Imaginary Friends

            I loved stories where the little kid had an imaginary friend. I tried summoning one when I was about eight, but nothing happened. I didn’t play with dolls or stuffed animals, so I couldn’t imbue any of them with human-like qualities.

            It was too bad, because having someone at my side, comforting me when I was feeling sad, might have made those years a tad better.

            In fantasy stories there are often magical beings which take on the characteristics of imaginary friends. Usually only the one person can see the friend, which creates a series of problems.

            Your task is to write a story in which the protagonist has an imaginary friend. Your story can be realistic or fantastical. Your protagonist can be a child, a teen or an adult. The imaginary friend can look like a human, a dragon or a sprite. It should have talents, such as talking, singing, working magic.

            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.

Rewrite a Known Fairy Tale

Children love hearing fairy tales. The stories take kids to places dark and scary, filled with villains and heroes. Add in an element of magic and the scenes brim with mystery.

Many of the protagonists are male who rescue the maiden from evil forces. However, in modern retellings the roles are often switched. What if it had been Maid Marion who stole from the rich? What changes would there be to the story?

Imagine Prince Charming having lost a boot and Cinderella searches far and wide for the foot that fits. The Prince might have been the one abused by evil cousins while Cinderella lived in a luxurious palace.

Your task is to rethink a fairy tale that you loved as a child. Where will it take place? Who are the characters and what things do they do?

Hang on to enough of the essence of the original story so that your readers will recognize it. Give readers drama through danger and resolution from chance or magic.

Have fun with this one.

Writing About Someone You Know

Often we are fearful about writing the stories of real people. We’re terrified that if we tell the truth, they will sue us/hate us/avoid us/never speak to us again.

It is correct that we should be concerned. Libel is a crime that could cost you real dollars and possibly damage your reputation as a writer.

So what do you do when Aunt Tilly’s story is too good to be silent? You create a persona who is like your aunt, but different. Your character doesn’t look like Tilly, doesn’t talk like her or walk like her. Her life experiences have not been the same. She hasn’t lived in the same house or attended the same schools.

Even the story is changed somewhat, just enough to protect the identity or your aunt.

Instead of walking on the beach in New Jersey when she found a seashell that reminded her of her late husband, she’s walking through the forests of northern California when she discovers an old journal half-buried under a pile of leaves.

Whereas the shell reminded her of a lovely vacation she shared with family and a few close friends, the journal speaks of love and loss.

Your task is to pull from your memory a person that you knew well. This person had an interesting life in which he traveled the country/world, visited unusual places, saw amazing sights, and experienced an event that changed his perspective/brought joy/introduced new hobbies.

Alter the person so that he is not recognizable, then write. Tell this new character’s story in an interesting way. Make him funny or crass. Place him in the midst of turmoil, either emotional or physical. Give him people to talk to and write the dialogue that ensues.

When you are finished, go back and reread. Find the places where you can add detail that enriches the story. Search for places where telling slows pace, and where the pace can be increased in order to build tension.

Make sure that your character wants something and that there are impediments in his way.

There are the things that make for an interesting story.

Have fun with this one.