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7 Step Writing Game to Spark Your Imagination

Updated on September 5, 2017
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I teach creative writing to adults and I love helping my students improve their writing skills.

Your Imagination is Full of Surprises

Giant emerging from the ground at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK.
Giant emerging from the ground at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, UK. | Source

Cure for Writer’s Block

If you get writer’s block, try this game to get your creative juices flowing. Blank page syndrome or writer’s block can happen to anyone, anytime. When it happens, no matter what you try, you seem unable to get your thoughts down on paper. It is demotivating and depressing for writers to experience this. If someone could invent a foolproof method to overcome this brain numbness, they would make a fortune.

The writing game described here is not guaranteed to cure your mind blockage (or I’d be rich). But it’s fun to do and can be played solitaire fashion or with a group of writing friends. When you just can’t seem to write anything, stop staring blankly at the page and follow the steps below.

Instructions for Writing Game

Steps to cure writer's block
1. Find a good picture.
2. Mentally place yourself in the scene.
3. Change the scale (like Gulliver’s Travels or The Borrowers).
4. Use the 5 senses.
5. Use the 5 W’s.
6. Now introduce another person into the scene.
Use a 5-minute sand timer to time each stage of the exercise.

This Photo Conveys Movement and Energy

Dalmation fetching a stick.
Dalmation fetching a stick. | Source

One picture is worth ten thousand words.

— Ancient Chinese Proverb

1. Find a Good Picture

Choose an interesting picture to work with. This could be a picture postcard or a cartoon from a magazine. It could be a holiday snap or a photo you’ve seen in a newspaper. It’s your choice. The subject matter is immaterial. I prefer to choose a picture without people in it because I can add those later in my imagination.

If you cannot find a suitable picture, try searching online for Wikimedia Featured Pictures. Wikimedia has photos and paintings that are in the public domain so you can print them off or copy them as you wish. I can always find something suitable for this writing game there. The pictures in this article were all found on Wikimedia.

A Close-Up Photo Makes You Think About Small Details

Olivier salad.
Olivier salad. | Source

2. Mentally place yourself in the scene.

Take a good hard long look at your picture. (I find it helpful to print off a copy, rather than staring at a computer screen for a long time.) Get comfy in your favorite armchair or go and sit in the garden so you can concentrate on the photo.

Imagine yourself as part of that scene. Do you feel comfortable there? Is this somewhere familiar or is it new to you? How does it feel to be there, are you happy, sad, excited, worried? Are you a stranger or is this a home-coming? How did you get there?

Allow yourself 15 minutes of imagining time for this stage of the exercise … but no more!

Now return to your writing desk and open your notebook.

For each of the remaining parts of this writing game, you must limit your thinking time to 5 minutes and your writing time to 7 minutes. I use a sandglass timer. I can take wherever I’m writing and it does not disturb anyone else.

Imagine the Adrenalin Rush of Surfing

Mavericks Surf Contest 2010.
Mavericks Surf Contest 2010. | Source

3. Change the Scale of Your Surroundings

You have 5 minutes to imagine that you have become very small or very large. Picture yourself inside your scene. How do you feel? Are you scared? Angry? Omnipotent?

Many famous books have been written with the hero changing relative size. One of the best-known is Alice in Wonderland. She finds messages to “Drink me” and “Eat me” attached to a bottle and some cake. These make her shrink to ten inches tall and then become a giant measuring more than nine feet high.

Another example is Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift which is a satire on traveler’s tall tales. The hero experiences all kinds of extreme adventures including finding himself in a land where he is a giant compared to the miniature residents. In another he place the reverse happens and he is dwarfed by enormous people and is the smallest person present.

Now write for 7 minutes (using a timer to limit your time) describing how your character feels.

This Picture Plays With Scale

Children play in giant shoes in Japan.
Children play in giant shoes in Japan. | Source

4. Use the Five Senses

Spend the next 5 minutes thinking about your character’s emotions. What are their feelings at being there? How are they interacting with the scene? Think about the five senses to bring your writing to life. These are sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. And don’t forget to include some similes and metaphors as they help paint a vivid picture for your reader.

The next seven minutes (and no longer) are for writing these thoughts down. If you want some inspiration about using similes and metaphors look at Skin Like Milk, Hair of Silk: What Are Similes and Metaphors? Although it’s a book aimed at children, it’s a fun, lighthearted read that explains the grammar point well.

This Scene Makes You Shiver With Cold

Icy shores of Lake Michigan.
Icy shores of Lake Michigan. | Source

5. Use the 5 W’s

Who, What, Why, Where and When are known collectively as the five W’s. These are the tools every author needs to interrogate a scene or a character. If you ask these questions about each element of your story, you will find you are automatically starting to build three dimensional characters and make your plot believable.

Remember you only have 5 minutes thinking time and 7 minutes writing time for this part of the exercise. Hopefully, by this stage of the game, your writing muscles are starting to work and you are finding your words flowing to cover that (previously) blank page.

For example, a story sparked by the picture below could be created by asking the following questions. Who put the bike there? What are the people doing? Why are they doing it? Where are they? When was the bike made?

Who? What? Why? Where? When?

It takes three to ride a giant's bike.
It takes three to ride a giant's bike. | Source

Ride a White Swan

Which of these phrases from Marc Bolan paints the most vivid picture?

See results

6. Now Introduce Someone Else Into the Scene

So far, the scene you have been describing has just yourself (or a solitary character) in it. Now add some action by introducing someone or something into the picture. They could be a love interest or maybe the person is a stranger. It could be a fluffy pet animal or a dangerous wild creature. Whatever you choose, their arrival will spark a response from your original character.

Get your timer on. Ready, steady go! Five minutes thinking time and seven minutes writing time.

People Your Writing With Interesting Characters

A cyclist views wooden doors in the Imperial palace in Hue‎, Vietnam.
A cyclist views wooden doors in the Imperial palace in Hue‎, Vietnam. | Source

7. The Rest is Up to You

The final part of this exercise can go one of three ways.

1. You have been successful at overcoming your writer’s block. You put aside the story you’ve created by doing this exercise.

You return with renewed enthusiasm to the piece of writing you were originally working on.

2. You love what you have written in this game. These notes now become the start of a whole new story or plotline that you can’t stop thinking about.

You get started on your new novel, short story etc. without delay.

3. You’ve struggled with this task. It hasn’t helped fire your imagination at all. In fact, you think the whole thing has been a complete waste of time.

You need to seriously consider whether being a writer is the right path for you.

Creativity is a Mixture of Hard Work and Inspiration

Gardener clipping topiary cypress in Tulcán, Ecuador.
Gardener clipping topiary cypress in Tulcán, Ecuador. | Source


Submit a Comment

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 3 months ago from SW England

    Great ideas and really inspiring, Beth. I haven't suffered yet as I have a wealth of photos in my own library. I agree with you regarding wikipedia photos as I always go there first if I don't have something of my own to fit. I also respond best to photos as I'm a visual learner and thinker. Other prompts work well but I'm more comfortable with visual. I guess you go with what suits you best.

    This is such a useful hub, not only for the ideas but also for the enthusiasm you convey.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers 7 months ago from The Caribbean

    I totally like this writing game. Thank you verymuch for sharing your creativity and instructions.