My brain operates a little differently. I get an idea - an image - in my head. With "Closer", it was the bloody shoelace. My mind began imagining the man it belonged to, studying his clothing and body language. It was dark, and in an ally. Why were we there? Did he kill someone? I expand from an idea that may be a scene in the book, but not always the opening chapter. It's the character trying to wave their arms and get my attention.
So if I were to write a short snippet:
Morning light pierced my eyes through a crack in the heavy drapes. The sound of a cleaning lady rolling her cart by the door woke me up.
"You awake?" he asked.
I slept too late, I thought, staring wistfully at the cheap radio clock beside the bed. Beside it was his wallet, a set of keys, and thirty dollars.
"Let's go," he said, getting out of bed and cracking open a warm soda. "One more day and we'll be there."
So, who is he? Could be a lover, friend, brother, or even a kidnapper. I slept in, which meant that I had intended to wake up earlier. Was I going to escape? Is that why I'm staring at the clock "wistfully"? It also sounds like we're broke. The keys are beside me, so now I'm thinking he's not a kidnapper, but we're also not taking a bus. Where are we going? Do we have enough money to get there? Then you start looking at what kind of motel you're in. What's the temperature outside, and what does the tell us about where you are? Why does he want to get there more I you?
Stuff like that excites me. It's taking a small block of information and build an entire story around it. That's a skill I can thank most of my elementary school teachers for, whose class I would daydream in. I've always been like that in life. I'll look at a twenty dollar bill marked 1984 and think of what an interesting story it would be to see all the people who used that bill, and what they were going to buy with it.
A box of candy for their dying mother?
A pair of shoes?
Food for their baby?
A gift to a homeless man?
Everything has a story, and I think with a creative imagination that is nurtured, a story can be written from a single image.
Sometimes from this comes a book, a spinoff idea, a scene, or maybe you just gave birth to a character. If I ever posted the horrible Vampire book 20 years from now, you'd be surprise how many ideas I extracted from the book. Characters, names, concepts for Breeds that morphed, etc. Consider the above writing exercises to keep the kindling burning on your imagination. Don't start at a blinking cursor trying to come up with the "bestseller idea". Just write.
Perhaps that's why it's so difficult for me to be editing two books at once and suddenly have an urge to start a new one. There are not enough minutes in my day to write it all down when these bubbles of ideas that are constantly surfacing. I guess that's why I created "the box" - a wooden box that sits on my desk with notes in it of ideas, if it's not a project I can immediately work on.
So when you look at this photo, what is your story about this couple?