Music Preferences

            Music wasn’t always an important part of my life. I don’t remember singing childhood ditties or making up my own songs as I played with dolls. My parents never sang to me and when we did listen to a radio, it was usually tuned to melodramas. We did sing in church, but because I was slow to learn to read, I couldn’t join in.

            I bought myself a tiny transistor radio when I was twelve. My favorite station played pop music, comfy singalong tunes with catchy beats. I subscribed to a magazine that printed the lyrics to every popular song. That became my bible. Whenever I was alone in my room, I turned on the radio and sang along. My love of music carried me through my tumultuous teens, twenties and all the ensuing years until my current ripe old age.

            How has music impacted your life? Has it played a minor or major role?

            Your task is to write a story in which music affects the protagonist, either in a positive or negative way. What age is she? Where does she live (city, state, country). What is her family situation (socioeconomic, single-parent, half-siblings). What are her favorite subjects in school (think about all the different grades, from Pre-Kindergarten to university).

            Does she share her love of music or keep it to herself? Does she sing in the shower or on stage? In a church choir or with a band? If band, what type and do they tour? All these considerations affect story.

            Have fun with this one.

If the World was Ending

Close your eyes and picture the people you love the most. What makes them special to you? Is it their smiles or the fact that they love you back? Perhaps it’s their ability to forgive and forget. Maybe they’re sense of humor lifts your spirits or it’s because they listen even when you aren’t looking for answers.

We live in perilous times. Fires rage, hurricanes and tornadoes wipe out huge swaths of land. Floods destroy urban and rural property. It gets too hot and too cold, depending upon where you live. There are shootings, hostage-taking, kidnapping and car-jacking. You just have to be in the right place at the wrong time to find yourself in the midst of a life-changing event.

Your task is to write a story in which the known world is ending. Begin by identifying the how, where and why. Perhaps a little research is needed to reinforce your knowledge of how these events impact life.

Come up with at least two characters to populate your story. They could be a couple of good friends. Casual acquaintances or total strangers. They could even be enemies.

Begin with establishing the known world through development of a strong setting and instances where readers will become aware of the depth of the primary relationships.

Add in a healthy enough does of dialogue buffeted by narrative to enable readers to use their senses to witness the frightening event.

Have fun with this one.

Love at First Sight

Picture yourself in a crowd. A variety of people are milling about. Perhaps it’s a birthday party or maybe it’s a dance at the community center. You spot a good friend on the opposite side of the room and as you wind your way through the seemingly tangled mess of humanity, a face appears that takes your breath away.

Is that love at first sight? It might be depending upon what happens next.

What is your story of falling in love? Have you ever shared it with someone outside of the immediate family? If you did, what was their reaction? If not, why?

Your task is to write a story in which characters meet and something happens. A spark. A tingle. A magical moment. It can be fiction or nonfiction. You could make it predictably sappy or there can be friction between the two as they navigate their way.

Begin by setting the scene. This might be a time to have weather details included, for isn’t spring the time of love? Allow your readers to feel the environment through sight and sound.

Make the developing relationship interesting enough so that readers want to know more.  Bring in complexities and complications. Use dialogue to enhance the progression of the romance.

Have fun with this one.

Long Lost Friend

Do you remember what it felt like when a friend that you hadn’t seen in a log time crossed your path? Did you experience joy or dread? Did seeing her call up fond memories of places you’d gone and things you’d seen? Maybe she tormented you, called you names, and so you fear that she’ll start it up again?

We’ve all experienced the appearance of someone from our past, so this is a story that all readers can relate to. Begin with the characters. Who are they and what happened in their past that perhaps they preferred to keep buried?

Now imagine a story in which a character runs across someone from the past.

Your task is to tell that story. Complexity is crucial for readers need to feel those conflicting emotions.

Begin with the setting.  The place and time ground readers in the story. Expand to include emotional reactions as you explore how the characters feel and react. Use dialogue to draw readers into the relationship.

Have fun with this one.

 

Pausing for a Reality Check

Impulsivity is a plus in certain fields of employment. Imagine being faced with a decision that has to be made now, not ten minutes from now or after consulting with a team of experts. Quick thinking and fast reactions save lives in an emergency, solve problems in a production line, and move people safely out of a burning building. Take-charge people can be a benefit to an organization.

Now imagine a scene in which acting impulsively causes serious problems. The man rushes into a burning building to save his cat, gets trapped and has to be rescued by firefighters who could potentially be injured or killed in the process. Or say she’s driving a car, the light turns green and she jumps out into the intersection because it’s her turn. A car running through the light hits her, killing her passenger and breaking several bones in her body.

In both cases pausing before acting would save lives.

This is called taking a Reality Check. Before acting, you stop for a few seconds and analyze the options or the motivations for your thinking. It can be a powerful tool when employed correctly.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character needs to utilize the Reality Check method. Create a complex setting in which important decisions have to be made. Perhaps your character acts rashly, leading to a domino effect of negative consequences.  Maybe your character is the victim of someone who made a poor decision. Readers will need to feel the danger, sense the thinking process and care what the result is.

Have fun with this one.

Speed Dating

Imagine wanting to find the love of your life but you don’t want to hang out in smoke-filled bars with a bunch of drunks. Online sites make you a bit nervous as there is no way to know if the person really looks like their picture, lives where they say they do or have a functional life with gainful employment.

While reading the paper one morning an ad appears for an event to be held at a local community center. You’ve never tried speed dating before, but it sounds like fun.

The problem is that all kinds of things could go wrong. The range of concerns is endless.

Your task is to write a story in which a lonely person goes to a speed dating event. Consider the setting, tone and voice. Point of View is critical for readers want to experience the situation through their senses. Something humorous might appear, something a bit dangerous, or there might be true love.

Have fun with this one.

Family Game Night

Many of us older folks grew up playing card and board games. Some of us might have pleasant memories of friendly competition and conversations shared that brought joy and laughter. If the games took place on a regular basis, we probably eagerly looked forward to time spent with family and friends doing something that we could enjoy together.

However not all game-playing is friendly. Imagine a scene in which players are teased, harassed and humiliated. People scream at each other as they declare dominance in terms of gaming skills. Alcoholic beverages are consumed intensifying the belittling. The atmosphere is tension-filled because of the highly competitive situation. Instead of looking forward to those nights, dread looms over the announcement that the time has come to repeat the performance.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character takes part in game night. You choose whether there is friendly competition or cut-throat activities. Or maybe there is a combination of the two.

Begin by setting the scene and placing your character in the midst of the action. Perhaps there is debate as to which game to play, who is in charge and how it is determined who will go first. If younger players are involved, maybe they need help. If so, who takes on that role?

Dialogue and description are key.

Have fun with this one.

A Startling Situation

There are times when surprise appearances are fun. Think of a special birthday celebration when guests huddle in darkness waiting for the celebrant to appear so they can jump out, shouting, “Surprise!” Giggles often result and great fun is had by all.

But not all such appearances are met with joy. Imagine a scenario where your protagonist opens the door and a masked person barrels in with gun pointing at her chest. The resulting emotions are fear, terror and confusion. She might beg for her life as she’s forced to unlock the safe deposit box, pull out treasured jewelry or uncover family heirlooms.

Perhaps your protagonist is shopping at a technology store when hooded, armed thieves charge in, demanding that everyone fall to the floor. The gunmen waved weapons around and threaten anyone who raises their heads, just a bit.

Your task is to write a scene in which someone appears unexpectedly and threatens your protagonist. A good beginning place is the normal world, that situation in which she is doing something ordinary. That gives readers a chance to get to know who she is based upon her life, her abode and her thoughts as she goes about her day.

Something happens that shatters her peace and that puts her in danger, fighting for her life.

Details are important. You will also need dialogue so that we can hear the words the invader uses and what she says in response.

Have fun with this one.

A New Baby

Anyone who’s been around a newborn understands how such a tiny, helpless being can upset the functioning of a home. Pitiful cries can’t be ignored and so guardians come to the rescue day and night. Stinky diapers have to be changed and washed. Everyone’s clothing gets soiled with vomit. It’s a seemingly endless litany of squalls and needs.

If the newborn is a cat or dog, there are still issues. They suffer separation anxiety when removed from mom. The cries are plaintive, but often unheard when the owners are off at work. Potty training can be challenging when the animal doesn’t “get” it as quickly as one might hope. There are walks to take, leash-training, special foods to prepare.

The impact of newborns doesn’t occur in many genres of stories. Romance and Women’s Literature are where the problems are most commonly found. But why can’t there be babies in Science Fiction or Horror?

Perhaps an astronaut becomes pregnant while on the International Space Station or the serial killer is nursing a toddler. Imagine how this would change the story.

Your task is to write a scene in which your protagonist has a newborn of some kind. Choose a place to begin that has the most tension for that’s what will hook your readers. Description is essential, both internal and external. Readers will want to know what’s going through minds and how the infant is impacting lives.

Have fun with this one.

The Antisocial Teen

A surly teenager hurls insults at her mother and stomps upstairs, slamming her door behind her. This time it’s because Mom won’t let her go to an unsupervised party at an older boy’s house. Last week it was because Mom refused to pay for body piercings, and a few days before that it was an argument over the skimpy outfit the daughter intended to wear to school.

The son of a single man steals his dad’s precious 1964 hot rod and wraps it around a tree. The boy blames a deer, raccoon and a drunken friend, none of which amuse Dad. The teen is failing most of his classes due to absences and disciplinary problems. On top of that the kid only wears black: t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, shoes, socks and has three earrings on his right lobe.

Both stories speak about not just familial issues, but social ones as well. The kids seem to have made poor choices in friends and the parents, while doing their best, are struggling.

Your task is to write a story about an antisocial teenager. You might want to do a little research into issues facing teens in whatever time period you choose. Also consider exploring parenting tips and what types of counseling is available.

Obviously there will be a lot of drama, a lot of tension, and tons of conflict possibilities. Don’t put too much in one scene as then it’s over the top and too hard for readers to process. Consider spacing events out as the story progresses. Remember that dialogue and actions are important. This will not be a happy story, so make the best of it that you can.

Have fun with this one.