Sunday, May 15, 2011

Creative Sparks: 10 Random Words

Many years ago when I was in high school, I was very fortunate to have had some really great teachers. One of my favorite was Mrs. Crownover who taught Honors English. I believe she had a strong creative writing background as it seemed like we wrote something each and every day.

Because we wrote so much, sometimes writer's block would plant its stubborn feet in my brain and refuse to move. Some days I felt like I couldn't think of a single syllable to put down on paper, much less a sentence, paragraph, or an entire story.

On one of those dreadful idea-blocked days, Mrs. Crownover gave me a wonderful idea to help get the creative juices working and supplant the writer's block.

Her suggestion was to take the dictionary and pick 10 random words. By random I mean, close your eyes, open the dictionary to a random page, and blindly put your finger down somewhere on the page. Whatever word was closest to your finger, that was your selected word. After selecting 10 random words, the assignment was to make a sentence, short story or story idea using those words or variations of the words.

I can tell you that this technique worked wonderfully for me and helped to improve my vocabulary as an added bonus.

The reason I am sharing this trick with you is that I have been a little unmotivated over the last couple of weeks. Although my novel writing is coming along steadily, I have not been able to think of anything of value to post here. I follow several other author's blogs and some of them come up with such wonderfully thought provoking and inspiring posts that I have felt that anything that I would produce would be sub-par to those of so many excellent writers. Then I remembered this little trick from Mrs. Crownover and decided I would try it. (Okay, really it couldn't hurt since I have barely posted anything in the last month!)

Here are the 10 random words that I selected:

  1. superior
  2. comfort
  3. curtness
  4. downtrodden
  5. picaresque
  6. insatiable
  7. renewal
  8. minion
  9. decipher
  10. flourishing

I totally had to look up #5!!

picaresque - (1) of or relating to rogues or rascals; (2) a type of prose fiction which was widely read throughout Europe in the 16th - 18th centuries, and deals with the episodic adventures of a roguish protagonist who is usually from the lower classes of society. (The "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and Johnny Depp immediately sprang to mind.)

It is really amazing the way my brain immediately reacted to this exercise. Of course, whose brain could fail to react to daydreams about Johnny Depp? I found myself immediately trying to come up with ways to connect the words together and relate them all to pirates. Slowly I could feel my brain kicking into gear one cog at a time. Here is the draft of what I came up with:

After four grueling months at sea, Captain Black's first mate had grown accustomed to his superior's curt replies and maniacal rants, but the ship's crew members were tired and hungry and had been way too long without the feel of a woman's soft curves underneath them. It was all McNally could do to prevent Black's downtrodden minions from mutinying. They needed to find land soon as supplies were running low and the ominous black sky that hung low on the horizon silently promised rough seas ahead.

McNally tried to remember how Black had roped him into leaving the tranquility and gentle comforts of his home and family. He hated to admit that it had been his own insatiable appetite for glory and gold that had renewed his wanderlust after Black had played on his greed by tempting him with the deciphered treasure map.

Captain Black's shouts at the crew to batten down the hatches brought him back to the present just in time to feel a large wave crash into the side of the vessel. He jumped up from his chair with a flourish and ran on deck to check on the crew only to be met with the sting of small ice pellets pounding down over his face blinding him, piercing into his exposed flesh. He wiped his face as best he could with his water-soaked sleeve. His vision cleared just long enough to see a thirty-foot rogue wave engulf the ship and everyone on it. His arms reached out in front of him grabbing for anything solid with which to brace himself. Just as his fingers neared the deck railing, his rigid body was swept up by mother's nature hand and tossed into the freezing water below.

He struggled to keep his head afloat but the current was too strong and the waves too high. Suddenly a burning pain shot through his skull and nausea threatened to overtake him as he smelled the pungent odor of fresh blood. Something had struck him in the head. Dizziness and blackness overcame him and he could no longer will his limbs to keep him afloat. He felt himself  spiraling downward as the salty water filled his mouth and nose and he struggled to breath. His last conscious thought was one of regret because he knew at that moment that he would never again get the chance to regale his boys with picaresque tales of life on the high seas with the infamous Captain Black. 

As you can see, this exercise got those creative juices flowing and my writer's block disappeared. I went on to write five more posts for next week. 

I invite you to try this exercise and let me know how it works for you.

If you are short on dictionaries, there is also a random word generator tool that you can use.

What ways do you use to alleviate the dreaded writer's block?

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