I first saw this in a Product Design classroom. Since then I've played with it so that it helps me improve narratives. You could probably do better!
Swap the roles of two characters – their positions or status. Or swap their genders or ages – see what happens. Swap the locations in which things happen to see if it feels fresher.
Clean up Cliché
Examine your work for anything familiar or expected – a setting your reader will have seen before, a character they’ll be familiar with, a conversation or line of dialogue. Remove your clichés – then try and use ‘reverse’ or ‘swap’ to produce something more interesting.
Take a section of your work you feel is weaker (a character? Plot point? Location?) and adapt someone else’s idea into your work. Borrow a character from somewhere else and adapt them to fit. Borrow another location and adapt to fit… and so on.
Take something – a character, a place, an event – and make it twice-as-much as it was. Or ten-times as much. Magnify its drama in some way.
Take two characters and turn them into one – pairing up their characteristics into one person. Does this give you space to add another character? Are there other characters who could be combined?
Take out an element of the story out and check what happens. Persist with this, checking elements and removing them. Does the story improve as a result of eliminating something?
Take an event or plot point and try and reverse it – make the opposite happen. Or take a character and make them the complete reverse of what you might have planned. Something entirely unexpected might emerge.
From Storycraft, by Martin Griffin and Jon Mayhew, coming September 2019