Monday, March 10, 2014

Writers' Therapy: Story Games

This game is for writers who stress too much about their stories. Its main attraction is that the end product is not important (although it's generally entertaining). A side benefit of playing this game is that it helps you write stronger, tighter plots. Try it a few times and see...

This is a variation on the story game, but it has a little more structure and direction for those whose creativity needs a boost. We took the idea from Brian Wasko's Random Short Story post on his Write At Home Blog. It can be played with anywhere from two to twenty players or with a bit of tweaking can be played alone. Just keep in mind that the more players you have, the more paper slips you will need.

Step #1 Make the paper slips. You'll have five different categories--you may want to use a different coloured paper for each category. You can use the list on Brian Wasko's site, use our ideas here, or come up with some ideas of your own.

Setting
A hospital
A pirate ship
An insane asylum
A Chinese restaurant

Characters (you'll want a lot of these)
A cellist
An Italian count
A superhero
A member of Parliament
A kleptomaniac
An SS officer
An auto mechanic
A ninja
A French chef
Someone in a metal suit

Objects
A crystal ball
A light sabre
A prosthetic hand
A hypodermic syringe
A bomb

Genre*
Superhero
Detective
Ghost
Fantasy
Horror
Spy
Time Travel
Space Travel
Romance
Fairy Tale
War
Steam Punk

Mood*
Scary
Moralistic
Suspenseful
Epic
Heartwarming
Unexpected
Depressing
Tragic
Analytical
Humourous
Inspiring
Random
Violent
Poetic

*= These categories are not included in Brain Wasko's list.

Once you've made the slips, you can save them for the future games as well. They can be reused until you're sick of them.

Step #2 Each person begins with a sheet of notebook paper. Each player takes a slip at random from the Setting category. His job is to write a few sentences telling where this story is going to take place.

Step #3 Each player passes his paper to the player on his left and takes a slip of paper from the Characters category. Now he's going to introduce that character into the setting (it will not be the setting he started with, but the one written by the player on his right).

Step #4 Each player folds the top edge of the paper down so that it covers the setting section and passes the paper it to the player on his left. Each player takes another slip from the Characters category and introduces a conflict into the story he has been passed--in other words, a 'bad' character (or one who will react to the first character in some way).

Step #5 Each player folds the top edge of the paper down again, this time so that it covers the first character section and everything that comes before it, and passes the paper to the player on the left. Each player takes a slip from the Genre category. The next section of the story is rising action. The two characters in each story will be doing something to each other, and what they're doing will depend on what genre the player picked.

Step #6 Each player folds the paper down again, passes it, and takes a slip from the Objects category. This is the climax. The two characters will have a show down which will somehow involve the object chosen.

Step #7 Each player folds down and passes the paper, then takes a slip from the Mood category. The end of the story has been reached and each player must write an ending in the mood he has picked.

Step #8 Each player reads his story out loud.

Want to see how it works? Here's a sample story. 
Setting: a busy city street
The rain poured down upon the busy city streets of New York. Outside Cubuku's Schawarma the table canopies dripped dismally.

Character: someone in a metal suit
A man in a metal suit which clanked rustily entered the scene, surveying the gloomy street, drab buildings, and depressed pedestrians. 'It looks as if they need a bit of cheering up,' he said. 'Just wait until I open shop and start selling my beautiful new metal suits! They'll all want one.'
Conflict: a famous actress
Just then a famous actress entered the scene. She seemed as cheery as the rest of the street. 'Well,' said he. 'I think I'll get her a metal suit too. I'll open up shop right now.' Quickly, he put the open sign on the door. 'Come and buy my metal suits!' he cried to the actress as she passed. 'I don't want a metal suit, my man,' she said.
Rising Action: time travel
'Of course you do,' he replied,’ taking her by the arm and dragging her into his shop. 'Everyone wants a metal suit! Just come and see.' He shoved her into the store and found a suit in her size. 'Here,' he said, giving it to her. 'Go try this on!'
'But I don't want a metal suit!' she protested.
'Yes, you do,' he said. 'Go try it on!' She went into the changing room. He smiled evilly and pushed a button. When the actress stepped out of the changing room she found herself in a medieval castle long ago in the middle ages.

Climax: a bag of gold
What would you do if you found yourself suddenly in a medieval castle long ago in a mithril coat? The actress immediately turned to go back to where she had come from, but the door was gone. In its place there was only an old leather bag. She hesitantly picked it up and looked inside. It contained a few gold coins but nothing else. Still, actresses all love gold, so she kept it. As she tucked it away inside her mithril coat, she heard a dark and stormy voice behind her:
'What are you doing?' Screaming, she swung around to face the evil maniac. She trembled. It was the seller of metal suits!
'Give me that bag of gold or I will kill you!' he cried.
'Never!' she said bravely.
'Then I will beat you to a jelly.' The evil seller of metal suits rushed at her with his sword and stabbed her. Amazingly her mithril coat protected her, and she survived.

Conclusion: moralistic
But she got an internal injury and had to spend her whole bag of gold on doctor's bills. And that is what happens to people who are greedy.