An Old Acquaintance

            Sometimes we leave behind people we’ve known for very good reasons. The person might have been abusive or a braggart. Perhaps a relationship that went nowhere. Maybe you moved so far away that continuing a friendship was challenging.

            Often when we switch jobs, we never see those coworkers again, either by choice or because it just doesn’t happen. The same is true when we marry. Singles often prefer to spend time only with other singles. Once children are born, then families prefer to spend time with other families.

            What happens when someone from your past suddenly reappears? Imagine the emotions you experience, ranging from surprise to dread. It also depends upon where you crossed paths. If it’s in the grocery store, you might exchange pleasantries and that’s it. If it’s at work, then you’ll have to interact with this individual as long as you both work at the same job.

            Your task is to write a story in which someone from the past appears. You need to decide whether it’s a joyous reunion or one fraught with tension. The type of meeting determines the emotional tone of the piece. Or, it could be a little of both: tension at first, bumps along the way, then acceptance and perhaps something more than friendship.

            Have fun with this one.

Contracting an Illness

            In the real world people fall ill. If they’re lucky, the symptoms are minor and the illness short-lived. Nevertheless, they might have to change plans. Going to work or to a party might be impossible, as is traveling or spending time with family. But after a period of isolation, everything returns to normal.

            Now consider what happens when the illness is severe. If it’s a form of cancer, the individual might have to go through invasive surgery and bouts of chemotherapy. If it’s pneumonia, they could end up in the hospital, especially if they are also asthmatic.

            Broken bones might require surgery to heal. Knees or hips might have to be replaced. There might be a hole in the diaphragm or polyps in the intestines. The list could be quite lengthy, each with its own period of pain and recuperation.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist either falls ill or has to tend to someone who is ill. Choose something that is high on the scale in terms of intensity, something that will cause suffering and interfere with life.

            Narrative and dialogue are both needed. The first to set the scene, the second to allow readers to see what emotions are going through your character’s mind.

            Have fun with this one.

Sudden Death

 A good thriller begins with a death, right? So who do you kill off and how do you make your dead character relevant to the story? One way is through short flashbacks.

 For example, a child sees something that reminds her of her dead or missing parent. The emotions she experiences are important parts of the story.

Perhaps a colleague becomes upset when a new hire is assigned the missing person’s desk. In the process of settling in, anything left behind is packed up and put away.

Your task is to write a story in which a character is either dead or missing. Your protagonist experiences flashbacks of times shared, places gone, things purchased that remind her of her parent/child/coworker.

Don’t make the flashbacks too long for fear of pulling readers out of the story. Short and quick is better.

Use a combination of narrative and dialogue. Begin with a strong setting that puts the protagonist in a situation that is poignant.

Have fun with this one.

Elevator Music

            How many times have you been subjected to the type of canned music commonly called “elevator music”? Far too many to count. It used to be that canned music was everywhere: at the dentist’s office, in the supermarket and at the beauty salon. You’d hear it in department stores and offices. On telephones as you wait for calls.

            All of this becomes too much after a while. You grit your teeth, clench your fists and want to scream at it to stop. But you don’t because it would accomplish nothing. But what if it could?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character launches a drive to end all elevator music. How does she get the word out? Where does her group meet and what actions do they plan? How often does she protest and how does she react when the crowd is either too small or much bigger than she expected?

            How much of a driving force is she? Is she the center of the movement or has she shared her ideas with someone else who takes over?

            Your readers will want to be a part of what’s happening, so make sure to establish setting, tension, driving force and strong character.

            Have fun with this one.

The Invitation

            Remember how you felt when you were invited to an event that you really wanted to be a part of. You would have been excited, maybe told others, possibly began preparing to go. This might have involved a shopping trip for a new outfit and a gift for the host.

            What if instead of being something you longed to attend, you’re invited to someone’s house who you don’t really consider a friend? Or to a business meeting for which you have no interest? Your emotional reactions would be completely different.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist receives an invitation. You must first decide whether or not it’s a welcome invitation. One way to do this is to make a list of potential events. To create a dynamic story, choose the one that allows for the most tension, the most drama.

            Readers will want to see how the character reacts, how he tells others, and how things go at the event.

            Have fun with this one.

The Inventor

Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin are well-known inventors. Considering the available resources of their times, they took the world to new places. Henry Ford did likewise. Not only is he credited for the first car, he also came up with the idea for assembly-line work.

Smaller inventions have impact as well. Think of the shoelace, the whisk, the cast iron pot. Roller skates led to roller blades. Did snowboards precede skateboards? Imagine how the chair lift changed skiing and the outboard motor impacted fishing.

Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist is either struggling to invent something, or has done so and is trying to convince the market that her product is worthwhile.

Make it interesting by showing the issues that are impacting the character. Let readers see the setting, but also hear words shared.

Tension will pop-up as your character interacts with the device and with others.

Have fun with this one.

Food Inspiration

Many key things occur during the preparation or consumption of food.

In a wealthy household, there might be an entire staff working in the kitchen. Scullery maids did the dirty work of cleaning endless amounts of pots and pans. Cooks slaved over wood-burning stoves and ovens, chopped fruits, vegetables and meats, rolled pastries all while issuing commands to those under their watch.

Imagine the conversations that took place. Most likely there was a fair bit of gossip tossed about the family and townspeople alike.

In the dining room circumstances were quite different. Wealthy patrons were waited on by unformed servants. Course after course was served. Conversation might have covered contemporary issues, politics, entertainments and relationships.

Things are very different in the homes of the less wealthy, even today. Instead of maids, the wife does the cooking and cleaning. Kids help out, and in more egalitarian marriages, so do the husbands.

Regardless, topics of conversation might be quite similar.

Your task is to write a story in which the preparation and consumption of food plays an important role. Establish the setting and key characters, then get the action moving. Dialogue is going to be important, so make sure there is enough to allow readers to see what is going on.

Have fun with this one.

The Invitation

            A small card comes in the mail that you weren’t expecting. You hope it’s something good. Perhaps an invitation to a friend’s baby shower. Or to a bridal shower. She’s finally getting married!

You begin planning. What to wear, what to buy. Maybe even what dish to bring in case it’s a pot luck.

Finally, after dreaming about all the possibilities, you open the card. What goes through your head as you slide the card out of the envelope? As you look at the pretty picture on the front? As you slowly open the card and read the words?

Your task is to write a story in which your character experiences the range of emotions that accompanies the arrival of an invitation in the mail.

Set the stage with the setting, with the character, by employing both narrative and dialogue. Obviously this means there must be a secondary character, someone with whom discussion can take place.

Have fun with this one.

Being Invisible

            There are many ways in which individuals are unseen that have nothing to do with fantasy.

            Obese people have felt that invisibility for most of their lives. Clearly, they can be seen: who could miss a two-hundred-pound (or more) person strolling through a store? No one, but that doesn’t consider the shocked looks, the averted eyes, the glued eyes, the snickers, laughs and cruel jokes.

            Often when Caucasians see a person of color approaching, they give the same types of looks, the averted eyes, the terrified looks, the crossing to the other side of the street. While the person of color is as visible as the obese person, scared reactions tend to discredit those feelings.

            Your task is to write a story in which invisibility plays an important role. You can choose fantasy to tell your story or base it on the real world. What’s important is to catch the essence of what being invisible means and how it influences events.

            Have fun with this one.

Strange Occurrences

            Sometimes things happen during our day that can’t be explained through rational thinking. Perhaps the sky darkens unexpectedly and strong winds arise, followed by a deluge that no one had foreseen, reminiscent of fantasy stories, yet not.

            Maybe a strange critter scampers by while you’re out on a hike that only you see. It resembles something real, but it’s coloring is a bit off. When you point it out, your friends think you’ve gone bonkers. And you agree.

            Your task is to write a story in which something bizarre happens. Perhaps a whole bunch of strange things happen, much like in a children’s story. You can choose to use the voice of a children’s author or that of an adult fantasy writer.

            Scene is important. There need to be sufficient details that readers can see what’s happening. It also has to be believable in the world that you have created. Dialogue helps to establish scene and gets readers into the heads of characters.

            Have fun with this one.