I spent last class talking with my students about generating ideas. It sounds challenging, right? I mean, your entire story pivots on this one idea. There's a huge amount of pressure there. But (and here's the trick) there shouldn't be. Ideas are all around you, they're almost unavoidable.
Did you see anyone walking down the street on your ride to work this morning? What was he wearing? Was he on the phone? Did he look rushed? Was he carrying anything? There's an idea.
Who was in line in front of you at the sandwich shop? What was her order? Was she getting enough for one, or the whole office? Did she chat with the clerk? Were there any other conversations going on around you? There's an idea.
What were the headlines in the news this evening? The federal shutdown, the church bus accident, the doggie fashion show - idea, idea, idea.
You get the point. The most important thing about collecting these ideas is to jot them down - on your phone, in a notepad, on a napkin, whatever you've got - so when you're stuck for a story element, you have an idea. There is absolutely no excuse for not knowing what to write about next. So your assignment is to pay attention to what's going on around you, and collect ideas!
I like to sit down and write my beginning based on the idea I got while it's still hot in mind. I love beginnings so much I tend to write all kinds of beginnings just for fun. If you're a beginning junkie like me, you'll want to hit the Boston Book Festival on October 19 for the Writer Idol event - agents will listen to a bunch of beginnings (you can bring one and enter it!) and give their feedback. Ooooh, there's an idea!