Yes, the phrase “a one-track mind” often has connotations of X-rated content; however, all it really means is that person is fixated on a specific topic. It could be a video game that a person loves, a show someone watches all the time, a favorite author, a significant other, politics, world news, dieting, a pet – anything a person could obsess over. So what is a one-track mind writing prompt challenge?
A One-track Mind Writing Prompt Challenge
Technically, I guess, there are two writing prompt challenges for the one-track mind: general characterization and an argument.
A One-track Mind as General Characterization
Using a one-track mind mentality as general characterization is an old trick to automatically make a character a little quirky and add comic relief. I bet if I named a couple of obsessions, you could think of characters that have them as character quirks (Obsessions: advances in technology, a specific celebrity, travel, or fashion – If you think of a character, name the character and quirk in the comments.).
The first steps to this writing prompt aren’t as much of a challenge:
- Pick a character.
- Pick a fixation. It could go with the character and the character’s occupation (like a mechanic obsessed with cars), or it could be a contrast to the character and occupation (like a mechanic obsessed with ballet).
- Establish ground rules for the level of obsession and how well the character can control the urge to go on a tangent about the fixation.
You can do that, right?
Keeping it consistent is where the challenge comes in. If you’ve established that the character always brings the conversation back to a specific topic, then, can there be exceptions? What if you have a scene where you can’t afford to lose the momentum by including that tangent?
That’s why the third step is so important. Setting up solid rules and following them from the beginning can give you a major advantage as far as consistency of character behavior. And if you run into a spot where you need to move forward but it would mean breaking a rule, consider outside interference (“Oh my God, Joe – you can look at the car after we save the world!”).
A One-track Mind in an Argument
Whether the character usually has a one-track mind or not, he or she can still get locked into a single track in a specific situation. I see this as a huge balloon blown up in a room: there may be other, more important items scattered around it, but you can’t see them because the balloon is so overwhelming. Once the balloon is popped, however, you realize that it was just air – no substance.
When a character gets stuck on a specific fact or idea, it’s like that idea is taking up so many brain cells that the person can’t process things right in front of him or her. The balloon is blocking them from sight.
This usually inspires an argument from the characters who can see around the balloon. And if those characters need to get around the one-track mind to move forward, well, that could be a problem. Arguments like this tend to go around in circles because the one-track mind isn’t really registering or accepting opposing arguments.
Figuring how to deflate that balloon is a challenge, and doing so while trying to hold down the frustration from the circular arguments is even harder. In fact, it may be impossible for your characters. And exposing that difficulty adds realism.
Want to give it a try? Here’s one way to practice.
- Pick a set of characters. Or create new ones.
- Select a goal they’re trying to accomplish that a single person could stop or stall.
- Choose the opponent (the person with the one-track mind – it could be one of the group or someone outside of it).
- Find a fixation.
- List ways each protagonist would try to overcome the fixation.
- Think of how each character would react to that circular conversation.
- Decide what (if anything) would actually make the fixated person change tracks.
- Write the scene using the parts picked in steps 1-7. You may not get to use all of the options you thought of for 5, especially depending on 6. Also, if the characters wouldn’t think of the answer to 7, then you probably can’t use it.
Whoa, that’s a long list. And a bit nit-picky. You can use it as a starting point or take the idea of the confrontation and do it your own way. If this exact method doesn’t work for your writing style, I wouldn’t want you to get stuck on it – a one-track mind writing prompt challenge is fine, but not a one-track mind that keeps you from writing the best story you can!