- You’re on your way to a perfectly ordinary day at work when suddenly a sign looms up before you that says “Road Closed.” You’re forced to take an unmarked detour down an unfamiliar road that seems unusually devoid of traffic. Is it an ordinary short cut, or is something more ominous going on? What awaits you around the next corner? Will the pavement suddenly and inexplicably end? Have you crossed into the proverbial twilight zone?
- Create your own mythos– H.P. Lovecraft did it with Cthulhu and the elder gods, and others have done it since (like Alan Campbell and the mythos of Ulcis and Labyrinths that rises out of the novel “Scar Night” or the Faith of Yevon from Final Fantasy X.) Write the stories that tie the gods, goddesses and other aspects of divinity and faith together for an entire people, then make a series of short stories (or even just one, like a creation story) out of them, almost as if you were the chief historian or head theologian dedicated to the preservation of all knowledge associated with this interesting and unique faith.
- Go somewhere that there are people, but not too many people (like a coffee shop, a class room, an airport terminal, an airplane, a business meeting, etc.) and then imagine that you (and the people around you) are suddenly the only people left on Earth. How does the story unfold? Do you all survive? Does someone die? What happens to this last, tiny fragment of the human race? Are there, by some freak miracle, others in similar situations lost in distant corners of the globe?
- Craft a speech. It could be a future politician’s rallying cry, the war plans of a freedom fighter operating out of the underground, or the lost words of some hero (or villain) from the past. Make it real, make it crisp, make it strong and full of power augmented by whatever emotion the “speaker” is trying to convey, whether it be anger, pride, or a solemn sadness.
- Write a story about a place that comes into existence only once every hundred years or on some other rare basis, presenting itself as mythical and meaningful whenever it appears. It could be a restaurant, an island, a bar, an outhouse, or anything else. The person (or people) that encounter it can be oblivious tourists totally unaware of the majesty of it all, someone actively hunting for this mythical place, or anything in between. Make the place unique, give it character, make it stand out.
- Write a story that incorporates ideas or things that seem fantastically outside the norm of reality (like trees of glass and crystal that live and grow, or men and women that exist in a state of pure plasma.) What is life like in this new reality? What is different? What is the same? Be creative, and feel free to let your mind go places it would normally fear to tread.
- Write a story (though it could take the form of a mock interview or anything else) where the main character (even if [especially if!] it’s the narrator) is clearly under the influence of some kind of drug. It could be a hallucinogen, sodium pentothal (truth serum), some illegal substance, or even just a heavy dose of something prescribed by a doctor, but get creative with it. Cast the light on its effects, how it feels to be under its influence, and describe what the character sees that’s different or isn’t there (if anything.)
- In contrast (or perhaps in comparison) write a story where the main character is at the mercy of some kind of multiple personality disorder. He/she could be like a collective of souls, the victim of a botched possession, a simple psychotic, or anything else you can think of. Get creative.
- Write a story where a dark secret in a character’s past comes back to haunt them. It could be anything from the blatant closet skeleton of a murder to something much more subtle and much more on the direct, everyday, human level. Whatever it is, make it real enough (no matter how fantastic it is) that the reader really feels it, really understands the haunting nature of it.