Advice · Writing

Writing Games

Currently working on: The Lexicon Calopa (edits), Nine Shot Sonata 1
Music: Chrono Trigger Jazz album

Let’s talk games. We all love games. That’s kinda hardwired into our collective DNA, yeah? We grow up on games, we treat things as games, and even our common interaction has all the rules and moves of a game. It’s so prevalent that one of our go-to cliches for underscoring the seriousness of a situation is to point out the fact that, no, it isn’t a game.


So I want us to embrace that today. I’m not going to share writing exercises with you. Exercise invokes images of punishing routines aimed at self-improvement and cheerful Plasticine automatons shilling out barely edible shakes and table coasters parading as snack-bars. Okay, maybe not that dystopian, but still. Games are more fun. We like games. Games also improve us, without the unsettling imagery I described.


So let’s talk writing games. These are quick little gems that you can fire up for your warm-up routine, to start chipping away at a block, or when you’re feeling bored. Mostly, they’re here for your entertainment convenience, and serve double-duty for keeping your skills sharper. Some of these can even sidle in under the radar as party games in a pinch. Your mileage may vary.

So, let’s play.

We’ll start with a little ditty called “Three Nouns”. The rules of this one are, like any good game, pretty simple. Take three nouns, two “concrete” and one “abstract”, and come up with a story concept. To simplify even further, your concrete nouns are the usual person, place or thing variety. Abstract nouns are more concepts, like love, justice, sadness, etc. Let’s try one:

River. Dais. Joy.

Get your noodle cooking yet? Then you’re already playing the game. What story premise could come out of this? Perhaps a Dais that lies at the head of some hard to reach river, where it’s said that those that find it will find joy eternal? Hell, what could that mean? It could go pretty dark—eternal joy being the afterlife, so the dais kills those who find it—or pretty lighthearted—the dais summons a friendly pack of corgis that are lick-happy. Totally up to you.

corgi-park-photo-puppiesBest. Horde. EVER.

Next game. This one’s a brain teaser, in a way. It’s called “Word Subtraction”, and it’s kinda like Taboo for those familiar with it. Think of something. Let’s say, the desert, since it’s a pretty easy thing to imagine. Now, write down a list of words that you’d use to describe a desert. Once you’ve got that list, write a short blurb that describes the desert in detail.

Only, this time you don’t get to use any of those words on your list.

I can hear the mental record needle scratching, but you can do it. I did say it was a bit of a brain teaser. But hopefully this will get you thinking about out-of-the-box ways to describe things, or convey ideas about setting. If you want to make it a competition, feel free to give the win to the person that can write the best or longest descriptive without using any of the list words.

I know that it’s not always kosher to turn something creative into a competition, but hey: At least it’s not going to wreck friendships like Monopoly.

enhanced-buzz-22229-1380915064-18The Face of All Evils Within This World.

Now here’s another one that might challenge the braincase, albeit in a different way. I call it “Split Personality”. It’s fairly straightforward for something named after what is arguably such a complex psychological condition, so you’ll have to forgive my irreverence. It’s named thus to get the point across.

Start by writing about something you are fond of. Have fun with it. Explore what it is about the thing you dig on that makes you smile. Delve through the echelons of admiration. Do you like tacos? Of course you do. You are not a Cylon. Unless you are. If you are, I would point out that our differences, and therefore the entire war, could be solved by the introduction of tacos.

Mm. Tacos.

So now that you’ve written down and played with your adoration for the thing you’ve chosen (please tell me it’s tacos), now it’s time to write down what you hate about it, and do so with as much gusto and with as many words as you did when you were off on your narrative honeymooon.

Seriously. Tap into that Hyde portion of your psyche, and rip it a new one. This is about exploring a radically different point of view within the confines of your own mind. It’s great fodder for characterization and personality flavor.

Okay, last one, and this one’s a bit of a longform game. Think Axis and Allies without the constant bitching. It starts simply enough, but the challenge to you is to see how long you can keep it going. I call it “The Starting Pistol”.

Much like the track you’d be running on, there is only a beginning, and a finish line. There is no other plan but running—or writing, in your case—to get you from one point to the next. No story breakdown, no outline, nothing but the simplicity of moving forward.

Think of any three word phrase. “I awoke suddenly.” “They ran swiftly.” “It crashed down.” That’s the starting line, and the pistol shot. Now, based off that phrase, tell me a story. Try to make it as long as possible. Write. Explain to me what’s going on, answer the question that beginning phrase brings up. Keep pumping those writing muscles of yours until you either reach that conclusion/finish line, or just run out of steam.

Run, Forrest. RUN!

run-forest-runClose enough.

This could be something you toy with for a few minutes, or over the course of a month, or beyond. Something you come back to now and again when on break from other pieces of writing, or from real life. It can be your dead sprint, or your daily jog. The key is to keep fluid, have fun, and don’t try to think beyond that track.

That’s a handful of writing games for you to put up on your shelf, and take down as necessary. Why? Because I like you. Yes, even you, the Plasticine powdered-shake coaster-munching taco-hating Cylon that somehow stumbled across my blog on their mission to collect data on how to believably act human as to better infiltrate our species and destroy us from within.

I’ve got bad news for you: I make a terrible human. But I can teach you how to make good coffee, and better tacos. Peace in our time, friend.

Until next time, Horns Up.

Want to help keep this content flowing? Consider supporting my Patreon! You get stuff, and I get to keep eating. Win-win.


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