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.

The Invitation

            Who doesn’t like receiving an invitation in the mail? Picture yourself bringing in a stack of letters. One envelope stands out: it’s smaller than average and its purple color reveals that there’s a card inside. You open it, wondering if it’s a thank you for something you’ve done, or a friendship card from someone you haven’t seen for a while.

            Do you open it immediately or save it for later when you’re less busy? What emotions go through your head as you break the seal? You might be excited or you might be filled with dread, especially if it’s from someone you don’t really like.

            Your task is to write a story in which an invitation comes in the mail. Your character must show emotion. She could be surprised, anxious, or angry. She could be disappointed when the event conflicts with something already in her calendar. If she doesn’t want to go, she might struggle with how to let the host know.

            There are all kinds of possibilities that might occur.

            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.

Being Helpfu

Happy people are more likely to help others. It doesn’t take a researcher to verify that statement for we’ve all seen it in action.

Imagine walking down the street at the same time as a mother pushing a stroller while holding the hand of a young child. As she goes down the curb, the stroller tips, threatening to dislodge the toddler.

On one side of the street is a young man walking to the beat of music only he hears. On the other side is another young man stomping forward, bent over, lost in some negative event.

Which of these two will rush to help the woman?

Your task is to write a story in which someone needs help. You can make the need as large as you wish. For example, perhaps an older gentleman needs a new roof or maybe an item is too high for a young girl to reach. Your character reacts. Or perhaps she doesn’t.

Readers will need to meet your character before the event occurs in order to understand the motivations between action or inaction. Set the scene by including sensory details that establish the when, where and why. Make sure readers also meet the person in need of help. Establishing personalities is crucial. Once the story gets going, allow readers to see and feel what happens next.

Have fun with this one.

Zoom Meeting Issues

            Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us participate in many zoom meetings on a regular basis. We’ve all become aware of things that annoy or distract. Perhaps it’s important to establish basic ground rules at the onset and then periodically remind people of what they should and shouldn’t be doing. For example, it the group is large, the it might make sense for everyone to mute their microphones in order to keep background noise to a minimum.  Another issue is an improperly place camera, for example, a camera pitched so high that you only see a person’s forehead, or one so low that you only see the desktop.

            Another problem arises when participants are doing other things, such as jogging, working on another monitor or chopping onions. These movements distract others, pulling them out of the conversation. It also sends a message that the individual is not fully engaged, often considered disrespectful to the group.

            Not being prepared is also a major problem. For example, your book group is discussing the assigned novel, but you chose not to read it. Unless the topic is one that you know something about, it’s hard for you to participate. In that case, a few voices are heard while the others sit silently.

            Your task is to write a story in which a zoom meeting goes wrong. Perhaps someone is only wearing underwear which is revealed when he stands to get a cup of coffee. Or maybe a person’s dog insists on sitting on the owner’s lap, completely blocking the person’s face. There are myriads of things that could go wrong.

            Have fun with this one.

Reacting to Taboos

            Taboos are prohibitions against doing something that is either culturally repulsive or is too sacred for ordinary humans. For example, in many cultures eating dog meat is considered a taboo, but in others, it’s meat for consumption. Eating lunch behind the altar of a church would be a taboo, but holding a religious revival where food is served is not. What is labeled a taboo depends upon the times, the culture and the background of the community.

            What happens to people who break the taboos also varies. In one society a woman walking around with shoulders bared might result in severe punishment, while men can be bare-chested with none. Eating meat on Fridays was a long-lasting taboo in the Catholic Church, for which the offender was expected to confess. Having sexual relations outside of marriage might be accepted in the royal class, yet could be result in being ostracized in the lower classes.

            Your task is to create a scenario in which taboos exist for which there are punishments. Begin by listing at least three taboos that you feel you could include. Choose the one that will make the most interacting story. Consider how your character will behave in this society. She can be the one who observes the breaking of the taboo or is the one violating society’s rules.

            Setting is important for readers need to understand that place and the people in this world. Dialogue is crucial so readers can see what’s taking place and how your character explains her behavior and rational for breaking the taboo. Readers also need to see and feel what the punishments are like and how they affect your character.

            Have fun with this one.