The holiday season is – just about – hoving into view, and we’ve never been more divided. There are plenty of horrible dinner table experiences waiting for many of us. Let’s turn up the horror a notch or two in our writing.

Dinner party from hell. Devise the most impossibly mismatched dinner party you can imagine. For example, throw in Trump and Sanders supporters or an extreme social conservative and a member of a polyamorous triad. If you have a particular ideological or moral sympathy within the group try giving more sympathetic weight to characters from the opposing ‘team’. Run in WTN

Prompted, perhaps, by current scandals, I have been thinking about culpability and accusation a lot this week. When I remember my years at an unpleasant school, I tend to focus on the times I was bullied. But every now and then, I find myself remembering the occasions I joined in myself – so pleased with being accepted by others that I entirely lost touch with the consequences of our – my – actions.

Only a joke. Write about a practical joke that seems benign at first. Reveal a hidden cruelty that scars the victim and at least one of the jokers. Run in WTN

Time changes what we consider acceptable. Usually this is a gradual process but, with social or political revolutions, mores can change quickly. Since our movements are so easily tracked online, I often wonder what would happen were perfectly acceptable activities suddenly to become crimes.

Not a monster. Imagine a shift in society that renders a currently accepted trait morally indefensible (a liking for certain kinds of literature perhaps, or violent computer games). Send a character with this trait to a counsellor for correction. Try to make the counsellor’s case compelling enough that the character comes to doubt his/her own moral standing. Run in WTN

Society can change its mind about what is morally acceptable, but we’re more than capable of lying to ourselves without help from history.

A monster all along. Your character confronts the consequence of actions which once seemed acceptable to them. It becomes clear that these acts were actually deeply morally corrosive. Try out three responses to this: defiance, denial, a search for redemption. Run in WTN

Well that was all a bit dark. Time, perhaps to return to the world of the senses.

Listen. What can you hear right now? Describe every sound in the minutest detail. Let your descriptions lead you where they will. Write for at least ten minutes. Run in WTN