"It can be silly, but it has to make sense." A small child said this near me on the Metro (a place of endless inspiration if you take off your headphones).
What on earth was the kid talking about? It was all about the game "AND."
I had never heard of this game before, but it pretty much changed my life. How does it work? I will let the children demonstrate the amazing narrative strength and block-busting powers of this game.
A girl in a purple backpack lay down the rules. She was the oldest of the bunch, so she knew what life is all about. She began by saying, "The rules are simple. You tell a few sentences of a story, but you have to end with the word 'and.' Then the next person picks it up. But you have to play along."
So she began. "Once upon a time there lived a fairy princess. She stayed in a large castle AND"
A small boy bouncing in his seat picked it up. "It was attacked by dogs! They all ran away AND"
"Left a servant boy behind. He was miserable and died alone AND"
For some reason, maybe because they had yet to feel the sting of mortality (see also: personal fable), the kids dissolved into giggles. AND that was that.
What are the takeaways from this?
1) Unplug every once in a while. If I had not just finished listening to Amy Winehouse (holla at me if you love her), I would never overheard their conversation. And this would not exist. If you take the time to eavesdrop, you might find the inspiration you need.
2) If you don't know where your story goes next, try the AND game. For example, "Louisa yelled at George AND left him." Okay, maybe not as good as the kids', but you get the idea.
3) If you feel completely empty and devoid of inspiration, play the game with a friend. Heck, even do it just for fun. Sometimes playful banter with someone else is the spark you need.
If you want to play the AND game, start one in the comments. I promise to play along.