August 13, 2011

Why I Play Games

Last night I listened to my favorite podcast (okay, I only listen to two, and the podcasters are my friends, but it's still my favorite), The Appendix, and as usual, they ended the episode with a writing prompt challenge to listeners. Now, when they issue the challenge, Robison Wells, one of the hosts, always says something like, "Now we have something for our lovely listeners," and I always think, "Well, that's me." Not because I'm egocentric, but because I'm the only listener to accept the writing prompt challenge in the comment box. I don't know if listeners make the attempt on a notepad at home, or if they think about what they might do with the crazy prompts, or if they roll their eyes and think, "Those crazy kids," and get on with writing their manuscripts or updating Twitter. I even thought that maybe nobody else posted their challenge story because I took up too much space or ideas or something, so I stopped for a while. Go ahead. Go look.

Nope. Nobody else plays the game and posts it in the comment box. So...does that make me weird? Well, that's always up for debate, but here's the thing:


When I first joined a writing group, we started our meeting with a writing prompt, fifteen minutes on a timer, paper and pen. We worked individually, quietly. It got our juices flowing, had us connecting seemingly impossible ideas, resolving problems, and opened up fun, provoking, haunting ideas in our heads.

One of my favorite games was choosing 5 random words out of a dictionary, writing them on the board (with their definitions if necessary), and then having to use them in our short story. That made for some pretty crazy ideas. We laughed a lot, and everybody's ideas were amazingly different.

I have a less structured writing group now, and we don't do the writing prompts, so I look forward to the games on The Appendix. They clear my head, especially if I've been at a long edit or I'm stuck in my WIP. Answering a crazy writing prompt reminds me I can do other things, allows me to laugh at myself, makes me stretch and try things I haven't yet, and then wonder, "Can I do that?" I've considered writing in other genres because of writing prompt challenges.

Some of my favorites are pretty goofy, but I was smiling as I wrote them. They're rough. I don't write them on paper first and then copy them into the comment box. I just go for it and maybe go back a couple times to make something connect, but it's pretty much an online freewrite. A risk, I know, but isn't that practice, too? If I can post this stuff up for anyone to see, I can certainly post the stuff I refine, put my whole heart into. So go ahead, go check them out. Remember, PRETTY GOOFY. But also short. Please remember that certain characters, items, or plot ideas HAD to be included.

Expected Wedding Gifts Online giving is so much easier.
LotR Fan Fiction Dragons, anyone?
Murder at Whiskey River Gulchwater Creek A mystery in the old west.
Casting Aspersions This was a fun one. I take some liberties using our hosts as characters. Arrr.
The Tortoise and the Ostrich A Tall-Tale. Move over Paul Bunyan. A little more. A little more.
Thank You, Thank You Very Much A wig can make all the difference.

There are more on other episodes, but don't just read comments. Listen to the podcast. I'm learning a lot from those three hooligans.

My best writing game story? I mean a story about what happened from accepting a writing prompt challenge? I'm not sure I remember the prompt, but I think it was "Martha Stewart gets an unexpected visitor" or something like that. I wrote a story about a frazzled perfectionist woman who'd had a bad day and was about to leave to tackle another necessary errand, then opened the door to find a unexpected visitor on her doorstep: her younger runaway sister, who was crying. The story itself wasn't one of my best, or even one of my favorites.

But the idea became a major plot point two years later when I wrote my fifth novel, my first published novel, GRACE & CHOCOLATE, coming in 2012, through Covenant Communications, Inc.

So maybe you can understand why I'm sold on writing prompt games. You just never know.


Robin Weeks said...

Your post on games is so much more productive than my post on games. I'm now envious. :)

André said...

I love The Appendix, too, but I'm one of those who just gets back to writing my manuscript and updating Twitter. I've tried coming up with things to write as a response to writing prompts before, either from The Appendix or Writing Excuses or something else, but whenever I start writing, I realize that I'd much rather work on whatever my current project is.

Krista said...

Robin, you posted on games too? I'll have to check it out!

Andre, usually I set aside time to listen to the podcast, keeping a piece of paper and pen ready to jot down the prompt. I don't listen to the podcast until I know I'll have a little time to write a little something. But, yeah, there have been times when I've said, "Later."

MKHutchins said...

You look different when your picture's not a polygon! I've seen your comments; very cool to see your blog.

Kelley said...

I haven't heard of that podcast. I LOVE I Should Be Writing and The Writing Show, though. Cool blog <3 a new follower :)

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