We all know that holidays bring unexpected moments. In my family, usually the toilet broke, or the dog would somehow devour the best part of our celebratory supper. In my first marriage, we’d always have a huge fight on Valentine’s Day. We actually came to expect it.
Write a story about a holiday brimming with unexpected moments. Or better yet, write a story about a holiday with at least 3 unexpected moments.
Write a story in which a house, car, or town is a passive but important character.
For example: In the film “Little Miss Sunshine” the dysfunctional van (that the whole family had to push) was one of the most lovable, reliably flawed characters.
Grab words from a few books (or just one book) on your nightstand. Pick 10 vibrant words. Freewrite, using every single one.
After that, freewrite again, using them all again, but in completely different ways.
Write a story involving both a rebellious act (or fantasy) and a secret. In Raymond Carver’s story “Fat”, the main character is a waitress who has grown inconveniently fond of an obese customer who treats her with kindness. She feels useful to him, and is enlivened by his presence. He is not easy to look at, but Carver shows us how she hears him breathing, like a heartbeat. Her boyfriend is possessive and unkind, the living opposite of the obese man. Her secret is dangerous, and we watch her trying to hide it from herself and from her boyfriend.
Freewrite to someone or something. To the forest, to a dog, to a marriage, to an old house, to a parent or sibling. Write a story using this narrative approach.
Write a first person “Because” story. Start every line with “Because”.
List the reasons why a character worries, doubts.. etc. Or why the character loves, envies or hates.
For example. “Because I found him with in the kitchen at 6:00AM, looking at the clock. Because my mother died in the ocean on the nicest day of the year… Because she has gold-tinted eyes, just like the ones he paints.”
You can have your character lie if you want to. You can edit them out later.
Obsessions are great to work with. Pick a few of them, and in this exercise, pontificate. Write in long, run-on sentences. Try to write about 3 of your obsessions. For example: A home you once lived in, your strange nose, money, someone you can’t forgive.. these are examples. Go crazy with many specific, vivid details.