Sometimes the ideas just don’t come. But one thing I know is ideas breed other ideas. As John Steinbeck said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
Here are a couple ways to get your mind working:
Make up long lists of….
where you’ve been.
from childhood (include dramatic places where you or someone else was worried, afraid, injured, etc.).
places important to you now.
where you’d like to be (research probably needed).
specific situations or problems.
talents and skills.
habits and quirks.
Pick items from three or four lists and see what happens when you put them together.
Do you come up with an opening for a story? Interesting ideas for a character or a problem? A way a character could solve a problem? A setting? An antagonist?
Experiment with these ideas and see where they take you. Enjoy playing around.
Make up a list of first lines without worrying whether or not you’d actually want to use them. Make them compelling and interesting.
If you need a starting point, look at famous opening lines and reimagine them.
Imagine how your character, if you have one already, might say something similar.
Imagine how a specific animal might say it.
Put it in picture book language.
Make something serious funny or vice versa.
Have fun—there are no rules.
When you’ve got a good number, read through them again.
Ask yourself questions such as…
Which ones catch my attention?
Which ones make me laugh?
Which ones make me want to know more?
Which ones make me sad?
Which are boring?
Pick a couple of favorite opening lines. Can you expand them into a paragraph or more? If you find ideas are flowing, keep going to see how far it takes you.
Set the list and the paragraphs aside.
If any ideas keep “haunting” you, consider how to make them a complete project.
Look at the list again at a later date. Do the same lines grab you or do different ones? If different lines grab you, expand those.
Look at the paragraphs again at a later date. Does more scene unfold in your mind? Write and see where you go.
I ended up writing a whole novel inspired by a writing exercise. Others have inspired picture books. Yet, others sent me back to the writing desk to works-in-progress. And at the very least, they got me putting words on a page.
As Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the tap is turned on.”
I have written a great many stories and I still don’t know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances. John Steinbeck