I was recently told by a writer about an encounter they had interviewing Raymond Chandler, a man of sublime and often surreally real prose. Apparently in one of his notebooks he would make a list, each entry comprised of three words: the always useful ‘the’, an adjective, and a mundane object. The end result, a list of story titles. Whenever anyone asked what he was working on currently, he simply opened the notebook and there was his story.
This is genius! If you are looking for prompts or just a general way to skip past the tapping-teeth-with-a-pencil, swivelling-in-your-chair, what-will-I-write decision making process, I (and I am) would say this might be the simplest and best idea I have heard. You can even make your own form of it. The Red Cup might not work for you. Maybe you – like me – prefer odd titles. Pick the first line from every paragraph in the morning paper and write them in your book/app/scrivener. Use names and write a story around that person. Go to the obits, close your eyes and point, then using the details therein re-write the ‘true crime story’.
I’m starting with The Blackmailers Handbook. In honour of Chandler.