Friday, May 22, 2009

The Story Bag - Writing Fun for all Ages

By Anji Sandage

I went to a writing workshop a long time ago when I was teaching High School English. I don’t remember who it was that presented now (it was over ten years ago!) but there is one fun activity that I have used over and over again, with myself, my kids, the writing club that I was the adviser for, my writing group . . . it turns out to be a very useful tool to get over writers block, and for brainstorming new story ideas. I have modified the activity a little over the years, but the idea is still the same. All you really need is a small notepad and a pen, or a computer, if you prefer. But you can make it even more fun with a little bag and a small object to represent each story. Here is how you do it — Get out your steno pad and your favorite number two pencil and make ten lists:

  1. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had.
  2. Make a list of all of the teachers you have ever had who were not at school or who did not carry the official title of “teacher.”
  3. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are animals.
  4. Make a list of all the teachers you have ever had that are objects or things.
  5. Make a list of all of the strange or unusual people that you have known.
  6. Make a list of any strange or interesting creatures that you have met or seen.
  7. Make a list of all of the places where you learned something important.
  8. Make a list of all of the interesting or unusual places you have been.
  9. Make a list of any interesting problems you have faced, or any weird or uncomfortable situations you have ever found yourself in.
  10. Make a list of any interesting, quirky, accidental, brilliant, or just plain stupid ways that you or other people you know have solved problems.

Now publish list 9 to the internet with your name, address, and a photo of yourself. (Ha ha, just kidding)

If you like, you can add illustrations in the margins (this is a great excuse to doodle) Obviously some lists will be much longer than others, and some of these lists may be quite short, but each item on these lists is a story all by itself. It can get really interesting though if you choose a few from different lists, for example choose a setting from list 7; characters from lists 1, 5, and 6; a problem from list 9, and so forth.

Now, here is the next step, which is optional: get a small drawstring bag and choose a small object — a unique stone, a really small toy, a coin, a marble, slips of paper color coded for character, plot, and setting, etc. — to represent each item from these lists. Put all of these in the bag and then when you are having writers block, or just want to give yourself a fun writing experience, pull one out and write the story that goes with it. Or you can randomly pull out a few and mix it up a bit.

For more fun ideas and random musings, visit my blog at www.meanroostersoup.com

2 comments:

Yamile said...

That's a great exercise! I'll try it and then teach it to my kids! sounds like a wonderful creativity tool.

Paul West said...

That sounds a lot like what I go through when plotting my stories, though I don't do it quite that structured.

Good advice.