Prompt #48 was about how to “Grow Your Character.” Prompt #49 was about setting the mood.
Today’s prompt is about “The Problem.” These series of prompts are based on Sheldon Siegel‘s 2011 Writers Forum workshop.
We’re working on how to write suspense, mystery, thriller. If that doesn’t interest you, you can also use these prompts to write memoir.
Write a one-sentence premise. What’s at stake? Why should the reader care?
If we follow along with Prompt #49: Our heroine is about to get into a limo to meet with Monsieur Blanchard. We know her father is concerned about her. We know she wants to look professional for this meeting. That’s about all we know.
Let’s play with this. What if our heroine is a contracted killer? What if she is meeting with Monsieur Blanchard to receive her next assignment? What if she needs the money because her father is in danger of losing their house for failure to pay back taxes? What if Monsieur Blanchard is about to blackmail her? What if she has information to blackmail him? All sorts of possibilities.
Premise: Our heroine, Monique, needs money to pay her father’s bills.
Stake: He could lose the house. She could lose her life.
Care: She will die.
When you are writing thriller, mystery or suspense, Sheldon says to know the enemy. Know who it is and what we’re scared of. Then you can manipulate the reader. Need to feel the enemy. Personified. Fear the murderer.
You can use your list of fears from Prompt #47 to incorporate with your character’s problem. Or you can think about your fears and work one of those into the premise.
Prompt: The problem is . . . Or, The problem was . . .
Note: If you are writing memoir, write what actually happened, as best remembered. Be sure to include details, such as character description and location. When writing about real people, they become “characters” in the story. Use sensory detail such as smell. Use the weather to mirror mood of character and of story.
Photo by Sasha Oaks
I looked out upon another time.
A time not forgotten by the oriental east as it is by the infant west, beauty and horror speak, one voice with mighty samurai war cries mixes with peasant’s anguish.
To mark its greatness, wooden temples, tall curved roof pagodas and red painted shrines fill the horizon, oriental in architecture, mighty in structure, and glorious in their stature, these monuments to a past of domination. An empire marked by glorious accomplishments and a wealth of terror.
“Japan!” I say in reverence to the mighty nation.
A strong deep voice calls out my name, “Victor, did you say something?”
My response is silence.
The Bright afternoon sun burns my eyes but I cannot look away. This land of contrast pulls at me as the shapes in my mind are also in great contrast. The shape, texture and color move my complex mind forward. My knowledge is incomplete.
I have studied this land with its formidable history, beautiful art, highly cultured and unbelievable brutality are all part of its past. A past built upon a singular race that exists for the masses first, crushing any who are different. To be different in this land of the rising sun is to be a leper.
I, Victor C am different.
“I will be noticed, I will stand out.” I said to the window of the train. “They will notice I am different.”
Another massive wood temple cuts across my view, the quick moving train takes me deeper within the city boundaries.
“The Japanese may be small, but they’re not blind.” The deep voice said beside me. “Victor sometimes I wonder how really smart you are?”
I turned away from the window, looking at the man standing beside me. He stands firm against the sway of the train, eyes directly on me. “I have four doctorate degrees, James.” I see his eyes role in argument. But my degrees are a fact that cannot be disputed.
“Smarts aren’t always found in a book,” James continued. “Smart is sometimes common sense.”
“What does common sense have to do with it?” I turn back to the train window, watching Kyoto’s beauty past the window. The old Capital, Kyoto a city without an equal in the world, once the center of all Japan, this is the most symbolic of Japan’s past.
“I wish my Aunt Betsy was here to slap some sense into you.” James states. “Of course you’re different. Look around.”
James words forces me away from the window, away from a magnificent wooden Shinto temple. My eyes follow his instructions, looking around the mute color rectangular train car.
I looked at the indigenous people crowded on this train. A sea of black hair is the most visible, light skin upon their foreheads, small black eyes. All the same, as if a copy machine bred them; men in suits, women in knee length dresses, boys in sport coats with school ties, and girls in school uniforms.
All the same! It is stifling in their singularity.
I have come to a country where being different is despised as much as an undertaker at a hospital. This is a land that measure one against the masses. Failure to conform is not allowed. The stories are too numerous to tell how the killing of people who are different is justified. Weakness is being different. How can the masses grow if there is weakness among it. Root it out and destroy it. That is the history of this land.
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