Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Killer Geisha with Knife Fans

Photograph by JackiePix
I took a writing class a few years back and our teacher had us do a weird mind game to get us thinking about our plot threads.  He put a bunch of random situations in a basket and we had to draw two out. Now the situations were not similar in any way.

For instance I got: A boy gets stabbed in an empty lot and The villain's dollar bill was on fire. 

This in and of itself can be a great prompt, but he added a genre to it. So he gave us either fantasy or science fiction or what not. What was great about this type of prompt was that it corralled the action, but left the circumstance wide open.  If you've read any of my blogfest entries in the past, you'll know that I actually used this years later in a novel I finished a few months ago.

He also had us take well known passages from famous books and turn them into sarcastic rants. For instance, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's love poem to Robert; How Do I Love Thee -- you know the one where she counts the ways, is actually quite funny when you put a different spin on it.

Photograph by Klearchos Kapoutsis
One of my favorite things was our "Cool Stuff That Never Happens" notebooks. Its where we write down really strange scenarios that we've seen in movies and read in books.  Things like a dirigible chase or swimming under an iceberg's craggy underbelly.  I have over a hundred such scenes, my personal favorites include running ahead of imploding catacombs and killer Geisha's with knife fans.  That always makes me laugh.

The point was to get you thinking outside of the normal action scenes. How might a car chase look with crappy cars or while running out of gas? What about a villain with an accent so terrible that you can't understand his threats and he ends up pantomiming?  Original ideas can come from simply asking yourself...what if?

I came away from the class feeling like I'd grown creatively because he taught us that thinking outside of the box wasn't really all that hard. If I could do it, then so can you.  Tell me...what kinds of mental exercises do you do to get the creative juices flowing?

Until next time...Go Write!