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.

Worries

            Life is not a bowl of bright red cherries or a box of sweet chocolates. Issues arise that cause us to worry, about self, family or friends. We might have financial problems that threaten our livelihoods, our ability to keep our house or car. Perhaps it’s illness, an unexplained bump or a general feeling of malaise.

            Our minds latch on to the issues before us, causing us to worry. Most of the time we can push those thoughts away as we go through our day, saving them for the dark of night. Sometimes, however, we can’t. Our concerns cloud our thinking, hamper our ability to function and interfere with our relationships.

            Your character might experience periods of profound worry. It might happen when searching for a job, when in a new relationship, when considering a transfer to a new location.

            Your task is to write a story in which worries play a key role in the emotions of the protagonist. Begin by making a list of things that might afflict your character. Narrow it down to the one issue that you can write most passionately about.

            Perhaps you might do a little research into how worries affect personality and behavior.  Working from what you discover, set up a scene in which the protagonist is faced with decisions for which there is no clear path.

            Readers will want to feel the emotions, walk with the character, experience the thought-processes as the character works through the worries. Narrative and dialogue are important.

            Have fun with this one.

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.

Playground Bully

Picture a school playground. Kids are running, shouting, jumping, climbing, swinging and playing basketball. Groups form then someone leaves and a new group is created. Most kids seem happy and well-adjusted. However if you look carefully, somewhere on that playground is a child being tormented.

Sometimes the tormentor is a classmate, sometimes it’s a neighbor, sometimes it’s an older child. The one given is that the bully is bigger, stronger and domineering to the point of terrifying the smaller child.

Playground bullies often grow up to be workplace bullies or domestic abusers. Their skills are well-developed by this time, so they know just the right words, just the right postures, just the right ways to belittle others into doing what they want.

Your character most likely ran into a bully sometime in his life. Imagine the story he would tell. He would speak of the terror that took over his body anytime the bully drew near. He’d tell about the ways he tried to hide, tried to brush off the comments, tried to elude by staying near a playground supervisor.

Your task is to write a story in which a bully plays a prominent role. Your protagonist can be the bully or the bullied. Dialogue and description are important for both will create the ambience needed to convey the intense feelings that the victim experiences.

Will there be a happy ending in which the victim overcomes the bullying? In which the bully is severely punished? Or will the ending be one of continued torture, not just from the playground bully but by adult bullies as well?

Have fun with this one.

Attitude Toward Medicine

            For many of us our attitude about going to the doctor’s is influenced by the things our parents said and did as we grew up. A parent who brushed off illnesses and injuries might have taught us to be wary of seeking medical advice. Perhaps we might have done the opposite, running to the doctor over every twitch or tingle.

            If our parents took us to the doctor over and over and over, we might grow up avoiding taking ourselves to a doctor’s office, even when needed. Perhaps we scan the aisles in stores where products are displayed, reading labels and self-diagnosing rather than getting antibiotics that were necessary, herby creating a new problem.

            Your character also has an attitude toward medicine. The person who runs to the doctor over every little ill might be a bit comical while the one who avoids doctors even when necessary could make for a fascinating tale when things go awry. Which would make the most interesting story for you to write?

            Character description is critical. Readers have to get to know your protagonist so that they can identify with how and why he will behave, what motivates the choices he makes, what forces operating inside him drive his decision-making.

            Narrative will help readers see those forces, but dialogue is also important in character development.

            Have fun with this one.   

Change in Routine

            Your character gets up every morning at six, showers, fixes a cup of coffee and a piece o toast, then drives to the metro station. She hops on the next train for a forty-minute ride. Before going into the office, she stops at the coffee shop in the lobby and buys a second cup of coffee, this one loaded with goodies.

            Once her computer is on, she checks for important emails that might require action. After that, she focuses on her job, ignoring conversation flowing around her until ten, her official break. Her day continues in a similar vein. Day after day, she follows the same routine.

            What would happen if her alarm didn’t go off or if there was no hot water? What if her coffee machine was broken or the train didn’t arrive? What if her coworkers gathered around her desk and sang Happy Birthday?

            How would she react to the changes?

            How we handle change says a lot about us. Some of us are quite rigid and want things to stay the same, both at work and at home. Some of us enjoy change as it adds mystic and variety.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character’s routine changes. You decide whether or not this is a good thing, whether it causes undo tension or not. Readers will want to see the “normal” world at the beginning, then witness the change and the emotional reactions that ensue.

            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.

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.