Here is a very simple writing exercise that I got from Dorothy Allison last summer when I was in a weeklong workshop with Dorothy Allison. One of the things I loved about taking a class with Dorothy was that she taught the course based on what she saw in our writing. For our class, she focused a lot on structure and, what she noticed as the week progressed was that a lot of us were avoiding specific action. One day, before we began our workshop, she gave us (more or less) the following line:
The sound of the glass breaking was the sound of the end of the world.
I don’t think I have the sentence exactly right, but that doesn’t matter. It isn’t supposed to be a great sentence; it is designed purely to spark action. (You can always delete the sentence later).
Additionally, take a scene where you know that something is supposed to happen, but aren’t sure of what. Or, take a scene where you NEED something to happen because it is stagnant. Write this sentence, and then keep going. While you’re at it, try setting a timer for 30 minutes and don’t stop until the timer tells you to.
And just for fun, here is a lot of breaking glass. Just in case you forget what it sounds like…