Deep In Debt

            A new car every year, shopping sprees where thousands of dollars are spent, investing in questionable start-ups, and trips abroad every few months rack up so much debt that it’s nearly impossible to repay. Add to that gambling at the race track, membership at an exclusive country club and the yacht that he just had to have.

            Maybe it’s not a lavish lifestyle, but rather medical bills for cosmetic recontractions, cancer treatments or surgeries for the kids, placing tubes in the ears.

            Whatever the reason, your character is deep in debt. How she handles the situation says a lot about her character.

            Does she negotiate with each lender, agreeing to whittle down the amount owed? Perhaps she offers favors in payment, declares bankruptcy or marries a wealthy person who can pay off her debt.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist finds himself in substantial debt. The amount has to be so large that he has no way to settle the bill. Of course, that amount depends upon the individual’s situation.

            A person having little might owe a thousand, and be unable to pay. A person owning a lot might owe millions.

            Both situations make for interesting stories.

            Have fun with this one.

Tough Decision

Every now and then try writing a story in which your protagonist is faced with an extremely difficult decision. Think life-altering.

For example, what if one of his children was accused of murder? And he knew that the child was innocent? Would the father confess to the crime to save the kid?

Perhaps a good friend needs a kidney transplant and your character is a good match. However, your character has some complications that makes the surgery a bit risky.

Your task is to write a story in which a tough decision has to be made. Choose something that has serious outcomes, perhaps even life-threatening. What’s important is to make the stakes so high that he has to weigh the options.

Dialogue is important so that readers see discussions being made, questions being asked and answered and the social dynamics involved.

The story can be realistic based on research you’ve done, or fantasy, in another place and time.

Make the tension clear, palpable.

Have fun with this one.

Imaginary Friends

            I loved stories where the little kid had an imaginary friend. I tried summoning one when I was about eight, but nothing happened. I didn’t play with dolls or stuffed animals, so I couldn’t imbue any of them with human-like qualities.

            It was too bad, because having someone at my side, comforting me when I was feeling sad, might have made those years a tad better.

            In fantasy stories there are often magical beings which take on the characteristics of imaginary friends. Usually only the one person can see the friend, which creates a series of problems.

            Your task is to write a story in which the protagonist has an imaginary friend. Your story can be realistic or fantastical. Your protagonist can be a child, a teen or an adult. The imaginary friend can look like a human, a dragon or a sprite. It should have talents, such as talking, singing, working magic.

            Have fun with this one.

Without a Trace

Mystery stories often revolve around a disappearance. A woman, last seen getting into her car in a parking garage is never seen again. The family dog, an AKC Champion, is stolen from a fenced backyard. The lawyer representing a case against a government official doesn’t appear in court.

The rest of the story revolves around the search. Who is leading the search, whether police, detective or ordinary citizens. Where they look, what cluse they find, the roadblocks they hit and who all they suspect.

There are highs and lows. A clue is found that leads to a near miss, followed by periods of time in which wheels are spun. Suspects are cleared and more are added to the list. False leads given by the public. Misinformation published in the news that only confounds the search.

Your task is to write a story in which someone or something goes missing. You can make it a police procedural or a cozy mystery. Your protagonist can be a no-nonsense detective or an average citizen who refuses to stop investigating.

Include narrative and dialogue. Setting is important, remembering to describe each new location. Sensory details add to the mystery, so don’t forget to toss them in.

Have fun with this one.

Object as Muse

            Try to recall a gift someone gave you that you hadn’t asked for and didn’t want. The giver came to your house fairly frequently, so if the item was meant for display, you had to keep it. Perhaps you tucked it away in the china cabinet and pulled it out only when they were coming. Imagine what would have happened if they dropped in unexpectedly!

            Maybe it was an inheritance from a treasured relative. It had no monetary value, but whenever you touched it or looked at it, it brought you back to that time and place.

            What if you really liked it and so wore it every day. And then you lost it.

            There are so many stories to be told about objects that enter our lives.

            Your task is to write that story, one in which your character comes into possession of an item that she is meant to keep forever. To add interest, it might be something quite ugly or something that doesn’t fit in the décor of the house. Or maybe it’s a hideous piece of jewelry that has no value.

            Or, it could be something that another relative expected to inherit and is outraged that it went to your character.

            Have fun with this one.

Press Release

            Something interesting happened just as your character walked in the door. Perhaps a move star tripped over a wrinkled edge of a rug. Maybe a politician kissed a woman, not his wife, in an extremely romantic way. It could be a car accident outside the doors that nearly killed a popular older woman or the elevator that got stuck between floors trapping inside a small boy who’d accidentally strolled inside.

            Because your character is a budding journalist, she seizes the opportunity to write up a press release and deliver it to the local paper’s office. On top of that, she’d had her phone out and managed a few good shots, plus a short video, which she takes to the small TV station in the next town.

            Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist is the one who caught the story. Write up the press release and have her try to get it published somewhere, anywhere.

            As writers, we understand rejection. Perhaps your character doesn’t because everything she wrote for her high school paper got printed.

            You might include her interviews of witnesses, showing the give-and-take as she struggles to get valuable information.

            Have fun with this one.

Hidden Phobia

            Everyone is afraid of something, right? It might be a fear of heights so crippling that you cannot climb even the first step of a ladder. Perhaps whenever you see a dog you cower. Maybe it’s a nighttime terror that stalks you in your dreams.

            How many people know of your phobia? If not many, then you’ve done a great job keeping it hidden. But what if you’re suddenly in a situation with others and whatever your terror is, suddenly is in your face? What do you do or say?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character has a phobia that he’s kept hidden for years. None of his friends from high school know, nor does anyone from work. Something happens that causes him to either have to overcome that phobia or confess its existence.

            Setting the scene will be critical. Stay away from backstory that reveals the cause for the phobia. Instead let it slowly come forward through dialogue and narrative. Readers will want to see your character squirm as he weighs his options.

            Build tension through the use of heightened senses. Allow us to see what he sees, feel what he feels, smell what he smells and so on.

Have fun with this one.

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.

Elevator Music

            How many times have you been subjected to the type of canned music commonly called “elevator music”? Far too many to count. It used to be that canned music was everywhere: at the dentist’s office, in the supermarket and at the beauty salon. You’d hear it in department stores and offices. On telephones as you wait for calls.

            All of this becomes too much after a while. You grit your teeth, clench your fists and want to scream at it to stop. But you don’t because it would accomplish nothing. But what if it could?

            Your task is to write a story in which your character launches a drive to end all elevator music. How does she get the word out? Where does her group meet and what actions do they plan? How often does she protest and how does she react when the crowd is either too small or much bigger than she expected?

            How much of a driving force is she? Is she the center of the movement or has she shared her ideas with someone else who takes over?

            Your readers will want to be a part of what’s happening, so make sure to establish setting, tension, driving force and strong character.

            Have fun with this one.

The Inventor

Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin are well-known inventors. Considering the available resources of their times, they took the world to new places. Henry Ford did likewise. Not only is he credited for the first car, he also came up with the idea for assembly-line work.

Smaller inventions have impact as well. Think of the shoelace, the whisk, the cast iron pot. Roller skates led to roller blades. Did snowboards precede skateboards? Imagine how the chair lift changed skiing and the outboard motor impacted fishing.

Your task is to write a story in which your protagonist is either struggling to invent something, or has done so and is trying to convince the market that her product is worthwhile.

Make it interesting by showing the issues that are impacting the character. Let readers see the setting, but also hear words shared.

Tension will pop-up as your character interacts with the device and with others.

Have fun with this one.