At least three times a week, jumpstart your creativity by focusing only on different ideas for a handful of story premises. A story premise is the central idea of a story. Every story has to be about something, and that something defines its premise.
Put this document on your desktop in a folder titled Rainy-day Premises.
Don’t worry about who the major players will be, or where the story will take place, or when. Who cares if it’s going to be a rainy day or a sunny day in your future story? Right now, all you need to focus on is creating new premises. Don’t strive to make them word-for-word perfect. Just get them down.
1. Only one item survives a fire, and that item brings clarity to a misconception about another person’s life
2. A person tries to find the owner of a lost dog but finds something else instead.
3. On a dare, kids enter an abandoned house and, after finding nothing even mildly scary inside, they go home—where they meet up with an evil they didn’t expect.
Never leave your idea without unanswered questions hanging in it. Those questions are what will lead you back into the story on another day.
1. Who found the item? What is his/her relationship to the item’s owner?
2. Where did the character find the dog? What was he or she doing there?
3. What did they find in the house? How does the evil they discover when they get home tie into their expectations of what they didn’t find in the house?
Keeping a list of story premises also works as a warm-up session to get your juices flowing to use on other projects, like the one with the deadline weighing you down.
Take advantage of the days your brain is full and write down a slew of premises. Then, should the day ever come that you’re stricken with a bad case of writer’s block, guess what? It’s raining.
When you dip into the premises you’ve been gathering, find the one that speaks the loudest to you that day. Again, it may not be the perfect idea, but if it’s the loudest at the moment, just start writing. Let the premise speak to you.
You’ll be surprised to discover that ideas you came up with a week ago somehow rode in the back of your mind, even if you weren’t aware of it. They’ve crept into the crevices of your creative self, and without realizing you’d given a certain premise any more thought, you probably already know who the character to lead this story needs to be. You might even have an inkling as to what this character has been up to.
Give the character a name, a purpose, and most importantly an attitude (whether good or bad, so you’ll get to know him or her right away through voice.) Put your character on the page and see how he or she lives through the premise you’ve created.
Then, whether you continue to work on this story the next day or that big project you’ve been putting off, don’t forget to also write a few more premises, just in case you have another rainy day.
Be aware that while having this bank of ideas waiting to be fleshed out, it’s likely you’ll never endure enough rainy days to use them all. This can be a bit depressing because you’ll be excited about your new ideas and want to try them on, but don’t fret. At least you’re ready if you’re ever faced with a blank screen.