Danger, Will Robinson!

Quick! Spend ten minutes listing out every kind of danger you can imagine putting a character into. These could be physical dangers, dangers to a character’s way of life, emotional dangers–if it strikes you as a danger, it’s fair game. Just list as fast as you can with as little thought as possible. Usual free-write rules apply: don’t worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization. Don’t worry about whether the ideas are any good. Just get ’em all out there and go back later to find the gems.

If need be, first spend a couple of minutes listing danger categories, and then list more specific ideas under those categories.

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It has of course been said (for decades and decades) that there is nothing new to write about. It isn’t the danger itself that’s new–it’s how you present it. The twists and turns you give it, the personality, the dressing, the flavor. So you start with the basic ideas, and then you figure out how you might dress it up to make it interesting and unexpected from there.

The first step is to pick out some dangers that give you that energy-buzz of inspiration that tells you you’re onto something. If you’d like a follow-on exercise, your next step is to pick one of those (or if you’d like something more challenging, pick one that doesn’t immediately give you ideas–sometimes this can be a marvelous inspirational exercise). Set a timer for 15 minutes or limit yourself to two sheets of paper, and start listing out plot elements, window-dressing, personality quirks, twists, etc. that you can use to flavor your danger.

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