The Lie

            Most of us knows someone who lies on a regular basis. He lies about big things and small, at work and at home. He lies to his friends, family and peers at work. He cannot help himself.

            Most of his lies seem minor, but when added together, he becomes an untrustworthy person. If he says he ate at Boudet’s, the most expensive restaurant in town, or that he dated Cheryl a few years back and he dumped her because she smelled. No one believes him, laughs it off, and walks away.

            But when he lies about a job that he didn’t finish, or blames someone for losing his work, those lies affect not just his peers, but his company.

            Your task is to write a story in which a lie impacts a number of people and possibly affects the outcome of a situation. Take into consideration what the liar will do to try to hide the lie so that the truth is never revealed.

            Dialogue is important for readers will want to hear the liar repeating his story over and over. Description is critical for readers need to see, hear and feel the reactions of the liar and those to whom he lies.

            Have fun with this one.

Chance Encounter

            Some of us are outgoing and enjoy talking to complete strangers. We relish every opportunity to meet others, share stories and seek common ground.

Others of us find such meetings intimidating. We avert our eyes, turn our heads and walk quickly away.

What happens, however, when you run across someone you don’t know when you are alone in a situation that allows for no escape? For example, you’re hiking in a local park, enjoying the view, listening to the birds sing as you walk up and down hills. That is until someone you’ve never seen before comes up from behind or appears on the horizon?

There’s no place for you to go to avoid the individual. Think about what emotions you experience as you go over what limited options you have.

Your task is to write a story in which your character finds herself in such a situation. Begin by establishing the setting and her feelings about being there. Let readers walk along with her, seeing what she sees, hearing what she hears, smelling what she smells and feeling the dirt beneath her feet.

Suddenly the stranger appears. Readers want to know what she experiences at that moment in time.

Assume dialogue takes place. Who initiates it and what do they talk about? When it’s time to continue their separate journeys, how does she feel as the stranger leaves?

Have fun with this one.

Water Cooler Gossip

            Imagine the scene: a group of employees gathered around the cooler, sipping on ice water, sharing news about everyone that wasn’t in the group. They speak of divorces, poorly behaved children, who’s cheating on who and who’s lost money on the stock market. Then there’s the subject of who isn’t doing their job, who’s spending too much time flirting with the boss, and who’s up for promotion. So much gossip, so little time.

            Change the scenario to a group of parents standing outside the school waiting for their kids to emerge. What stories do they share? Who’s being talked about and why?

            These are the scenes that can make for a juicy story. There’s tension and drama. Dialogue and description. Cattiness and seriousness. So much opportunity waiting to be told.

            Your task is to write the water cooler scene. People it with enough characters to make for a lively discussion, but not too many for you to handle. Make sure that their disparate personalities and interests come forward.

            You might have them focus their energy talking about one individual, making for an easier writing. Or, if you’re feeling brave, allow the conversation to cover a wide variety of topics.

            Have fun with this one.

Phobias

People are afraid of all kinds of things, but most notably, creatures that silently creep about. Often such creatures have hairy legs, drop from ceilings, and build sticky webs. They might hide in shoes and then sting when you try to put shoes on. They might slither about the garden or in between corn stalks or hang from trees waiting for someone to pass by.

Some are afraid of heights, water, flying or riding in elevators. Many are terrified of going new places and trying new things.

If the phobia is mild, the person might take a deep breath before doing that which they fear. However, if the phobia is extreme, a person might lock themselves inside a dark house and refuse to leave.

Your task is to write a story in which a person’s phobia has a major impact on his life. Find a way to reveal the phobia without telling the readers exactly what it is. Setting development is critical, for it is the location that will show readers not only what the character fears, but how she reacts when confronted with it.

Have fun with this one.

Pause to Reflect

Impulsivity can lead someone in the wrong direction, in a relationship, on a job search, or even out on a hike. Imagine a person who, after knowing someone for two minutes, jumps into a serious relationship, only later to discover that the lover is married. Or think of a situation in which an individual believes she heard a piece of scandalous news and then runs to the boss. Or a hiker who takes off without a map, intentionally goes off-trail because he thinks there might be a terrific view just around the boulder, only to become hopelessly lost.

Impulsive behaviors can get a person into serious trouble.

Now consider how different the results would be if, before rushing off, the person paused to reflect. For example, after writing an angry email, what if he put it aside for an hour, thought about it, then deleted it. The outcome would be completely different.

Your task is to write a story in which impulsive behaviors negatively impact your character’s life. Dialogue would be useful here to give readers insight into what your character is thinking. Descriptions are also important to allow readers to understand where the character is.

Have fun with this one.

False Assurances

            An assurance is when you tell someone that something is true or will happen in order to make them feel calm or less worried. When statements given are based on perception rather than fact, then those are false assurances. Such statements might make the person feel better even though the basis of the pronouncement has little to do with actual facts. In other words, false assurances often lead people astray.

            Imagine if a doctor told you your blood pressure was in the normal range, but it really wasn’t. You continue eating foods with high salt content. What happens? Because of false assurances, your behaviors might lead to a heart attack or death.

            What if your boss told you that your job was secure? Two days later you’re terminated along with a bunch of other employees. Because of false assurances you hadn’t begun a job search and so might have missed out on opportunities elsewhere.

            Your task is to write a story in which false assurances plays an important role. You might want to use something that happened to you because you know exactly how it felt and what the results were.

            Dialogue is important so that readers see and hear what’s said along with the reactions of both the speaker and the listener.

            Have fun with this one.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

            When you have passed, what will you want people to remember about you? What stories should they tell or keep hidden? Most importantly, is there anything you can do now to control the narrative?

            We tend to recall the negatives in our lives. Imagine your friends and family gathered together sharing stories of their interactions with you. Are they going to mention times when you yelled or argued? Caused friction in some way? Or will there be laughter as they reminisce about the birthday cake you made that slithered apart, the dress you made that split apart at the seams, the times you offered helping hands to those less fortunate?

            Your task is to write a story or essay that controls the narrative. Imagine that you have an opportunity to set the record straight, to clear the air about misconceptions that might be attributed to you.

            If it’s uncomfortable to write about yourself, then choose a character who is in a similar situation. He knows that his time is ending and he wants to write down those things that he hopes people will recall after he is gone.

            This is important work.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

Following Directions

            From an early age we learn the rules, what to do, when to do it and when to stop. We are taught where to do something and for how long. Lining up begins when we are young and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

            What we are seldom taught, however, is how not following directions impacts others.

            For example, imagine you’re on a trip with forty other people. The tour director tells you to be on the bus before eight in the morning. You figure the bus won’t leave until 8:10, so you don’t bother to appear until 8:11. Your inability to follow directions impacts the rest of the group.

            All games have directions. Children are taught to follow them in order to make the game fair. What happens when someone feels above the “law”? They are called cheaters.

            The same term can be applied to adults as well.

            Your task is to write a scene in which following directions plays an important role. It might be interesting to have some characters who always comply, some who sometimes comply and some who seldom, if ever, comply. The combination builds tension, something needed to make a story interesting.

            Have fun with this one.