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Activities to inspire you with new subjects for your creative writing (II)

Updated on May 26, 2014

As promised, for this second instalment of Activities to inspire you I will lay out in steps the disassociation version of the word game I explained in the first hub of this series. This is a great technique to get the creative juices flowing in unexpected ways. As I mentioned before, this can be used as a simple title or theme generator (as in the example of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). Alternatively, this little exercise can give rise to complex character biographies, story starts and much more.

The Method

  • Ok, so as before we are starting either singly or with another participant.
  • Again we commence a back and forth word-tennis exercise (stick with nouns to begin with). As each player responds with a new noun it is written down to form our first word bank. – You can record the words with audacity or a similar program if you prefer not to risk losing focus by having to write and think fast at the same time.
  • If our first noun was, say ‘knife’ a dissasociative list might look something like this:

Noun List







Weevil… and so on.

  • At this point, read or play back the word list and now create the list of adjectives in the same manner as before:

Word Bank (Nouns and Adjectives)

Knife - wicked

Tarmac - heated

Bell - cracked/tarnished

Cloud - distended

Sand - coarse

Tears - mournful

Weevil - determined

  • Take a little bit of time now to go back over your adjectives and replace any with more interesting synonyms if you can. Don’t be ashamed of using a thesaurus! They are there to be used!
  • Repeat this process to make your verb list…
  • … then do the same with adverbs. Until finally, you have a full word bank of disparate things and associated actions and descriptions. My example word bank ended up looking like this:

Complete word Bank

Knife wicked slashed violently

Tarmac heated softened convulsively

Bell - tarnished - sounded - discordantly

Cloud - distended - billowed - ominously

Sand - coarse - whirled - evilly

Tears - mournful - plummeted - endlessly

Weevil - determined - gnawed - ravenously

  • At this point in the first activity we had the skeleton of a first paragraph. It’s not so easy this time. The nouns are not linked and so you have to use your imagination and create a link. This is why this version of the activity is considered more advanced. You will discover much more interesting ideas spring from forcing yourself to work with a more difficult set of words to pull together.
  • Next, simply to pick two nouns at random and try and use their associated words to make a sentence like so:

The wickedly sharp knife slashed violently down towards the hot tarmac.

  • Already we have a rather curious start. Questions arise to the reader of this first sentence. Why, for instance, is somebody trying to stab a road? It seems a little odd to say the least. From here could develop any number of possibilities and you might at this point chuck away the rest of the word bank and just grow from here organically… but that’s a bit of a cop out.
  • Instead, pick another noun or two and try and make a coherent sentence that makes sense following your first:

Ominous clouds of stinking gas erupted from the convulsing road as bubbles of soft bitumen popped around the knife’s wielder’s body like hellish balloons.

  • Ok – lots of action, colourful description… now continue on as you’ve been going. Make sure you include at least one of the nouns from your list in each following sentence until you have run out.
  • Make sure to improve and edit as you go along. Replace dull words with more vibrant ones. Include simile, and metaphor. If your character feels something, show your reader through their actions.

This is where my mind took me…

The knife slashed violently down towards hot tarmac. Ominous clouds of stinking gas erupted from the convulsing road as bubbles of soft bitumen popped around the knife’s wielder’s body like hellish balloons. He screamed and wept tears that evaporated instantly. The blade hit home with an unearthly ring like the shattering of a twelve-foot cathedral bell. Burning pitch and molten sand spat into the air as the charred figure now writhing in flame began to sink beneath the softly swirling surface. The blackened man-shaped curled and shrivelled like a desiccated weevil and disappeared into the roiling mass of liquid rock. The metallic ringing died away, wafted by the wind. A shocked silence gradually emanated from a pair of slightly bemused and hitherto unnoticed observers until the road seemed to take notice and cool down dramatically.

“You don’t see that every day!” commented Pete blandly from his bench beside the road. The surface was beginning to quieten now.

“I’ll say!” voiced Martin, his long time friend and fellow imbiber of a stale and increasingly warm can of Fosters. The last signs of the crazed road stabber had vanished like so much smoke and the cooling road top was making satisfied “plink! Plink!” noises.

“What I want to know” said Pete with a baffled frown, “Is why the bugger didn’t just walk around like a normal person?”

“Yeah!” agreed Martin scratching his unmentionables, “I mean, what was with the knife? Did he think he could kill a road? Bloody idiot!”

“It wasn’t doing what I’d call… normal road-type things though” mused Pete, brow furrowed as his hand furtively scrabbled inside one trouser pocket to locate his tobacco.

“Oh yeah?” complained Martin, “Since when are you an expert?”

Instructions continued

  • So there you have it – an interesting story start with some Bathos[1]-style comedy.
  • As an alternative to this long-haul method of gaining some inspiration. You could use your noun list to create a title instead. Pick two or three and have a go. Here are some examples from my own list:

The Knife In The Clouds

Tears of Sand

The Tears of The Cathedral Bell etc, etc…

Once you have your unusually sourced title, draw up a spider diagram and run with it. See what crazy stuff you can come up with. The more peculiar the better. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to come up with original ideas. You end up linking objects, places, concepts that you just wouldn’t think of combining without being prompted to. You are much less likely to discover somebody has already had your idea first if you get to it by this method.

[1] An effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous (google web-definition).

To Conclude

In the next hub of this series I’ll be looking at how to come up with ideas using nothing but the room that you are sitting in and objects contained therein. I hope this hub was in some way useful to some of you. If you have any suggestions to improve or add to the method mentioned above, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.


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