Create a character usually blessed with strength and courage in the face of chaos and strife. Now trap this same character in the grip of a personal phobia. What internal conflict arises? How does the story play out? Suggestion: fight the obvious resolution and take the road less traveled, the plotline less written.
Tap into all five of your senses and see the world for all it has to offer. Infuse color, sound, smell, taste, and touch into the photo above. Now write as if you were experiencing these senses for the first time. And if you dare, consider adding a sixth sense. Trust your intuition. Don't question your words, they know more about where the story is going than you do.
Think of something you may find irritating, ugly, or without purpose. Now take a step back and see the object from a different perspective. Force yourself to erase all preconceived notions and find an aspect of beauty or purpose, no matter how small. Write about discovering that beauty, or the object's quest to prove its worth, or the hardship that may arise if the object was stripped of its purpose, or...well, you decide. You're the artist, so get writing!
Retrieve a memory from a school bus ride. Was it an exciting field trip, a routine drive to school in the morning, or a long disappointing ride home from losing a sports game? Whatever the reason, pinpoint a minute detail from that trip and develop a story around it.
Alarm clocks, to do lists, calendar reminders ringing from cell phones; lives governed by too little time and too much to do. Describe the owner of this list. Calculate her character traits based on the style of writing, the layout of words, the event that led to the change in ink color, etc. Now imagine how the day played out for this person once the list took up residency on the ground instead of tucked safely in a pocket or purse.
You stand at the water's edge, your toes curling into the sand. A single wave crashes and rushes toward you. After lingering at its peak for a moment, the water retreats back to the sea only to leave behind an object at your feet. Is it clear what the object is or have the turbulent waters stripped it of its identity? Write about the mystery of this object and your efforts to uncover the truth behind it.
Write about a character balanced and at peace atop his tree, and then introduce a secondary character whose sole purpose is to shake the branch your protagonist perches on.
"No ladder needs the bird but skies / To situate its wings, / Nor any leader's grim baton / Arraigns it as it sings."
- Emily Dickinson
Would you dive in head first or wade in slowly? Or would you be too frightened to go in at all? Write about a character making a decision, the internal conflict that ensues, and the world that revolves around him as he stands on the shore staring at the waves?
What if you don't follow the signs? Write a story about a character who chooses to do the opposite of what every sign tells him to do. Whether it be a street sign or fate's pointed finger, what doors will open for him, what dangers may arise? Where does he end up, who does he meet along the way?