Her site: http://www.terridegezelle.com/index.html
To me, using my first thought each morning or any object in my line of vision seemed the best way to combat the threat of writer’s block. Naturally, what I see the second I open my eyes might not serve a storyline well. But it would get me going, and revision could take care of the rest.
As an “older” college student, despite my daydreaming, I did pay attention. Through a variety of literature courses, I was learning about Plato’s Republic; John Milton’s wonderful Paradise Lost; Spenser’s heart-teasing epic, the Fairie Queene; and the art of writing fantasy. I was also reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, not only to my children, but as an assignment for another class.
Good and evil played a dominant theme in Milton and Spenser’s work, as well as in Marlowe’s and the other greats I studied. I soon noticed the thread of the seven deadly sins in their work, and in Charlotte’s Web.
During class, students sighed at the difficult language–all the thus’ and wherefores and hence’s, and the nouns and verbs and breezy style the earlier great literary minds used.
I asked a classmate if she’d ever read Charlotte’s Web. She replied with something like, of course, every kid has, which made me smile, since it was my favorite book. So I mentioned that everything we needed to understand the literary giants was laid out in simple fashion with entertaining humor in Charlotte’s Web.
In Spenser’s Fairie Queene, Una was the selfless one. In Charlotte’s Web, that would be Charlotte. I suggested that when my classmate read our upcoming assignment, if any character confused her as to how the character played into the plot, she should analyze if the character was selfless like Charlotte; greedy, like Templeton the rat; or wavering between the two indecisively, like Wilbur, the adorable pig in Charlotte’s Web.
She looked at me with suspicion, but thanked me after her first test score. My advice might not work for every student; but it did for her.
It soon occurred to me that a student might benefit if made aware of this easy, comparative way to analyze characters in difficult literature right when they are first introduced to the elevated language. If they could grasp the concept while studying the classics in high school, they’d have it down pat before ever committing to a college class.
My daydreaming dug further into the seven deadly sins as symbolized in Charlotte’s Web, and then paralleled in Paradise Lost. So when Terri DeGezelle tempted me to write a novel in nearly one sitting, knowing full well I’d see it as a challenge I couldn’t resist I knew the story should: (1) involve characters between the ages of 14 and 15, just when teens were expected to understand the seven deadly sins through required reading; (2) be an adventure fantasy with a fast pace to complement young minds (3) explore the seven deadly sins in situations these readers could relate to.
That gave me the structure, and knowing jealousy was one of the major sins, it was a given that I should sprinkle the novel with the wonders of a budding romance. See hints on my main character Tara’s first kiss at: http://debioneille.blogspot.com/2012/01/bringing-first-kiss-into-your-writing.html
Now getting back to "how did I utilize the first thing I saw or thought each morning?" Simple. I ate a peach for breakfast -- peaches became pertinent to the plot in the novel. Even the day my house seemed overly quiet became relevant. Quiet can be intriguing, eerie. I used it. Also, my daughter, Amanda, crafted a potbellied, turquoise vase on a pottery wheel. The vase showed up in Chapter One and served as an important element through all chapters.
The challenge Terri put before me forced the need to write fast, write what I already knew or was learning, and use my surroundings to lug me through moments lacking ideas. True, I used some details or objects later weeded out, but that's to be expected in any writing. Still, the method saved me from wasting time with writer's block, and it can for you, too. Use what's at your fingertips, and keep writing. Don't stop and don't worry. If your breakfast or the grade-school art project your child made doesn't work in your plot, that's what rewrites are for.
Oh, and one more thing to help get your novel start: find a mischievous but inspiring friend like Terri.