Story building is a real struggle for me. As a journalist, most of the stories I write are already made up for me—I just have to find the information. But when it comes to writing novels and other creative pieces, the tale has to come from within me, and, unfortunately, I haven’t been stretching my creative side lately as much as I probably should.
As I continue my NaNoWriMo prep (including working on my creativity), I’ve particularly enjoyed this exercise that a writing teacher of mine had us do in class, recently. If you want practice on creating stories, working quickly, and thinking ahead, this can be a really valuable exercise for you, as well!
It works like this:
- Firstly, you’ll need to assemble a group of people. You can do it with just a few fellow writers or a lot, but I think the most ideal number is 4 per group. You’ll see why!
- Everyone needs a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil—not a laptop. There’s just something about going through the motions of writing it down that changes everything.
- Next, it’s time to craft your story. To start, each person in the group will write an introduction to a story.
- Once you’ve gotten a few sentences in, rotate, sending your paper to the person to your right.
- Each person in the group will then read the story that they’ve received so far, and craft the next part of the story. For this first rotation, you’ll be writing the exposition.
- You should continue writing and rotating until you’ve each written a rising action, climax, and conclusion, as well. (If you have a group of 4, you’ll get to read what was written onto your story, and write the conclusion to it!)
Once you’ve finished, you’re welcome to read the stories to one another, and even edit them if you see potential! Not only is this exercise super fun, but it keeps you constantly thinking, and since you don’t want to hold up the group, you usually write the first idea that pops up into your head. That’s the beauty of it!
Another great thing about this exercise is that you never know where the story is going to go—and that may be true about your NaNoWriMo novel as well! Be prepared for the unexpected, and just roll with it and see where it takes you.
No need to edit as you go or struggle for words—just write what comes to mind. You can always edit later!
Here’s the un-edited story that I started and my group finished in class. Creative, huh?
(This amazing story includes contributions from Manny Vasquez, Rachel Levy, and Dean Greenwood!)
It was a dark and stormy night. Cuddled in her bed with her new puppy, she turned on a TV movie in hopes of waiting out the storm.
She had always waited storms. Ever since she was young, every time a storm would come, she would get very afraid, but not only was she afraid of storms, she was petrified of the dark. Her fear came from when her older brother told her a story when she was younger about how there was a terrible creature that lives under her bed. Ever since that day, she would try and sleep with a night light, but the power was out.
All of the sudden, her puppy started barking. She let go of the puppy and asked what was wrong when the puppy leaped from the bed and started yapping at below her. She called to her parents but just go the sound of rain pounding on the roof back. Suddenly, she heard a loud crack of lightning, then it went quiet in her room. She called out to the puppy with only a whimper of a reply.
A silence followed, followed by an object darting across the room, followed by a large plopping sound. It was the puppy, thrown violently across the room by some invisible presence. She ran to her beloved puppy; it was alive, barely. She stood by the wall holding the injured creature, but soon felt consumed by a bitter cold, and saw she was surrounded in darkness. She looked to the wall and saw a shadow climbing up the wall, a shapeless black mass, with silhouettes of antlers. “I have been waiting for you, Sarah,” it screeched, pulling her into the wall.
At once, a final pound of thunder filled the room as her parents ran in screaming—but no trace was left of their daughter. Only a blood-stained carpet and a wad of golden hair was left of the girl—the monster under the bed had struck again.
This definitely isn’t something I would have come up with on my own, so it was really cool to see my simple introduction take the shape of this super-creative story! I can’t wait to go back to class next week and hear what everyone else came up with.
Even if you aren’t used to creative writing, get a group of writer friends together to try this! You just might learn a little bit about each other, and you’re sure to have fun in the process. (Then, share your stories with me in the comments!) I can’t wait to see them!