Years ago, I stumbled across a writing exercise/prompt in the fandom world that works well whether you're playing with other people's characters or trying to better get to know your own.
Pick a character or a set of characters to write about. (Technically, this is optional, but I find it easier to limit myself to specific characters.) Put the music player of your choice on shuffle. For each song that plays, write something with the characters you've chosen. When a new song begins, switch to a new story/scene. Do this for a minimum of five songs.
I find this to be an excellent way of spurring ideas. Sometimes I end up writing the beginnings of a scene that may wind up in a longer work. Other times, it's just a brief character sketch that provides me some insight. And sometimes the song doesn't speak to me and I wind up staring at the blinking cursor until the next one begins.
So here's my randomized playlist and a few of the pieces I wrote. If you try the exercise, I'd love to see what comes of it. Share them (or a link to them) in the comments.
Stephenville, Texas - Jewel
The road unfolds in front of her, black ribbon of asphalt shimmering with heat, bordered by flat rolling land as far as the horizon’s edge.
Kora thinks she’s never seen anything so boring.
In the passenger seat, the sorry sack of a shade she’d picked up in the last hole-in-the-wall town (where he’d apparently kicked off from a heart attack in a stall at the truck stop restroom) stared out the window, drumming translucent fingers on his leg, weaving his head along to the music coming from the stereo.
“We’re close now,” he says, voice a hiss of air. “Almost home.”
Kora tore around the corner, came skidding to a halt and one synaptic spark later, wedged herself into a crowd of people, who had just come from the coat closet, pulling rain coats around their shoulders, unwrapping umbrellas.
She let them carry her out the door, glanced back over her shoulder once to see her feckless dinner companion waving his arms at a harried looking host.
It hadn’t taken him long to realize his wallet was missing.
And, along with it, his date.
“People aren’t to be trusted.”
“Do I look like people?” Nikolaus asked.
Kora’s full mouth dwindled to a thin line and she arched a brow.
“Okay. Let me rephrase. Do I feel like people? And don’t give me that look, Spatzi. You know what I mean.”
“N-no,” she said and leaned carefully back in her chair, as though her shoulders might break under reprieve from the weight she’d been carrying. “You….feel like home.”
To Be Free - Emiliana Torrini
Days later, she sees him again. Spies him across the colorful array of vegetables and herbs at the market. He takes her packages from her arms, follows her back to her flat and they eat warm brie and tomato slices on fresh baguettes, while sitting on the floor of her living room. And then they devour one another.
When she wakes, he’s gone again.
And this is the pattern they keep through the years of their relationship, whenever he comes to the city for whatever business he conducts.
She’s not sure when she started to feel the ache in her belly on the mornings she wakes up and he's not there.