Stuck? Deal Yourself a Story!

Writing is one of my great loves, but between a demanding job, family life and perpetual sickness courtesy of Baby Boy’s new day care buddies, I find my brain a little too fried for creativity at the end of the day. When I sit down to face a new project in this frame of mind, it can be daunting to say the least. Waiting for a more creatively auspicious time to begin isn’t really an option, though—unless I plan to table this whole writing-as-a-career thing for the next, oh, eighteen years or so. My muse isn’t dead, but the ideas I get these days are scattered, smothered, and covered like hash browns on a Waffle House grill. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a place to put all those random fragments and turned it into a fun writing prompt that can help with those creative blahs. If my situation sounds familiar, it might help you, too.

Introducing Syd’s deck o’ story cards—and now you can make one, too! Using index cards to plot out a story has been covered in excellent detail on this blog by our own E. Michels, and there are writing prompt card games out there as well. The big difference here is that the deck is completely personalized with my own ideas—the things that inspire me, the stuff I want to write about. This is what I do with all of those random things that cross my mind that make me say “hmm… that would make a good character/story/setting/you get the idea.” I’ve written these scraps on cards and now, I’ve got a deck from which to draw inspiration. Here’s how you can make yours:

What you need:

  • Index cards in 4-6 colors (or you could cut out rectangles of construction paper or card stock if you want to get fancy).
  • Something to write with
  • Your random ideas
  • That’s it!

Each of your 4-6 colors is a suit: the number of suits will vary according to what you write—or you might choose to add more suits depending on your preference. Remember, it’s completely personalized. This number is what I’ve found to be essential. I’ve gone with five suits. Each suit is an essential element to your story:

  • 2-3 Suits for characters:  protagonist/antagonist, or hero/heroine/villain, depending on what you write. As a writer of contemporary romance/light women’s fiction, I tend to go with a suit for hero and a suit for heroine. I write up a (very) brief description for each character, like “real estate agent,” “frat boy,” “eighties rock star.” Just a couple of words.
  • Setting: same thing here. Any place that has ever intrigued you, make a card for it. Made up places count, too.
  • Time period: now, if you write strictly in one time period, you will probably omit this suit. But hey, it’s a writing prompt game. It might be good to mix it up a bit. You never know what it might inspire.
  • Theme/Plot seed: this is your concept suit. It can range from the general (think “coming of age story”) to the specific (like a custody battle, for instance).

So all you have to do is write each description on its appropriately-colored card, and you have your deck. As new ideas come, you’ll add new cards—the more cards, the better. Then, just shuffle, deal and play! Now you’ve got a completely personalized writing prompt made of the elements that you know, that you love, that inspire and/or excite you. It’s a great way to organize these bits of inspiration and harness them for when you need a boost of creativity. What you get might be bizarre, funny, or just plain dumb—but it will be a new way of seeing the ideas you’ve had all along. And you never know, a winning hand might even lead to your next great story!

Let’s get dealing!

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