Through a Child’s Eye’s

            Do you remember the first time you went to a zoo? Drove through a big city? Rode a boat or a train? Going to a movie with a parent or a friend?

            Children experience the world with wide open eyes. The first time they do something it’s as if a miracle occurred. And it’s not just their eyes that show excitement, but their entire bodies.

            Because everything is new, raw, unexpected, children have no basis with which to compare whatever they are seeing. Their brains categorize experiences based upon that which they already know.

            For example, a child has already learned what a ball is, but imagine their awe when looking at a gigantic ball of rubber bands! It defies anything they know and so they examine it carefully, looking to see if it fits into those characteristics that, in their minds, define what makes something a ball.

            Your task is to write a story from a child’s point of view as she confronts a new experience. You must include the feelings of confusion, internal deliberation and awe.

            Have fun with this one.

Cleaning out the Junk

We all have junk stored somewhere in our homes. It might be on the shelves out in the garage or buried in a closet, but it’s there. We hang onto camping gear that we haven’t used in years, clothes that don’t fit and by the time they do, will be out of style. We shelve books that we read once and believe that we’ll read again next to those that are waiting to be read.

We collect, thanks to friends, cookbooks that have never left the shelf. We have spices that are out of date and cookware that is badly in need of replacement.

And storage containers! Think of all the ones we keep but never use!

If we’ve got junk, then our characters do as well. This is something for you to think about. What kind of junk does she have and where does she keep it? Why does she hang onto these things?

What does he intend to do with all the stuff he has hidden away? Is he going to have a garage sale or give it away?

Even if you never use this information in a story, know what your characters have saved and what they intend to do with it informs us as to motivations and intent.

Your task is to think of one of your characters. What kind of person is he? Athletic? Then perhaps there’s a ton of equipment in a closet. Artistic? Then maybe there are canvases or clay stashed away.

Make a list of the interests your character has had in the past and currently has now. Think of all the things she’s attempted to master over the years.

Then under each activity, list the materials that go with each activity.

When you are finished, choose one activity and one stash of equipment.

Write a scene in which she is faced with her stuff. What decisions does she make and why?

Have fun with this one.

A Lost Object

Think how many times you’ve lost something. Can you recall how you felt? Frustrated? Angry? Disappointed?

When you lose something, it tears you up inside. One time I’d purchased a nice watch as a gift for one of my sons. When it came time to wrap it up, I couldn’t find it. I searched through all of my normal places, but couldn’t locate it. In tears, I finally went outside and dug through the garbage! That’s where it was. It must have been carried out with the trash. Yes, I was relieved, but also incredibly disappointed in myself.

Call to mind one of your characters. Picture this individual. Think about how this person speaks, walks, behaves, treats others. Now imagine this person losing something. Will he behave in character or become a totally different person? Will she tear the house apart, looking high and low, or simply give up?

Your task is to make a list of objects important enough that your character will diligently search to find. Try to come up with at least five different ones. Then narrow the list to one, by choosing that which would drive her nuts if she can’t find it!

Write the story of the search. Remember to include feelings, for this is what is most crucial to the story. We need to understand how he is feeling, not just how he is acting.

This might be a challenge for you. It is easy to write about a character going through her day, but much harder to describe her feelings.

Have fun with this one!

A Special Object

Think back throughout your life until you discover an object that evokes a strong sensory experience. It could be your grandmother’s apple pie, climbing a backyard tree whose bark often scratched your skin, of hearing the sound of mourning doves and thinking of a baby crying.

For me, it would be my mother’s apple dumplings. She only made them once a year, which made them all the more special. She’d sit at the table to peel and core the apples. Often my siblings and I would hover, waiting until she began slicing, hoping that she’d give us at least one. Why was that slice so special? I never understood. I think it was the simple fact that my mother did it for me.

Make a list of at least three such images. Under each record the sensory memories invoked. Try to cover all the senses, even that of time.

Your task is to then write a story, either real or make-believe, that includes that trigger. Your character has to react in a logical way. If the trigger causes fear, then write it. Joy? Show us. Longing? Let us feel the desire building to a crescendo.

When you are finished, reread or allow someone else to read it. Allow yourself to fall into that moment of time. Do your words capture the feeling? If not, then make changes.

Have fun with this one.


Inspiration Sources

Objects hidden in drawers and closets or stuffed on garage shelves can be the inspiration for good stories.

Think about some of the things you have stuffed deep in the back of your closet. Old shoes worn on a hike to the top of Yosemite Falls? A sparkly dress from your high school prom? A pair of pants that you wore when you weighed 100 pounds more than you do now?

The stories these objects would tell are priceless.

Prom night might have been a disaster. Your date showed up late, and instead of wearing a tux, he borrowed a too-big suit from his older cousin. It hangs like a robe and in spots, is shiny from use. He wore his old tennis shoes, scuffed and dirt splotched.  No tie. Wrinkled pink-dyed shirt from when a pair of his sister’s panties went through the white wash.

At the dance, he drank heavily, spiking the punch with a flask he had tucked into his inside pocket. The more he drank, the more uninhibited his unskilled dancing became. He laughed and talked so loudly that everyone in the room heard every word he slurred out.

Or maybe you want to write about that hike. It was a gorgeous spring day with billowing clouds hovering overhead. At first the walk was a gentle climb, but as time passed, the path turned to gravel and the elevation increased. Then you hit a section a switchbacks so sharply pitched that, at each turn, you had to stop to gather breath and strength.

When you finally made it to the top, your view was blocked. A tree/cloud/crowd got in your way. Or maybe you were too afraid of heights to look out. Or maybe you collapsed from exhaustion.

Your task is to go on a search of your house or apartment. Look deep into the darkest corners. Push aside the t-shirts you no longer wear. Find one thing that carries you back into your past.

Hold it. Smell it. Cuddle it. Sit in a chair with it in your lap and feel the fabric. The stiches. The hem. The collar.

If shoes, turn them over and look at the soles. Imagine where they’ve been. The places they’ve carried you to. The troubles they’ve seen.

And then write. Tell the story. If you want, you can stick to the truth, but if you feel inspired, embellish. Add details and dialogue and action, enough to make the story interesting for others to read.

When you finish, reread. Look for areas where you can strengthen the story by subtracting, adding or replacing.

Have fun with this one!