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.

Grandma’s Been Cooking

Imagine a scene in which company arrives for a family meal. Grandma insisted that she’d fix all the food, thank you very much. The problem is that she’s a notoriously horrible cook. She’s mastered an edible apple pie, a tolerable beef stroganoff, and a passable version of green bean casserole.

Perhaps Grandma’s a sous chef at a three-star restaurant. Her entrees are amazing, but are made from ingredients so obscure that the grandkids won’t touch therm. Because everything requires meticulous planning, she spends days preparing. Meanwhile she neglects cleaning the house, showering, setting the table. There are no drinks for kids or adults, but plenty of escargot.

What type of cook is your character’s grandmother? What does through his mind whenever Grandma invites him for dinner? Does he bring funeral potatoes over her protests? Does he pick up a lemon meringue pie from the bakery on his way even though Grandma’s feelings will be hurt?

Your task is to write the story. Begin with the invitation. Does it arrive by snail mail, email or phone? What emotions pass through your character’s mind when he responds? What does he do to prepare? Draw out the scene from beginning to end, showing us the party, the dialogue, the emotions of all invited.

This could be a humorous story or a heartbreaking one depending upon how you set the stage.

Have fun with this one.

Handling Grief

Until we’ve lost a loved one, we don’t know how we’ll handle the loss. We might be the wailing type or the silent weeper. We might be stoic, telling ourselves that he had suffered long enough or that he’s now in a better place.

We might clear out the closet the day after the funeral or hand onto every piece of clothing she wore for several years, clinging to the memories of times who wore each item. We might not want to sleep in the bed we’d shared or remain in the house we bought or we might replace everything that reminds of us her in order to move on.

Your character experiences loss as well. Imagine a scene in which a loved one dies. Taking into consideration your character’s personality, how will she react? It might be completely in “character” or she might surprise readers by doing something completely unexpected.

Begin by listing two different possible reactions. Next to each, make bullet points of behaviors that match. In the next column list behaviors that are the opposite. Think about which combination makes the most interesting story. Write, remembering that for readers to “see” emotional reactions there most likely has to be some dialogue. Include sufficient details to enrich the story.

Have fun with this one.

Dance Party

Do you recall the first dance you attended? How old were you? Did you go with a date or with a group of friends? Where was the dance? Were you anxious or excited? Did everything go okay at the dance? If not, then that is the story you want to tell.

Imagine that at some time in their lives, our characters went to a dance during high school, college, or as adults with friends. Perhaps she didn’t want to go, but too much pressure was applied. She fussed over her outfit, hair and makeup. She complained all the way there. Once inside, what happened?

Your task is to write the story. It can be the first dance he attended or the most recent one. Choose a situation when some form of conflict would arise. The bigger the conflict, the more interesting the story becomes.

Details are important to establish setting. Think ambience. Decorations. Music. Food. Drink. Were there only people he knew or total strangers? Did someone get so drunk that they acted outlandishly?

Have fun with this one.