Starting Over

            Who doesn’t like a fresh start? Well, many people might resent being told to scrap work and begin again. Imagine putting in hours designing what you thought was a winning presentation, only to find that it wasn’t what the boss had in mind. You’d be frustrated, angry and hurt.

            To many, however, having a chance to start over might bring a sigh of relief. Picture a student who received a poor grade on an important test. The grade is so low that it will pull down her grade point average, possibly endangering her scholarship. The professor, after learning that she has a previously undisclosed disability, agrees to give her more time. She redoes the test in the learning center. And…her grade is substantially higher!

            Both cases involve scratching the first attempt. Both have different feelings attached.

            Your task is to write a scene in which the protagonist has to start over. It can be in a relationship, at work or school, on a project for the house, or even writing a book. Emotional reactions will vary depending upon the situation that you set up.

            The first step is to establish character. An angry character will just get angrier while a passive one might just shrug it off. Someone prone to tears reacts differently from a stoic.

            Next come up with a challenge that has stakes attached. It could be a promotion, purchasing a house, or repairing a car.

            Have fun with this one.

Wish Giver

            Imagine that someone you know is dying. As you sit next to him, holding his hand, he asks you to fulfill his dying wish. He says it isn’t a big thing, but something that’s been on his mind for some time. What do you do?

            Your response will be leveraged by your morals and beliefs, by the time it might take to complete, and by costs involved. For example, he asks you to travel to Norway to visit a long-lost cousin. The expense and time such a venture would take determines how you respond.

            What if he asks you to paint the outside of his house so that his widow has a pleasant place in which to live? If you have the skills, time and money to pay for paint and materials, you might choose to get this done. In fact, you could organize a group of friends on a Saturday morning, all of whom come prepared with materials needed and the energy to complete the project.

            Your task is to write a story in which a dying person asks your protagonist to grant one last wish. To increase complexity, choose something that either goes against your character’s beliefs or something that requires a great amount of time and energy.

            How to begin? Set the scene through dialogue and description. Put readers in the room. Allow readers to see what’s happening, feel the relationship, and experience the range of emotions as your character understands what is being asked of him.

            Have fun with this one.

Embarrassing Moment

What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you? Most likely there are a range of options to choose from, for as we grow, we often find ourselves doing or saying something that cause our cheeks to crimson.

The event might occur on the playground or in the office. It could involve what you thought was a romantic relationship, but the other person didn’t see it that way. Perhaps you prepared a special meal that turned out to be a complete flop.

Did you ever wear mismatched shoes to work? What happened when someone commented?

Your task is to write a scene in which a character is royally embarrassed. Choose something that would cause your cheeks to blush so as to allow your reactions to direct your character’s emotions. It is important to set the stage through scene development. People the story with interesting characters who are not afraid to speak up.

Dialogue is as important as description.

Have fun with this one.

Good Friends

            Some people are lucky to have met and kept a good friend throughout their lives. They grew up together, shared countless experiences and even when distance separated them, they maintained their relationship. Having a good friend is truly special.

            Other people are not so lucky. Perhaps it’s because they moved around so much as children, or that their families discouraged making friends outside of the family, but these individuals grow up not knowing the kind of bond that can last forever.

            There are also independent individuals who prefer living in isolation. They like being on their own, not owing allegiance or time to anyone else. They work best on solitary projects, going on vacations to isolated places and avoiding crowds of any kind.

            Your task is to write a story in which friendship plays a major role. Your character can be the kind who gathers friends like collecting rocks, the kind who has difficulty making friends, or the one who enjoys his own company. Maybe, if you are feeling adventurous, you could have all three types of characters in your story.

            At the beginning readers will need to know what type of character the protagonist is. Show his personality through dialogue and interactions with others. Action and scene are also critical. All can be sweet and smooth or there can be a little conflict when differing personalities interact.

            Have fun with this one.

The Conscientious Person

 A conscientious individual is organized, industrious and reliable. When given a task, this person will work hard at it, giving her best effort, until it is completed. She can stay focused whether studying for a class, cleaning the house or helping to plan for a major event.

This is the type of person that does well on projects working with others. Looking ahead to the successful completion is reward enough. This includes neatness at home and setting personal goals such as maintaining a healthy diet and an exercise routine.

While such a character might make for a boring story, imagine what happens when her work practices are disrupted by a disorganized, uncaring, unreliable team member. Conflict will surely arise.

Your task is to write the story. Setting, narrative and dialogue are all necessary in order to establish the protagonist’s normal world. Tension builds when something or someone throws that world off kilter.

Have fun with this one.

Extroversion

            Everyone knows a silent loner. Picture the individual who eats alone, never speaks up in a classroom or meeting, and walks the halls or sidewalks seemingly lost in their own thoughts. People who fall into this category are considered introverts. Creative folks often fall into this category. By working alone, they feel as if they accomplish more.

            On the other end of the scale are the extroverts. These are the sociable party people. They can be loud and aggressive, often preferring to be center stage even at the cost of hurting others. They seek thrills so as to gain more attention, often at the sake of their own safety and well being. They can be lively conversationalists and enjoy team sports and outdoor activities.

            Having both types of characters in a story might set up interesting points of contention. Imagine the introvert wanting silence while the extrovert flits about the office striking up loud conversations.

            Your task is to write a story in which these opposites are in the same setting, perhaps assigned to the same team or task. Imagine the conflicts that can arise. The extrovert might believe that her ideas are the only good ones while the introvert might be groaning inside.

            Setting is important, but dialogue is critical. Readers are going to want to see and feel what the characters are experiencing. Sensory details of sight and hearing will add important touches to the story.

            Have fun with this one.

Assigning Blame

            Let’s assume that something negative has occurred. Perhaps a favorite vase was shattered or the front end of the car is damaged. You are responsible, but fear reprisal. What do you do? Assign blame to someone, everyone, even if that person was nowhere near when the event took place.

            Why do some pass off the responsibility while others do not? One factor might be familial upbringing. Imagine growing up in a home in which accepting blame leads to severe punishment. The individual learns to never, ever admit to having committed an offense. It’s about self-protection.

            The problem is that healing can’t take place as long as fear gets in the way.

            Your task is to write a story in which something happens and fingers start pointing, looking for someone to blame. Begin by creating a list of factors that could come into play. Think actions, reactions. Choose the one that you are most comfortable writing about.

            The action determines the offender. A young child most likely didn’t drive the car into the garage door. He could, which might make for an interesting story, but how likely is that to have happened?

            An adult might steal the girl’s doll, but why? Is the doll an artifact? Is it worth something and so can be sold?

            Match the age to the situation.

            Take into consideration responses of the supervising adult. Does he threaten violence such as whipping with a belt? Does the child kick and scratch? Is the offender pushed into the lake? There are endless possibilities.

            Use dialogue and action.

            Have fun with this one.

Aging Parents

All of us have parents that sooner or later will need extended care. It might be in the end stages of their lives or it might be while they are still able to live fairly independently. We don’t like to think about those days. We prefer to hold the image of the way they were when we were young: robust, strongly independent, able-bodied and sound of mind.

When the time comes to change their living situation, we are often dismayed, confused and stymied. Even if the relationship is good, we might recoil at the thought of our parents mobbing in with us. Having them around full time, offering criticisms and sometimes rude comments, suffering through their idiosyncrasies, can be more than we want to tackle. There’s a difference between dropping in for a visit, which soon grows burdensome, to living in our house and taking control over what we eat, what we watch on television, where we go and how often we have free time.

Your task is to imagine a situation in which this plays out in a story. Perhaps your protagonist is the daughter of a cranky father. Maybe your protagonist is the cranky father. Something has to be done because dad can no longer live in his house. What options will be considered? How will the daughter react when dad negates them all? What will dad do when he’s presented the various possibilities?

Tension and disagreements will arise. The best way to show this is through dialogue. Readers want to know what has caused the necessity of changing living arrangements. Take readers along when dad visits retirement communities to care homes. Show the emotions as displayed. Give a resolution that might be mutually agreeable, or maybe, if you want to end on a tenuous note, a situation that leaves no one happy.

Have fun with this one.

Good Intentions Gone Awry

            Imagine doing something nice for someone just to have it backfire. Instead of the happy smile you expected and the gushing thanks, you see only furrowed brows and quizzical looks. You ask yourself what went wrong. Perhaps you figure it out, perhaps you don’t.

            Does failure prevent you from trying to please someone else at a future date? Or do you try to come up with something different you could do, something more suited to the individual in mind?

            Good intentions don’t always work the way we intended. It could be that the person thinks you’re trying to get a favor in return, or maybe your act unintentionally insulted them. Perhaps the gift was a duplicate of something they’d had for a long time and you just never noticed it sitting in the house. Maybe the item is in a garish color that you love, but doesn’t fit in their color scheme.

            Whatever the reason, we have to accept the fact that not all our good intentions are welcomed.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist attempts to do something nice for a friend, a coworker, a boss or a neighbor. Begin by making a list of things she could do. For example, she could make cupcakes or offer to mow the lawn. Next think of the antagonist and how she might react that shows displeasure.

            Description is needed at the beginning to establish scene, motivation and to describe the offering. Dialogue is required to show the interactions.

            Have fun with this one.

Recovery Outcomes

            Recall a time when you fell seriously ill or had sustained an injury that impacted your ability to get around. For a while your activities were restricted. Perhaps you had some type of physical therapy. You did everything that was asked of you, but when your period of recuperation was over, healing had not turned out the way you expected.

            Maybe you had fallen in love with your childhood sweetheart. You dated for several years. At one point you are pretty sure you’re going to get married. Work obligations cause a forced separation. Next thing you know is that you’re no longer a couple.

            In both situations time and distance is needed to come to a full recovery. You may always walk with a bit of a limp, but you can still run and swim and hike. Your heart may be broken and you might fear that you’ll never get over the loss, but as time passes, your heart heals.

            Your task is to embed your character in a situation that leads to some type of trauma, some type of injury to the heart or body. She will need time to recover. What you need to decide is if the recovery is total or if effects linger. What steps does she go through in the process? Does she experience guilt, anger or self-blame? Does she withdraw from family and friends or get out and socialize as if nothing happened?

            This story needs dialogue that allows readers to see and feel what your character is experiencing. Make sure to include enough sensory details that the picture comes clear. Before you begin, decide the setting: where and when the story will take place.

            Have fun with this one.