Some time ago I began to think of some new surrealist methods of generating creative writing ideas, since drinking and substance abuse aren’t really productive for writing (that level of bat-shit crazed prose is very limited!), I wanted other, “safer” ways of knocking on the door of insanity without inviting myself in.
I’d gotten side-tracked since writing this, publishing my ebook, the first 9 months of being a dad, buying a house – the usual – it all got in the way. But on delving back through my notes, I found a solitary one which read:
“Take two random elements about a person, and then link them together within a fictional context”
So this looks pretty “safe”, but not all that promising, it would have just been another note in another stack, however, the words which followed were:
E.g. an invisible friend who reads self help books
I’m not sure if everyone has an over-active imagination like myself, but there’s something in writing a short story about someone who has an imaginary friend who reads self help books which appeals to me.
Having the protagonist enter his living room to hear a make-believe person quoting the Dali Lama or struggling with some existentialist soul searching writes itself… at least in my mind. Whether it’s some charming vignette or a comic device in a larger story, it interests me and hopefully anyone else who should read it.
How do “two random elements” manifest themselves as an idea which, in turn, may stimulate some further writing? The two random ideas could be “accountant” and “boring”, but that’s not going to lead to anything more substantial than Amazon UK’s 2013 tax bill.
Making this work for you is always going to be slightly tricky, and to demonstrate this I’ll draw on a concept from an early IT lesson I took way-back-when.
GIGO -> Garbage In, Garbage Out
Or to paraphrase, crap material leads to crap product – simple, eh? So, take the “two random elements” and make sure they’re not trash.
This is always a bit hit and miss, but to make this part of a more “solid” creative writing activity, I’ve done something horrible and made a spreadsheet to help out. (Some may scoff at the idea of using a spreadsheet to help with something creative, but at least humour me and give it a try!)
Click here for my Creative Writing Idea Generator – but read the following before you get stuck in.
FIRST: Make sure you’re signed into your Google account, then load the spreadsheet, click “File” and the “Make Copy”, this will let you save this to your own drive to edit as you wish.
THEN: Add your idea for a character into the first column and then their “quirk” or trait into the next. To ensure you get suitably random match-ups make sure you add between 5-10 entries in each column – but no more, you’ll break it!
FINALLY: Once you’re done, press “Ctrl+R” to generate the idea – easy!
NOTE: If you change and of the cells on the spreadsheet, the idea will refresh, so make sure you write down any ideas you like before making any more changes!
Still not convinced a spreadsheet is the key? Here are the first 5 answers I got:
- Estranged Uncle who makes friends with road kill
- Philosophy Student who makes bad decisions
- Desperate Estate Agent who runs away to live in the woods
- Accountant who intentionally makes bad investments and blames it on their “twin”
- Philosophy Student who shouts “spoilers” during film trailers and leaves without watching the feature
There’s a little bit of repetition there and it certainly isn’t Hemingway, but for the purposes of what I was trying to achieve, I think it’s got potential.
Even if you don’t save your own version of the spreadsheet and make the edits, you can still have a play with the ideas I have input and see what comes out.
Write something, anything based on the ideas the generator give you.
A short story, a haiku, a limerick, draw a comic book, or something completely different – the form isn’t important, just the process you’ve been through. Then post the text in the comments, or at least post a link to where you’ve written it in the comments. Once a few people have given it ago I’ll pull together the highlights and post it up in the near-future.
Now I’m off to work on an idea of two!
What are you waiting for, get writing!
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