This week I’m providing you with something your character needs. Your job is to create someone who needs this thing, REALLY needs it. Not wants it. NEEDS it.
And then torture them.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, security (of the body, of employment, resources etc.) is pretty high on the list of basic human needs. Today we’re working with one of them:
Today your character needs a secure place to shelter
This can be as simple as someone out walking in a storm, searching for a place to get out of the rain.
It can be someone whose house is being foreclosed on, or bombed, or overrun by zombies.
It might be someone who has challenged themselves to build a tiny house that they can live in
After you decide on the specifics of the NEED that will make this interesting for you, you must then figure out why the character NEEDS it so, so badly. What is there, in his history, that is driving him to find or protect or build this home? Why does it matter on a psychological level as well as a physical one? You don’t need to be explicit about this in the story, but you should know enough to slip in a few clues.
Next, think about some ridiculously challenging ways that the bad buys/the weather/the forces of evil or indifference can thwart your character’s plans. Make him really squirm. (NB This is why he must have an unusually strong desire for this shelter at the start. He’s going to have to overcome some interesting things. If he doesn’t want it badly enough, he’ll just give up).
Every character (every story) wants/needs/desires something.
Every story needs this desire to be pursued, frustrated, attained, or pursued again.
In the process the character or situation changes.
That’s what story is.
This week I’m providing you with a list of needs. You choose a character and a situation in which they can pursue that need.
Your character needs a lot of money, fast.
- Before you write a word, sketch some notes on who your character is, why they need the money, why they need it quickly.
- Think about what your character believes will happen when they have the money. What has your character failed to realize?
- Why doesn’t your character have money now? You may or may not want to weave this information into the story, but you should probably know it.
- What obstacles stand in the way of your character getting rich, quickly?
- What three things will your character try to get the money?
- Which ones will work? Which ones won’t? Why?
- Is the story that is forming in your head tragic? Humorous? Poignant? Thrilling? Romantic?
- Try to enter the story as late as you can. Don’t introduce the problem first. Start with your character’s abortive first effort to get money and feed us the information as you go through the actions.
Here’s your digest of this week’s StoryADay September writing prompts.
This set of prompts is all about point of view. The choice to write in First Person or Third Person Omniscient gives you, the storyteller, a different set of tools to use in each story. Use these prompts to practice some of those skills.
Prompt 1 — First Person Practice
First person is a great place to start because it’s how tell all our stories in everyday life…
Prompt 2 — Up Close And Third Person
Third person limited has quite a lot in common with First Person, even though you’re writing ‘he’ and ‘she’, not ‘I’…
Prompt 3 — Two Heads Are Better Than One
Third person omniscient gives you the chance to get inside more than one head at a time in your story…
Prompt 4 — A Way Into Second Person Storytelling
Writing well in the Second Person is tough but can be innovative and truly creative.
Prompt 5 — Changing POV
Now you’ve tried a few, you get to pick your favorite. then rewrite an old story in a new way.
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In this exercise we’re going to take what we’ve discovered while writing the other Point Of View prompts, and use it to rework a story.
Take a story you have previously written and rewrite it, in a different Point of View
- If you have a story that never really worked properly, try rewriting it. THis time, instead of third person, put it in first person. The “I” of this story doesn’t necessarily have to be the protagonist.
- Notice how switching the POV frees you to do things you couldn’t do before (e.g. write atmospheric descriptions or ‘stage directions’)
- Notice how changing POV changes what your reader can ‘see’ (i.e. they may not see other characters’ body language the same way if you switch to First Person. Or you may be able to allow them to see more internal motivations if you’re switching from a limited perspective to omniscient
Don’t drive yourself crazy with this. Just take your characters and the scenario you’ve already written and try it from a different perspective. See what happens. Have fun with it.
Today I’m recycling this prompt from March. It offers an innovate way to get into the Second Person (“you do this, you do that”) perspective without making your story sound like a Choose Your Own Adventure.
Write A Story Set in the Second Person
- Are you still collecting story sparks everywhere you go? Try to collect three a day while you’re away from your desk. They will help you on days like this when the StoryADay writing prompt does not suggest characters or a scenario, but rather a technique.
- Read through the prompt from March, and take a look at the links it suggests.
Continuing this week’s theme of POV prompts, here is today’s prompt:
Write a story from the Third Person, Omniscient perspective
- This is the perspective you know from all the great writers (Dickens, Tolstoy, Pratchett…): the author can say anything, pop inside any (or all) character’s heads, travel backwards and forwards in time, insert herself and her own commentary onto the page.
- Have some fun with this. Take a scene and tell it from one character’s perspective, then leap into another character’s head and give their read on the situation.
- Remember to show the first character’s continuing physical behavior from where the second character is standing after switch to their perspective. Your reader will know how the first character’s behavior reflects his thoughts. Will the second character understand or misconstrue?
- Try out your authorial prerogatives and make a comment about what’s going on (think of that moment when a TV character turns to the camera and talks directly to us, the audience). What does this do to the story? Do you like it?
This can get quite complicated (which is why it works so well for novels). Don’t worry about writing a complete, polished story today. Just play with the POV and see what options are available to you.
This time, let’s come out of our own heads and get inside someone else’s.
Write a story in the Third Person, Limited perspective
- Third person limited is a lot like first person except you’re not writing “I”. By that I mean you can only show the thoughts of one person.
- A good way to remember not to show other characters’ thoughts is to imagine your story as a TV show or movie. All characters apart from the one whose point of view you’re following, must walk across the screen, being observed by him (or her)
- Try not to use ‘he thought’, or ‘she felt’, or ‘he wondered’. Take a look at this writing advice (allegedly by Chuck Palahniuk) which has some great examples of how to avoid this trap — and why it’s so much more effective when you do
Writing in the first person seems simple, since this is the way we talk, write letters, tell our own stories. Introduce a keyboard or a notebook, however, and suddenly we get a bit frozen. So today we’re practicing telling a First Person story
Write A Story Narrated In The First Person
- Go and grab a book from your shelf that has a strong main character and that is written in the first person. (Think Bridget Jones’ Diary or Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series or any number of great stories)
- Remember that in First Person, no head-hopping is allowed. You cannot tell us what any other character is feeling, only how your narrator perceives their words/actions.
- Decide on one characteristic (or character flaw) that your character will have. Subvert it (or have it get them into trouble) at least once during the story, but try to make it a defining part of the story.
There’s a difference between the first thing that happnes in your story and the thing that becomes the inciting incident.
Write a story in which your main character is going along doing whatever it is he/she does. Very quickly, someone else walks into the scene. This person imparts news of great importance to the character (someone is dead/has been fired/is coming/has escaped/something).
NOW write the inciting incident: Continue reading “[Writing Prompt] Inciting Incident”
Today you’ll write a story that starts with a set of characters, a location and a problem, all devised by me.
The Setting: Four blank walls and two doors, both currently locked.
The Characters: Don, a man in his fifties; Sooz, a young woman; Dante, a teenage boy; Charlie, a character of gender, age and appearance that you specify.
The Problem: There are thunderous booms coming from outside the room and the characters must decide what to do next.
- You can set this story anywhere and at any time.
- The room may be any size. It can be inside, outside, on a space ship, on a cruise ship, underground, in a forest, whatever you like.
- You decide on the characters’ personalities. Remember, personality conflicts provide drama.
- To make your characters more rounded, give us a hint of what they don’t want us to see about themselves.
- You can reveal the source of the noises or not. It’s up to you.
- You can give us a nice, neat ending, or leave the situation unresolved. Just make sure something is resolved during the story.