Write a description of the room you are in from the point-of-view of a character in your work-in-progress. If the character is from another time or place, so much the better. What would the character notice first? What would she find odd? What would she love about the room? What would she dislike? Go beyond describing the physical space and capture her attitude about what she sees. Let her be snarky or wax poetical. Whatever captures her emotions about the space.
Looking for a writing exercise that gets you out of your chair? Decide what kind of store your main character likes to shop at. Go to that store and wander the aisles, looking for items your character would most be tempted to buy. Create a list of at least ten items, explaining why each caught your eye, and why you think your character would want the item. Bonus points for identifying your character’s guilty pleasures and how she would justify buying those items.
I recommend starting this exercise with a travel magazine packed with lots of interesting photos. Select an image that appeals to you. Now, write a short scene from the viewpoint of a character who has just arrived at this location and is seeing it for the first time. Describe the setting through the character's eyes, paying particular attention to the mood that this image evokes in you. Evoke this mood in your readers through the reactions of the character — look for sensory images!
Now, write a second scene, with the same or a different character — and evoke just the OPPOSITE mood. If your castle seemed tranquil and romantic, set a scene in which the mood is menacing or sorrowful. If the image of that tropical beach made you feel relaxed and happy, create a scene in which, instead, it is causing your character to feel angry or anxious. Again, look for sensory details and impressions that will convince your reader and evoke that same mood through your words — regardless of what mood the picture alone might have evoked!
Write a pivotal scene in your novel from a different character’s POV. For instance: at a funeral, you may have written the grieving widow’s thoughts and feelings. Write about that funeral from the deceased husband’s POV, the eldest son’s, or the step-sister’s.
Choose a character and think of ways they’d react to things that happened during your (the writer’s) day. Use your experiences, think how you reacted, and then how your character would have reacted. Possible events: cut off in traffic, caught in the rain, missed an important meeting, lost a valuable item.
What can be more basic than the simple who, what, why, when and where formula? This common sense plan has proved over and over again that it is not only one of the fastest ways to begin a story, but also an easy creative writing exercise to use when you only have a small chunk of time available.
If you want this formula to work for you, then the best way to approach it is to answer those questions quickly. Forget about thinking, analyzing, and worrying until later. For now, let’s just start writing. Here’s an example to show you how easy it is to start.
WHO? Sally – an eco activist/policewoman
WHAT? Having affair with a married politician so she can blackmail and manipulate him.
WHERE? In contemporary Ireland
HOW? Recording his every move, generally spying on him in order to destroy him.