One of the hardest things for students, and many writers in general, is just "getting started." I see it frequently in the classes I teach. They freeze up, sometimes their eyes just glaze over, and others get that 'deer caught in the headlights' look. This is usually the point where we talk briefly about writers block... and then we play the Story Starter Card Game.
The game is simple:
There are seven decks of cards. Each card has one suggestion to be used in a story.
In deck one each card has a dynamic character listed on it such as Ebeneezer Scrooge, Scout, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, Katniss Everdeen, Aladdin, Jean Valjean, Edmund Dantes, Buzz Lightyear, etc.
In deck two each card reflects a fatal flaw such as pride, excessive trust, rage, blind ambition, inferiority complex, etc.
Deck three lists suggested opponents, deck four has external conflicts such as physical and environmental, deck five is a set of interpersonal conflicts (brought on by others), deck six is internal conflicts (brought on by self), and deck seven is a goal to be reached or a loss to avoid.
The rules are even simpler:
1) Pick one card from each deck.
2) Use at least three of the suggestions on your cards in a story.
I find this gives them enough guidance that they feel like they have a safety net. It also allows enough freedom for creativity.
If you'd like to play, but don't have the time or inclination to create your own cards, consider using a deck of Tarot, Dungeons and Dragons, or such... pull out a few random cards and see what ideas arise.
Have you tried anything like this? What kind of cards would you use? What would you add to your own deck?