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.

Skipping Ahead

You’re on about page twenty in a story that you imagine becoming a full-length novel. You’ve introduced the protagonist and placed her in a sticky situation.

You feel as if the beginning is solid, but a scene comes to mind that you see happening much further ahead. It’s a compelling story, with lots of tension and drama.

You’ve framed it in your notes, but you want to write it now, not wait until you’ve written another one hundred pages.

What do you do?

Write it! Include all the details that have been haunting your thoughts.

Is there a reunion between former friends who parted ways when they went off to college? What do they say or do?

Maybe there’s an accident and the other driver is a former boyfriend who broke her heart when he declared that he loved another. Is he single? Divorced? Just recently out of a serious relationship? Are there sparks between him and the protagonist?

Or perhaps your character is the victim of a crime. He’s lying bloody and beaten on the sidewalk after a group of men stole his wallet.

Your task is to write that scene including as much detail as possible. Include realist dialogue and actions. Develop the scene as fully as possible.

When you are finished, reread it to see if there is drama, tension, intriguing pacing.

Have fun with this one.

Food Favorites

We eat. So do our characters. We have favorite foods, go-to foods, emotional eating foods and so on. So do our characters.

At some point in any story, our characters must consume a meal. Sometimes it’s fast food, sometimes fine dining, sometimes in a chain restaurant, sometimes in a family-owned establishment. No matter the place, they have to eat.

Your task is to write a scene in which your character eats something. To do this, first construct a list of preferred foods and places where these items can be purchased. Make sure to include a variety of establishments so that your character has options.

Once you have your list, narrow it down to two choices. Any more than that and the scene becomes unwieldy.

Put your character in motion. At some point he has to stop to eat. He can dine alone or with others. It can be a hot date or an office gathering. She might go out with friends or eat with family.

When you write, remember to have your character think about the food. This includes taste, smell, texture and feel. If she eats something slimy, write about it. If it’s crunchy, describe it. If it has a strong odor, include that detail.

Also consider your character’s reaction to the food. What if he tries something for the first time and it nauseates him? Write about it. What if the meat is tough as leather? What does she do with it?

Have fun with this one.