10,000 ideas for a story

As many of you know I decided in January to write 31 posts (with the help of some brilliant guest posters) on creative and mental resilience. Well what has happened is that with the particular orientation and outlook that that endeavour gave me I have developed more of an eye and awareness for interesting articles, events and related ideas so I intend to keep posting on a regular basis. What I think will work best is blocks of posting and blocks of focused novel work so that I can remained focused on whichever I’m doing at the time. As you know a particular theme of this blog is how to keep creative energy and I’m still figuring out the answers. We need to follow through on our work and plough on when it is difficult but equally we can sometimes keep going through the tunnel of our panic and narrow vision and what we are writing becomes dead. We need to constantly feed the mind with experience, delight, wonder and awe in order to keep that wordfire burning.

Anyhow, enough of the impassioned speeches for today. I wanted to share with you a really interesting product I discovered recently. Aimed at kids, it’s called Rory’s Story Cubes. It consists of nine dice, each with a image on each side – so a total of 54 images.  The idea is for the child to throw the dice and see which combination of images arise. Images include an eye, a plane, a foot and a key. The children then use the images as elements within their story. Because of the possible permutations of the nine dice there are more that 10,000 possible combinations of image, thus 10,000 possible variants on the kinds of story!

We’ve had and will continue to have regular wordprompt and creativity ideas on this blog including the similar David Bowie creativity prompt but I think this is a really neat way of providing creative prompts for storytelling. While this product is aimed at children, it could be a good way for us all to kickstart our story writing and it’s possible of course for adults to create their own version of this game either physically or with some kind of random generation software. This whole dice thing resonates with me because when I was a kid I wrote a tune by using random notes assigned to numbers on the dice. It turned out to be quite a lovely tune and I still remember it today.

This dice technique is random so why might it work? There’s a wealth of information in your head and how it comes together is, in my opinion fairly random. Psychologists refer to information being stored roughly as schemata, an organisational device that groups similar things or things that are connected by the same internal personal story together. But these schemata must be constantly updating depending on time, location, mood, the prompts of the external environment. We are more likely to recall happy memories on a sunny day, or similar gloomy thoughts when we are tired, run down, upset or drenched wet on a grey day in November. What the story cubes and similar devices and wordprompt do is make a connection between your thoughts and associations. And more importantly makes a BRAND NEW AND NOVEL connection. When is an umbrella like a crow? When is it like a helicopter? Why does it call to mind a sheep? (think about it!)

What the world is looking for from writers, what publishers are looking for, what we are looking for from ourselves is to see and express this world, our history, our emotions, our psychology, our customs and interactions DIFFERENTLY. We want to talk about the age old things but say them new, with a new voice with a new viewpoint, making fabulous counterpoints, juxtapositions, clashes and harmonies as in the best classical music.

This novelty is not something we should sit and think about, tear our hair our over, bemoan. We shouldn’t get upset that publishers only want the next big thing or the breakout book or the extraordinary debut novel. The world is AMAZING! We’ve been in space! We’ve built gigantic monuments! People will soon be able to control prosthetic limbs with their thoughts! We’ll soon be able to print a 3d model of anything in our own home. We’ve built bridges and undergrounds and wiped out particular diseases. We made music and films and written books that have transported and transformed. We strive, constantly strive to progress and invent, we give birth, we love ferociously, we stand for good, we do difficult things, we do impossible things. And we do small, lovely, everyday things that need a torch shining on them. Find new ways of saying this. Find new ways of tell 10,000, 100,000, 100 million stories!

I’d like to extend my congratulations to E.K. Carmel and Henry who have both won a copy of Becoming Human. Arrangements will be made to send out your prizes. Well done!

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4 comments

  1. I bought several sets of Rory’s Story Cubes at Christmas for myself and friends. They are brilliant. I’ve had a great laugh with some quick five minute tales just to entertain myself but can also see them coming in handy when the old writer’s block hits. The randomness of the cubes is just the thing to help you out of a hole.
    Might have to buy the Action and Voyages expansion sets too 🙂

    1. They really struck me as a great idea. Behind it all is the realisation that a story can come from anything. There’s always something buried down there that can be triggered!

  2. I’m behind in my blog reading, so please forgive the lateness of this.

    First, your post is very inspiring. Many writers give up, I think, because they feel there is nothing new and extraordinary to write about. They forget that we are all unique and have different perspectives on the same issue, not to mention the wide expanse of experiences to draw from that you mention. Lovely post.

    Second, thank you, I received my copy of Becoming Human. I’ve never won a copy of an ebook before and wondered how it would all work. That was a simple and easy process! I’m in the middle of another novel now, but plan to read it afterward.

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