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.

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.

Lies and Cover-ups

            No one likes a liar; or do they? People lie when a woman asks how they look in a hideous skin-tight bold floral print dress because if they told the truth, the woman would become angry. They lie when a coworker proposes an insane idea for a project, saying conciliatory phrases such as, “Interesting idea,” and then moving on to whatever is submitted next.

            Lies similar to the ones above save feelings, but not all lies do. When a competitor calls the opponent a wimp, freak or loser, that’s done intentionally to ire the opponent as well as influence viewers. If when filling out legal forms the writer lies about wealth or financial status in order to qualify for a loan or political office, that could be a criminal act.

            Participating in a cover-up can likewise have serious consequences, depending upon what’s being hidden. If when selling a house the owner doesn’t disclose that the septic system is failing, that has repercussions that could cost the seller quite a bit of money. What if a murderer buries the body in the backyard and then pretends that he has no idea where the deceased is? That’s another type of cover-up.

            Your task is to write a story in which lies and cover-ups drive the plot. Twists and turns are critical to the story arc, with each action leading to more and more serious consequences. At the end, does the perpetrator get away with it or is she caught and punished?

            Have fun with this one.

Awareness of Cultural Appropriation in Story

            Previously authors wrote in characters from other cultures with little thought other than adding diversity to their stories. Stories with men wearing turbans added an element of mystique, as did bringing in traveling gypsies who were thought to “steal” children and dabble with the occult.

            In today’s world we have to be aware that it may not be appropriate to borrow the ideas, symbols and artifacts of individuals outside of our own. Cultural appropriation can be contentious when a writer of a dominant culture includes characters who have been subjected to prejudice in terms of social, political, economic and military status. This is especially true when there has been a history of ethnic or racial conflict.

                What should a writer do? First of all, examine the reasons why you want to include a character from a culture other than her own. If the writer is looking to represent these cultures, perhaps that’s not a valid reason. Instead, decide if in the story, characters will be living in a society that reflects the realities of the world.

            Your task is to write a story that includes a character from outside your own culture. Decide what role this character will play from the perspective if it’s necessary for the story arc. You might want to do some research into how people of that culture eat, dress, speak. Do these factors affect story plot? If not, then rethink why you need this character to do.

            Be sensitive, but enjoy the experience.

            Have fun with this one.

Speed Dating

Speed dating became a fad a few years ago and has been featured in comedy shows and movies. A bunch of lonely people show up at a predetermined time and sit at assigned places around the room. A potential partner sits across from them. A times is set and the two are given anywhere from three to eight minutes to decide I there is any interest.

The technique is also used at writing conferences to give participants access to a variety of agents. You’ve got three minutes to sell your book. Obviously a prepared speech is necessary to keep you from bumbling about.

Imagine that your character is going to a Speed Dating event. What type of event is it? Who is going to be there? How nervous is the character? How much does she prepare beforehand? Does thought go into appearance, such as clothing to be worn?

If you haven’t written comedy before, now is your chance to dabble in the genre. All kinds of things can happen, such as someone bumping into the table and knocking a glass of water into a lap. Or arriving under the influence. Or stuttering due to anxiety.

Your task is to write the story. Begin with the character finding out about the event, either through a friend or an advertisement. Take us through the entire stage as the character tells others about it, gets advice, decides what to wear, arrives, meets people, leaves.

Have fun with this one.

Political Preference

In terms of politics, there is always something going on. Issues that call to action. Politicians voting for this or that, sometimes against their constituents wishes. Granted there are years in which no campaigns go on, but that doesn’t stop politicians from campaigning.

People of voting age make decisions about the issues and the politicians. Some we support, others we don’t.

So it is with your protagonists. They must make choices about whether or not to be involved, whether or not to care.

Your task is to first make a list of at least five issues that your characters will have an opinion about. Next to each issue, write for or against or undecided.

Narrow your list to two issues that fit your character’s personality. Establish her stance. Then write at least two reasons why your character feels that way.

Now write a scene in which politics is in play. It could be at a rally, at work, at a party. Include dialogue so that your character’s feelings can be expressed.

When you are finished, reread. Did you allow opinions to come out naturally or did you create an information dump? If it is a dump, then rewrite. Remember to spread out information, a drip at a time.

Have fun with this one.

A Lost Object

Think how many times you’ve lost something. Can you recall how you felt? Frustrated? Angry? Disappointed?

When you lose something, it tears you up inside. One time I’d purchased a nice watch as a gift for one of my sons. When it came time to wrap it up, I couldn’t find it. I searched through all of my normal places, but couldn’t locate it. In tears, I finally went outside and dug through the garbage! That’s where it was. It must have been carried out with the trash. Yes, I was relieved, but also incredibly disappointed in myself.

Call to mind one of your characters. Picture this individual. Think about how this person speaks, walks, behaves, treats others. Now imagine this person losing something. Will he behave in character or become a totally different person? Will she tear the house apart, looking high and low, or simply give up?

Your task is to make a list of objects important enough that your character will diligently search to find. Try to come up with at least five different ones. Then narrow the list to one, by choosing that which would drive her nuts if she can’t find it!

Write the story of the search. Remember to include feelings, for this is what is most crucial to the story. We need to understand how he is feeling, not just how he is acting.

This might be a challenge for you. It is easy to write about a character going through her day, but much harder to describe her feelings.

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!