Tuesday, June 02, 2020

5 Ways to Put the Fun Back into Writing

By Jodi Turchin, @jlturchin

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: We can all use a little pick me up in our writing from time to fun. Jodi Turchin shares five of her favorite "writing toys" that put the fun back into writing.

Jodi Turchin is a Young Adult novelist represented by Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary. She’s also a photographer, a high school English teacher, an adjunct college professor, and a former actress and director.

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Take it away Jodi…

When I was a kid, I fell in love with creative writing thanks to a Gifted pull-out teacher, who had our group do something called “story starters.” She gave us handouts with a descriptive paragraph – I think I remember one that started off asking us to imagine we were a dollar bill, and then gave us some questions to consider in writing a story from the perspective of the dollar bill. I was so enchanted with the activity that my teacher let me borrow the book, and though it was about forty years ago, I still remember coming up with stories based on the book’s prompts.

That book likely went out of print decades ago, but it lives in my memory. And as both a writer and a teacher, I always love finding resources to generate short pieces that might jumpstart new novels or characters. I also love filling the creativity well in my students! So today, I would like to share with my Fiction University friends some tools I have found over the years that help me generate ideas without the pressure of you have to write a novel right now!

1. The Story Spinner

I wish I could remember how I found this amazing tool. Created by Bonnie Neubauer, this creative wheel offers up starters, settings, and words on one side, and “recipes” on the other. I use it often in my English classes as what I call an easy A activity – I usually give my kids a starter, a setting, and three words from the wheel and tell them to incorporate those elements in a story. I will often write with them, and some of my results have been filed for future novel characters. You can dial up recipes too, but sometimes my lower-level kids got confused by the recipes. It is a fun way to generate a quick writing activity on days you might feel not so creative.

2. The Write Brain Workbook 

This is another Bonnie Neubauer product from Penguin-Random House. This is the new and expanded version, which provides writers with “400 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing.” Each page has a writing prompt to get you thinking and writing. For example, I randomly opened the book and found “Novemberth” – the prompt is to finish the story that starts with “I found myself in the berth of the spaceship November . . .” Each prompt page also includes a “take the next step” suggestion to generate more writing and ideas. I have used pages from the first edition of this book as warm-up activities with my English classes over the years.

3. The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction 

This is exactly what it says it is. Each page in the book has various descriptions, lines of dialogue, and other ideas to generate a story. Also included throughout the book are quotes from famous writers to help inspire. Some examples include this line of dialogue: “He was pretty religious once" and this idea: “A vocal cord nodule threatens the career of a well-known singer.” The introduction suggests choosing a prompt a day. Perhaps it could be useful as a warm-up to your writing day – take ten minutes, one prompt, and let your creativity flow.

4. The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity 

This book by Nick Bantock was also put out by Penguin-Random House and incorporates more than just writing prompts. This book works with other art mediums to unlock creative juices. The primary format for many of its exercises is collage, but each exercise comes with recommended materials, the time you should take for it, and even the size of the paper you should use with that activity. One of the activities in this book, though, that I marked and have used in writing classes, asks the participant to complete a sentence. For example, the first sentence provided in this activity, called Finishing Lines, is “The horse felt obliged to express itself by . . .” After you finish the sentence, Bantock asks you to write the sentence that came BEFORE that sentence, and then another that follows. Then he asks you to repeat the process twice more and find a way to link the three triads of sentences you have written. His takeaway with this activity is that you don’t need a “big idea” to get started writing.

5. The Writer Emergency Pack

This isn’t exactly in the same vein as the other resources, but this is one that I find can be helpful if your story starts to sag or you don’t know where to go with the story you’re working on. This is a deck of cards, divided into two 26-card sets. One set is an illustrated Idea card, then there is a matching set of Detail cards. The emergency procedure asks you to focus on the part of the story that is troubling you. Draw a random Idea card, then pull the corresponding Detail card. The Detail card will give you a scenario and some suggestions for applying the Idea card to your story.

While there are probably tons more resources out there to refresh your creative spark, these are some favorites that have worked for me (and for my high school English students!). Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jodi, I love my copy of The Write-Brain Workbook. I'm going to check out the Writer's Book of Matches. Looks cool. Thanks for the info.