Monday, May 19, 2008

Unlikely Friends

I recently finished a 5-week training class for my job. Including our patient instructor, there were twelve of us. We ranged in ages from 22 to 44 and came from various backgrounds. We instantly bonded, and each day was something to look forward to. The instructor and my new friends made work not seem like work at all. There were random moments when someone would break into song, and the rest of us would join in. We were a rambunctious bunch. I have a deep fondness for everyone I’ve met. Because of our various backgrounds, we may have never met, except maybe to discuss the attributes of avocadoes in our local produce department. We’ve stayed in touch through silly emails and by visiting each other at our respective cubicles, and we’re planning a picnic this coming weekend. To say it warms my heart every time I think of them seems so inadequate. I’ve been given a wonderful gift.

In a 1991 movie called “Married to It” three couples who at first glance seem to have nothing in common are thrown together. The first couple is a young professional couple from Iowa. The young husband is a stockbroker, and his wife is a school psychologist. The second couple is a pair of former hippies (love beads and all) who have two sons who attend the school where the young psychologist works. The third couple is a man working on his second marriage to a wealthy socialite. He has a 13-year-old daughter from his previous marriage. The three women meet at a school function and end up on the same committee. When they have their first meeting, there are long blocks of silence and tension in the air. With each consecutive meeting, these three couples find they have more to talk about, more in common. When the young stockbroker gets into trouble, and the man who’s been married a second time have problems, they discover the meaning of friendship. These unlikely friends support and trust each other.

For this exercise you’re going to create three unlikely friends (or couples) and throw them together in a situation. They don’t need to become friends, as in the movie, but they must have something in common. To begin, freewrite for ten or fifteen minutes to brainstorm ideas. If it’s easier, do a character sketch for your three characters. Each has a conflict. In one or two sentences, write their conflicts. Outline your story. How do they get together? What do they have in common? What are the dynamics of their relationship? Do they part friends, enemies, or indifferent?

Now write one scene for each of your characters showing them at home in the world. For instance, the young psychologist is settling into her closet-office. The socialite and her husband enjoy a lavish dinner. The former hippie couple are in their noisy home trying to have dinner with their two boys. Remember to use sensory details like sights, sounds, smells, etc.

For your next scene, create a situation which throws your characters together. Are they at a party? A school function? A gallery opening? The grocery store? Use description, dialogue and action. How do they treat one another? Do they resist each other? Become friends? What? Let your characters guide you. Use your imagination. If you want, continue writing the rest of the story. The genre is of your choosing. You may use any source to create your characters. Create them from scratch or use characters you’ve already created, or use characters from several published works. As always, have fun with it!


April said...


I've been browsing through your blog and I love your ideas. I lead a writing class and would like to use a few of them. Specifically, the "what if" exercise and "the recipe box". Would you mind if I shared these with my class?

- April

R. M. Ziegler said...

Thank you so much for reading. I don't mind that you share the ideas and prompts with your class. Please do let me know how it goes. Thanks again.

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