|This whole novel was spawned|
from one clear, crystal image.
Unfortunately, those brief, brilliant flashes of insight tend to be pretty random. You’ll never get any writing done if you keep waiting for that perfect idea to hit you like a bolt from the blue. So to push past that initial writer’s block, here are a few tips you can use to help develop ideas for your potential novel or short story.
It helps to start with an object. It could be a half-eaten sandwich or a box full of dusty old letters or a crinkly orange leaf. Any object will do, really, as long as it resonates with you or carries some sort of emotional weight. You might not know why a particular object has resonance, but if you keep coming back to it, chances are it has story potential. It’s okay if nothing comes to mind right away. You can always go for a walk and keep your eyes peeled for a particularly striking image; you might even spot something interesting just by looking out a window. If the outdoors aren’t your thing, try browsing stock photos or social media sites to see if anything stands out to you. Once you’ve got an image, describe it in as much detail as you possibly can. Use all five senses. You’ll probably find that the more you try to be objective, the more those little subjective details will creep in. And that’s good! It means your object has weight, that it has a story to be told.
|What story does this sandwich have to tell?|
Once you’ve figured out the answers to these sorts of questions, you’ll be working on the inevitable next step: introducing your character. Before you place them in scene, write up a detailed character bio. Get down their name, age, appearance, favorite books, hobbies, fears, hopes and aspirations, etc. Whatever you can think of. Laundry lists of description are fine for now; just make sure to avoid them when it comes time to actually write the story. Let’s use our sandwich-eater as an example. Her name is Molly Price, age 22, and she’s just finished her degree in Psychology at UVM. Now she’s back in Brooklyn searching for a job. She’s got a pale complexion, with green eyes and unruly brown hair that always seems to be floating around her face. Right now she’s standing on a bridge near the picnic blanket, brushing her hair behind an ear and staring out across the water. Her eyes are blank; her sandwich forgotten. What could she be thinking about?
|How much conflict could you get|
out of this image?
Sounds like we’ve got a decent basis for a longer story here! With a bit more planning, this could even find its way into a novel. And just think: all of this originated from the image of a half-eaten sandwich. Pretty amazing, right? Even the most mundane of objects can have a story packed inside it. You just need to do a little digging to get there.
What scenarios did you come up with using this prompt? Do you have any other strategies that help get your writing juices flowing? Share your comments with us here, or join us @GodinePub on Twitter!