An Animal Appears

            Who doesn’t like a cute cat sniffing out a burglar? Or a determined dog chewing a hole through a fence in order to follow the owner? Sometimes it’s an interesting twist to an ordinarily mundane story, especially if the pet owner just happens to be the villain.

            Imagine a T-rex marauding the country until it rescues a baby fawn! Picture the dinosaur bending down so that it’s short arms can cuddle the frightened baby. Most of us would see the fawn being a snack, so seeing it instead being cherished adds a bit of surprise.

            Your task is to write a story with an animal in it, either doing something unexpected or being owned by someone who has shown no tenderness. Unless your animal can talk, you have to find a way to show the animal’s feelings and reactions. That most likely has to happen through dialogue as other characters talk about what’s happening.

            Depending upon how you write it, the story could be very funny or quite serious, especially if the animal encounters a dangerous situation.

            Have fun with this one.

An Old Acquaintance

            Sometimes we leave behind people we’ve known for very good reasons. The person might have been abusive or a braggart. Perhaps a relationship that went nowhere. Maybe you moved so far away that continuing a friendship was challenging.

            Often when we switch jobs, we never see those coworkers again, either by choice or because it just doesn’t happen. The same is true when we marry. Singles often prefer to spend time only with other singles. Once children are born, then families prefer to spend time with other families.

            What happens when someone from your past suddenly reappears? Imagine the emotions you experience, ranging from surprise to dread. It also depends upon where you crossed paths. If it’s in the grocery store, you might exchange pleasantries and that’s it. If it’s at work, then you’ll have to interact with this individual as long as you both work at the same job.

            Your task is to write a story in which someone from the past appears. You need to decide whether it’s a joyous reunion or one fraught with tension. The type of meeting determines the emotional tone of the piece. Or, it could be a little of both: tension at first, bumps along the way, then acceptance and perhaps something more than friendship.

            Have fun with this one.

Contracting an Illness

            In the real world people fall ill. If they’re lucky, the symptoms are minor and the illness short-lived. Nevertheless, they might have to change plans. Going to work or to a party might be impossible, as is traveling or spending time with family. But after a period of isolation, everything returns to normal.

            Now consider what happens when the illness is severe. If it’s a form of cancer, the individual might have to go through invasive surgery and bouts of chemotherapy. If it’s pneumonia, they could end up in the hospital, especially if they are also asthmatic.

            Broken bones might require surgery to heal. Knees or hips might have to be replaced. There might be a hole in the diaphragm or polyps in the intestines. The list could be quite lengthy, each with its own period of pain and recuperation.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist either falls ill or has to tend to someone who is ill. Choose something that is high on the scale in terms of intensity, something that will cause suffering and interfere with life.

            Narrative and dialogue are both needed. The first to set the scene, the second to allow readers to see what emotions are going through your character’s mind.

            Have fun with this one.

Sudden Death

 A good thriller begins with a death, right? So who do you kill off and how do you make your dead character relevant to the story? One way is through short flashbacks.

 For example, a child sees something that reminds her of her dead or missing parent. The emotions she experiences are important parts of the story.

Perhaps a colleague becomes upset when a new hire is assigned the missing person’s desk. In the process of settling in, anything left behind is packed up and put away.

Your task is to write a story in which a character is either dead or missing. Your protagonist experiences flashbacks of times shared, places gone, things purchased that remind her of her parent/child/coworker.

Don’t make the flashbacks too long for fear of pulling readers out of the story. Short and quick is better.

Use a combination of narrative and dialogue. Begin with a strong setting that puts the protagonist in a situation that is poignant.

Have fun with this one.

The Invitation

            Remember how you felt when you were invited to an event that you really wanted to be a part of. You would have been excited, maybe told others, possibly began preparing to go. This might have involved a shopping trip for a new outfit and a gift for the host.

            What if instead of being something you longed to attend, you’re invited to someone’s house who you don’t really consider a friend? Or to a business meeting for which you have no interest? Your emotional reactions would be completely different.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist receives an invitation. You must first decide whether or not it’s a welcome invitation. One way to do this is to make a list of potential events. To create a dynamic story, choose the one that allows for the most tension, the most drama.

            Readers will want to see how the character reacts, how he tells others, and how things go at the event.

            Have fun with this one.

Food Inspiration

Many key things occur during the preparation or consumption of food.

In a wealthy household, there might be an entire staff working in the kitchen. Scullery maids did the dirty work of cleaning endless amounts of pots and pans. Cooks slaved over wood-burning stoves and ovens, chopped fruits, vegetables and meats, rolled pastries all while issuing commands to those under their watch.

Imagine the conversations that took place. Most likely there was a fair bit of gossip tossed about the family and townspeople alike.

In the dining room circumstances were quite different. Wealthy patrons were waited on by unformed servants. Course after course was served. Conversation might have covered contemporary issues, politics, entertainments and relationships.

Things are very different in the homes of the less wealthy, even today. Instead of maids, the wife does the cooking and cleaning. Kids help out, and in more egalitarian marriages, so do the husbands.

Regardless, topics of conversation might be quite similar.

Your task is to write a story in which the preparation and consumption of food plays an important role. Establish the setting and key characters, then get the action moving. Dialogue is going to be important, so make sure there is enough to allow readers to see what is going on.

Have fun with this one.

The Invitation

            A small card comes in the mail that you weren’t expecting. You hope it’s something good. Perhaps an invitation to a friend’s baby shower. Or to a bridal shower. She’s finally getting married!

You begin planning. What to wear, what to buy. Maybe even what dish to bring in case it’s a pot luck.

Finally, after dreaming about all the possibilities, you open the card. What goes through your head as you slide the card out of the envelope? As you look at the pretty picture on the front? As you slowly open the card and read the words?

Your task is to write a story in which your character experiences the range of emotions that accompanies the arrival of an invitation in the mail.

Set the stage with the setting, with the character, by employing both narrative and dialogue. Obviously this means there must be a secondary character, someone with whom discussion can take place.

Have fun with this one.

Lying

            It would be nice to never have to lie, but that’s a naïve idea. Telling the truth, can at times, create difficult situations that have serious repercussions.

            Imagine that a loved one emerges from her room wearing a new outfit. She asks how she looks in it. Your honest opinion is that the color, style or fit aren’t complimentary. However, if you tell her that, she might get angry, might fight back, might hide in her room. So you smile, say something noncommittal such as, “Looks nice.”

            What if instead of a loved one, it’s your boss asking your opinion about a project idea. You have experienced this exact situation before and so know that it you express doubt, all hell will break out. When you look at the details, you know immediately that it’s a lousy proposal that could cost the company a client, or waste money, or even lead to a potential lawsuit.

            Sometimes we have no choice but to lie even when we know that to do so, isn’t right.

            Your task is to write a story in which your character is forced to either lie or tell the truth. Make the stakes high enough that the character has something to lose.

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue. There must be tension! And conflict.

            Have fun with this one.

Being Invisible

            There are many ways in which individuals are unseen that have nothing to do with fantasy.

            Obese people have felt that invisibility for most of their lives. Clearly, they can be seen: who could miss a two-hundred-pound (or more) person strolling through a store? No one, but that doesn’t consider the shocked looks, the averted eyes, the glued eyes, the snickers, laughs and cruel jokes.

            Often when Caucasians see a person of color approaching, they give the same types of looks, the averted eyes, the terrified looks, the crossing to the other side of the street. While the person of color is as visible as the obese person, scared reactions tend to discredit those feelings.

            Your task is to write a story in which invisibility plays an important role. You can choose fantasy to tell your story or base it on the real world. What’s important is to catch the essence of what being invisible means and how it influences events.

            Have fun with this one.

The Chef

            Some are excellent cooks. They can make something grand out of ordinary things. On the other hand, many can’t cook worth a lick. There are also those in the middle: with the help of recipes, they can put palatable food on the table.

            Your protagonist might have secret talents that aren’t revealed in the story, but that influence his actions in some way. For example, he meets friends for lunch at a fancy restaurant. He’s the only one that understands the names and descriptions, surprising everyone. From there perhaps he invites them over for a gourmet dinner.

            Or maybe he’s so clueless about the menu that he selects a simple salad, trying to be safe.

            Your task is to write a story that involves food in some way. If your character is a marvelous cook, write a scene in which something happens that alters the taste or consistency of the meal. You can do the reverse with the lousy cook: she concocts an entrée that’s the hit of the pot luck.

            Description is important, but build tension through dialogue. There must be conflict of some kind, either internal or external, or even both.

            Have fun with this one.