Four writing prompts: Manipulation

Good stories center on the clashing of characters’ goals and motivations. Sometimes a character’s goals and motivations arise from seeking something so badly that he no longer cares if he must influence or control someone unscrupulously. Here are four writing prompts for stories that center on manipulation.

Man vs. nature
An expedition is marooned in a remote wilderness. Each effort the protagonist and his expedition makes to overcome the challenges nature poses to their survival is undercut, however. What if their efforts were being manipulated to doom them? How do they determine this, and how do they discover who is sabotaging them?

Man vs. man
Two brothers vie for something – control of a family fortune, a throne, their father’s affection. What happens when their zeal for achieving mastery over the other causes them to manipulate others? How many people will be hurt by their manipulation? Is there anyone who can end their game?

Man vs. society
What if an organization with evil intent attempts to manipulate our protagonist into committing a murder? How do they go about doing this? How does our main character come to suspect he is being manipulated, and how does he go about turning the tables on this organization?

Man vs. himself
Manipulation typically involves telling lies about oneself and others. What happens to the manipulator, though, when he has told so many lies that he begins to believe them himself? Is there any way out of his internal madness and the life he has created?