Skills and Talents

            Some of us are artistic and can easily learn a new skill. Painting with oils? No problem. Knitting a sweater? Piece of cake. Cooking a seven course meal for the boss and wife? Maybe a bit more difficult, but still done with pizzazz.

            Perhaps you’re gifted musically and can learn to play any instrument that comes your way. Your singing voice is superb and you can sight-read a new piece of music and get it right the first time. On top of that you compose music in a variety of genres.

            A few of us are good with our hands. We can fix whatever ails a car, tend struggling plants, repair the stove when it refuses to heat and alter the dishwasher so that the waste goes through the garbage disposal.

            Your characters need to have skills and talents that make them special. Begin by listing a wide range of possibilities. If necessary, do a little research into what is needed to succeed at that skill. Imagine when and where your character will display her ability and how others will react when the result is revealed.

            Write a story in which talents play a major role. Description is important, but so is dialogue and action. Not everyone in the story will appreciate the skill. Some might be jealous or turn it into a competition. The final product might be a masterpiece or a complete failure. How the characters behave is important to the story.

            Have fun with this one.

Arts and Entertainment

What we do in our leisure time depends upon where we live, what skills we have, and what options are available. In early societies not all people were literate so reading books would have been limited to scholars and the educated wealthy. Many artists lived in monasteries so as to escape the tedious tasks of daily life.

Music has been around for a long time. What we sing, what instruments we play depends upon socioeconomic status, preferences, popularity and access. Wandering minstrels brought music to isolated villages, often relating tales of great deeds. Talented musicians entertained royalty in drawing rooms and during grand balls.

Painting, pottery making, games, fairs, shows allowed the average person to express themselves while creating useful gadgets and also provided forms of relaxation.

When building your world, take into consideration what talents your characters have, how they appreciate the skills of others, and how art and entertainment affects daily life.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character either learns a new skill or displays a skill he is already proficient in. It can be humorous, especially if he performs in an inn before inebriated crowds, or it can be solemn if he plays for a special ceremony.

Details are important. We need to see, hear, taste, and touch the things that your characters experience. Reread. Does the scene work? Are there sufficient sensory details so that the world comes alive?

Have fun with this one.


Growing Plants

Do you love flowers in bloom? The range of colors, shapes and sizes is amazing. Arranged in carefully tended plots, a garden is satisfying to the soul. A walk through one brings hope, joy and a sense of serenity unfound anywhere else.

Perhaps you prefer a vegetable garden, filled with all kinds of tasty goodies awaiting someone like you to pick and cook. Do you visit farmers’ markets and buy the freshest veggies? Maybe you have a plot at home where you grow a few of the things you most like to eat. It could even be a few clay pots on a balcony, or a couple on the back porch, but you are the caretaker of goodness to come.

Unfortunately there are people who can’t grow a thing. They study, watch videos, take classes, but everything they touch dies. Or if it lives, it never blooms or produces food.

Your task is to write a story in which a character interacts with plants in some way. It could be realistic fiction or fantasy, memoir or biography. Readers will want to see the details through the character’s eyes, smell the fragrances through the noses and feel the textures with the fingers.

You will need at least one other character to enrich the story in order to allow for dialogue. This could be a vendor, a farmer, a villain, a friend. Dialogue is important. Create a story arc with a series of acts that interfere with your character’s desired goals.

Have fun with this one.

Differentiating Peoples

Victoria Aveyard’s novel, The Red Queen, follows seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow, a common girl who is drawn into the king’s palace through a chance meeting. Aveyard’s futuristic world is divided by blood—there are those with Red blood who are doomed to serve those with Silver blood. The assumption is that those who bleed red have no special talents and actually enjoy a life of servitude and drudgery. Those who bleed silver are gifted with superhuman abilities and so deserve to be held in high esteem.

The driving force behind the novel is the acknowledgement that not all people are the same. Some have natural-born talents to do amazing things, while many of us will go through life barely scraping by.

When you write a story, you people it with characters large and small, wealthy and not, intelligent or slow, able or disabled. Because our world consists of varied peoples, your world should also in order to mirror reality.

It is not an easy task to cover a spectrum of humanity without making it look fabricated or trite. Choose wisely, always thinking of those you meet as you go about your day.

For example, there is a wheelchair-bound man who sells snacks and cold drinks outside the metro station. A computer genius lives next door and you turn to him whenever something goes wrong. On the other side is a handyman who can fix almost anything. How about the autistic teen who loves to take apart electronic devices and make them work once again? The woman who climbs telephone poles to install fiber optic cables and drives race cars on the weekend.

Your task is to create a scene in which your character interacts with a variety of people. Choose one in particular to become an important supporting member of the cast. Let the others be chance encounters who enrich the character’s day.

After you’ve finished, reread to make sure that you have not stereotyped by race, gender, sexual preference or ethnicity.  Look to see if each moves, thinks, speaks in a unique way. Reach for a natural flow for the action/movement of the story.

Have fun with this one!

Good luck.