For your consideration (and amusement), a creative exercise. You can do it in your head or try that old-fashioned pen and paper thing. Think of a simple sentence, like “The moon rose over the hill,” or “Joan went out to buy some cherries.” I’m going to go with Joan. Now we replace the word “cherries” with something slightly unusual:
Joan went out to buy some hockey sticks.
We increase the weirdness factor:
Joan went out to buy some hockey sticks for her dinner party.
Voilà. A potential story to tell. Why does Joan need hockey sticks for a dinner party? I have no idea. Maybe she needs them to serve the hors d’oeuvres. This is a little too self-consciously quirky, isn’t it? Hold on, I’ll bring back the cherries.
Joan went out to buy some cherries for her dinner party.
Don’t worry. We can still mix it up plenty. We will simply replace Joan, much as we all love her.
Evan went out to buy some cherries for his dinner party.
So, while the next obvious question is why is Evan throwing a dinner party, you could sidestep that by changing “his” to “her,” naturally provoking the question, why would you name a girl “Evan”? That’s a prospective story in itself. Perhaps we need to talk about Evan’s parents a bit before we get to the dinner party. Or say we change the action’s physical direction – Evan goes in some place instead of going out.
And you get the idea. That’s one sentence. It can go another way each time you replace a word, no matter what its grammatical function is, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. If you’re in the wrong mood, this can be completely paralyzing. Imagine having to navigate an endless maze of identical rooms. You’d never move from the square-foot of ground beneath your feet.
But if you’re in the right mood, the rooms don’t seem identical at all. They have different shapes and sizes. You trip over the furniture in this room. You find someone you know two rooms to the left. The room on the right has no floor – you have to swing across on a rope. Whatever. It’s up to you. And here endeth the lesson (and the extended metaphor). Now let’s see, what’s next?