Most Important Person

Hopefully each of us has been touched by someone who truly cared and to whom we gave our love. This person might have been a relative, unless you grew up in a dysfunctional family, and then that special one might have been a teacher, boss or neighbor.

Think of the gifts this person gave you. They might be physical, such as a new bike or a longed-for book, but they might also have been emotional, such as love, kindness, unconditional caring.

Your character has also been touched by a special person. Who is that individual? What has she done for your character? In what ways is the life of your character enriched?

Has that most important person passed away or is he still alive? If alive, have the roles now been reversed? Your character now gives to the special person? In what ways?

Your task is to write a scene in which their lives intersect. Remember that we need to feel the depth of the relationship, the love between them (assume that this is not physical love, but rather supportive).

Reread, looking for key words that allow us to see the feelings on display.

Have fun with this one.

Children in the Home

Some people don’t want to have children, but others do. Some only want one child, while others want a whole passel.

Children add complexity to a relationship. They have needs that have to be met, they have interests that need to be enriched, they like and dislike many things. They can be whiny, difficult beings. They can also be charming and pleasant to be with.

Your task is to write a scene in which the protagonist has at least one child. Remember that a good story has tension, so make something happen that causes conflict within the family unit.

Dialogue is important in this task. It would be difficult to show conflict between parent and child without conversation. Also remember that the child’s voice and choice of words need to be appropriate for the age. No adult voice for the child.

Reread. Where necessary, add details. Make changes whenever the child doesn’t speak or behave like a child.

Have fun with this one.

Preparing for a Critique Group Experience

You’ve just joined a writing group, workshop or conference in which your work will be critiqued. You will also be asked to read the writing of the other participants and to be prepared to discuss each piece.

To be an active participant, you must do your homework. This means reading each submission with an eye for what works and what doesn’t, but not with a red pen in hand correcting every typo or grammatical error.

What happens if you can’t think of anything good to say? Look harder. It’s your job to recognize each gem with your written comments. It’s easier to talk about what you didn’t like, but if you don’t offer positive feedback, the writer may not hear your ideas for improvement.

Your job is to understand the writer’s goals and to help the writer achieve them. To do this, you must read each piece several times, taking notes each time. When you run across a beautiful description or nice turn of phrase, write. When dialogue works, write. When the setting makes sense, write. When the characterizations work, write. When you are drawn into the story, write. Point out the best parts of the piece and the strengths of the writing.

Be respectful. Make comments that are specific, but.do not be discouraging or so negative that the writer’s eyes fill with tears.

Your task is to take a piece of writing and critique it. Find something online, not your own work. Practice these skills.

Have fun with this one.

Dealing with Death

We don’t like to kill off our main characters. It is a way to bring a book to an end, but not a very satisfying one. Instead we kill off secondary characters that impact the protagonist’s life.

How to incorporate death? Shakespeare was a terrific example of how to write death scenes. Think of Romeo and Juliet. From the very beginning, all kinds of people die. The Montagues and Capulets turn the town into a war zone with sometimes daily street fights. Initially those who succumb are minor characters, but with the death of Mercutio and Tybalt, things change.

The death scenes are dramatic. Mercutio stumbles down steps while he curses both houses and declares that tomorrow the worms will be eating his body. Tybalt dies to conclude a sword fight that, according to perceived skill, he was sure to win.

Then Juliet drinks a potion that makes her look dead. She’s sealed in the family tomb, which then Romeo enters. Seeing her dead, he drinks a poison after holding her hand, commenting on her facial color. He dies. She wakes. She hopes for a drop of poison. Finds none, so stabs herself.

Lots of death in a 2 ½ hour play!

Your task is to write several scenes in which at least one main character dies. First figure out the method. Next craft how quickly the death occurs. Also consider the reactions of others in your story. What impact does death have on them?

Write the story, keeping in mind that emotional states play a huge roll in this segment. Is the death scene serious or comic? Both are plausible based upon the tenure of the story.

Have fun with this one.

Groups/Clubs

What groups are you part of? Do you belong to a book club? Writer’s group? Professional organization? Sports team? Church choir?

Membership in groups expands our friendship circle to include diverse people with common interests. Everyone belongs to some type of group, even if it is an informal one, such as drinking buddies or camping partners.

Your task is to write a story in which your character participates in some type of group activity. Choose something that makes sense based upon your character’s personality. You might begin by listing five groups or clubs as possibilities. Narrow it down to the one that you feel most comfortable writing about.

Write the story that tells of that membership. Remember that a good story must have tension, so all cannot go smoothly. Conflict is critical. Dialogue is an excellent way to show the conflict.

Reread. Add details where needed.

Have fun with this one.

From your Character’s Point of View

Imagine a character that you would like to write about. Before you include him in the story, take time to write a character study from his point of view.

You must use first person. You can begin anywhere and you do not have to proceed sequentially. Consider it more of a stream of conscious rambling.

Somewhere in the text tell something about his appearance, but do not give a list of features. Mention one or two, just a little something to help us see him as he sees himself.

Put us inside his mind. We want to know what he thinks about things. Consider politics, employment, housing, future goals, but don’t try to cover everything. Only hit the most salient points, those that help you develop him so that including him in a story becomes easier.

Your task is to write at least a page of text. When you reread, ask yourself how much you revealed about him and whether or not there are more things that should be included as well as what should be deleted.

Have fun with this one.

Promises Made, Promises Broken

When someone says they going to do something, we expect them to follow through without endless nagging. This belief is formed during our childhood years. When a parent or guardian says, “I’ll be there in a minute,” we watch to make sure they appear. When they do not, our expectations change. We become jaded toward promises.

Depending upon how many times we have been disappointed by broken promises affects our outlook in life. Too much heartbreak feels like rejection.

Your task is to write a scene in which someone is promised a preferred outcome which never happens. You must include psychological and emotional details in order for the story to be compelling.

Reread. Does disappointment come through? If not, edit.

Have fun with this one.