Here’s a truly nifty prompt generator for you: the Special Projects Generator. You can press the shuffle button, or you can use the arrow keys to go up or down in a given category. This yields a three-word phrase describing a unique ‘project,’ such as:
changeable rubber garden
do-it-yourself glitter furniture
ingenious collapsible magazine
dramatic morphing orchestra
Use one of the above or go to the site and generate your own favorite. Then do one of the following with it:
Write up a proposal (deadpan or over-the-top silly) for this project.
Write a story in which this object, device, or whatever appears or has a role.
Imagine the kind of world in which such a device would be commonplace, and explore it.
Imagine that you’re a venture capitalist and someone has just given you a presentation on this project. Justify why you would or wouldn’t fund it, either seriously or or not.
Explain what the project is and how we absolutely, positively need it in our world. Make as compelling an argument for it as you possibly can, no matter how silly the item is (in fact, the sillier the better).
Recently I suggested to someone who was cleaning out junk drawers that they take their unidentifiable finds and turn them into creativity exercises. They did so, and deliciously decided to share the finds with us. Today, check out their included photo and come up with your own explanation for what on earth that metallic item could be. (If you know what it really is, no cheating and relying on reality!)
Sometime when you want some additional inspiration, go clean out a bunch of your own drawers and look for something similarly unidentifiable. Put it on a table in front of a sheet of paper and write down any idea you can think of for what it might be!
Click through the below thumbnail to take an up-close look at an intense school of fish.
Translate the clustering of individuals into something that has nothing to do with a school of fish. Free-associate off of the imagery, the herd-like motion, the vast numbers, or whatever gets you going and write a story, a poem, a character sketch, a journal entry, a section of memoir, a travelogue, or anything else that comes to mind. If you prefer to work with the visual, print out the photo, paste it into the center of a large piece of paper, and paste other images around it in whatever way makes sense to you—and see what larger truth emerges from the individual pieces.
Look around your house and pick up several small brightly-colored objects; place them together on a table in front of you. For example, you might pick up a hunter-green crayon, a red-backed playing card, and a yellow six-sided die. Imagine that you (or the fictional character of your choice) receive a package in the mail that contains these items; it might or might not contain a letter or other items as well. Who is the package from? What is its purpose? What happens next? Free-write or tell a story.
Today, take an ordinary object and make it extraordinary. Look around you and pick something of everyday use—your favorite coffee mug, a bunch of carrots, your cats’ water bowl, your oldest pair of sneakers. If you can’t see something you see everyday in this light, then use something ordinary but removed from your day-to-day existence. You could try one of the following:
A dead bird
An optical mouse
An ivory candle
A pocket mirror
Perhaps the object is enchanted in some way. Maybe it kicks off a very unusual story, or is key to an extraordinary plot. A good example would be the magic beans in Jack and the Beanstalk, or the greens the farmer’s wife craves in Rapunzel (not to mention Rapunzel’s hair). My favorite example right now, however, is this incredibly unusual piece of artwork I found yesterday:
Take a look at the article, Brazil Nuts: For That Healthy Glow, and make sure to read through the entire thing, particularly the material near the end regarding the hidden and poorly-understood dangers that may lie in everyday things. Then pick an everyday thing that seems perfectly innocuous and write about how it might turn out to be dangerous. You can journal about a real-world item or use a fictional item in a fictional world for this.
Thousands of crimes have been committed in recent years — including multiple homicides and arson — in which authorities say the primary motive was to steal cell phones.
In America, where cell phones are practically a dime a dozen and often come free with a cell phone plan, it’s hard to imagine such a great value being placed on them.
Today, imagine something else that’s an ordinary, everyday item or value in your life, and how it might be seen differently in another time and place. What consequences could this difference in value have?
Today, tell this man’s story. Try to see beyond the obvious or stereotypical; go deep. The thumbnails below link to the original images of the sculpture by Philippe Faraut:
Alternative exercise: tell a story in which this sculpture makes an appearance, either as an object central to the story, or as a piece of scenery that tells something about the story, the scene, or the character(s) in the scene.