The random element prompting you
Or, there’s always a way around the block…
When it comes to solving a problem with creating – whether it’s how to start, or how to go on, many artists will consult a random, outside element to give them something fresh and new to chew on, or to crystallize the possibilities swirling around inside their mind.
For example, writing prompts. Often one word, image, phrase, or question, that’s meant to get your mind moving, and must be incorporated or solved. Once the project’s underway, writing prompts can become strategies instead.
An example of starting prompt by word:
Jake Owen’s Inktober (Yes, it was meant for drawing, not writing. Works either way!)
According to Hoyt’s Sunday Vignettes (yes, there’s a promo there, too. Prompt at the end, and you play in comments.)
“They Fight Crime!” Generator (From the trope of “He’s an X, she’s a Y, together they fight crime!”)
I don’t know a site that specifically presents an image daily for a writing prompt, but there are a couple sites I’ve seen people use:
Photomorgue: free photos, and you can type in a writing prompt word or just scroll through the random selection on the front page.
The book designer: Some authors go surf premade cover sites, find the cover that they want to write the story for, and write the story around the cover. (If you do this, you just might want to make sure you buy that cover, so it’s still available when you’re ready to publish!) This has a long history in the pulp magazines – more than a few stories for the pulps were written after the cover art had been commissioned, and the author had to come up with something related.
(physical option) Tell Me A Story cards: This is a deck of cards with a single fairytale image each. Designed as a kid’s game, they work for writing prompts, too. I know writers who’ve gone on to create their own extra cards to add.
Oblique Strategies: Created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, this was a deck of cards that someone uploaded as a one-per-website-refresh that was meant to help songwriters and musicians.
(physical option) Writer Emergency Pack: this has options like “switch genres” or “standard procedures: what if this happened all the time? Is your hero writing the rules, or breaking them?”
Orson Scott Card’s “1,000 ideas in an hour”: while this is in the book Characters and Viewpoint, the basic gist is free on the link blog post (I recommend the book; it’s good. But later; see the strategy now.)
You could use all of these, or none of these. In the end, all that matters is that you get the story started, and then written, and then finished. What have you used for prompts or strategies, or idea generation?