Even if you are really determined to work on your writing and have set time aside for it, there will be days when nothing seems to work to get you started. An interesting exercise to get a story moving is to use a collection of random objects drawn from a bag. The idea is then to create story, in which these objects must all be used as a significant part of the narrative. It’s a method I use on a regular basis with children in younger grades at school visits and during summer camps and parties, but can easily be adapted to an older audience. For example, you could place a set of keys, a hairbrush, a pen, a cell phone, an apple, a sock, a postcard from the Caribbean, a toy bear, an address book, a broken pair of sunglasses, a post-it note, a watch or indeed any other collection of random items in a bag. You then draw out four or five at random and use them to create your story.
This type of exercise always sparks the imagination of children and you’d be surprised at what you might come up with when confronted with a set of seemingly unconnected objects. You could even set yourself a time limit to force yourself to devise the beginning, middle and end of the story. The final result may not be best-seller material, but the process will certainly stimulate your imagination and like some of the other ideas we have examined, it might be just enough to get your creativity moving again.
One of the best story starter ideas can be to simply wonder ‘what if’. What if you received a letter telling you you’d been accepted into a school for wizards? Or discovered a door into another universe at the back of your bedroom closet? Or a flying boy dressed all in green appeared at your bedroom window, inviting you to take a journey to a magical land? Perhaps you followed a rabbit down a hole and ended up in a bizarre underground universe? What if you met someone who’d been imprisoned inside a painting for over three hundred years? If you could travel back in time, where would you go? What would you do if you had a clone for the day? Whether this is how Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland or The Alchemist’s Portrait first came about isn’t the point, but rather how this type of thinking sets the thought process in motion
Another great way to get started is to consider an overheard conversation and where it might lead. How about “I’ll never forgive him for as long as I live”, or “I didn’t mean to set the laboratory on fire, it just kind of happened” or “after that incident last year, her family will never be the same again”. Any of these could be overheard in the aisle of the supermarket, at a store checkout or on a long bus or train journey. You could even find a mysterious note or find a cell phone with either a text or a voice message with tantalizingly vague details, from someone who may be in serious danger. Or maybe you receive a letter and immediately recognize the name above the return address as belonging to someone you thought was dead. All of these are great story starters, but can also help you develop your own idea or take it on a completely different path altogether.