Power Sources

            In the beginning, foot power made things work. Think about women sitting in front of some type of device designed to make something. There would have been a foot pedal to make it spin, twirl or weave. Water then became a source, being used to grind wheat, mash seeds to create oil, or to move logs from one place to another.

            Ponies were attached to a tether and walked around and around all day long, day after day, turning a wheel. Eventually coal was used to power huge electricity generating plants. As time passed wind and solar power were incorporated into the grid. Even nuclear power was harnessed.

            When you’re creating a setting, you must take into account where your world is on the spectrum of possibilities. If burning wood is the only source, only certain types of machinery are able to operate. If nuclear power is used, a wider range is available.

            Your task is to write a scene in which the source of power comes into play. Perhaps it’s just been employed and the characters are terrified, surprised or both. Maybe there’s a breakdown that has the potential to cause catastrophic events to occur. Dialogue and narrative are both critical.

            Have fun with this one.

Rebellion

            Imagine a scenario where the citizens are upset with the ruling power. They’ve been tortured, imprisoned, forced to work in unsafe conditions and have little to eat. There is no hope for improvement as long as the current leaders are in power.

            Attempts to negotiate have repeatedly failed. Rumor has it that an assassination is in the works, so armed military patrols the streets. It’s a dire situation.

            Many stories have been written using this scenario as a base for sowing discord. Given a chance to write the story, how would yours differ?

            Your task is to develop a scene in which rebellion is looming. Is it coming within the ranks of the aristocracy or from the peasants? Is it in a single city or throughout the empire? Who is leading the rebellion?  Disenfranchised royals? Defecting soldiers?

            What is the desired result and who would step up and be in charge assuming the rebellion is successful? What changes would be enacted, and would those be acceptable to all?

            How many would die and what weapons would be used? Does magic come into play?

            There are many things to consider to make this story stand out.

            Have fun with this one.

Contested Boundaries

All throughout the history of our world rulers have lead incursions into neighboring countries, seizing land, and changing boundaries in order to seize valuable natural resources or to gain access to water routes. Often the battles have been fierce with both sides losing hundreds of warriors.

To the victors went the spoils which included family treasures, verdant fields and the virginity of women. All was justified under the loose definition of what constitutes victory.

Close your eyes and imagine what that world must have been like: living in fear, burying valuables in the fields, constantly running and hiding. What story comes to mind?

Your task is to write a story in which one army invades a country.  First decide the setting, which includes place and time. Equip your army with weapons of war and then send them on their way. Will your army be victorious or not? Use narrative to describe the scene and the action, but include dialogue as well so readers can understand how your characters are thinking and feeling.

Gore is okay if that’s what you want to write, but a humiliating defeat is just as terrible without blood and guts.

Have fun with this one.

Choosing the Time Period

Every story exists within a particular time period. Historical novels are normally centered in the past, ranging from the earliest days of man to the near present. Think cave men and last year.

Futuristic stories might be on Mars after its been settled, on a spaceship as it zooms toward a distant planet, or on Earth after an apocalypse.

When a story occurs affects weather, clothing, buildings, communication systems, all kinds of infrastructure issues and many more. If you’re an expert on a particular era, perhaps you don’t have to research to get information, but most of us will have to spend a substantial amount of time gathering data.

Your task is to write a story that takes place in a time period other than now. Begin by listing three different ideas that intrigue you. Choose the one you will enjoy learning more about. Research until you come up with enough information to develop your world.

Include sensory details so that your readers will grasp when and where the events take place, but be careful not to employ an information dump to do so. Weave together story and details, dialogue and narrative.

Have fun with this one.

Code of Conduct

A code of conduct is a set of rules that outlines the norms of behavior, the responsibilities and proper practices of an individual within a society or organization. It sets what behaviors are considered acceptable and which are not. Many of these are written in the form of laws for which punishments are enacted if an individual chooses to break the code. However, many are unwritten, such as not spitting on the playground, cleaning up after yourself and not trampling the flowers in your neighbor’s garden.

Knights of yore had codes that defined behaviors that they couldn’t do, such as not slaughtering civilians, taking care of their steeds and those of their opponents when captured, and communicating effectively for the benefit of all. They also couldn’t make an opponent suffer needlessly and if someone, even a brethren, was fleeing, to kill them swiftly and mercilessly.

Your task is to list a series of codes of conduct for your society. Once you have a sufficient amount, you will write a story in which someone breaks the code. The offense could take place within a powerful modern-day company or in a fantasy world based loosely on the Middle Ages.

Once the code is broken, what happens next decides where the story goes. The offending person could be your protagonist who willingly made the choice because it conflicted with a personal belief system or it could be an entire army that refuses to follow a command that it deems offensive. Conflict arises which leads to tension. As it is resolved, your protagonist might have to make decisions affecting her ability to survive.

Have fun with this one.

Tell Me a Story

Storytelling requires imagination to create worlds and people that add interest, depth and tension. Gauging the audience is one way to determine which elements to emphasize. Young children love a bit of tension but want happy endings. Teens love violent and potentially deadly encounters and don’t mind if a minor character dies along the way.

Recall a time when you were asked to tell a story. What popped into your mind? A fairy princess and a dragon? A fierce warrior and an evil wizard? Did the story begin with a placid description of the scene and major characters? At what point did the quest begin and who was the hero on the quest?

Your task is to write a story that you might one day share with someone. Begin by defining the audience by age and preference for type of story. Then design the setting and establish the primary characters.

Next is the call to action, the point when someone, perhaps a queen, sends the hero out to conquer or retrieve something that endangers the kingdom or whose disappearance alters the fate of the world as it is. Along the way challenges arise. What are they? How does the hero overcome each? Is the hero hurt? If so, how does this impact her ability to continue the pursuit?

Is the hero successful? Not all heroes are, but when they fail, sometimes they are still honored and respected simply for the act of trying. What is the prize and does the hero earn it?

Have fun with this one.