Deep In Debt

            A new car every year, shopping sprees where thousands of dollars are spent, investing in questionable start-ups, and trips abroad every few months rack up so much debt that it’s nearly impossible to repay. Add to that gambling at the race track, membership at an exclusive country club and the yacht that he just had to have.

            Maybe it’s not a lavish lifestyle, but rather medical bills for cosmetic recontractions, cancer treatments or surgeries for the kids, placing tubes in the ears.

            Whatever the reason, your character is deep in debt. How she handles the situation says a lot about her character.

            Does she negotiate with each lender, agreeing to whittle down the amount owed? Perhaps she offers favors in payment, declares bankruptcy or marries a wealthy person who can pay off her debt.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist finds himself in substantial debt. The amount has to be so large that he has no way to settle the bill. Of course, that amount depends upon the individual’s situation.

            A person having little might owe a thousand, and be unable to pay. A person owning a lot might owe millions.

            Both situations make for interesting stories.

            Have fun with this one.

Tough Decision

Every now and then try writing a story in which your protagonist is faced with an extremely difficult decision. Think life-altering.

For example, what if one of his children was accused of murder? And he knew that the child was innocent? Would the father confess to the crime to save the kid?

Perhaps a good friend needs a kidney transplant and your character is a good match. However, your character has some complications that makes the surgery a bit risky.

Your task is to write a story in which a tough decision has to be made. Choose something that has serious outcomes, perhaps even life-threatening. What’s important is to make the stakes so high that he has to weigh the options.

Dialogue is important so that readers see discussions being made, questions being asked and answered and the social dynamics involved.

The story can be realistic based on research you’ve done, or fantasy, in another place and time.

Make the tension clear, palpable.

Have fun with this one.

Decisions, Decisions

            A recent study reported that adults make as many as 122 decisions a day. Some are quite ordinary, such as figuring out when to get out of bed, what clothes to wear and what television programs to watch.

            We also make decisions that affect our lives in quite serious ways. For example, when choosing a career, some might look at the money to be earned while others might consider job satisfaction over anything else. Teachers are notoriously underpaid when taking into account the college coursework required. Despite knowing that they might never be paid what someone with a comparable education would in the private sector, teachers want to have an impact, they want, essentially, to watch their charges grow and learn.

            Your task is to write a story in which your characters make decisions, both big and small. Readers will want to watch as they discuss their options. This allows readers to see how the characters think. Show the results of the decision as well. It might be more interesting if the results are not what the characters wanted.

            Have fun with this one.

Without a Trace

Mystery stories often revolve around a disappearance. A woman, last seen getting into her car in a parking garage is never seen again. The family dog, an AKC Champion, is stolen from a fenced backyard. The lawyer representing a case against a government official doesn’t appear in court.

The rest of the story revolves around the search. Who is leading the search, whether police, detective or ordinary citizens. Where they look, what cluse they find, the roadblocks they hit and who all they suspect.

There are highs and lows. A clue is found that leads to a near miss, followed by periods of time in which wheels are spun. Suspects are cleared and more are added to the list. False leads given by the public. Misinformation published in the news that only confounds the search.

Your task is to write a story in which someone or something goes missing. You can make it a police procedural or a cozy mystery. Your protagonist can be a no-nonsense detective or an average citizen who refuses to stop investigating.

Include narrative and dialogue. Setting is important, remembering to describe each new location. Sensory details add to the mystery, so don’t forget to toss them in.

Have fun with this one.

Pivotal Point

            Do you remember a time when something occurred that altered your life? Perhaps it was a move cross-country or changing your major in college. It might have been falling in love when you had no intention of ever marrying. Maybe you got what you thought was the job of your dreams only to find out that you found it so boring that you hated going to work.

            When something happens that causes you to change course, that’s a pivotal point in your life.

            Every good story, whether in a book, movie, play or television show, has a pivotal point that sends the protagonist down a different road. Sometimes the road is so bumpy and rough that the protagonist will turn around and go the other way. But many times, they push on, determined to see where that first path leads.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character faces such a pivotal point. You can have him ignore it and just carry on, but what fun would that be? Instead let your character make the change. Plot points will include lots of events that make the choice uncomfortable, that makes the character question what he has done.

            Use both narrative and dialogue to tell the story.

            Have fun with this one.

 A Public Admission

            Imagine being at some type of gathering. People are milling about, forming into small groups, then breaking apart and reforming in completely new ones. The talk is generally muted, but occasionally a voice rises above the melee.

            You are drawn to the voice because it sounds somewhat familiar.

            You push your way through the crowd, which is all now watching the goings-on. Indeed, you do know the owner of the voice: it’s your ex-business partner arguing with a vendor who provides security for the firm.

            What you hear shakes you to the heart of your soul.

            Your task is to write a story in which some type of confrontation takes place. It should be between at least one person your character knows. Begin by making a list of possibilities, including the who, what, when, where and why. The juicier the better.

            Tension is critical. Your readers are going to want to know what is at stake, what secrets are being revealed and how that will impact the business, the relationship, the future.

            Begin by establishing setting, but don’t labor over the details. Give just enough to place the scene without describing every painting on the wall, every piece of furniture, every item of clothing worn.

            Take us to the conflict as soon as possible. We want to feel the emotions through voice, action and words.

            Have fun with this one.

Change in Plans

            Quite a while ago you decided to go on a trip. You asked your friends for ideas. You searched the Internet and requested brochures. Finally, after much deliberation, you settled on a destination, contacted an agent and made reservations.

            You’ve marked it on our calendar and shared the information with family and friends. You even went shopping to get needed items.

            And then something happens. Perhaps you sustain an injury or maybe a family member falls ill and needs care. Maybe the cruise is no longer offered on the dates you had chosen and the new dates don’t work with your schedule. Or, a world-wide pandemic hits and all travel screeches to a halt.

            Think of the range of emotions you’ve experienced on this journey.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character wants to go on a vacation. She follows all the usual paths before settling on the one most interesting to her. It might be fun to send her on that trip and have everything run smoothly. It might also be interesting if on the trip, some form of disaster hits. Or as in the above scenario, the problem arises before leaving.

            Readers will want to go on this exploration with your character, but not as co-tourists, but as witnesses. Not only will you use narration, but also dialogue. Through conversations with others emotions will be revealed.

            Have fun with this one.

Rooting Out Evil

            Many people believe that evil lies within everyone. Steps have to be taken to chase the evil away. Depending upon the culture and the religious beliefs, the rituals could include the use of herbs, prayer and incantations, changing the mindset, cleansing crystals, and beatings.

            If the individual’s beliefs are strong, then the evil will be rooted out. Maybe. Sometimes different spells or remedies are tried, looking for the one that works.

            Imagine suffering from an ailment only to find yourself in a darkened room surrounded by chanting, white-robed women who flail you with stiff ropes or sticks. Not only would you suffer physical damage, but you’d be terrified.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is suspected of harboring some form of evil. He seeks various remedies, going from one possibility to another, hoping for relief.

            Think about his emotions as he experiences all these different rituals. Imagine how he feels when they are/aren’t successful. Include where he finds the sources, whether from coworkers, friends, doctors or religious leaders.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

Contracting an Illness

            In the real world people fall ill. If they’re lucky, the symptoms are minor and the illness short-lived. Nevertheless, they might have to change plans. Going to work or to a party might be impossible, as is traveling or spending time with family. But after a period of isolation, everything returns to normal.

            Now consider what happens when the illness is severe. If it’s a form of cancer, the individual might have to go through invasive surgery and bouts of chemotherapy. If it’s pneumonia, they could end up in the hospital, especially if they are also asthmatic.

            Broken bones might require surgery to heal. Knees or hips might have to be replaced. There might be a hole in the diaphragm or polyps in the intestines. The list could be quite lengthy, each with its own period of pain and recuperation.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist either falls ill or has to tend to someone who is ill. Choose something that is high on the scale in terms of intensity, something that will cause suffering and interfere with life.

            Narrative and dialogue are both needed. The first to set the scene, the second to allow readers to see what emotions are going through your character’s mind.

            Have fun with this one.