When your writing feels stagnant, you’re struggling to come up with a new or unique idea, or the art of the unexpected is completely evading you, it can help to spend some time exploring the ridiculous and outrageous with a simile/metaphor writing prompt.
It’s like how Robin Williams explained part of the acting process in his interview with Inside the Actor’s Studio (one of his best IMHO): he was talking about exploring a character and scene through multiple takes and multiple interpretations. He said:
You always want to lay down a kind of a subtle base… it’s like a base track for a musical. And you could lay that down. And what happens – it’ll peak. You’ll start to go up, and it’ll get outrageous, it’ll get outrageous, and then you’ll kind of hit it. And then you go beyond, and you know when you have. And then what happens is you’ll do something really outrageous. And then you’ll come back. And you’ll say, “ok, that was great,” and you’ll take the energy from the outrageous one and then cycle it into something very kind of… focused.
That’s the purpose of this writing prompt. Use it to build energy, to generate ideas, and to fire creativity. Get outrageous. Then, go back and apply that energy to what you were working on before. You may not actually use what you write in the prompt. That’s not the point. The point is the energy.
So, the prompt. All you have to do is take a metaphor or simile (or make up your own), and take it literally. Let’s say, “She was a miniature tornado that swept in and left disaster in her wake.” Taken literally, your main character is female and a miniature tornado. Start exploring a story where that makes sense. What kind of worldbuilding does that require? Was she born that way? Is that her constant state?
The minute you start thinking about what it takes to make a metaphor or simile believably real, the questions start. The questions inspire ideas. And the ideas kindle energy and creativity. The very natures of similes and metaphors provide the outrageous because they were simply not meant to be taken literally. Spend a little time exploring that story. Just enough time to get that buzz, that spark.
Then, the writing prompt has done its work. Put the metaphor or simile away (unless you’ve fallen in love with it), and go back to the story that stumped you. You’ll be amazed at how the energy transfers over.
If you do try this, please share in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with or hear how well (or not) it worked for you!