There are many writing tools at our disposal. From the characters we create to the perspective we write in, there are many ways we can tell an interesting story. The best way to truly appreciate something is to take it away, so I have devised a challenge for your writing which limits you with each level. If you think you’re up for the challenge, here it is summarised!
Level 1: Write a simple conflict scene between a protagonist and antagonist, in the third person. Include side characters to add to any argument or fight that may transpire. It can be in any fictional genre, it can have as many characters as you want. However, I would recommend limiting the word count to 500 at the most.
Level 2: Time to take away from your story. Rewrite what you have, but this time without any background or side characters.
Level 3: Now, let’s remove the antagonist. Create a conflict where the only character is your protagonist.
Level 4: Finally, rewrite the scene, but this time in the first-person.
The Purpose of Level 1
Level 1 is an opportunity to complete some basic creative writing. You have all the tools you need, from characters to the helpful story-telling style of narration. Creating a conflict among many characters is much easier than creating conflict with few characters, which is why you have access to side characters as well.
The only real limit in level 1 is the word count, as you are going to be writing the story three more times after you finish.
The Purpose of Level 2
Level 2 introduced the first major restriction. You are left with only two characters, the protagonist and antagonist. The story should change only slightly to draw focus on the conflict between only two characters, but for some writers, it will change the story dramatically.
When developing characters and constructing a conflict, having side characters can help approach it from different angles, which adds to the variety. New perspectives are shared, ideas executed and lessons taught. Yet, when there are only two characters, there will be very little development, if any at all.
The Purpose of Level 3
Another major step in the challenge is removing the antagonist, leaving a single character in the spotlight. Conflict is much easier with several characters, easy with two, but with one it becomes a strange scene of internal conflict. Most will abandon any dialogue and focus purely on narration as a character wrestles with something.
The Purpose of Level 4
Level 4 takes away narration. Suddenly, it is now up to the single character to relate their conflict to the reader, with their personality and perspective. The knowledge that could be provided by the writer has stripped away as they no longer have the power to narrate their story and have to do it through the protagonist.
It’s at this point that the story has very little resemblance to the story in level 1, but that is not the purpose of the challenge. By the end of this challenge, the writer is left with very little and must use their wonderful imagination to tell an interesting story.
Of course, it wouldn’t do if the creator of the challenge didn’t take the challenge himself. I have written my rather ridiculous stories and you can read them below!
Dan leaned against the counter, yawning on his coffee to cool it down. Beside him, his roommate, Stan, fried eggs for the toast that was on its way. As the two waited, their dog trotted in the room, smelling the already fried bacon and the cooking eggs. The smells delighted him, but what delighted the dog more was the toast that launched from the toaster, spinning through the air towards him.
The dog snatched the toast from the air, his eyes already searching for an exit. Pointing himself towards the front door, the dog sprang forward with Dan in hot pursuit.
“Hey, hey, sit!” Dan shouted, his commands ignored happily by the dog already drooling over the toast.
The dog took the corner out of the kitchen and through the front door with ease, but Dan was close behind.
“Be careful of the table!” Stan called after Dan.
Dan remembered and the moment he turned through the door, he dropped beneath the table, the dog’s tail wagging above his feet as he slid across the grass. Having gained so quickly, Dan spun forward with masterful agility and wrapped his arms around the waist of the dog. Rolling the dog on it’s back and giving its tummy a ticklish rub, the dog released the toast in the hands of the victorious Dan.
Dan celebrated by taking a large bite in front of the dog.
Dan whistled as he fried eggs while his toast was on the way. As he waited, his dog trotted in the room, smelling the already fried bacon and the cooking egg. The smells delighted him, but what delighted the dog more was the toast that launched from the toaster, spinning through the air towards him.
The dog snatched the toast from the air, his eyes already searching for an exit. Pointing himself towards the front door, the dog sprang forward. Dan took the pan off the stove, accidentally spilling the eggs onto the counter.
“Oh, come on!” Dan moaned as he sped forward, before angrily turning back to look at the dog. “Hey, hey, sit!”
The dog happily ignored the orders as he took the corner out of the kitchen and through the front door with ease, Dan trailing behind.
Dan took the corner as well but forgot about the old table in front of the door. With his momentum working against him, Dan’s legs hit the table and he flipped over it painfully, landing on his behind in front of the victorious dog. Dan watched as his pet wolfed down the slice of toast before jumping happily on the lawn.
Dan whistled as he fried eggs while his toast was on the way. Enjoy the smell of the bacon so much, Dan reached over and took a small bite while the eggs cooked through. While he was enjoying the salty taste, wondering if he would have let the bacon fry longer, the toaster clunked as it launched a slice of toast into the air.
As if in slow motion, Dan watched the toast spin through the air, descending towards the unclean floor below. Dan wanted to cry out, he wanted to dive across the room in an attempt to catch it, but he knew it would risk losing the bacon or the eggs. A split-second decision was made and all he could do was mourn as the toast hit the dirtied ground.
Pondering existence, Dan placed another slice into the toaster and walked off to find a net to catch the fresh slice.
I wondered what the song’s name was as I whistled its tune. To me, it had to be something from the 80s, but I listened to a few 80s hits. While chewing thoughtfully on the bacon I subconsciously grabbed, the sound of the toast snapped me back to reality.
I turned too late, it happened so fast. From the metal box, my toast was launched, crisp and golden, into the air. It spun like an astronaut in space, helpless to its momentum. I should have closed my eyes before it hit the floor, but the wonderful sight of its golden-brown nature captured me, even until its darkest moment.
Closing my eyes as I cleaned it up, I wondered if cleaning these small messes would be easier if I had a dog.
I felt it would be both fun and interesting to see how my writing community is progressing with their work with fun challenges such as these. I’ve seen a lot of wonderful work from my students, many who show great promise in several genres.
I plan on developing more challenges like this in the future, eager to see what everyone has to submit. Thank you for participating and as always…
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Thank you for reading!
Matthew Dewey, Writer