Every writer has methods to jumpstart ideas, refine skills and otherwise help get the job done. Mine usually revolve around some sort of word play, random observation or memory game, like these:
1. Setting Details: Go to a model home or place you've never been before, and walk around one of the rooms for five minutes. Step outside and (no peeking) write down what you most remember about that room. Now go back in and see what wasn't memorable, and make a list of those things.
2. Single/Group Character Dynamics: Spend ten minutes alone with a friend, and then later write down what you did and said together. Repeat the exercise with three, four, five or as many friends as you can gather in a room. See if you can describe what your friends were wearing, how you thought they were feeling, and any details that come to mind.
3. Real Life Dialogue: Eavesdrop for fifteen minutes in a public space (don't be obvious about it) and write down exactly what you overhear along with a brief description of the speakers. Go home and write a scene in a completely different setting but using the same speakers and the dialogue you wrote down.
4. Observed Emotion/Profession: Look at any number of strangers you pass during the day and without talking to them or interacting with them in any way, try to guess how they are feeling. Write down what body language, speech and/or facial expressions made you think they were happy, angry, indifferent, etc. Based on their appearance, dress and attitude, try to guess what they do for a living and write down what made you guess that profession.
5. Comparitive Point of View: Ask five friends to tell you what they know or remember about a well-known disaster (i.e. 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.) Use the same disaster for all five people and jot down notes or record what they say. Compare each person's recollection and note the similarities and differences between them.
What method(s) have you created or found that help you with some aspect of your writing? Post yours in comments here by midnight EST on Sunday, September 10, 2006. I'll select one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner a Think Ink goody bag, which will include The Writer's Book of Matches, unsigned copies of Alison Kent's CI Guide to Writing Erotic Romance and Rosina Lippi's Tied to the Tracks, a copy of Writer's Journal Magazine and a few more surprises. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet, even if you've won something here at PBW in the past.