Delivering the Eulogy

Delivering the Eulogy

            When we lose someone we love, whether it be human or animal, our grief can be quite profound. We go through a series of emotions, from shock to grief to acceptance. Unfortunately we are still deep in the first two when we are asked to eulogize the individual.

            What memories do you share? Do you speak about the time Spot stole the neighbor’s underwear from her clothesline or do you bemoan all the walks you didn’t have the time to take?

            Should you begin with a funny incident from a person’s life to cheer things up a bit or stick to the most solemn moments that you recall?

            Imagine that your character has lost someone that he loves. Perhaps he’s not comfortable with public speaking, but because he knew the individual well, he is the most qualified to deliver the eulogy.

            Begin by deciding who died. If it’s a person, what is the relationship between the two? How close were they? What things did they do together?

            If it’s an animal, when did the critter come into the character’s life? In what way did the animal impact the character? What kinds of things did they do together?

            Your task is to write the story of death and eulogy. Include both description and dialogue. Make sure your readers feel the emotions of the character. And that you’ve set the scene with relevant sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.

In the Listings

            The next time a flyer for an open house arrives in your mail, save it. Look at it carefully, studying the layout, the furniture, the decorations. If it’s within driving distance, go take a look. Check out the neighborhood. How far apart are the lots? How close are the nearest schools? What types of businesses are nearby?

            Attend the open house so that you can walk through the rooms and step into the backyard. If photos are displayed, check them out. Who lives here? A family? A group of friends?

            What stories would they tell if you could interview them?

            Using your imagination, write an interesting story that takes place in this house. Is it a murder mystery? An invasion of pests? A romantic-comedy? Ghosts floating about?

            There needs to be tension for the story to be interesting. Begin by mapping out your characters. What do they want? How hard are they willing to work to get it?

Include both description and dialogue. Maintain a good pace so that the story does not get bogged down.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

            Sometimes it’s good to look back over the things we’ve said and done. It gives us a new perspective as to whether we should have approached a given situation differently or if what we did still feels okay.

            If we would change things, how would we do it? Would we walk up to the person and apologize? Send an email? Text? The method we choose might affect the outcome in ways that we hadn’t foreseen.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character realizes that she didn’t behave the way she should have. She then contacts the injured party to try to make amends.

            This should be a tension-filled situation. Your character has no idea how the other person will react. She’s going to be nervous and possibly rehearse what she’s going to say. She might practice with a trusted friend before the meeting.

            The other person could accept the apology with grace or could strike out with hurtful words. Both scenarios work because sometimes we need a feel-good ending.

            This situation calls for dialogue and body-language. Include sensory details so that readers know exactly where the meeting takes place.

            Have fun with this one.

Magical Realism

Magical realism is a literary genre in which the world in which the story takes place, is realistic, with normal beings, places and objects. However, there is an undercurrent of magic or fantasy in which the line between the worlds in blended. For example, magical or supernatural phenomena exist in a setting that the author does not invent.

            Fairy tales are a good example because the characters live in houses, eat food, wear the clothes of the times, but something happens, an invasion of that reality, that changes the overall story arc. Characters have traits such as levitation, telepathy or telekinesis that they employ to get what they want, influence people or outcomes, or entertain and bedazzle others.

            Imagine flying carpets, bowls that dance and ghosts that haunt an occupied home.

            Your task is to write a story that incorporates some degree of magical realism. Begin by choosing what type of magic exists in the world, whether or not it can be controlled, and who, if anyone, can manipulate the magic.

            The story can be serious with potentially deadly outcomes or have a bit of humor when things/objects act in ways that do not occur in the real world.

            Have fun with this one.

The Big Decision

            You’re most of the way through the novel. The protagonist has struggled over many obstacles and seems to be on the road to success. Suddenly a chasm-sized barrier is in the way. She has two possible choices to make. She can turn around and retrace her steps or find a way across. A decision has to be made that could potentially alter her life.

            What she chooses is determined by the characteristics readers have seen in the individual. A timid person or one with low self-esteem will turn around while the character with tons of self-confidence will plow ahead.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist is confronted with a choice that would make a huge difference in his life.

            Begin by making a list of possible obstacles. They can be realistic or fantastical, depending upon the type of story that you are writing. Once you have chosen the primary obstacle, add possible solutions. Once again, solutions depend upon the genre you have chosen.

            Your character is proceeding along, the obstacle arises. A choice is made. Make sure that readers will believe the outcomes and that the emotions that your character experiences come through.

            Have fun with this one.

Complete and Utter Chaos

            There are times when anything that could possibly go wrong, does. It feels like the game when you stack dominoes with the intent of controlling their fall. But then your hand wiggles or someone’s knee jiggles the table or an earthquake hits and down they go, not when you intended, but do to some type of chaotic movement.

            Perhaps your car is due to a check-up. You make an appointment with the mechanic, but before you can get there, something horrible happens. Maybe your car breaks down in the middle of a busy major thoroughfare. Perhaps you get hit by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. Or it could be roadwork that causes a huge delay making you miss your time.

            Things happen, often in a bunch, that derail our activities. Some we can laugh off, but others cause a huge inconvenience.

            Your task is to write a story in which a series of unexpected things happen. How your character reacts will tell readers quite a bit about her personality. Make the events large or small, or a combination of both. Most importantly, allow readers to be there with the character.

            Include sensory details and emotional reactions.

            Have fun with this one.

Dear Diary

            Journal writing has been popular for many, many years. Young girls were often given a diary in order to record their thoughts. They were encouraged to write every day, even if they had little of interest to report.

            Diaries were often padlocked with a tiny key. The girl would hide both the diary and the key in order to prevent parents and siblings from reading their thoughts.

            Diaries became important as a tool for historical research. By reading such records, historians are able to deduce what life was like during times of peace and war, during turbulent and peaceful times.

            Your task is to imagine the diary entries that your protagonist would write. These do not have to be complete stories, but rather figments of time capturing the emotions that the individual experienced. Later on these thoughts might inspire a story, but for now the task is to simply write what the person most likely worried about, dreamt of, feared and yearned for.

            Have fun with this one.

Following Directions

            From an early age we learn the rules, what to do, when to do it and when to stop. We are taught where to do something and for how long. Lining up begins when we are young and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

            What we are seldom taught, however, is how not following directions impacts others.

            For example, imagine you’re on a trip with forty other people. The tour director tells you to be on the bus before eight in the morning. You figure the bus won’t leave until 8:10, so you don’t bother to appear until 8:11. Your inability to follow directions impacts the rest of the group.

            All games have directions. Children are taught to follow them in order to make the game fair. What happens when someone feels above the “law”? They are called cheaters.

            The same term can be applied to adults as well.

            Your task is to write a scene in which following directions plays an important role. It might be interesting to have some characters who always comply, some who sometimes comply and some who seldom, if ever, comply. The combination builds tension, something needed to make a story interesting.

            Have fun with this one.

Using Color in a Scene

            Close your eyes and call up a place that makes you happy. Take in the sounds, the smells, but most importantly, the colors.

            If you’re in your garden, there will be lots of greens: light, dark, edged with red and so on. There might also be an abundance of color if the flowers are in bloom.

            If it’s a vegetable garden, there might be things growing. Think oranges, reds, greens.

            Perhaps you think of the forest with tall trees looming overhead. Then browns will dominate the scene, with greens overhead.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character is inundated with color. Don’t narrate the scene, but use action and dialogue to make the colors stand out.

            Readers will want to experience that place through your characters’ eyes.

            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.