A Strange Day

            Many children’s books revolve around something unusual that happens, something that takes the child character completely by surprise. Often dreams are the catalyst, but there can be other triggers as well.

            Children love to play make-believe. They fabricate complex, ever-evolving stories with magic, beasts, queens and kings. Knights and dragons. All kinds of creatures, large and small.

            Your task is to write a children’s story based on the premise that something strange happens, something unexpected and so unusual that the child had no way to predict the inciting incident.

            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.

Unfulfilled Desires

            Do you remember when you were a child and your birthday was approaching? You anxiously awaited opening presents and not finding the gift you’d hinted about for weeks. You experience a range of emotions, from shock, disappointment and anger. Visualize your face and body as those feelings wash over you.

            Make the stakes higher. A dream position opens up and you believe that you are most qualified for the job. You’ve got more experience in the areas needed than anyone at the company. You’ve got a good relationship with the boss, or so you think, that will make you the number one choice. The problem is that the boss created the position for his nephew.

            Perhaps you’ve been house-hunting and the perfect one appears. You go to the open house and fall in love. You put in a bid, believing that you’re the best qualified since you’ve got a pre-approved loan. What you didn’t know was that everyone was bidding way over the ask price. The person who gets the house offered one million more than the market value.

            In each case unfulfilled desires have the potential to drag the person down a long, dark road.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character yearns for something, believes she is going to get it, then doesn’t. Make the stakes high enough that when things fall apart, the character spins out of control.

            Use both narrative description and dialogue.

            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.

Dream Encounter

The term “dream” represents a variety of things.

A dream can be something that occurs as you sleep. Sometimes the dream is based on factual encounters which then spin off into uncharted territory. Many times dreams are complete pieces of fiction that include monsters, dark spaces, falling from great heights and discussions that never took place.

Dreams can also be wishes. When young we imagine ourselves as ballerinas, firefighters or teachers because those are the heroes in our lives. As teenagers we dream about going to college or trade school, of becoming engineers, mechanics or computer science technicians. Later on, we dream of marriage and family, trips and excursions and the homes we’d like to own.

Owning items can also be considered a dream. Picture the perfect gown for a dance, the sports car you always wanted to drive, or the collection of baseball cards that you once saw at a flea market.

Your character has dreams. Imagine a scene in which that dream plays a significant role. What does he want? What emotions does he experience whenever he thinks about it? How hard will it be for him to achieve that dream? What happens when he doesn’t?

Write using a combination of narrative and dialogue. Make sure the yearning comes through.

Have fun with this one.

Play Acting

Children love to pretend. They build forts out of sheets, dress up dolls, and talk to stuffed animals. The wearing of costumes is a real thrill, for when dressed as someone else, they assume personalities different than their own. They can bravely face foes when in the night they tremble at the thought of monsters in the closet. They can fly high into the sky despite being terrified of heights.

Many teens get involved in theater and choir during high school. They audition and hopefully win the roles they desired. On stage they are someone else. They might be the detective who solves the case, the soloist who normally only sings in the shower or the lover who woos a victim into a web.

Many adults enjoy play acting. Theater is a popular form of entertainment. Look at Broadway in NYC, big cities who lure in tours of Broadway plays and small local theaters who host events for crowds of a hundred. For thespians it’s a chance to be a child again, to put on the mantle of a character and to speak, move and behave like someone else.

Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist is involved in theater or choir. There should be an audition so that readers will walk through the process, feeling the hopes, excitement and possible tears with the character. Give us the tension, the anxiety that accompanies being on the stage.

Not all things should run smoothly. Readers want to see glitches arise and watch how the character handles such events.

Have fun with this one.

Deepest Longing

When I was a child I didn’t yearn for dolls or fancy dresses. I wanted to feel special, to feel loved. To be treated as an equal to my older brother.

As a teen I wanted social acceptance which was never going to happen because I dressed in old-fashioned homemade clothes. On top of that I was painfully shy. When I realized that college might be an option, I yearned to go anywhere that got me out of the home.

As you can see, my longings had to do with being loved, being accepted and escaping home.

Your characters must have yearnings that compel their interests and desires. These yearnings need to be so powerful that the reader senses them and identifies with them. They also must present fairly early in the work so as to establish the motivations behind what your character says and does.

Your task is to take a character that will appear in a story. Put the name at the top of the page. Then create a list of at least five yearnings that would drive that individual’s actions.

Choose the most dynamic thing on the list. The one that could spur the most controversy. Maybe even get your character in trouble.

Begin writing, keeping in mind that the yearning appears early on. Do not directly state the yearning, but rather find a way to show it through dialogue or action.

Reread. Does it shine forth? Can you feel the character’s desires?

Have fun with this one.

 

Unfulfilled Dreams

We all want something until the day that we die or until our brain ceases to function. What we wish for changes throughout our lives. For example, a child may wish for a piece of chocolate while an older adult might want a good steak.

Our wishes change from hour to hour, day to day. On Sunday morning we might want a breakfast of eggs and bacon, but by afternoon all we really want is cheese and crackers. By Friday evening we are yearning for pepperoni pizza, beer and a piece of cheesecake for dessert.

Our dreams are often for bigger things, such as a new car, owning a home or traveling to remote places. These are long-term dreams while the previous ones were short-term.

Your task is to create a three-column list. First record dreams that your character has. In the next column determine how the character will act when she achieves each goal. Consider a wide range of emotions. In the third column record what happens when that dream goes unfulfilled.

Often our strongest emotions are triggered by those things that we cannot accomplish. These make the most interesting stories.

Choose one dream and one reaction. Write the story remembering to emphasize emotions.

Have fun with this one.