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Story starters

6 Years Ago

Think back to a time when you say a stranger say or do something that that caught your attention. Write one page from the stranger's point of view about what they are doing and why.
Sometimes it's a single image that sparks a story. Have you ever seen something in your mind's eye that captured your imagination? Write about it. Make sure to include a description of all the five senses to really set the tone for your piece. Then try broadening your view of the image. Are there people there? What are they doing? Who are they? See where it takes you.
A jewel-encrusted box is found in an ancient abandoned temple. Describe the box, what is in the box, and the temple. See where it takes you.
Take some time out of your day to people watch. This works especially well in a coffee shop, restaurant, or some other public place where interaction is the norm. Jot down observations about the people around you. Describe a loner, a couple, someone how works in this public area. How do they interact? What's their body language say about them at this point in time? How does the employee react to those around him?
Write down your first three memories. Are your memories vivid enough to construct a scene from? If not, could you fill in the details? Try, even if there are gaping holes in your memory, keep going. 
Recall a vivid or perhaps reoccurring dream. Write one page, making the dream as believable as possible. Don't mention they are dreams. Allow yourself to let go and create a drifting stream of consciousness account. Leave all your notions of punctuation, proper paragraph structure, and logical jumps behind (which if you're anything like me shouldn't be hard). This gives you practice for writing surreal scenes and images in a story. 
Finish this sentence: "My mother never..."
Finish this sentence: "My father is..."
Finish this sentence: "That's what happens when you follow your heart..."
Finish this thought: "I didn't go to ____ looking for redemption, but somehow I found it.
"Write about a place where two rivers meet.
Write about regret.
Write about fear.
There is a saying in the martial arts to describe the proper mind frame needed to become a master. Mind like water. This is a state of mind that writers must strive for as well. Write about that feeling. Have you ever experienced it? If so how did it feel? What images does the phrase "Mind like water" bring to...well your mind?
Write a page about an embarrassing, or painful incident that happened to you.
Every family has an anecdote. A short, usually funny story that is told at almost every family gathering. In my family it's the story of the time when I was three and disappeared from my mother's side while she was hanging clothes out on the line. Now, I remember this even though I was only three, but I've heard the story so many times it's hard to tell where my memory ends and the story begins. Is there a story like that in your family? Something that has been told and retold by several members of your family? Can you broaden the idea, make it a real story with details and dialog? You might need to fill in gaps with your imagination, but see what happens.
Poems, or lyrics to songs are often times great sparks for an idea. Both rely heavily on images conveyed in words that can stir your imagination. They also usually hint at a broader story, or portray an emotional state. Try picking up a book of poems or lyrics and see if anything speaks to you.
A stepparent has placed his/her ancient family portrait in the characters house. Describe the portrait.
Use a family portrait to start a story - how are the characters different than they appear? What do they look like? Do they appear happy when they're not, etc?

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