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Activities to inspire you with new subjects for your creative writing (III)

Updated on January 7, 2013

In this third instalment of my activities to inspire you series, I shall be using objects in the room as inspiration for creative writing. How in the name of all that is holy can anything interesting come from the piles of banal everyday clutter that we surround ourselves with? Read on and find out…

The Method

This activity requires the aspiring writer to use their imagination actively. In essence it is a form of mental excersize, for, just like your muscles, the imagination needs to be pushed a bit if it is to get better at whatever task you are asking it to do. In essence, what you are going to be doing is taking something that you know has a purpose and origin and all sorts of concepts attatched to it. You are then going to wipe all of these things from your mind and look at the object afresh from a different angle. A completely unlikely angle. So, what do we need to begin with?

  • You should have pen/pencil and paper,
  • Your powers of obervation,
  • Your imagination

Once you’ve checked that these three essentials are to hand, you are ready to begin my ludicrous little excersize.

  • The first thing to do is to pick your object. Make it something that you are very familiar with. For my example I have picked a vase. There is nothing special about the vase. It is simply a recepticle that I happen to have on my window sill, sometimes it has flowers in it – right now it does not.
  • Now that you have your object in your hands, notice that as you picked it a number of things have as gone through your head: its name, purpose, origins and possibly history (if it has one of any interest). I want you to divorce yourself from these tidbits of information. Forget you know anything about this object or even anything you might know about objects of its kind.
  • This thing is now completely foreign to you.
  • The reason we have done this is so that you may make this ordinary object into something marvellous.
  • Now… just riff. Let your imagination loose![1] What an astonishingly vague instruction! I hear you cry. Fear not I will give you one more handy tip to help you carry it out.
  • Think of questions! What could it be? Where might it have come from? What was it used for? How did I come across it in the first place? Is it significant that I have found/bought/ stolen it? Etc.

Here is how my own thought deluge progressed:

[1] If you are struggling to ‘use your imagination’ check out another hub I’ve written on just this topic then come back to this one when you’ve got it figured out.


I hold my object up, the (imaginary) dirt from the archeological dig cascading away as I peer at it. What on earth could it be? It’s clearly some sort of ceremonial receptical for use is religious/occult rites of some kind. What could it have contained? The blood of a sacrificed infant? The hallucinogenic nectar drained from the painstaking collection of blossoms plucked from a sacred spirit-tree? There are faint blue markings, a tracery of patterns and symbols. What could they mean? Have I stumbled across an artifact of power? Does anyone else know of its existence, perhaps? In fact – have not I been searching for this very thing for my entire career as an esoteric historian of ancient civilisations…. And so on.

  • One idea spins into the next, then onto another and another and another… Pick up your piece of paper and scribble down the ideas in a rough spider diagram with your object’s invented name in the centre.
  • I call mine The Cup of Sheoul. The spider diagram ended up looking like this:

Rough Spider Diagram

  • Now you have ideas that can be drawn together into a short story plan or the plot for a novel perhaps.
  • The next step is to create a short Character biography for your protagonist. Use your spider-diagram to inform this but don’t let it tie you down. If you feel yourself moving in a new direction go with it. Do what feels natural.
  • You have now built up your creative momentum to the point where listening to me waffle on is more a hinderance than a help. Go! Write!

To conclude

I hope that was of use to some of you in some small way. Any suggestions you may have for improvement please do leave in the comment section below. If any of you produce a story based on any of my methods I would be delighted to read it, and link you in so that others reading these articles can see the kind of things that come from using these methods. I shall produce an example piece for each from now on as this has been suggested to me and I think it’s a damn good idea.

In the next instalment of this series I will be looking at how making up names and words can be useful in stimulating the imagination for story writing. I may even delve into nonsense rhymes for a bit of fun. Jabberwokky anyone?


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