A Sweet Story

Around Valentine’s Day advertisements appear in which a beau gives a potential lover a red heart-shaped box of rich chocolates. Candy releases pleasure chemicals into the brain, so it symbolizes the sweet feelings in a relationship. The giver intends to make an impression and imply that their love is durable, lasting a good long time.

Who doesn’t like a bit of sweetness now and then? And if it comes from someone that you care about, it gives a warm, pleasant feeling.

Your task is to write a story in which candy plays an important part. It could begin with the making of chocolate by a chocolatier or the buying of the candy at a store that specializes in expensive chocolates.

Your protagonist can be the maker, the giver or the recipient, whichever you feel the most comfortable writing.

Readers will want some form of tension. It could come in the creation of something new, some recipe that doesn’t work out right at the beginning. Perhaps the giver agonizes over the perfect choice of candy, be it the hearts with imprinted sayings, peanut-butter stuffed chocolates or expensive truffles in a gold-foil wrapped box.

And then there’s the recipient who might now expect or appreciate the gift or the giver!

Narrative description is important, but so is dialogue. The dialogue could contain some humor as well as angst.

Have fun with this one.

The Interview

            When needing to fill a job opening, employers interview prospective candidates. They ask about relevant experiences and training, interests and hopes in terms of longevity at the place of business, strengths and weaknesses, in order to gauge how well the individual will fit.

            Imagine that, instead of being interviewed for a job, that your character is being asked personal questions, such favorite food, preferred social activities, types of books read and movies watched and where he likes to spend free time. Such questions delineate personality, and if used to form the character’s perspective, allow readers a deeper understanding as to how a character might react in a given situation.

            The answers might never show up in story, but they could. Perhaps a new play opens, one that she has been looking forward to seeing. She might ask a friend or two to go with her. She might stand in line for tickets. She might get dressed up for a dinner date before the show.

            Your task is to interview your character asking the types of questions that reveal deeper thoughts and interests. Record both questions and responses.

            Write a scene in which the character is presented with an opportunity to participate in a preferred activity. Who does he invite to share it with? How does he invite the person? What happens before, during and after?

            Use a combination of narrative and dialogue. Include some friction so that the story has tension.

            Have fun with this one.

Hike in the Woods

            You’ve made plans to join friends for a hike in the woods. You’ve never been there before, but one of your friends claims to have been there several times before and so knows the trials. What could go wrong?

            Think of all the possibilities, from mundane to terrifying, that could happen. Stalked by a wolf? Injured by a hunter who mistook you for a deer? Lost when you went down an unfamiliar path? Slipped on a treacherous hill and careened over the edge? The list is endless.

            Your task is to write a story in which your hike goes wrong. Begin by looking at photos of forests to get an idea of how tall the trees are, how deep the forest, how narrow the path. Become familiar with the types of trees, edible plants, poisonous fauna. Research building shelters, finding shelter in caves, overhangs and amongst briars.

            Create your hiking group. Include a variety of personalities: the overconfident, the narcissist, the timid, the follower. How they interact will impact the flow of the story arc.

            Set the story in motion. Remember to build up tension as your characters walk along.

            Have fun with this one.

Unexpected Results

            Imagine going in for blood work like you always do. You’re fairly cavalier because this is something you do on a regular basis. Later that day you get a call from your doctor, explaining that the tests have revealed a change in your health.

            Perhaps you have been working at the same job, for the same pay, for several years.  You have no hope for promotion because it’s a small family-run company and no one is retiring anytime soon. You head into work because it’s the only job around. Your boss calls you into her office.

            You’re a student taking college classes in order to gain knowledge and skills for a particular job. You’ve been preparing for midterms, studying hard every night. When you enter the classroom, you feel confidant that you’ll ace the test. When the professor returns the tests, you get a surprise.

            There are many instances in which we expect a certain outcome and then are shocked when it doesn’t happen. Think of the stories those become!

            Your task is to write a story in which the protagonist desires and expects a certain outcome, but then doesn’t get it. Be sure to include description and dialogue so that emotions come through.

            Have fun with this one.

Fruitless Search

            Have you ever spent a great amount of time looking for something only to find that it wasn’t there? What emotions did you experience? Anxiety, frustration or perhaps even relief if what you searched for wasn’t something you really wanted to find.

            Every writer knows that their protagonist has to want something from the onset of the story. The goal is to find it, buy it, unveil it, at all costs. During the search, the character goes through a series of trials, some benign, others quite dangerous. The vast majority of stories end with success. Whatever it was that the character wanted at the beginning has been secured.

            But what would happen, how would the story change, if instead of achieving his goal, the character fails? If he was optimistic as he set off on his search, what is he feeling at the end? If he was pessimistic at the onset, not really wanting it but setting off on the quest anyway, is he relieved when it eludes him?

            Your task is to write the story of the dead end. Your protagonist wants something so badly that she immerses herself in the search. Trials appear that slow her down. At the end, she cannot find that which she desired.

            Description is important, but to be able to understand what your character wants, include dialogue. He has a companion on his journey, or she meets up with friends and shares her exploits.

            Have fun with this one.

Delivering the Eulogy

Delivering the Eulogy

            When we lose someone we love, whether it be human or animal, our grief can be quite profound. We go through a series of emotions, from shock to grief to acceptance. Unfortunately we are still deep in the first two when we are asked to eulogize the individual.

            What memories do you share? Do you speak about the time Spot stole the neighbor’s underwear from her clothesline or do you bemoan all the walks you didn’t have the time to take?

            Should you begin with a funny incident from a person’s life to cheer things up a bit or stick to the most solemn moments that you recall?

            Imagine that your character has lost someone that he loves. Perhaps he’s not comfortable with public speaking, but because he knew the individual well, he is the most qualified to deliver the eulogy.

            Begin by deciding who died. If it’s a person, what is the relationship between the two? How close were they? What things did they do together?

            If it’s an animal, when did the critter come into the character’s life? In what way did the animal impact the character? What kinds of things did they do together?

            Your task is to write the story of death and eulogy. Include both description and dialogue. Make sure your readers feel the emotions of the character. And that you’ve set the scene with relevant sensory details.

            Have fun with this one.

In the Listings

            The next time a flyer for an open house arrives in your mail, save it. Look at it carefully, studying the layout, the furniture, the decorations. If it’s within driving distance, go take a look. Check out the neighborhood. How far apart are the lots? How close are the nearest schools? What types of businesses are nearby?

            Attend the open house so that you can walk through the rooms and step into the backyard. If photos are displayed, check them out. Who lives here? A family? A group of friends?

            What stories would they tell if you could interview them?

            Using your imagination, write an interesting story that takes place in this house. Is it a murder mystery? An invasion of pests? A romantic-comedy? Ghosts floating about?

            There needs to be tension for the story to be interesting. Begin by mapping out your characters. What do they want? How hard are they willing to work to get it?

Include both description and dialogue. Maintain a good pace so that the story does not get bogged down.

Have fun with this one.

Self-Reflection

            Sometimes it’s good to look back over the things we’ve said and done. It gives us a new perspective as to whether we should have approached a given situation differently or if what we did still feels okay.

            If we would change things, how would we do it? Would we walk up to the person and apologize? Send an email? Text? The method we choose might affect the outcome in ways that we hadn’t foreseen.

            Your task is to write a scene in which your character realizes that she didn’t behave the way she should have. She then contacts the injured party to try to make amends.

            This should be a tension-filled situation. Your character has no idea how the other person will react. She’s going to be nervous and possibly rehearse what she’s going to say. She might practice with a trusted friend before the meeting.

            The other person could accept the apology with grace or could strike out with hurtful words. Both scenarios work because sometimes we need a feel-good ending.

            This situation calls for dialogue and body-language. Include sensory details so that readers know exactly where the meeting takes place.

            Have fun with this one.

Helping Hand

            Everyone needs a little help now and then. Perhaps while driving on the freeway your car gets a flat. Do you change it yourself or call for help?

            You see a senior citizen struggling with two heavy bags. He smiles and you offer to help. The man’s shoulders relax after you’ve relieved him of his burden.

            How we ask for help, how we react when help is given says a lot about us. Imagine the car driver barking into her phone, demanding a tow truck driver drop everything to come to her aid. What if the senior citizen yelled instead of being grateful? How would these reactions change the giver or receiver?

            Your task is to write a story in which a helping hand is needed or offered. Begin with a plausible situation, perhaps something you’ve experienced somewhere along the way.

Identify your protagonist’s personality, which is the key factor in determining how she behaves.

Establish the setting so that readers know where the event is taking place. Put your characters into motion. Use both description and dialogue to bring the story to life.

Have fun with this one.

The Lie

            Most of us knows someone who lies on a regular basis. He lies about big things and small, at work and at home. He lies to his friends, family and peers at work. He cannot help himself.

            Most of his lies seem minor, but when added together, he becomes an untrustworthy person. If he says he ate at Boudet’s, the most expensive restaurant in town, or that he dated Cheryl a few years back and he dumped her because she smelled. No one believes him, laughs it off, and walks away.

            But when he lies about a job that he didn’t finish, or blames someone for losing his work, those lies affect not just his peers, but his company.

            Your task is to write a story in which a lie impacts a number of people and possibly affects the outcome of a situation. Take into consideration what the liar will do to try to hide the lie so that the truth is never revealed.

            Dialogue is important for readers will want to hear the liar repeating his story over and over. Description is critical for readers need to see, hear and feel the reactions of the liar and those to whom he lies.

            Have fun with this one.