I read this completely marvelous blog post today and felt I had to share it. This is a must read for all writers.
When my daughter and I think of things to do when she comes home from school, one of us (okay… usually me) often suggests playing the writing game. What can I say, writing is something I always want to do. And by the way, you can play this game alone as an exercise to limber your brain. This is a great way to say goodbye to writer’s block, too.
Further down, I’ve included a printable pdf file to get you started with the Writing Game.
1. Start a word list. Include places, both real and fictitious, near and far.
Wisconsin, California, Egypt, Norway, London, Chicago, Planet Zorg, Ball Park, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Hawaii, North Pole, Coffee shop, Antique store, Thrift store, Dentist office, Bookshop, etc…
2. List things you might find in these places.
Lakes, rivers, parks, oceans, boats, cruise ship, tamales, cappuccino, chocolate, pyramid, tombs, ancient writing, prison, secrets, red phone booth, Big Ben, aliens, laser blasters, slime, base-ball, hot dog, stadium, pine trees, fish, lizards, rock cliffs, blazing sunset, Hula dancers, poi, pineapple, surfers, tidal waves, snow, ice, cappuccino, doughnuts, vintage lamp, crumbling book, painted vase, roll-top desk, used clothes, torn handbag, musty comforter, toothpaste, drill, protective glasses, chairs, fish tank, rare first edition books, collector books, latest novel, magazines, etc…
3. List things you could find in a city, in the country, on a farm, in a house, in a haunted house, at a carnival, in a bank, in a boutique, in your purse or wallet, at your friend’s house, etc…
Skyscrapers, taxi cabs, boutiques, restaurants, diners, hot dog vendors, rats, litter, trash cans, pigs, cows, barn, silo, hay bales, chicken coop, farmer, bacon frying, grease spatters, wooden tables, milking stool, hay loft, rope swing, cobwebs, rusty plumbing, broken windows, dust, dilapidated garden, abandoned car, cotton candy, rides, roller coaster, judges, tractor pulls, parking lot, money, tellers, pens, lollipop dish, deposit slip, cashmere sweater, silk blouse, rhinestone necklace, pumps, lipstick, nail file, loose change, dollar bills, credit cards, snack bar, grandfather clock, candles, tea-cup collection, sports gear, etc…
4. Make a list of types of people.
fireman, police officer, visitor, friend, ex-husband, ex-wife, neighbor, alien, baker, thief, conductor, gardener, student, teacher, magician, King, Queen, Duke, knight, clown, messenger, mailman, grocer, etc…
5. Other lists could include: favorite words, sounds, holidays, famous artists, gift ideas, things found in a car, at a bus stop, train station, great words you came across in books, etc…
Here is the promised pdf file you can print to get you started.
When making your list, add ten spaces between words and double space your rows. This allows room to cut the words apart. Next, fold word tags in half and place them in a dish beside your computer. For each writing warm-up, take 3-5 tags to help you create a short story or opening paragraph.
Of course everyone’s list will be different. My daughter made a list with such words as: crayons, playground, friends, ice cream, dragons, princess, and dolls.
My husband suggested these words: wood, chisel, box of nails, wrench, computer, mouse pad, and vacation.
To broaden your word choices, make these lists with others. Ask a friend, a co-worker, spouse, significant other, person sitting next to you on a bus or in a plane what their favorite places are, what strange items they keep in their house, their favorite keepsake from a vacation, the most memorable gift they ever received, the weirdest things they found at a garage sale or estate sale, their most prized possession, etc… Of course, you’ll want to let them know you’re a writer, seeking inspiring words for a future novel, so they don’t question your motives. Most people jump at the chance to help someone with something fun like this.
Years ago, I got in a conversation with some friends about the kinds of candy bars we ate as children. Our list started to grow. What surprised us was the number of people in the restaurant we were in, listening to our conversation. As people strode by our table, some would stop and offer a few types of candy they loved when they were children. So, as it turns out, this list making project can turn into a great way to meet new people as well as getting the word out that you’re a writer.
Do you have any great words you’d like to share?
Last Wednesday I offered five prompt ideas for adding twists to your plots.
This Wednesday, I decided to continue with five more twist ideas.
1. Your main character is on vacation in her hotel room. It’s bedtime. She crawls into bed, and as she slides her feet under the sheets, she feels something.
Take a moment to think about the variety of things she might find. Your list could include something living to something the maid mistakenly made into the bed. Besides having your bed short-sheeted in college, have you ever found anything in your bed you weren’t expecting?
2. Your main character is at the grocery store. The bag boy has loaded her groceries into bags. She arrives home and finds not only the items purchased, but….
Have you ever had this happen to you? Not that what happened to me could create a major mystery in a story, but around the holidays, I did come home with a hurricane lamp and set of candles I never purchased. You would think the store would be thrilled at my honesty in returning the items, but the manager simply excepted them without so much as a thank you.
3. Your main character takes a taxi to his destination. As he gets in, a woman rushes over and begs him to allow her to share the cab. Her stop comes first. She pays the driver, bolts from the taxi, and leaves an item in a bag behind.
This item could be anything from a roll of large bills, doughnuts, a mask, drugs, party favors, or….
4. Your main character has been invited to a close relative’s home for (a birthday party, holiday party, or no special occasion at all) The relative surprises your main character and everyone present when she announces…
This could range from relocating to another country, a love affair with someone you know, a sex change, a career change, or…
5. Your main character has buried something, (a time capsule, a stack of secret letters, etc…) When the day comes when he needs the item, (because perhaps he is moving) the item is gone.
I’m recalling a scene from the movie, The Promise. Have you ever buried something or hidden something important only to find it missing when you returned to retrieve it?
I hope these prompts and inspirations jump-start your brain and get you thinking of more ways to add a twist to your story plot.
Have fun answering these questions.
Hint, hint…. Make sure to think outside the box.
1. I thought I inherited a ruby ring from my Aunt Jenny, but when the package arrived, I found she left me…
This prompt was inspired by the movie, Baby Boom, in which the main character thinks she will inherit a pen from a poor relative that passed away. She instead receives a baby. When making your list of possible things one could inherit, consider how that item could change your main character’s life. This, after all, could be the perfect ingredient you story needs for a good twist.
2. I bought a set of pottery maracas on vacation. They broke when I shook them and out rolled…
I confess this inspiration came from watching, Scooby Doo cartoons. In one of the episodes, Daphne purchases a mask in San Francisco in which jewels are hidden. Other interesting items could be a coded message, a map, a phone number, or address.
3. I discovered a book beside a tree and stuck between the pages I found…
Actually, I opened a book at the library and found several amazing, unsigned sketches once. But for this exercise/example what was found in the book could be a letter, a map, or a hundred-dollar bill with a phone number on it. The important thing is to give your mind permission to go wild when considering answers to these prompts.
4. Usually a businessman sits beside me on the plane and barely says a word, but this time I was seated beside _________________________ and his/her conversation opener took me by surprise. She/He turned to me and said…
I’ve been on many flights over the years. Usually, the person I’m seated beside stays focused on their book, newspaper, or laptop. It isn’t until the plane lands and we’re standing, slightly stooped beneath the low ceiling of the overhead luggage compartments, that we start our typical, mundane chit-chat.
“Long flight.” I sigh, gripping the handle of my carry-on bag.
“Yeah,” my seat partner remarks. “Are you visiting here?”
“No, this is a stopover. I’m catching another plane for California.”
You get the picture. So far, nothing that’s going to get those pages turning. But what if our main character’s seat partner is wearing a wedding gown? This could lead to all kinds of great conversation starters.
5. I heard that tornadoes can lift houses and animals and set them down miles away, but I was stunned after that last storm when a _________________landed on my roof.
This inspiration came from a textbook back in Jr. High. Some things stay in our memories a long time. I read about a cow that got picked up by a tornado and set down, uninjured, miles away. But other things can just as easily be transported. Let your mind go wild.
I hope you will have fun with these plot twist inspirations. Perhaps you might find one of them sparks a fresh story!
I wish you happy writing.
Today is January 7th. We’re one week into the new year. My daughter is back in school after Winter break, so no more excuses as to why I don’t have time to look over my list of resolutions, mark my calendar with my goals, and head full steam into 2015. So what’s stopping me? I gaze around the house at the few holiday decorations I missed that I still need to box and store away. As I do this, I notice a pile of holiday linens needing washing before I can store them. The refrigerator could use a good cleaning, too. I’m sure I caught a whiff of decomposing veggies. And despite that my fish are still alive, maybe their tank could use a filter change.
Why am I getting distracted and procrastinating?
Easy. I’m overwhelmed with my list of resolutions and can’t possibly do them all at once. Which resolution do I tackle first? Decisions, decisions… I have a feeling I’m not alone in my procrastination boat, sailing in circles around The Lake of indecision.
So what was on my resolution list? A little good advice I gave myself. Finish those UFO’s. (UnFinished Objects) It’s extremely challenging to give one’s full attention–distraction free–to a new writing project when partial projects lurk in a writing folder. Plus, we gain a feeling of accomplishment when we complete something. So, for the next month(s), I am going to find my inspiration in completing my UFO’s.
Are you familiar with the old line, The grass is always greener…? I think that phrase is at the core of some writer’s hearts…mine included. We begin a story, craft our characters, the plot, the scenes, etc… With great determination and focus, our story takes shape. Then we run low on steam around the same point our plot hits a wall. We can’t decide how best to move the story forward. So what do we typically do? We let it go for a while. We let our subconscious work on it. But shortly after, an idea for another story comes while we’re sitting in traffic. A new set of characters materialize in our heads, and a fresh plot unfolds. As soon as we’re in front of our computers, we are typing another story, despite our earlier story knocking around our thoughts, trying to find the path to completion. Result: we are writing with less than 100% focus.
As today’s Writer’s Prompt and Inspiration, I ask you to return to a writing project you started with great enthusiasm, perhaps a novel or short story in which you created a memorable protagonist who deserves to find life through publication. Re-read what you wrote with fresh eyes, attend to the problem spots, and edit, edit, edit to polish it up to “ready-to-submit” form.
Let’s get started!