It's been a little while since I posted any hands-on writing exercises, so I thought I'd throw one out for your enjoyment this cloudy Wednesday.
1. Walk over to your nearest fiction bookshelf.
2. Pull off six books that have blue covers.
3. Arrange them in alphabetical order by the author's first name.
4. Open Book #1 to page 39. Write down the first line of the fourth paragraph.
5. Open Book #2 to page 3. Write down the sixth line of the first paragraph.
6. Open Book #3. What is the main character's name? That will be the name of your main character.
7. Open Book #4 to page 100. Count fifty-six words into the page. Whatever the fifty-seventh word is, write it down and prepare to use it.
8. Open Book #5 to page 23. What is the main conflict on that page? Write it down.
9. Open Book #6. Read the last page. Use this conclusion to end your story.
Okay, now here is your assignment. Take all these elements you have just been given to create an outline for a new story. You're not "stealing" from these books -- you'll be paraphrasing sentences, not repeating them, and you'll be using the essence of them rather than the actual plot. If this doesn't get your brain going in a whole new direction, I just don't know what to do with you.