If you’re in a group, have members contribute three nouns each on strips of paper. Place them all face down in three separate piles and have each person pull one word from each group. You can do this by yourself too. Just generate the different nouns and randomly select one from each group.
This exercise frees you from your usual writing and encourages you to make unusual connections and exercise your sense of whimsy. My colleague Richard Smith and I participated in a writers’ group that used these three-word prompts, so I asked him what he liked about them. He responded, “There’s a big difference between ‘write something for next week’ and ‘write something for next week that has a person, and a place, and a thing in the story.’ The exercise gives you a foundation on which to build your story, poem, or play without having to come up with everything from scratch.”
This exercise turned out to be especially productive for Richard. He wrote a 300-page novel from this three-word prompt: a nurse, Milwaukee, and a beer bottle.
So give it a go. Here’s one to get started: an airline pilot, a carnival, and a rubber duck. Have fun!