Making lists (or decks, or the idea of a deck, or self-shuffling Excel documents) of common elements is a very soothing procrastination activity.
I’ve made them of favourite lines, key tropes, patterns I’ve noticed in my own working habits, images I return to, favourite stories I like to use as narrative myths/templates, art styles — even just parallels between a set of books recently read (here, boarding school mysteries).
They’re a pleasant way to test what you already know, and to analyse what you love.
They are also useful for all sorts of games and ways of knocking ideas against each other until they give off sparks.
Below is an experiment where I used a list for quite another purpose from its original intention. The list was a set of notes I’d made on things to strengthen in my own writing. But instead, I used the items as parameters for a quick set of repeating pattern ideas — and of course those turned into yet another set of card ideas (among other things).
You can of course buy or repurpose pre-made kits (story dice, Dixit cards, Tom Gauld’s plot generators, etc). But sometimes just the making is the illuminating part of the exercise.
- See also the activities on the post: This is not a deck of cards (tropes and process).
- Make a list (slips of paper, spreadsheet, etc) of any of the following that appeal (try to make it a good long list — at least 10):
- Tropes you particularly enjoy (today)
- Favourite styles
- Common elements in your favourite books/illustrations
- Your favourite stories/stories that most resonate with you (that you keep recommending, or coming back with, or playing in your own work)
- Media or subgenres you work in (or would like to)
- Favourite poems
- Favourite adjectives
- Draw three items from your list at random, and (alone, or with friends if you enjoy argumentative conversations) apply them to:
- A project (a short story? an illustration?) you’d like to do
- Someone else’s story or illustration (can you reinterpret it through the lens of those cards, or make a mashup or adaptation?)
- Something completely unrelated, e.g. what you should have for dinner (actual conversation: “we can’t go out for sushi because…. apparently there’s a high chance we’ll be intercepted by time-travelling ninja pirates”), how to rearrange the bookcases, etc.