposes the fears, the concerns, the reactions of characters in the story.

Have fun with this one.

Rooms, Houses and Buildings

In any story, regardless of genre, characters enter buildings of various types, ranging from simple mud huts to enormous skyscrapers. They might pass through a grand ballroom with an array of sparkling chandeliers or a rustic bathroom consisting of a hole in the floor.

No matter the room, the descriptions must be real because rooms are where we gather. In the ballroom they might attend a conference focusing on a medical issue or participate in a fiftieth wedding anniversary. At some point they use the bathroom. Are the counters granite or mud shelves imbedded in the wall? Does water run out of an artistic arrangement of descending pots or is there a simple bowl with standing water?

The spaces through which our characters pass reveal details about environment and its impact on they lives. Your descriptions are therefore critical in setting the scene. The way residences are decorated tell us who the characters are. A sparsely outfitted studio is vastly different from a castle on a hill filled with massive wood tables, chairs and cabinets.

Your task is to write a story in which buildings are not just backdrops but play a role in adding to the story.

How will readers know if a room is lavish unless hints of splendor appear? Or if the hut’s dirt floor is neatly brushed or covered with straw mats?

While setting is important, it also cannot dominate the scene. Be careful when writing to ensure that the amount of description does not overtake the story.

Have fun with this one.

Story Starters

These will work if you are blocked and can’t think of anything to write.

Choose one of the following settings:

  1. A futuristic house with windows only on the west side of the building.
  2. A barren landscape except for a strange patch of green in a circular pattern.
  3. A store that sells a strange variety of merchandise: costumes, switchblades and blueberry pie.
  4. A remote country town in which everyone knows everyone and there seems to be some kind of secret binding them together.

Now all you have to do is come up with your characters and set things in motion.

 

Have fun with this one!