Interactive Games for Narrative Writing

Narrative writing is a practice that not only aids in the writing of fiction or creative nonfiction but also in writing reports, teaching a lesson or even writing a recipe. Learning to pay attention to details like character, plot, setting and pace can make writers more attentive in general and certainly better storytellers. Using interactive games to teach or lead a group in narrative writing can be inspiring. After each exercise, invite participants to share the rough drafts they generate in small groups or with the whole group.

  1. Photograph Prompts

    • Gather photographs from a variety of sources, such as newspaper articles, magazines and marketing materials. Bring at least three times as many photos to your class or writing group as there are participants. Spread the photos on a table and ask participants to choose one or two photos that inspire them in some way and bring them back to their seats. Ask participants to spend three to five minutes free writing about the images they chose, using specific, concrete language to describe what they see and to raise questions they may have about the images. Then ask participants to think of a specific time in their lives. For example, you may suggest, "Think of the last time you visited a park. Choose someone from that park--it could be yourself--and write the story of how this person intersects with the images you selected." Ask participants to write for 10 minutes, weaving in details and observations from their free writing.

      For a twist on this game, ask participants to get up and trade their photographs for new ones after 10 minutes. Tell them that their story needs to end with details from these final photographs.

    Interrupted Writing

    • Interrupted writing is a fast-paced writing game that forces writers to move their stories from point A to point B swiftly. It is a game that generates raw material. Any prompts can be given as long as the writing window between them is no longer than five minutes and at least one of the prompts invites conflict into the scene. Here is an example of how to lead interrupted writing:

      "There is a man or woman alone in a room. Describe the room, the person and why the person is alone in the room. You have four minutes."

      After three and a half minutes, give a 30-second warning. At four minutes, say, "stop writing" and give the next prompt. For example, "A second person walks into the room. Write about it for three minutes."

      After another 30-second warning and the call of time, give a third prompt: "Suddenly there is a loud noise. Write about it for three minutes."

      The exercise can go on for three to five prompts. After that, participants become tired. After the last prompt's writing time is complete, give participants five minutes to revise what they wrote.

    Characterization Game

    • Ask participants to choose a character, real or imagined. The only rule is that they cannot choose themselves. Ask them to close their eyes and visualize their character, remaining totally quiet. What is he wearing, or how does she walk across a room? How does he smile, or how does she interact with her hair? How old is he, or how tall is she? Then ask participants to shift in their seats so that they are sitting as their character would sit. Lead participants in several embodiment exercises like "walk around the room with the same walk and pace that you imagine your character would use" or "pretend I am your character's mother and look at me with the expression your character would have if his or her mother entered the room."

      Tell participants that as of now, they are no longer their real selves and are instead their characters. Give them an imagined scene like a barbecue and ask them to pretend they are guests at the scene and have come to meet new people. The instructor should play bartender or chef to help get dialogue moving (inviting quiet characters to have a burger or a lemonade, for example). Characters should be directed to ask one another personal "get to know you" questions. After four minutes, shout "stop" and ask participants to quickly write down interesting things they have learned or pieces of dialogue they found memorable. After two minutes, re-start the party. After three or four takes, ask participants to become themselves again and use the notes they gathered to write a narrative about their experience at the barbecue. Tell participants to use sensory details, specific pieces of dialogue and actual characters they met to write their narrative.

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