The Awkward Date

            Did you ever go on a date that didn’t turn out well? What went wrong and how did it make you feel?

            Imagine if you’re a teenager and going on your first date. What emotions do you experience? Who do you tell? What do you wear? Where does your date take you and do you have a good time, or are you miserable? Does he kiss you when he brings you home? Or walk away?

            Imagine everything that could possibly go wrong. Make a list, then narrow it down to the two or three that might make for an interesting story.

            Your task is to write that story, building in plenty of tension and drama. Make the characters complex and interesting. Use dialogue and narrative description so that your readers are right there, experiencing the fraught evening.

            Have fun with this one.

Bad Weather

            Try to recall a time when you wanted to be somewhere, or go somewhere, but a bad storm was coming. You are afraid to leave as you might get caught in it, but you also want to get home as soon as possible. You might pack the car, listen to every weather report, all the while trying to make the right decision.

            Do you stay or do you go? What happens either way can make for an interesting story.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is facing bad weather that has the potential to affect travel plans.

            Be sure to use lots of dialogue as this is the stuff that can lead to heated arguments. Once the decision is made, bring on the storm and let the emotions play out. Perhaps tornado forces them to hide in the basement, or the snow storm catches them without chains and therefor they slide off the road. Perhaps there are  flight delays that strand them at an airport where tempers flare.

            All kinds of exciting things can happen.

            Have fun with this one.

Visions

Close your eyes. Relax, allowing your mind to drift wherever it wants to go.

What do you see? Hear? Smell?

Are you somewhere in your past or seeing a vision of the future? How does it make you feel? Sad? Lonely? Frightened? Hopeful or happy?

What story comes to mind? Is it from your childhood or perhaps when you were much older?

Your task is to write that story, complete with all the emotions that hit you when your eyes were closed. You could begin with a line such as, “When I looked back, I…”

Bring the people in the story to life. They also have emotional reactions to the time and place. There might be conflict. There might be an argument. There might be cooperation and joy.

Use both narrative and dialogue to make the story sing.

Have fun with this one.

Deciding Where to Vacation

            Some of us are influenced by the countless brochures that flood our mailboxes. We turn pages, and then, a yearned-for trip appears! Perhaps we’d never thought of a cruise around the Cape, but the pictures look awesome.

            We also take advice from friends and family. If someone brags about a trip to Nepal, we might investigate and then go. Or not.

            And then there are those of us who look at a map of the world, drop a finger on a spot, and then that’s where we’ll go.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist decides to go on a vacation. She might investigate using a variety of methods, but the old-let’s-spin-the-globe and see where it lands might make for an interesting story.

            She would have to research the best time to go, the expected weather, things to do and see and accommodations, including travel.

            To make it more interesting, she invites someone to come along. This could be a parent, best friend or casual acquaintance. Maybe she finds a class being offered on the area, meets a group that’s going, and joins them.

            Make something unexpected happen so that there’s drama. If could be a sudden downpour that wipes out the main road, a romance that goes wrong, a heated discussion of where to go and how did we not find the way.

            Have fun with this one.

Examine House Listings

            Whenever you get stuck on setting, look up available houses in the neighborhood. Take a good look at the photos of each room. Check out the exterior as well, whether it’s a single-family home, an apartment or a condo.

            Can you picture your character living there?

            What happens inside the residence? A murder? A hot love affair? The birth of a child? Perhaps a devastating fire.

            Adapt the residence to fit your setting. Change the modern two-story house to an enchanted mansion on a street of Victorians. If it’s in perfect condition, give it a serious flaw, like a leaky roof or bathroom tiles that collapse inward when cleaned.

            How large of a family do you envision living there? If it’s a studio, perhaps you cram a family of four inside as it’s all they can afford. Or maybe a successful business woman buys the triplex in a new, swanky neighborhood.

            Now that you’ve established character and setting, craft the story. Make something intriguing happen, something that draws readers in.

            Invite other characters to populate your story, but make them all different, with spooky characteristics that clash.

            Have fun with this one.

Bad Company

            You move three thousand miles away from nagging family. You’ve settled into your new, unfettered life when the dreaded call comes: your parents are flying out, intending to stay for a month. Imagine the feelings that you experience, from the sinking of your stomach, to the palpitating of your heart, to the outright panic.

            Instead of your parents, what if the guest is your sister-in-law who doesn’t understand the use of deodorant? No matter how many times she’s been shunned due to her body odor, nothing changes, and once she’s passed by, that odor lingers. Now she wants to borrow your empty bedroom for just one night, or two at most. You know, from experience, that the room will have to be sprayed repeatedly and aired out with a fan running for days.

            In both cases, if you decline, you will be in hot water, so you shrug it off as just another burden to shoulder. It won’t be that bad, right?

            Your task is to write a story in which company comes that either your character didn’t invite or would never invite for one reason or another.

            Tension, from the moment of the invitation, is critical. Allow readers to feel the emotions experienced by your protagonist as the event progresses. You can add in twists, such as an extended stay, to moving in, to other problematic behaviors such as excessive drug use.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

An Authority Figure Interferes

            We’ve all experienced authorities who get in the way. A supervisor gives us an assignment to complete on your own, then hovers and interferes. A police officer who follows you everywhere as if you are a criminal. A parent who refuses to let you grow up. A teacher who is a jerk, calling you insulting names.

            How you handle these people says a lot about you. Definitely about your personality, as some of us can more easily shuck off the jerks, while other suffer alone, at home. Some of us turn to respected confidants while others hold everything inside. Some might report the individual to a higher up or file a complaint, while others find a new job.

            Your task is to write a story in which an authority figure gets in the way. Make the person a bit difficult, but give her a bit of charm. Have him say inappropriate things, yet be supportive of new ideas. All of us have two sides, so make this person the same, which will create conflict within the story.

            Have fun with this one.