Stimuli for stories

Cheryl Rao

Every education board has creative writing tasks for students, including story writing, and there is nothing better than practice to make students confident about writing. Everyone knows the benefits of story writing. It unlocks and develops creativity and forms an outlet for the imagination.

While many believe that it is easy to write a story, it is only when one actually gets down to doing the task that one realizes what it entails. As anyone who has ever tried anything new will tell you – it’s the first step that is always the hardest. In the case of writing stories, it is that first thought, the first idea, and then the first word on a blank sheet of paper that makes many of us balk and give up before we have started. Any help we get, therefore, and any way in which we can grow our ideas and eventually convert them into the written word should be appreciated – and used.

write-your-own-story Teachers and parents often hear their students and children coming up with wonderful, unusual ideas and relating the plot of a story orally but when encouraged to write down those same ideas, children often get stuck at some point in their story and realize that they have not thought the entire plot through. Perhaps the problem they have created as central to the story is not credible, perhaps the logistics of it cannot be worked out effectively enough to make it credible to the reader, perhaps the situation they have placed their characters in makes it impossible for the characters to get out and continue within the story…

None of these obstacles is understood by the student/child/prospective writer when just talking about the idea, the plot, or the theme of the story. Writing it down helps the writer to recognize the hurdle – or the dead end that has come up – and work his/her way around it or add plausible complications to allow the story to proceed.

With story writing, as with any other form of writing, practice helps the writer immensely, and now with its Write your own story game, AI-YO encourages writers to get going.

The game consists of a road map and 35 cards that present the user with choices and suggestions that help them and motivate them to write a story:
Card 1 has a choice of 10 genres of stories.
Cards 2 to 5 have plot statements and also give the names of some stories to illustrate the genres given in card 1. Thus, the plot statement could be ‘Mission: Find something’ and the examples for this range from Little Red Riding Hood to Lord of the Rings.
Card 6 presents various locations for stories: desert, space, etc., and cards 7 to 16 give more information about these locations to help the writer understand what transport, animals, weather, characters, etc., can be found in each location.
Card 17 gives the basic break up of a story – the five Ws: Who – What – Where – When – Why. Who takes part in the story, what happens, where it happens, when it happens, why it happens.
Cards 18 to 25 deal with types of characters and their physical and mental qualities, how they talk, how they dress, etc. There is no dearth of choice here.

Following the road map and sifting through these 25 cards will help users choose the genre, decide on the plot, setting and characters, and from there with a brief run-through of the first section of card 26, Checklist Before Writing, the user can start out on a journey into story writing.

The second part of card 26, Checklist After Finishing the Story, and card 27 (Checklist) are meant to help iron out problems once the story is written (though card 27 could well be used when planning the story too).

As a bonus, the creators of the game have given six cards with plot samples, each about 50 words in length, and also one card with words to use instead of ‘said’.

For someone who loves to write and is determined to write, this game presents options that can be used in any number of permutations and combinations – and could result in hundreds of stories. It can be used by children independently if they are self-motivated enough or it can be used with the participation and guidance of a parent or teacher. Approaching story writing as a game should also work wonders with dispelling the fear of writing that most of us have.

The plot cards assume that the user of the game is familiar with a wide range of stories, but this may not be the case. Instead of the user getting disheartened or putting away the game, this can be used as an opportunity to go ahead and read. After all, a writer has to be a reader as well. So, users of the game can look for and read stories they are not familiar with to make them understand the genre better and also to enable them to appreciate and analyze the work of other writers and grow more confident and capable in their own writing.

There are a few other ‘missing’ pieces, notably, suggestions for the use of dialogue in story writing, and guidance after writing in the editing section. For dialogue writing, perhaps the card with words to use instead of ‘said’ could have been expanded to give some inputs on dialogue writing. ‘Guidance after writing’ in a game like this can only be general, but card 26 could have been a little more detailed.

All in all though, this is a game that not merely children but adults as well could spend many a happy day with – and could open the way to a completely different life.

The reviewer is a children’s writer and author of Fun with Creative Writing, a series of workbooks for children. She can be reached at cherbrag@yahoo.com.

To order your own game board email info@mypass.co.in or call on 022 66370086/87. The game kits will be couriered to you.