Writing Games


Game 1: “Decoupage of Defective Memory” 

Gary Indiana’s memoir, I Can Give You Anything but Love (2015), touches on his parents’ substance abuse as working class Americans with a gay son. He describes the form of the memoir as “a decoupage of defective memory.” And he leaves out the fact that the has raped twice at nineteen. In an interview, Indiana said he was “allergic to” the idea of himself as the subject of his books. “I don’t write…as self-revelation, in the contemporary sense,” Indiana insisted. “Even when I write what appears to be very personal material, I am writing about a character, one who is sometimes traveling by my name.”

Game 2: Scar tissue stories 

Gary Indiana has said that almost all the short stories in his first book, Scar Tissue (1987), were the first chapters of novels that he couldn’t finish. Make a list of 20 or so novels you started but could not finish. Add a sentence about why you could not finish it. Then create a table of contents and name each novel as a chapter; you can change the name to suit a short story.

Game 3: Diorama

Use Steven Millhauser’s essay as a prompt into writing a small diorama. Use a child’s voice to narrate it. 

Game 4: Micro-gloss

To review, a gloss is a brief notation, especially a marginal one or an interlinear one, of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text or in the reader’s language if that is different. A collection of glosses is a glossary. A collection of medieval legal glosses, made by glossators, is called an apparatus. The compilation of glosses into glossaries was the beginning of lexicography, and the glossaries so compiled were in fact the first dictionaries. In modern times a glossary, as opposed to a dictionary, is typically found in a text as an appendix of specialized terms that the typical reader may find unfamiliar. Also, satirical explanations of words and events are called glosses. Look in the newspaper or media and find a topic that seems to be trending. Now write a satirical gloss of it in the mode of Robert Walser’s microscripts. Alternatively, write a glossary of trending words…maybe even virtue signals?

Game 5: A Stamp Story

Read “A Portfolio of Stamps of the World” about artist Donald Evans and the thousands of stamps he created for imaginary countries in The Catalog of the World. Google Evans’ stamps and write a short piece that borrows from this mode—a short vignette about an imaginary place that existed in a particular space and time involving friends and objects. Describe or list the objects. Use colors and vivid hues. Go back to yesterday’s verb and hue combinations.

Game 6: The Missing Object

Alfred Hitchcock’s films create terror giving us a surface awareness that something is missing, and the production or appearance of the missing. Write a short piece that centers on a missing object but doesn’t mention it. Consider using the epistolary form, or writing a letter to someone about strange things that are happening. Play in this space and see what happens.

Game 7: A trio of still-lifes

The still-life is most compelling when it includes an element of disorientation–as in these strange still-lifes. Each artist’s style gives us the object differently. Some feel more real and textured while others exist naked in their relation to light. Poet Francois Ponge wrote the orange, the mollusk, the bread loaf. There is an old watch next to the blackberries on the table. Write down the colors each one brings to the image – used similes. Now write a paragraph about the watch or the blackberries, a portrait in the style of a still life. Use words like brushes. You should have three still-life’s total.