Session One: Follow the Lead


Fundamentals: The purpose of the exercise is to consider how forming an interesting Lead reveals possibilities about character, conflict, plot, tone, scenes, images, etc. Take a look at how you might form a Lead by choosing an attribute from Column A with a character type from Column B. What does a given combination automatically suggest to you? Brainstorm and jot notes. When you’ve settled on a Lead and have let some ideas and inspiration come to you, write a potential first paragraph inspired by the combination and see if you can keep going. (Let’s limit what you turn in to 300 words or so.)

talentless executioner
motherly father
jealous circus clown
neurotic suicide hotline volunteer
unfulfilled celebrity impersonator
scheming tour guide
bigoted sports mascot
sexist high-school cheerleader
melancholy superhero
self-conscious relationship counselor
psychic minister


Melancholy Executioner

The cloaked man had forgotten to wear the hood and mask once while executing his duty in his own village, and it left his life dejectedly altered. Women ignored his courting attempts, men refused him invitation to cards and ale, and children ran away shrilling in fear whenever they saw his face. He forgot the hood and mask, only, that one time.

Hidden beneath an ebony hood and mask, the cloaked man rode pass the village gate toward the gallows, while the sun was still at rest. He had even placed an ebony hood and mask over his stallion’s head, so none could identify him by recognizing the strong and beautiful steed. While the villagers would lay peacefully in their warm beds, he would have the unpleasant task of ensuring that all the wooden beams and supports were sound. The rooster crowed as he had ended his rudimentary inspection.


From behind the ebony hood and mask the cloaked man peered out at the crowd, noticing their disdain, fear, and disapproval. These emotions were not for the sobbing criminal that was being dragged passed them all, but rather, for the wretched Puppet of Death which would pull the lever to hang the pleading soul. The cloaked man held tight to the lever, no one noticing how he shook with loneliness.

Only three generations before, his great grandfather was applauded and respected for doing his lawful duty by ending the life of a convicted criminal. In fact, it was deemed the work of God, and it had women throwing themselves at his feet. Men bought him round-after-round of ale. Children pretended to be him. That was then, wonderful days.

The cloaked man yanked at the lever, a man’s neck snapped, and the gathered crowd gasped in judgmental repugnance.

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