Writing Games

Game 1: What your mother did in her room

Use the following bit from Diane William’s “Lamb Chops, Cod” as a writing prompt. Pick up where Williams leaves off—or tell us what your mother did in her room. Let objects do some of the talking. Let syntax be strange and ominous. 

I don’t know what my mother did when she was in her room. She was working. She was working a lot. She devoted herself to family matters, making trouble. But I am convinced she did love him extremely and after he died she said that was the fact.

Game 2: Animals speaking poetry

I remove line breaks from poems to read how pace changes in a sentence. I do this to admire how James Galvin invokes wetness, gloom, condensation, and a ghost in such a short space: “The cemetery is just a melancholy marina and rain is the tallest girl I know.” Or to stare at the whole image from Tamaz Panitz: “Her breath spun a small golden wheel from the stillness of my ceiling.” Pick a poem (or use these lines) as location for the beginning of a short piece narrated by an animal. 

Game 3: Worry story

In Ron Wallace’s flash fiction, “Worry,” he develops the following great metaphor: “Worry grew between them like a son, with his own small inconsistencies and then more pressing demands.” By personifying worry as a child, Wallace shows how a married couple normalizes and nurtures worry, developing their own intimacy with it, holding it near, carrying it together. Write a brief piece that develops your own great metaphor which turns an emotion into a character. Alternatively, write a piece that develops a different metaphor for worry.

Game 4: Start a story with a line

Choose one of the following lines to free-write a strange story set in the suburbs or in a village. You can even use it as the title (and acknowledge the source beneath the title).

  • Welcome to the afternoon. (Diane Williams)
  • She is regarded in certain circles as a slacker. (Diane Williams)
  • Between the night workers and the day workers lies the interface of light… (Susan Stewart, On Longing)
  • She doesn’t want to have such a lackluster persona. (Diane Williams)

Game 5: Three colors

Pick three unusual hues of a color and write a brief portrait of each one using vivid verbs and related objects. If you want to be really wild, write each piece using the color as the protagonist—tell us what the color does, how it spends its day, what it hates, what it loves, what makes it feel invisible, what makes it feel valuable. Treat a color like a person who just wants to exist and belong and be loved, as we all do.

Game 6: Revenge

Write a vignette or a scene that defines revenge. Lean on Diane Williams’ penchant for language and juxtaposition. Bring in colors and forms and shades. Don’t worry about genre—just write.