Marriage and Infidelity

            There are books, movies and television shows that show couples falling in love. Their eyes sparkle whenever they are together. They hold hands, wrap each other up in hugs and passionately kiss. Everyone can see they are in love, so it’s no surprise when they marry.

            In real life, much of that does happen. Couples join are joined together with the words promising a life filled with joy, a life with struggles, a life that will last forever.

            Things happen, however, that challenge their bond.  Illness can shake up the relationship. Financial stress can cause friction. Children misbehave. Problems with the home arise.

            The worst, however, is when one partner breaks the relationship through infidelity.

            Your task is to write a story about marriage. You can choose to have your characters live happily ever after or the relationship can fall apart. What’s important is to let the readers feel the emotions that bring them together, and in the case of infidelity, the emotions that drive them apart.

            Set up a plausible scene, keeping in mind that details such as a sparkling ocean or pounding rain can signal reactions. Dialogue is critical. Readers will need to see the words spoken, both when falling in love and then when angry words cause pain and suffering. Find a good balance between the two.

            Have fun with this one.

Sibling Rivalry

            Children growing up in the same home, raised by the same parents, may experience a bit of rivalry now and again. For example, one child may believe that Mom loves the brother more or that Dad spends more time with the sister. Often a younger child thinks that the older one has preferential status in the family, and if allowed to fester, can lead to verbal and physical fights. These beliefs can lead to long-term familial dysfunction.

            Recall a time when you disagreed with a sibling or close relative. What caused the problem? Who started the argument and how was it resolved? Did the relationship improve over time or continue to disintegrate?

            Your task is to write a story in which sibling rivalry plays an important role. Begin with the characters and their order within the family. Create a list of issues that might arise. Establish whether arguments will be physical, verbal or a combination of both.

            Setting is crucial. Readers will need to see the environment, not just in terms of concrete objects, but also in terms of how the parents or guardians interact with each child. Dialogue is important as well as readers will want to hear the words spoken. Lastly, emotional reactions will drive the story forward.

            Have fun with this one.

Inconvenient Truths

            We don’t like to hear things that go against our beliefs. We cringe when someone spouts an idea that counters what we’ve been led to be true. It might make us angry; it might make us sad. It might even make us change our minds, depending upon how deep-rooted our beliefs are.

            We all know someone who is steadfast even when confronted with verifiable sources of information. They close their eyes and ears, blocking out sources and references that present opinions different than their own. These individuals are difficult to be around. They often spew their beliefs without provocation, taking over conversations and dominating group discussions. They block out dissenting points of view and disallow attempts to change the topic.

            Your task is to write a story in which a group is gathered that includes at least one individual who refuses to accept alternate points of view. Altercations might take place in which words are flung about that are hurtful and resolve nothing. There may even be fisticuffs that result in injury.

            Setting is important. The place and event determine who is invited, how groups form and reform, and when uncomfortable topics arise. Narrative sets the tone: dialogue carries the conflict.

            Have fun with this one.

Holiday Beliefs

            With Christmas approaching, now is a good time to write about the holiday. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so if you have a special day, choose that one to remember.

            Some children are so poor that there are no gifts, no tree, nothing special about the day except maybe going to church. Other kids dream about all the packages they get to unwrap and then, on Christmas Day, get to tear paper off gift after gift.

            Try to recall a holiday that was special for you. What were the reasons that it was meaningful? Was it the gifts or time with family? Was it the mystic or the planning that went into preparations to celebrate?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character celebrates a special day. Make the anticipation large enough to inspire a well-developed story. Include a bit of conflict so that not everything runs smoothly. Narrative is important to set up the scene, but dialogue is what will spur action. Sensory details allow the reader to be in the scene, so include them as well.

            Have fun with this one.

Shopping Day

            Imagine that you have a difficult teenager who needs new clothes. You arrange a day and time to take her to the mall. Even that takes some effort as she whines about having to go with you. The car ride is oppressive and silent. The walk through the mall is laced with opportunities to incur her wrath. She snubs her nose at stores you can afford and will only enter those you cannot.

            The struggle over clothes that you deem appropriate and affordable is embarrassing. Her eye-rolling and thin-lipped glares annoy you to the point that you almost give in and let her have whatever she wants just to get it over with.

            Were you ever that teenager? Can you recall a time when you made life difficult for your family? If not, are you a parent of a child who frustrated you? Who embarrassed you in public?

            Your task is to write a story in which it’s time to go shopping. Your character can be the teen or the parent. Tension is important to tell the tale. Use a combination of narrative and dialogue: narrative to set the scene, dialogue to show family dynamics.

            How will the story be resolved? Will there be a meeting of minds or will conflict continue throughout? Will the teen end up with clothes or will the parent march them out, empty-handed?

            Have fun with this one.

Contentious Night Out

            Think back to a gathering around a table. It might have been at your grandparent’s house or at a restaurant with acquaintances from work.  The possibility existed for conflict because of Uncle Joe’s drinking or Sally’s argumentative nature. For a time things went well. No angry words. No sources of conflict. The kids behaved themselves and the adults weren’t saucy.

            Then someone mentioned an old fling or a bigger kid shoved a smaller one to the ground. Heated words were exchanged. Feelings were hurt. Relationships were strained to the breaking point. If it was a work party, perhaps someone got fired. People stormed off in a huff.

            Your task is to write that story. The important thing is to make sure that at least one argument takes place and that retaliation causes friction that perhaps cannot be mended.

            Dialogue is critical to allow readers to be at the scene of the action. Details play an important role, especially if attendees arrive wearing the wrong attire or the expected food is not served or the weather is extreme.

            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.

Family Dynamics

Imagine a family gathering in which a variety of aunts, uncles, cousins and elders mix and mingle throughout the house and backyard. Most of the time pleasantries are exchanged and rules of engagement are followed.

But then someone has a little too much to drink or Johnny pushes Steven off the swing or Aunt Carol’s casserole gets knocked off the counter or someone overhears juicy gossip about themselves. All hell breaks loose, right?

That’s the story that you want to tell. Not the goody-goody everyone’s pretending to like everyone. Readers want to tension, the fights, the nasty words tossed about. We want to see what happens. Who’s involved. The words/actions. Who tries to intervene. Who laughs. Who gets hurt.

Your task is to write a fascinating story about family times that go awry. Remember to include details. The skirt tucked into Sally’s panties. The zipper of George’s slacks that gets stuck. The smell of rancid lettuce rotting in the afternoon sun.

We want good things to happen, sure. If not, the story would be over the top. Give us pleasant happenings, but then an incident that triggers disaster.

Have fun with this one.