An Old Acquaintance

            Sometimes we leave behind people we’ve known for very good reasons. The person might have been abusive or a braggart. Perhaps a relationship that went nowhere. Maybe you moved so far away that continuing a friendship was challenging.

            Often when we switch jobs, we never see those coworkers again, either by choice or because it just doesn’t happen. The same is true when we marry. Singles often prefer to spend time only with other singles. Once children are born, then families prefer to spend time with other families.

            What happens when someone from your past suddenly reappears? Imagine the emotions you experience, ranging from surprise to dread. It also depends upon where you crossed paths. If it’s in the grocery store, you might exchange pleasantries and that’s it. If it’s at work, then you’ll have to interact with this individual as long as you both work at the same job.

            Your task is to write a story in which someone from the past appears. You need to decide whether it’s a joyous reunion or one fraught with tension. The type of meeting determines the emotional tone of the piece. Or, it could be a little of both: tension at first, bumps along the way, then acceptance and perhaps something more than friendship.

            Have fun with this one.

Elevator Music

            How many times have you been subjected to the type of canned music commonly called “elevator music”? Far too many to count. It used to be that canned music was everywhere: at the dentist’s office, in the supermarket and at the beauty salon. You’d hear it in department stores and offices. On telephones as you wait for calls.

            All of this becomes too much after a while. You grit your teeth, clench your fists and want to scream at it to stop. But you don’t because it would accomplish nothing. But what if it could?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character launches a drive to end all elevator music. How does she get the word out? Where does her group meet and what actions do they plan? How often does she protest and how does she react when the crowd is either too small or much bigger than she expected?

            How much of a driving force is she? Is she the center of the movement or has she shared her ideas with someone else who takes over?

            Your readers will want to be a part of what’s happening, so make sure to establish setting, tension, driving force and strong character.

            Have fun with this one.

Food Inspiration

Many key things occur during the preparation or consumption of food.

In a wealthy household, there might be an entire staff working in the kitchen. Scullery maids did the dirty work of cleaning endless amounts of pots and pans. Cooks slaved over wood-burning stoves and ovens, chopped fruits, vegetables and meats, rolled pastries all while issuing commands to those under their watch.

Imagine the conversations that took place. Most likely there was a fair bit of gossip tossed about the family and townspeople alike.

In the dining room circumstances were quite different. Wealthy patrons were waited on by unformed servants. Course after course was served. Conversation might have covered contemporary issues, politics, entertainments and relationships.

Things are very different in the homes of the less wealthy, even today. Instead of maids, the wife does the cooking and cleaning. Kids help out, and in more egalitarian marriages, so do the husbands.

Regardless, topics of conversation might be quite similar.

Your task is to write a story in which the preparation and consumption of food plays an important role. Establish the setting and key characters, then get the action moving. Dialogue is going to be important, so make sure there is enough to allow readers to see what is going on.

Have fun with this one.

Lying

            It would be nice to never have to lie, but that’s a naïve idea. Telling the truth, can at times, create difficult situations that have serious repercussions.

            Imagine that a loved one emerges from her room wearing a new outfit. She asks how she looks in it. Your honest opinion is that the color, style or fit aren’t complimentary. However, if you tell her that, she might get angry, might fight back, might hide in her room. So you smile, say something noncommittal such as, “Looks nice.”

            What if instead of a loved one, it’s your boss asking your opinion about a project idea. You have experienced this exact situation before and so know that it you express doubt, all hell will break out. When you look at the details, you know immediately that it’s a lousy proposal that could cost the company a client, or waste money, or even lead to a potential lawsuit.

            Sometimes we have no choice but to lie even when we know that to do so, isn’t right.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is forced to either lie or tell the truth. Make the stakes high enough that the character has something to lose.

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue. There must be tension! And conflict.

            Have fun with this one.

Being Invisible

            There are many ways in which individuals are unseen that have nothing to do with fantasy.

            Obese people have felt that invisibility for most of their lives. Clearly, they can be seen: who could miss a two-hundred-pound (or more) person strolling through a store? No one, but that doesn’t consider the shocked looks, the averted eyes, the glued eyes, the snickers, laughs and cruel jokes.

            Often when Caucasians see a person of color approaching, they give the same types of looks, the averted eyes, the terrified looks, the crossing to the other side of the street. While the person of color is as visible as the obese person, scared reactions tend to discredit those feelings.

            Your task is to write a story in which invisibility plays an important role. You can choose fantasy to tell your story or base it on the real world. What’s important is to catch the essence of what being invisible means and how it influences events.

            Have fun with this one.

The Chef

            Some are excellent cooks. They can make something grand out of ordinary things. On the other hand, many can’t cook worth a lick. There are also those in the middle: with the help of recipes, they can put palatable food on the table.

            Your protagonist might have secret talents that aren’t revealed in the story, but that influence his actions in some way. For example, he meets friends for lunch at a fancy restaurant. He’s the only one that understands the names and descriptions, surprising everyone. From there perhaps he invites them over for a gourmet dinner.

            Or maybe he’s so clueless about the menu that he selects a simple salad, trying to be safe.

            Your task is to write a story that involves food in some way. If your character is a marvelous cook, write a scene in which something happens that alters the taste or consistency of the meal. You can do the reverse with the lousy cook: she concocts an entrée that’s the hit of the pot luck.

            Description is important, but build tension through dialogue. There must be conflict of some kind, either internal or external, or even both.

            Have fun with this one.

Cooking Lesson

            Picture yourself in the kitchen, trying to cook something for the first time. Back then you probably had little experience to rely on, so you had to follow the recipe. If it turned out fine, then you were lucky as most of the time, we fail. The pasta might not be cooked thoroughly enough, the sauce might not taste right and maybe a key ingredient was left out.

            Most of us learn from a parent or spouse. Some, thanks to social media, go to videos or television programs for ideas and instruction. Learning from a video isn’t quite as emotionally charged as standing next to someone who might not be the best teacher.

            Your task is to write a scene in which the tension is so thick that it taints the experience. Your character might not be a willing participant. That generally happens when a teen is forced into learning from a parent. What could possibly go wrong? Everything.

            Include lots of dialogue. That will allow readers to see and feel what is driving the tension.

            Have fun with this one.

The Wizard Did It

            Every story needs a villain. In the fantasy world, there have been helpful wizards (think Gandolf), but most often, evil ones. Helpful wizards don’t always turn out to be all that helpful. They intend to do well, but things go wrong. Instead of starting a warming fire, they set the forest ablaze. Or what should have been a nourishing drink turns out to make someone very ill.

            We all expect the evil wizard to cause harm, so it might be a huge surprise if the wizard actually does something kind.

            Your task is to write a story in which everyone suspects the wizard. Begin with the event. What happened, how did the wizard get involved, how do the people feel, and what is the eventual result?

            Is the wizard the main character or someone else? Is the wizard friend or foe? Where does the story take place? Castle? Forest? Mountain top?

            Are there a lot of people nearby or is the location remote?

            Lots of decisions to make, keeping in mind that readers want tension. On top of that, keep in mind that tone impacts the story as well. If you write a comedic story, the overall tone is completely different if terror and damage occur.

            Have fun with this one.

Monster Attack

            Do you remember the first movie you saw in which a monster arrived, creating havoc wherever it went? Most likely you were both horrified and entranced. Your eyes were glued to the television as the monster destroyed buildings, tossed cars and grabbed people off the street.

            Today the horror genre is incredibly popular. Moviegoers seem to eagerly await the next new monster, whether it comes from sea, air or land. There’s something intriguing about a foreign entity spewing drool and fire as it crushes a famous city.

            Your task is to write a story in which a monster invades a city that you know well. By choosing a known setting, you can include realistic concepts such as existing buildings and street names.

            Your protagonist can be the monster or the hero who fights to save the world. Descriptions is important so that readers can visualize your monster as well as the place, time and actions taken to fight it.

            Include dialogue as well so that readers understand what’s going through your protagonist’s mind.

            Have fun with this one.

Hike in the Woods

            You’ve made plans to join friends for a hike in the woods. You’ve never been there before, but one of your friends claims to have been there several times before and so knows the trials. What could go wrong?

            Think of all the possibilities, from mundane to terrifying, that could happen. Stalked by a wolf? Injured by a hunter who mistook you for a deer? Lost when you went down an unfamiliar path? Slipped on a treacherous hill and careened over the edge? The list is endless.

            Your task is to write a story in which your hike goes wrong. Begin by looking at photos of forests to get an idea of how tall the trees are, how deep the forest, how narrow the path. Become familiar with the types of trees, edible plants, poisonous fauna. Research building shelters, finding shelter in caves, overhangs and amongst briars.

            Create your hiking group. Include a variety of personalities: the overconfident, the narcissist, the timid, the follower. How they interact will impact the flow of the story arc.

            Set the story in motion. Remember to build up tension as your characters walk along.

            Have fun with this one.