This idea will work if you’re blocked, or if you want to write, but don’t have any idea what you want to say.
It can work with a short story, a novel or a poem; anything, in fact.
I believe I first heard this method from author Bruce Holland Rogers, though I can’t be 100% certain. (Bruce, if you’re listening, please set me straight.)
What to do:
Take a book off your shelf and crack it open to the first page, or the first page of a chapter, or a poem at random.
Read the sentence, then write one very similar to it, changing the nouns and verbs and setting, etc. Then move on to the second and third, or as many will help you as a jumping off point. Then, continue on your own.
So, for example, from Chapter 2 of Anne Ursu’s book, Shadow Thieves, the second chapter begins:
Charlotte was one month into the school year at Hartnett Prepatory School, and thus far the year had proved to be just like all other years, except more so.
I might write something like this:
Mark had been in the sanitarium for eight weeks now. And it wasn’t quite living up to the standard of nuthouses he’d formed in his mind. It was worse.
We could go on…
Anne’s opening paragraph (in C2) continues:
Eight of the other girls in her class, whose names all begin with A, had left for the summer as brunettes and had come back as blonds.
So I write:
Three of the others in his “we see dead people” ward, had been treated to brain stimulation therapy that left them near comatose, until their bodies seemed to heal the damage. (And then, they didn’t see their dead relatives anymore.)
Mark sighed, glad he’d seen the first two come back looking like zombies after their treatment. He never would have known how to act otherwise. The treatment left him giddy, feeling free, and his Uncle Bob sounded even more clear than before. And if he wasn’t mistaken, his dead sister, Melissa, had something really important to tell to him.
He simply had to act like the others, so the docs wouldn’t catch on. Soon, he’d be out of here, too.
Didn’t take me long to go off on a tangent, eh? And I took an interesting YA sentence, and waltzed off into something supernatural. It doesn’t matter what you start with, your brain will engage with what you want to write.
Here’s Your Prompt:
Take a book off the shelf and open it to the beginning, the beginning of a random chapter, or anywhere, if it’s a poetry book.
Read the first few lines to see if the content is interesting to you. (If not, choose another spot.)
Write the first line exactly as written, skip a few lines on your page, and then start your own writing.
See where it leads you!