Usually when we decide write something, we have a basic idea or inspiration to launch from. We are taking a shower and suddenly in pops the next short story or novel for our armada. Characters begin to form, plot is constructed, and - if we're really lucky - a framework for the story magically draws itself upon our mind.
What do you do however, if you're given the topic (along with some very rough parameters) and have to create something? For example, what if you are asked to write a story about a unicorn? You're given guidelines, such as the unicorn needs to be a central part of the story, there needs to be humor, etc. But you're also given leeway, such as being able to write the story on another planet (i.e. purple unicorns), during a different time period (Unicorn use during WWII), or in a unique culture (Tibetan Unicorns). How do you proceed to jumpstart the creative juices?
For me, letting the ideas form on their own is alot easier. My story ideas usually come when I least expect them, and not always with enough helpful details. When I'm presented with a topic though, the pressure of creation is almost too much. It's as if my brain doesn't like the restrictions; it would rather ramble freely across the landscape, picking up the diamonds of it's choosing rather than ones pointed out by outsiders.
The reason for this post is because I am currently standing on the edge of this virtual chasm. I have a story I need to craft, with a given topic, some rough parameters, and a concrete word count. Where do I begin? Do I start building some basic characters? Do I instead work on the plot? Or perhaps I should build a world for my story first? Spitballing within the confines of a defined vein is really difficult for me, and my muse is laughing his butt off in the corner with dunce cap in hand, ready to place it solidly on my head.
If you have any advice at all, I'm all ears. I feel like an American Idol contestant who has suddenly been struck mute right before the audition. Eep!