What if?

Continuing the theme of writer’s block, here are some prompts to use when faced with that daunting blank page. I’ve used most of them at one time or another; they’re great for getting your imagination going. Sometimes just changing the sex or occupation of a main character can trigger lots of ideas. They work well when you’re free writing – just putting down the first thing that comes into your head frees up your writing muscles. You can arrange them into some sort of cohesion later, or if it’s no good, throw it away and start again. They’re particularly good if you’ve written yourself into a corner and trying to find an ingenious way out.

  • What happens if?

–         your character misses the last train home?

–         her car breaks down?

–         he fails an important exam?

–         the alarm doesn’t go off, he misses the bus to work and that all-important meeting?

  • One-liners

–         Overheard snatches of conversation can be a springboard for your imagination. I once overheard a guy in a shop explain to his companion, ‘Oh, it’s not for me, it’s to pay the Private Investigator.’

–         Boy to girl on finding out that she has a twin sister: ‘Oh, that’s interesting, So, how long have you been twins?’

  • Look at a map and choose a location with a humorous name, or one that chimes with you. We have some fabulous place names in England – Bolton Percy; Upper Slaughter; Yesnaby; Woolfardisworthy; Tillicoultry; Swanibost; Quoyness; Mavis Enderby, to name but a few.
  • Check out the local newspaper and find a report about:

–         a crime

–         a wedding

–         a fire at a factory

–         mugging or burglary

–         a funeral

Re-tell the story from a different point of view: a guest at the wedding, or one of the kitchen staff who sees something they shouldn’t; a member of the police/fire service; an onlooker who sees the firestarter; the funeral director or pallbearer, or even the corpse.

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