1) Stop sign for a cattle drive on a city street.
2) Cloud in the shape of an angel.
3) Unfortunate man?
Writers call these story prompts. I'll let you in on the secret way an author's mind works. First we brainstorm possibilities. The stories could be in any genre, and take on any tone. Funny or dark? Romantic or mystery?
Second, we follow one of those thoughts as far as it will take us. Maybe the idea travels a few lines before we get lost in a wilderness of "uh uh, this isn't gonna work." Or, the idea blooms into a short story. Maybe even a novel.
Here's one of my thoughts - an old man sees the skeleton "waitin' on a woman" in front of the gift shop, and wishes he'd been more patient with his recently deceased wife's penchant for frivolous shopping.
Seriously, this works. One fall, I had an idea pop into my head when we were on a multi-family camping trip. The kids found an abandoned hunting blind covered with a tattered blue tarp. The image percolated in my head for quite a while until it became part of a critical scene in my novel Stone Cold Case.
Give it a try! I'd love to hear what you come up with. This exercise might not inspire you to write the next War and Peace, but it could cause you to look at the world just a little differently.