Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z IS FOR ZOOLOGY!


Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use

Z is for Zoology. (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Romance. As a last minute choice, Rolene jotted her name on the sign-up sheet next to zoology. As she thought about writing on zoology as a possible career choice, her dislike for manure and the smell of wet fur loomed in her mind. What was she thinking? And Professor Litchinson would expect a top-notch research paper. Zoology. What a zany idea. Preposterous even.

Rolene spent the next night sitting in on a talk about molecular biology. Ugh. It took three aspirin to get through it. Wednesday night improved. She attended a lecture about animal behavior, and the presenter, a man who made her knees weak every time he opened his mouth, brought two little lion cubs for all to observe. After the lecture, Rolene jiggled the tongue of the zipper to her sweater, a habit when she felt nervous, and stepped closer to the gentleman. And the cubs. “They’re adorable,” she said, ordering her knees not to give out.

She barely made out the man’s words, because her eyes were fixed on his smile and her heart was pounding louder than her voice.

It wasn’t until she felt a cool breeze across her chest that she’d realized she’d jiggled her zipper so hard, it broke.

Okay romance writers. Give him a witty line to save her, and let’s watch these two fall in love.

Mystery. There’s a lot of room for mystery in a zoology department at any university. Consider the wrong person taking the molecular biology course, and as luck would have it, he’s Bria’s lab partner. He utters under his breath snarky remarks about the professor and even said, while looking straight in her eyes, “That traitorous jerk is the only reason I signed up for this course.” Another time he mentioned in what she had assumed to be jest that he’d like to bury that guy (the professor) and put him in a nameless tomb.

Bria had never given the comments thought, assuming her partner was just a negative person having a bad day, until another faculty member addressed the class and announced that the professor was dead. Poisoned, actually, perhaps with something concocted right in this lab. Everyone in the room was now a suspect, and especially those who understood chemistry. How she regretted acing the course.

You can take it from here, mystery writers.

Literary. Daphne appreciated studying in the natural field of zoology. It gave her another way of viewing motherhood. Some animals were so overly protective of their young it made her feel empty inside, because this was a bond she’d never experienced with her own mother. Still, sometimes she’d watch the behavior of the animals, and she thought she could almost feel what a strong love was, sort of like reading a book and living the life of the characters along with them. But then there were those other animals, the ones who seemed to act as though their duty was done as soon as they’d given birth. Watching them felt like watching a reel of her life, an unnecessary thing her mother had to deal with to appease the law and societal expectations. Perhaps her mother was too animalistic–and that’s why she apparently saw no problem in leaving her young behind to make it on her own.

            But studying the different animals, the nature of them, did put Daphne’s life in a new perspective. It gave her a different view of her mother, a less resentful view. But Daphne couldn’t deny that it also made her wonder what kind of mother she, herself, would be, if she ever agreed to become one.       

Now you have the background on this character, and to give her a place in a literary story, you might have her caring for a specific animal that gives birth, and use the parallel with her own life. Through this type of reflection, she may be enlightened in a way she never would have imagined.

Children’s. To work this big word –zoology–into a story for children, you might consider writing it in a sort of teacher and sidekick manner. Imagine that Uncle Vernon is a zoologist, and he’s bent on explaining the profession to Kyle. “Zoology is studying everything about animals. I study how Koala’s react to their young, where kangaroos sleep, and what giraffes eat. I learn all about animals.”

“Like dinosaurs and aliens?” Kyle asks, stepping his feet up the back of the sofa.

Next, you can have the uncle try to give more information, but maybe with a little more character, perhaps with some antics. Then the young boy (sidekick) will again ask, “But what about dinosaurs and aliens?” (Then use this idea as repetitive interruptions to the uncle’s speech.)

This isn’t really unrealistic. Have you ever tried to have an educational conversation with a child whose mind was set on a particular subject, rather than the one you wanted to discuss? They try to listen, really they do, but they always come back to their own questions. You can use that to your advantage. You can lighten a serious topic, or you can make a boring topic less boring.

I love children’s books, but I admit the textbook style ones don’t even grab me on the first line, let alone hold me. I’ve never tried to read one to a kid, because I wouldn’t know how to make it interesting. But I think it can be done if you add a sidekick to throw in a little humor after every three or four lines of boring education. It will even make the learning part fun.

Then again, if you can imagine an uncle as a zoologist, you can imagine that he’d always have amazing stories to tell and pictures to look at. What would happen if the pictures he had from his visit to South Africa were on his desk, because he treasured them and had been admiring them. Unfortunately, when he left the room, your little character accidentally spilled his grape soda all over the photos. How will he try to cover up or “fix” his blunder? Naturally, in his attempt to make it right, he’s going to make it even worse. After a few times, the pictures are barely recognizable. Now what will your character do?

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y IS FOR YODEL!


Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

Y is for Yodel (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Romance. Kirsten wanted to stay home, but Janessa wouldn’t take no for an answer and hauled her down to the karaoke bar, because the owners were doing something different tonight. A yodeling contest. Seriously? Fine, she’d go, but no way would she stand up there and yap like a hillbilly. But her plan didn’t go so well when Janessa enlisted a couple of patrons to help tote Kirsten to center stage.

Laughing more out of embarrassment than enjoyment, Kirsten couldn’t get out even one yodel. Then Janessa had the gall to ask the audience for volunteers to do a yodeling duet to help Kirsten out. Kirsten’s first instinct was to ring her best friend’s neck. She changed her mind when a man with Blake Shelton’s dimples and sexy green eyes hopped onto the stage and stood beside her. Add a little music, clapping, and toe tapping to this scene, and it won’t be long and Kirsten will be yodeling and dancing a do-si-do for the rest of her life.

Mystery. Karleah wasn’t really breaking and entering when she stepped into her brother’s apartment. He’d said she could borrow his lightweight dumbbells to start getting in shape before she invested her own money into any equipment. Jogging she understood, but it wasn’t doing much for the flapping wings of her upper arms.

She didn’t even switch on a light until she got to the spare bedroom that he called his mini gym. She turned on a small desk lamp, but she couldn’t find the dumbbells. She got down on her knees and peeked under the desk. There they were.

Just as she grabbed the weights, two voices carried from the front room, and neither one belonged to her brother. One sounded harsh, then the voices quieted, until one let out a chuckle that turned into a sort of yodel. A really odd but unmistakable laugh. She had the impression these guys were not her brother’s friends. Soon she heard clanging and thumping–they were fighting. Trembling, she waited until she heard nothing, then she crept to the living room. Yes, a big man lay with his head bleeding. Karleah stepped closer, picked up the bloody fireplace poker next to him, then dropped it, just as a voice from the doorway said, “Hands in the air.”

Investigating to clear herself, Karleah interviews friends and family of the deceased, as well as her brother who claims to have no idea what’s going on. She learns that the dead guy had a very gruff laugh. Good. Now all she has to do is find the one man in the world who had a yodeling sort of laugh.

Literary.

Dreams of the yodeling woman in the blue dress had first interrupted Mia’s sleep when she was six years old. Her parents had told her she’d probably seen someone on TV that impressed her, and her subconscious thought about the strange singing during her sleep. By the time she was ten and often yawning through school, she knew better than to ask her parents if they knew such a woman. They would not only insist it must have been someone on TV, but they’d get irritated with her for repeatedly bringing up the subject. They weren’t even open to discussion about it, which made Mia even more curious. It wasn’t until her early twenties that she’d forgotten about the lady, because through adolescence and her new adult years, her own yearnings, teenage angst, and social life kept her brain more than busy. But just after her thirtieth birthday and on the day she began working at her fifth job for the year (hoping to find her true calling), the dreams were back, and this time more vivid. The woman spoke to her. “Don’t forget me,” she said, and when she did, Mia felt sure she’d heard the voice before, sometime long ago.

This might sound more like suspense than a literary story, but it’s what you do with it that can make it either. It can be both. Use metaphor and incorporate a sense of self discovery in your symbolism. At some point, Mia will realize that she isn’t looking for answers to a dream. She’s looking for a piece of her own past, and just like all of our pasts, until we can put can them in proper perspective, they can hold us at a standing point, stop us from moving forward. For Mia, she will never find her place in the world, not at work and not at home, until she takes the time to know who she is. She needs to satisfy the restlessness within.

Children’s stories. Since I have a bad flu while I’m writing this, I’m going to incorporate a little truth into this premise for a story. Afflicted with an unrelenting flu and sore throat for the last twelve hours, thirteen-year-old Sophia fretted on how she’d manage to show up for the preliminary choir recitals. She hadn’t missed a day of rehearsal throughout the entire exhausting month, and now she could barely open her mouth without running to the toilet. How was she to yodel? And Mrs. M was counting on her, and no one else had practiced the yodeling aprt, because it was assigned specifically to Sophia.

If she talked to Mrs. M, surely there’d be disappointment, but Mrs. M would understand and tell her to stay home. But throw in the towel two days before the big finale? No way. There had to be a solution. Sophia had already eaten soda crackers, and that wasn’t working. Chicken soup and warm 7-Up hadn’t helped, and neither did gargling with that nasty tasting salt water. What if she got up under the spotlight and hurled right in front of everyone? Or passed out–she sure felt as though she could.

Okay writers, I strongly suspect that many of you have more energy than I do right now, so I hope you can finish this up. It’s not hard to imagine what could possibly go wrong in this story, but to make it work I think the stakes would need to be a bit higher. There’d have to be some reason that showing up for this recital is so important to Sophia, more so than simply to tell herself that she did it. But then, not wanting to let down an instructor that you admire can have power, because we all have to face letting someone down at some point in our lives. Besides possible disappointment, what else can go wrong when Sophia considers her goal? Maybe she does take the chance, and she knows she’s about to throw up, so she runs offstage, just in time to puke all over her secret crush who was watching from the left wing.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, historical, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

 

Monday, April 28, 2014

X IS FOR XYLOPHONE!


Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

X is for Xylophone!

Romance. Terri’s stomach turned at the thought of coming up with a one-word prompt that started with X for the blog-fest she’d joined. She’d already cursed herself for not writing  little romantic premises to post to her blog way in advance of the challenge, and she cursed herself for not stocking up on more TV dinners. But now she cursed herself for not having one single inspiring item in her house that started with an X. The dictionary was no help. Apparently, someone had stolen the pages for X. She found only a half a page bearing a few simple X words. Would it be cheating to use another language? Maybe not, but it would help to know one.

Forget it. She was not feeling ex-y. It was Sunday, her day off from blogging, and she was so exhausted she didn’t want to think about writing, blogging, or coming up with even semi-witty comments. She grabbed her Kindle and headed to the park.

Comfortable on a bench near a shade tree, she scanned the titles of the books she purchased from A-Z bloggers during the challenge. What to read, what to read? She finally settled on one and within minutes, she was drawn in. The story was so good she would have forgotten she was in a park if it wasn’t for the giggles behind her, and a series of lyrical notes going from low to high, then back to low. The sound was beautiful, yet distracting. When she heard a man’s drawling voice, she turned around.

“Now you try it,” the mass of muscle in tight jeans said to a curly-haired tot.

Terri glimpsed his hand–no ring. Maybe the girl was his niece, a buddy’s kid who needed help…

The girl giggled and obliged, clanging on an xylophone as though hammering nails into a board.

Terri didn’t mean to chuckle aloud, but she couldn’t help it.

The George Clooney look-alike, dimples and all, turned her way. “Sorry. Are we bothering you?”

Now you romance writers can finish it up, because you know there’s no way this is not going to turn into Terri’s best day. She’s got a great idea for Monday’s blog post featuring an X-word, and she’s met the man of her dreams. What could beat a day like that?

Mystery writers are in for a treat when they learn about Cassandra, who is all but bubbling with joy because the display capturing the most ogling in the Natural History Museum was largely her idea. True, she knew it was more because of the fame and intrigue circling the artifact–an xylophone dating back to the New Stone Age, 2500 BCE–than her artistic way of displaying it, but still, she felt that just-bit-into-chocolate excitement anyway. When she offered to work late, her boss dropped her very own key into her hand. “Don’t stay too long,” he said with an appreciative smile.

She worked just past midnight. When the ancient xylophone wasn’t in the case the next morning, suspicion immediately fell on Cassandra. Now mystery writers, here’s what you have to consider. Time of death was between 11 and one last night. The janitor had finished up by eight o’clock, though Cassandra didn’t watch him leave. Also, she’d noticed one woman earlier today lurking around the exhibit quite a while. And Jerome Nelson, the museum’s accountant, had been fretting about some discrepancies in the expenses. And then, the two security guards. One wouldn’t answer his phone, and the other was found on the museum floor, dead. Now it’s your turn to take Cassandra by the hand through this mystery until that magical moment when she leads you instead of the other way around.

(PS – Thanks to Google, I found this artifact online. It’s a true exhibit of the Natural History Museum in Paris. To my knowledge, it has not been stolen. All names and events in this blurb are purely fiction.)

Literary. Justin and Melissa had traveled far together, not in distance, but in life. She miscarried her first three pregnancies, so when little Tyler was born they celebrated his birthday every month with gifts and cake. Naturally, after four or five months, some friends started making excuses, as did a few family members. Still, they all showed up for Tyler’s first birthday. He received enough toys to stock a small toy shop. Out of all of them, his favorite was a small, colorful, metal xylophone from his grandmother, which she’d saved from Justin’s childhood.

Sometimes, during Tyler’s nap, Justin or Melissa would tap a few tunes on the cherished toy just to hear the magical notes. That’s what Melissa was doing during Tyler’s last nap, the one he never woke from. Crib death. She'd thought it affected only babies in the first couple of months of life. Tyler was fourteen months and three days old.

So now writer, you can imagine the thoughts and memories, the joy and the pain tied to this xylophone. Next, decide what they do with the toy. Does there come a time where it can again bring joy, and if so, what brings that day about?

Children’s. Haley was all set to win the talent show. Her xylophone was polished, her hair curled, and her grandmother had told her that if she practiced, she could achieve any goal. She had been practicing to a strict routine way before she ever heard about the talent show. So what’s going to happen when somebody smashes her xylophone during recess? After accusing everyone in the classroom, demanding the teacher make it right, and finally giving in and making a new xylophone the old fashioned way, out of oblong stones, Haley still might not win the contest. But she’s going to win something–putting your all into something and finishing it, win or lose–is a win in itself.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, historical, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W IS FOR WAINSCOTING!


Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

W is for Wainscoting (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

 The first thing I do when I think of writing a Romance is take a deep breath, imagine the possibilities, and sort of smile and sigh at the same time.

Robin is hard-set on doing a little cosmetic remodeling to the small bungalow she’d recently inherited, and just thinking about doing the work herself–or at least most of it–fills her with pride. She’s almost glowing with it when she walks into Home Depot, expecting to find just the right shade of wainscoting for the new kitchen that she imagined the old one could be. But she finds more than wainscoting when a pleasant green-eyed man flashes his business card in front of her and says, “If you need that installed, I’m your guy.”  

She mentally swoons and orders her knees to stop shaking and palms to stop sweating. “I, um, I’m doing the work myself.”

With a smirk, he looks her petite frame up and down. “You’re kidding, right?”

She squares her shoulders, and the battle to romance begins. (P.S. Robin’s name originally was Jolene, but she decided to change it. You go, Robin! J)

If you want to turn the above scenario into a Mystery, then when Robin comes home after researching how-to’s on home renovation at the library, she notices a few things out of place in the house. Things not missing, but sitting at different angles. An antique clock that always faces the left just a bit now faces straight center on the shelf. The file of papers, death certificate, and the legal will of the previous owner–her great uncle whom she’d never met–has been shuffled through. A few crumbs of moist dirt speckle the carpet, but she had taken her shoes off at the door. Upon further inspection, she finds that same business card, the one from the green-eyed Romeo at Home Depot, on the floor under the desk. She checks her purse and the card she’d been given is still there. Something’s up. She checks the bedroom and stops right there.

Someone has left a stack of boxes of wainscoting. And it wasn’t the wallboard she’d decided on and that would be delivered tomorrow, but rather, a heavier grade and finer quality than she could afford. But how could anyone have known …

She’s too angry to even make a phone call and decides to confront the no-longer-attractive, arrogant intruder face to face instead. His address is on the business card, after all. But when she gets there and he doesn’t answer the door, which is open a crack, she nudges it. A much larger man than the guy she’d met is on the floor, a knife in his chest and blood pooled around him. She swallows the scream in her throat, and having forgotten her cell phone, she eases into the room and borrows the landline. That’s when she recognizes who the dead guy on the floor is–the attorney who handled her great uncle’s estate.

You can take it from there. J

Wainscoting can nestle right into a Literary story, because if you look at it closely, you’ll see a little writing inscribed over the wood butted next to the doorframe. Dates that Dorinda Burgess first started putting there in 1902, and more her daughter added in 1927, and those Aunt Florie added in 1945 and again in 1953 when she moved back to the house after having moved out. And then Mama, divorced like Aunt Florie, brought James and Rachael here in 1979, when Rachael was eight years old. And now here Rachael is again.

Next, decide what those dates signify and how it turned out that the women in this story  had all at sometime come back to the same house they’d started their lives in. Though the house has been remodeled many times, the wainscoting has never been replaced. It’s never been painted or re-varnished. The most it has seen is a dust cloth. There are a few cracks, a few stains, and yet this wainscoting has weathered through age and even a winter without heat and it’s still intact. Play with this idea and see how you can shape it into a specific and powerful (though possibly subtle, if you handle it correctly) meaning.

For a Children’s story, imagine that little Luke always wants to help Daddy, but he doesn’t know anything about attaching wainscoting to a wall. Still, he wants to surprise Daddy before he wakes up from his nap, which he’s taking way upstairs.

Armed with hammer and huge nails meant for four-by-four studs, Luke tackles the job. It isn’t the banging that finally wakes Dad; it’s the screaming. And not the screaming Luke did when he clobbered his own thumb, either. No, it’s the frantic scream he lets out when he hits the wainscoting a mite too hard and cracks it. What was it Dad had said about this stuff? The store couldn’t order anymore of this style, but that it was okay because he had the exact amount he needed?

Flesh that little scenario out and do it with love and humor, and you’ll have a great story for kids.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, historical, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

Friday, April 25, 2014

V IS FOR VENT!

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

V is for Vent!

It’s ironic how a bad mood can lead a person to Romance. (I, Debi O’Neille, do solemnly swear that I was in the mood from hell when I met my husband, twenty-two years ago.) Venting can be a positive experience. Consider Jolene. Love was the last thing on her mind when her boss told her the vacation she’d planned would have to be canceled. What was she to do with her airline ticket? And would she lose the deposit at the ski resort? Would her sister enjoy the retreat alone? Not to mention Jolene’s severe need for a little R&R. But Ms. Iron Face didn’t care–she needed Jolene, and that was that. No negotiation. No discussion. Iron Face was needed at the Sacramento office, so at the last minute she dumps this on Jolene, and once again Jolene is expected to forgo her vacation.

Jolene just stepped into the break room, and now, with the witch away, Jolene is stomping back and forth, venting. “Just because this stupid place is her entire life doesn’t mean it should be mine. I have another life, doesn’t she know that? Apparently not! Who does she think she is, anyway? Who cares if some stupid higher-up is coming next week, and she’ll be gone?  I should have to drop my life and bow down and kiss her pampered little painted toes?”

“Remind me never to get on your bad side,” a deep voice from behind her says.

And of course, it’s Mr. Higher-Up–gorgeous as ever–who dropped in early to meet the staff before getting to work.

Okay savvy romance writers. Their hearts are beating a dance, so you can take it from here. (By the way, my husband got me out of my bad mood by saying something so funny that I had to forget my anger and laugh. We’ve been together ever since, and we’re still laughing.)

Mystery writers should have a fun time with this word. There’s that vent in the wall. Now take a guess–was the murder committed by the carbon monoxide emitted into the room via that vent, or is that vent hiding the weapon the killer plans to retrieve later? And then he’d dispose of the evidence in the river or under newly poured cement. So now you have a couple ideas for the how, and all you need to figure out is who and why. That’s not too hard. Jeremy did it. He doesn’t consider this victim a victim at all. No, he only knows him as the drunk driver who killed his father. Forgiveness? Not in this life.

Your sleuth? She’s the soon-to-be ex-wife who’s under suspicion of the crime. After all, with no finalized divorce yet, the estate is now hers. Jeremy’s just fine with her getting the rap. He’s been taking one of her art courses (just to get closer to his target), and the woman had nothing good to say about his painting. Besides, he knows what a low-life her husband was, and she let him get away with it for years. Doesn’t that make her an enabler?

Literary. Pauline stitched away at her sewing machine as she had every day for fifteen years. She put the topstitching on the vent, that wonderful slit creating a slight flap on the back of the jacket, and imagined wearing it. Smoothing her hands over the lapels. Feeling little whooshes of air coming through the vent, relieving the sweat on her back. Inhaling the scent of freedom, and soon a lungful of fresh air for the rest of her life. She already had three small bags stashed away inside the vent in wall of her bedroom. She’d be free soon. She would, wouldn’t she?

She thinks so now, but what drudgery might she be carrying inside herself that, unless she faces it head on, will come with her no matter how far she travels? The escape she’s aiming for might not be exactly what she gets.

Children’s stories. Tanner forgot to poke holes in the lid of the jar to vent it for air, so now he’s got three dead caterpillars for Show and Tell. And after all that work learning about them and writing a little blurb to recite in front of the class! Yet, right now all he could think about was his grandfather’s words–“Science should not be careless!”

 He’d never make a scientist. He’d never make a good biologist. He can’t even pull off a good Show and Tell presentation. What would he do next year when he’d actually get to enter the science fair? Kill a ladybug? And what would Grandfather say when he finds out Tanner didn’t participate in Show and Tell, and that the caterpillars died? They never even got a chance to become the butterflies they were meant to be.

Tanner just can’t accept that fact. So he’s going to go out and find more caterpillars, but he’ll meet trouble along the way. Figure out three things that can go wrong, and what does Tanner do then to solve his problem? Maybe he’ll end up capturing a butterfly and take it home, and then just tell his grandfather that he changed his mind on topics. Or maybe he’ll tell the truth. So what will it be, writers? Will he find some way to give a presentation for Show and Tell tomorrow or not?

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U IS FOR U-TURN!


Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

U is for U-turn

A U-turn can work as the theme of your story, a crisis point, a simple object, or a jumping off area. For a fun little Romance, consider that when the hero makes a U-turn on Franklin Street in his mother’s car, he takes it so wide that he accidentally clips the bumper of the heroine’s parked car. She’s walking down her sidewalk just as it happens, about to leave for the gym. So now she marches up between his car and hers, all ready to get huffy, but the apologetic look in his seductive eyes draws her right in and her poised control crumbles.

Now they’ve met, and all you have to do is get them talking long enough to want to see each other again. Then throw in some nice little curves–her insurance company is suing his mother (owner of the car) for a bit more than the accident was really worth. Add to that, his nosy mother gives the heroine a call and doles out a piece of her mind. Throw in a few more obstacles and you’ll be well on your way to letting these two people fall hopelessly in love. After all, it always seems to be what we must fight for that we most appreciate in the end.

Mystery writers might incorporate a U-turn in their stories with the sleuth driving down the road, hot on the trail of his prime suspect, when he suddenly reconsiders something Sally had said. She’d mentioned the brief hour of rain around midnight last Wednesday, one that came down so hard it smashed the azaleas lining her house. The sleuth is thinking Sally wouldn’t have known exactly which night the rain came so hard, and at what time, when she was supposedly visiting her mother then in Iowa for three days.

The storm damage could have happened while she was gone, but who would actually look in a newspaper or online to discover specifically which night and time her flowers had been ruined during her absence? No. Sally wasn’t gone anywhere. She was right here in Pokey Town, jabbing a knife into Horrace’s chest. Upon that realization, your sleuth makes a U-turn and heads back to town. First stop–Sally’s house.

Literary. Many literary stories are U-turns in themselves, or structured like a U-turn. Consider a guy who plows ahead in a certain direction until some event happens that affects him in a way that causes a change. If it’s a negative impact, he might head right back to his starting point. You can look at that as almost a circular journey, and literary works usually are, because they reflect life in a defining manner. It gives us a certain perspective on the psyche oh humanity.

 Think about Alzheimer’s, a topic I’m using in one of my short stories. In a way, the disease mimics a U-turn. Where was your character headed before the disease affected him in such a way that he started going in reverse, reliving moments long past? This is a U-turn in life. It happens, and when it does, it evokes powerful emotions that affect everyone around the afflicted. Your story might evolve best through the reactions of those witnessing another character’s diminished power of chronological thought, and the acknowledgement that we could all be there someday. Some witnesses might look at it as a troublesome, albeit unique, venture in life that many are forced to take. What joys can still be had during this time? That’s worth analyzing, and that analysis will give you the seeds to a powerful story.

A story for Young Adults involving a U-turn might be plotted like this: if Kirby hadn’t been in such a hurry, if he hadn’t thought Tyler was in danger of suicide–because of Tyler’s voice message on Kirby’s cell phone, Kirby would have never made a U-turn on Highway 16. He would’ve never gotten a speeding ticket, never got grounded, and he would’ve never had the keys to the car taken away.

Some Joke, Kirby thinks, after he finally gets a hold of Tyler, who laughs endlessly and reminds Kirby that it’s April Fools’ Day. Kirby is not laughing. “Because of your stupid prank, I don’t have wheels to take Lacey out this weekend, and I’m grounded for a frickin’ month!” That’s what Kirby is still fuming about when he gets another message from Tyler, a text this time. And it’s another threat of suicide. What the heck? Enough is enough already. Kirby isn’t going to fall for it twice. But, what if this time …

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T IS FOR TRAIN!


T is for Train (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

What could be more Romantic than a train ride? Well, maybe Mr. Tall, Handsome, and Funny, unless, of course, he’s on the train, which could ultimately set up the ride of any heroine’s life. So, Miss Lonely is on her way back to grandmother’s house, the only place rent-free where she can piece her life back together after the loss of her job, boss/lover, and the down payment she’d invested in a house she could no longer afford.

What makes this ride worse than the desperation this once-spoiled heroine’s current life holds is that for the first time that she can remember, she’s not just wearing last year’s sandals, but tattered ones from the year before last, and the guy sitting closest to her on this anti-joyride snacks constantly, chews with his mouth full, and probably hasn’t seen a stick of deodorant in months. When she can no longer take the sight or the smell, she squeezes past him into the aisle and moves toward an empty seat. Tripping on the strap of a purse extending into the aisle, she takes a nose dive.

At her service, Mr. Tall, Handsome, and Definitely Not Funny at the Moment, despite his sexy green eyes, rises from his seat to help her, then smirks as he asks, “One cocktail too many?”

Mystery writers can borrow the situation above, but let the smirking gent be someone she knows and possibly fears or despises. She gets into a verbal battering match with him in front of all those traveling witnesses, so naturally she’s the number one suspect when he turns up dead shortly after the next stop, where they both hopped off the train. What was the history between the two? That will help you figure out some of your story, as well as which other characters might have been involved. Who else could be a suspect? Ask what he was doing on the train, opposed to another mode of transportation, or where was he going. These answers might guide you toward the motive for the murder. If you prefer to start with the motive before adding more suspects, figure out a little more about this guy’s life and you’ll soon see why someone other than the protagonist would want him dead.

Literary writers–literary work has more of a character arc rather than a plot arc, though it can have both. Ultimately, however, the growth of the character is far more important than the resolution of any conflicts arising through cause and effect of plot points. Literary work can be self reflective. Maybe the female character in this mystery starts to see a pattern in her life, a sort of loop where she doesn’t fall into bad luck by coincidence the way she had assumed. Instead, she acts subconsciously, stepping into it without looking both ways, and then wonders, how did I get here… Why am I always in these situations? Why does bad luck follow me and not my successful sister?

It’s when she takes a journey that ultimately leads her to the answers of these questions that she finds herself growing into the person she should be, the person she was meant to be, and the person she actually wants to be, whether she knows it yet or not. She’ll now discover, at least in some small way, where she fits in relation to humanity.

What could happen in the world of young adults when a teen is so busy texting that she doesn’t realize she missed her stop and has now taken a train ride 300 miles from where she’s supposed to be? What’s worse, she got off the train, used the public restroom, and left not realizing she’d forgotten the clutch with her money in it. Had her pockets been picked? Time to make a phone call, but after all that cell phone use, the tiny machine in its gleaming pink case is as dead as she’s going to be when she doesn’t show up at Aunt Meg’s ranch, where she was sentenced to work for a month because her grades, apparently, did not reflect her potential. Her mother said, “You’re so busy trying to build a social life that you’re forgetting about the other important parts to life.” Maybe it’s just as well her phone died. Calling Mom didn’t sound so good right now anyway.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

 

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S IS FOR STOVE!


 S is for Stove

 Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

Stoves can warm a room for a Romantic setting, if you have the right people cranking up the heat. Jalynn wasn’t thinking about cooking her way into a man’s heart when she popped into Olson’s Appliances. She knew only that she’d have the upside of thirty people she’d never met come Saturday for the Everyone’s Thanksgiving meal her mother had always put on, and Jalynn’s stove was about as reliable as an ex-boyfriend. Before she passed, her mother had asked Jalynn to continue the tradition of goodwill, sharing a meal with those whose families were estranged or distant, and by God, Jalynn would keep her word.

She ogled a shiny chrome stove trimmed in black, admired the accessory of a grill you could get, loved the sparkling self-cleaning oven, and had almost made a decision when she saw a retro-styled red stove. Perfect. And so was the man hunched over it, inspecting the dials and features. Was he, too, in the market? Think, Jalynn, think. How can you meet him? “Um, excuse me, sir. Do you know anything about that model?”

His smile warmed the room, and in return, Jalynn flashed the smile she usually reserved for serious flirting.

Okay, there’s room for improvement here, but you romance writers at least have the ingredients for a heart-pounding moment for these characters, and you can whip this blurb into a spicy dish at your will.

Mystery writers are probably too familiar with the old-fashioned (but still used) method of murdering someone by carbon monoxide poisoning using a gas stove, so I’m going to bypass that idea. Instead, consider the timing device wired to the stove that’s going to trigger an explosion that will leave no witnesses. Your sleuth won’t even have any desk drawers to snoop through for clues, no closet, cupboards, or mattresses. Nada. Your sleuth starts to wonder, If you’re going to do it like this, then why the stove rather than the ignition of her car?

Literary storytellers might consider that old Franklin stove with the one missing foot.  The stove was one of the few items Mama Harrington had kept from the old country, and the only thing that survived the years gone by. Now it belonged to Kaitlyn in all its worn and jagged wonder. What was she to do with it in her white-walled suite? She didn’t have to wrestle herself too hard to decide to donate or recycle it. Yet, every time she made an appointment for a handyman to help with the lifting and hauling, she found herself cancelling, and she couldn’t put her finger on why. Or she didn’t want to. So, under the surface, what does this stove symbolize to Kaitlyn? Why can’t she let go of the ugly thing?

Children’s stories utilizing the warmth of a stove might circle around a character’s first cooking lesson—boiling water for macaroni and cheese. This will be a lifelong skill, as it’s unlikely that eleven-year-old Tarin’s future family will never serve up this worldly dish. Of course, it’s not as simple of a task as it seems, and Mom left Tarin in charge while she scoots away to pick up the dog from the pound again (Spot sneaked out three times this week, so far.) The pound is only two blocks away, and Mom said she’d be back before the water was hot, but if she gets detained, Tarin should just shut off the stove and wait until Mom returns.

Tarin is texting on her older sister’s phone, waiting for the water to boil, when she suddenly hears hissing and spitting. She looks up to see water gushing out of the pan, all over the stove. She’s frantically cleaning up the mess when she drops the phone into the sink, which is half filled with water, soaking a pot that had been cursed with scorched pudding earlier that day. Now Tarin’s cooking lesson is compounded into a bigger lesson. To round this story out nicely, show three mishaps, starting with the smallest and moving to the biggest and most tense.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

Monday, April 21, 2014

R IS FOR RAFT


R is for Raft (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

Rafting can be very romantic, so Romance writers and readers, imagine this: the scene in the movie “The Titanic,” where handsome hero, freezing in cold water, hangs on to the makeshift one-person raft while his love remains safe atop that very raft. He doesn’t leave her side. It’s a powerful scene. Yours can be too. Maybe your hero and heroine just escaped a harrowing war, and they are on that small raft in waters tainted with the blood from those who didn’t survive. Fire is still blazing along the shoreline of the land from which they fled, and they embrace in a long kiss–because despite the despair surrounding them, they now share a stronger union than they ever did before. Death can do that. Survival can do that. And hearts will do that.

In another story, a dead body was shipped away via a raft, and it was weeks later that it had been discovered across far waters. What a wonder for the Mystery writer this could be. What is your sleuth to make of this? Where did the body come from? Checking pockets for clues might not help if the killer emptied them. Yet the jacket the victim is wearing is somewhat unique. With luck, through the designer label, it can be tracked down. But think about this scenario. Is this an evil joke? Because if the killer wanted only to end the victim’s life, wouldn’t he or she have preferred the victim be lost at the bottom of the ocean or river and never discovered? Consider why a killer would choose this method of body disposal… It must have a personal significance to the killer, and perhaps to the victim. That should get your creative juices maneuvering through stormy waters.

Literary? Consider that your main character’s family arrived here (wherever “here” is) via raft. Where did they come from? Why did they leave wherever they had been before the sail on the raft? In what way did the raft shape the character’s view of the world, good or bad? What might have happened on the raft that may have changed his or her outlook? What insights were gleaned through the physical journey and the inner journey?

Children and Young Adults, and adults who never grew up can have a great time on a raft at camp. A first love can be met, a challenge attained, a race won, and a friend lost. I did lose a high school mate who’d drowned during an outing that should have been fun. I’m glad I wasn’t there, but I knew everybody who was. He was the only one who didn’t make it back to the raft, and the kids with him didn’t find him until rescuers came–too late. There’s painful power here, because yes, some of the classmates on the swim had been drinking. The one I knew the most had a rough time dealing with the never-ending question, if I hadn’t been drunk, could I have saved him? This is a story that would have to be told with caution to avoid the preachy feel and lecture, not to mention sentimentality. But it can and should be told.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q IS FOR QUILT!


Q is for Quilt  (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so these ideas are free for you to use.

Snuggle up with a bit of Romance. When Grandma Mabel, who’s a little bit blind and a little bit forgetful, gives a quilt that’s a family heirloom to her home health care provider rather than to Jason’s bride-to-be (as intended), he sets off to find the caregiver on her weekend off. When he finally tracks her down at the cafĂ© where she waitresses (second job), he has to wait until she’s on break to talk to her. And that’s when the bug for romance bites him good.

 True, he has a fiancĂ©, but he’s been watching this cheerful waitress for over an hour, and though he tries, he can’t seem to turn away. She works two jobs and yet remains energetic and cheerful. If she’s tired, she hides it well. And she’s so kind to everyone, even the old widowers who spend the morning drinking coffee and shaking dice, and then don’t leave more than a dime for a tip. How can he not be attracted to her?

Mystery. Justin stops by to see the publisher of his last novel, intent on explaining why his next book can’t be the sequel expected. Upon arriving, the door is open a crack and Justin steps in. He calls out. No answer, but he smells smoke. He wanders to the kitchen, sees nothing at first. Then he notices a body wrapped in a quilt on the floor, and smoke rising from ashes in a trash bin that apparently had been burning not too long ago. He knows he shouldn’t touch even a corner of the quilt to see the face of the victim, but he can’t resist. With the pause of a burglar, he takes a peek. It’s the publisher’s wife, and she has no pulse. (Okay, that should get you writers started.)

Literary. In a writers’ workshop a few years back, I read someone’s short story about a woman who was supposedly making love to her husband, but the whole time, she was looking at the light fixture and wondering little things like, Should she get a new one? There’s a really nice one at Home Depot. Maybe something a little bigger, or at least brighter–more bulbs. Her thoughts went on like this through the whole two minutes, or thirty, I don’t remember.

What if Sue was involved in some other task with her husband? Making love is okay, but maybe she’s helping him with some hobby they’d always shared together. She’s having a hard time focusing now, because she no longer finds purpose in their hobby. While she’s mechanically working alongside her husband, she’s thinking about a quilt her mother had given her, one passed down from the grandmother of the lover Mom took shortly after Sue was born. She remembered a few stories her mother had told her about different pieces in the quilt, and the more she thinks about the beautiful spread, the more stories come back to her. She can’t get the quilt out of her mind, which causes her to fumble in answering questions her husband asks. “Honey, are you going to pass me that glue, or what?”

Glue? I can’t think of glue right now.

Middle Grade or Young Adult. Kristen is going to be moving soon, and she’s not liking it. She’ll never see her friends again. Wait, what friends? Her BFF already blocked her from Facebook, and Kristen isn’t even sure why, other than the fact that Jeremy seemed more into her than into her friend. But is that her fault? Maybe moving won’t be so bad. As she prepares to move, she sets her mind on mending a few friendships. She has some successes, and some total flops. She starts to worry that maybe this is it. Though she’ll have Facebook, will she ever again feel really connected to these people she grew up with? What makes her feel even worse is the fact that her BFF is the one person who hasn’t been responding to any messages. No Facebook, email, or Twitter. Had the argument over Jeremy really end a longtime friendship?

Her answer comes in the way of a going away gift–a quilt. Each of her friends have cut into a beloved piece of clothing to get one 12-inch square from it, then they worked together to stitch Kristen a gift of love. Favorite articles of clothing were used so that Kristen could look at each piece and remember exactly who it was from. It’s a memory blanket. And guess who was the one who came up with the idea? What a way to mend a friendship with your BFF and show how true friendship never dies, despite arguments and misunderstandings.

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!

 

 

Friday, April 18, 2014

P IS FOR PATH!


P is for Path  (Skim to the underlined genre or style that best suits you.)

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so the ideas I will be posting are free for you to use.

Think about the path to Romance in your own life. Now think about two people who are physically taking paths in the opposite direction. Then think about a unique way in which those two opposing paths will somehow end at the same place, or come to the same crossroad. Think of this metaphorically as a well as literally. Consider that dirt road she had a flat tire on. He just happens by in his sporty car, offers her a ride, which she decides against for safety reasons. Without even knowing her, he’s concerned for her safety, too. Some weirdo might not accept no for an answer.

So, he tails a safe distance behind her, on the lookout for weirdoes in her path. At some juncture, their paths will cross and hero and heroine will meet again. They’ll run into a few rocks in the road, kick them aside and, still tattered and weary from their journeys, come to a truce and live happily ever after. Think about the characters whispering in your minds. What brought them to the roads they took, and what propelled them forward?

Mystery enthusiasts, it was on a bright and sunny day that your sleuth took a jog down his or her regular path, then, hoping for new scenery, took a detour on a cobblestone walkway, where a dead body lay. It’s his neighbor. A young single mother with a four-year-old boy now left with no one. Little Jimmy. The boy your sleuth was teaching how to play T-ball. So when your sleuth goes back to check on Jimmy and discovers he isn’t there, he has to wonder–was this a kidnapping that went sour and resulted in the murder of the kidnapped child’s mother? Maybe she didn’t have the ransom, and maybe she was afraid to go to the police because of a threat, or maybe the boy is staying at a relative’s house and isn’t the victim of kidnapping after all. Sleuth decides to do a little digging. Calling upon the grandparents only made things worse, because they were sprawled out bloody and beaten on their kitchen floor. Now what? There’s still no sign of little Jimmy. There’s no father in the picture; he was killed in a car wreck years ago.

In Literary fiction, the idea of a path, metaphorically and literally, shows up often. It can be the inner journey we take, or the external, as long as in some way it sheds insight into the human condition.  It might answer the question, why are we here or what purpose was meant for me? It’s not enough to endure long travels, whether exhausting or adventurous or both–the journey must not only define a specific character, but it should say something about what it is to be, period. The story might have a circular feel, following the choices a character makes to a deeper understanding of what it all means in a bigger sense than just to that specific character and immediate family. What does it say about the human condition? It might be simply that we are who we are, and that whoever that is, we stand for something larger than ourselves, yet not monumental or anything for history books in the future. This literary story will dive into the path it takes a character to understand a small part of the human condition. Consider the circle of violence being passed from generation to generation until at some point, one family member breaks free and changes the mold. That can be a literary journey. A literary path might be shown symbolically, yet in a physical sense by following the blood flow from vein to heart and back again, which parallels some event in a character’s life.

Children or young adults can people a story with a path in much the same way that other genres can. The path can reflect a child’s goal, showing each step the child takes toward that goal, or even a visual of the gravel road the child travels to get from point A to point C. For young adults, the outward path will parallel the inner travels of going from adolescence to adulthood. Shereen practiced basketball every night, often missing the social life her friends enjoyed. She put everything she had into getting an athletic scholarship. But when her husbandless mother is diagnosed with cancer, new choices come in to Shereen’s life.

Note–I was going to write about procrastination for the letter P, because it’s been on my mind quite a bit during this challenge. My good friend Silvia Villalobos (at Silvia Writes) warned me that I should really get a head start on all these blog articles and have them in a file before April 1. “I will, I will,” I said, then went about my business working on everything else. I did get a few articles prewritten, but that’s it. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Kudos to those of you who wrote about procrastination today. I’m too mad about the word to grace it with my story prompts.  

What ideas can you pull off the top of your head? If you can offer some in genres I didn’t cover, such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy, please share! Readers will appreciate it.

Happy writing!