The Joys of Water

Imagine a time when you immersed yourself in a slowly moving river. How quickly did you proceed? Did you run with abandon into the water and then dive in as soon as possible? Were you the cautious one, dipping in toes, then feet, then ankles, then standing there for a while getting used to the temperature?

Was there a boat ride that intrigued you? Perhaps someone had a canoe and the two of you paddled out into a sparkling lake on a sunny day. Gentle waves rocked you until a jet ski flashed by, spraying water into the boat and scaring you, believing you were going to capsize?

There might have been a trip to Yosemite in the spring when the waterfalls exploded over mountains and a roar filled the air.

Your task is to write a story in which your character is mesmerized by water. Establish the scene and the circumstances through the use of details. Time, temperature and weather will be critical. Secondary characters will enrich the scene, allowing the use of dialogue to establish conditions, emotions, and experiences.

Have fun with this one.

A Time When You got Lost

Imagine that you are driving to an unfamiliar place before GPS appeared on your phone. You’ve got a map and so far, everything has gone fine. The exit appeared when you expected it to, the street to turn right on showed up within blocks. But after the left turn, you are not where you were supposed to be.

Instead of office buildings, you are in a housing development where junk litters every yard and groups of young men laze about porch steps. A drunk stumbles down the street, weaving in and out of a row of old cars parked along the curb.

You don’t know what went wrong.

Your task is to tell that story. Your readers will want to be with you, from when you happily left home until that feeling of being lost washes over you.

It’s important to include emotions, for without them, there is no story. We want to feel your happiness, satisfaction, then fear. We want to be with you as you navigate your way out of the mess.

Have fun with this one.

Vacation Woes

We make the best plans. We coordinate departure dates and times so that someone can get us to the airport. We do the same for when we arrive.

We select the best rental car from the provider that we like, and depend on them to have the vehicle ready when we are.

Our hotel choices vary from location to location. Many of us rely on specific brands, or avoid specific brands, or choose neighborhoods we know are safe. Maybe we select a B & B in an old Victorian home, or now, with AirBNB rent someone’s house, condo or cottage.

Our characters must approach travel with some degree of finesse. Unless, of course, they are novices or nonchalant.

What happens when things go wrong? The flight is cancelled or seriously delayed? There is no rental car waiting, no hotel, no B & B, no safe neighborhood. Think of the stories to be told!

Your task is to write a scene in which your character goes on a trip. In order to make the story interesting, there must be tension, so things have to go wrong. It might be too much to create problems with every part of the plan, so be careful. Enough problems to provide interest, but not too many as that will pull the readers out of the story.

Have fun with this one.

Accommodation Expectations

When we travel, we have certain standards that we expect wherever we stay.

For example, when camping, we like a solid picnic table, a level place to pitch our tent, and a bear box to protect food.

When we stay in a hotel we have comparable expectations.

So does your character.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character’s expectations are not met.

What does he say and do? Does he explode or accept the substandard accommodations?

Be realistic in your writing by staying true to your character’s personality.

Have fun with this one.

The Unexpected Adventure

It’s often fun to go places we’ve never been and do things we’ve never done, but not always.

Imagine what would happen, how you’d feel, if your plans fell apart and suddenly, without warning, you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected adventure.

What would you do? How would you feel? What things might you say? Who would you contact?

Your task is to either choose a character that you have already written or create a new character. Place the character in scene. At first everything goes smoothly, but then something happens that changes everything. Your character finds himself in a new situation, one not of his choosing.

As you write, remember to include sights, sounds, reactions. Does he go along with the change or fight against it? Does he enjoy the new experience or lament that he is not where he intended to be?

As the story proceeds, what happens? Does the character embark on this journey or fight her way back to the original plans?

You’ve got a lot to think about here.

Have fun with this one.


Addictions interfere with our lives. Drugs and alcohol impair our ability to function normally, to concentrate, to process and hold on to information.

Going to work under the influence, if caught, could lead to termination. Driving can cause death to innocents.

Imagine the impact on relationships, unless the partner also abuses.

These are the things that we must consider when crafting characters.

Is your character an addict or a one-time user? Does your character hang out with users or avoid users? Does your character occasionally use drugs or alcohol or take part on a regular basis?

Your task is to create a character and then decide how much of an addict, and addicted to what, that individual is. Write a scene in which the reader sees the character either avoiding substances or taking part.

If you are not familiar with how someone under the influence of a particular drug might act, do some research. You want your character’s actions to be as realistic as possible.

Have fun with this one.

Give Her Wheels

Our characters move from one place to another. How do they accomplish this?

Sometimes they walk, but not always. Walking only gets you so far, even if she lives in a big city.

At some point she will need to travel further distances. How will she get there?

Usually on wheels. City bus, subway, bicycle, taxi all have some type of wheel.

Our characters need to travel, need to venture outside of the home unless he is agoraphobic, and so at some point must get in a vehicle.

Your task is to think about a character that you are using in a story. Make a list of the means of transportation that he could use. List as many as are plausible.

Next to each mode, write a reason for using that method of transportation. For example, going to the doctor, getting to work, visiting friends.

Narrow down your list to the one that makes the best story. Think in terms of dramatic scene. What could happen while on the bus? Riding in the car? Pedaling a bicycle down a country road?

Now write that scene, keeping in mind that your reader needs to be there with your character, feeling what she feels, seeing what she sees and experiencing everything through that character’s senses.

After you’ve written the scene, reread and edit. What do you think? Does your writing help you to travel next to your character? If not, then go back.

Have fun with this one.

Weather Problems

No matter how much we would like it to be, skies are not always blue.

Clouds turn the world dark gray. Winds blow. Rain pours. Snow falls. Visibility drops and roads turn treacherous.

Your stories need to reflect real life.

Your task is to take a piece that you have written and add in the weather. Go beyond sunny days and clear blue skies.

Perhaps put your protagonist in a low-visibility situation where the roads are slippery. Think about how your protagonist would react.

Have fun with this one.

The Island

This is not one of those prompts in which you are asked to contemplate how one man is an island unto himself. Or how loneliness feels like being stranded on an island.

Unless, of course, that is what you choose to write about!

Instead I want you to think about an island you have visited. Close your eyes and picture what it looked like. The shape, size, construction of the beach. Were the shores sandy or rocky or a little of both? Were there smooth descents to the sea or sharp cliffs?

Did the waves lap like in a bathtub or crash like thunder?

Were people swimming or surfing or playing catch with dogs? Or only sitting serenely on the beach and watching?

Who was there with you? Family or friends or both? Where did you stay? If in a beach house, what did it look like? How far from the beach was it? What could you see from the windows?

If in a motel, ask yourself the same questions.

What was the town like? Was it tiny with only a few touristy shops or a huge metropolitan setting?

Make lists. Endless lists of things you saw, smelled, touched, tasted.

Think of at least one character that could populate your scene. It would be best to have two, but no more than three.

Think of the story you will tell. Will it be a romance or a horror story? Will your character meet the love of his life or be killed by a demented person?

Once you have setting and story in mind, write. Put your character in the scene and make things happen, one event after another. Keep the momentum rolling so that there is an even pace.

When you are finished, reread and edit.

Have fun with this one!

Varied Locations


Generally a story has more than one setting which places the burden on the writer to bring each place alive. One way you can do that is to plan a walkabout with camera or notebook in hand.

You might want to focus on architecture, such as the shapes of buildings, bridges, and archways. Cities generally have a mix of architectural styles since they are developed over periods of time. Downtowns are frequently the oldest part of town. What features do you see there? In San Francisco, you would see a lot of stucco facings and large, carved wooden doors. Around the doors and windows might be whirliques, demons, saints and sinners alike. If you can, walk inside and describe what you see. Marble staircases and floors? Gilded handrails? Wood flashings and trim?

If the buildings have been remodeled or replaced, massive steel and glass structures might have arisen. Step inside, keeping in mind the contrast to the old buildings that used to be there.

Cross over a bridge or two. San Francisco has two important bridges, the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge. The first is an orange structure that connects SF to the Marin side. It traverses what would be a huge cavern if not for the bay waters far below. When you look at it, think about what stories it tells. There have been many jumpers, almost all of whom died. What would bring someone to jump off that bridge? Think of the car accidents that have taken lives. What were the drivers doing when they crossed over the separating lines.

The Bay Bridge is a modern structure with massive steel cables. It is beautiful, but is shrouded in controversy. The cost to build it went way beyond projections. Think of the story to be told about the negotiations that might have taken place. There are bolts that are rusting, causing some to fear driving over the bridge. Not that we want that to happen, but think of the fictional piece that could tell that story.

As you walk up and down the streets, look at the doors. I’m willing to bet that no two are alike. Note the colors. Do they signify anything or did the owner choose by random? Imagine the story if color meant something. Green for an herbalist, yellow for an apothecary. Red for law. Blue for police. What stories come to mind?

If you don’t have time for a walkabout, go on an imaginary one in the setting of your story. Take notes. Make lists. Come up with potential conflicts and events.

Your task is to write a scene in which the environment is crucial to the story. Don’t spend copious amounts of time describing the scene, but allow the elements to slowly come into play.

Have fun with this one.