Writerly Play Activity Collection: Questions Can Give You More Creative Answers

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Questions Can Give You More Creative Answers

Why ask better questions?

Better questions can give you more creative answers.

It’s easy to rush straight past a question and snatch the first answer we can find. Questions create tension. What will we discover? Will we have to make a choice? If so, will we make the right one? Answers provide relief. However, when we ask the wrong questions, we end up with the wrong answers. Asking better questions is an art, and one of the primary tools artists can use to improve their craft.

The art of asking questions is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Attic.

The Writerly Play Attic, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities, designed to help you craft strong questions.

Remember: better questions can give you more creative answers. Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

Question Starters

FOR ARCHITECTS

Explore your connection with your idea with a series of question starters.

Try This

What If ... ? Game

FOR INVENTORS

Use this classic question to explore the possibilities in your idea.

Try This

Importance Interview

FOR COLLABORATORS

Explore what’s important to you in your idea by digging deep with a friend.

Try This

The Question Bullseye

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Clarify your project by exploring what’s central in the idea for you.

Try This

Choreograph a Happy Dance

Visit the Writerly Play Studio and play your way into creative discoveries. Never heard of the WP Studio? Learn how Writerly Play thinking strategies supercharge your creativity here.

No one can stay in a funk when they turn on a happy song and dance. When you need a creative kick-start or have a happiness SOS moment, you don’t want to have to come up with a solution on the spot. Preparation is key! That’s why taking some time to choreograph your own happy dance is such an excellent creativity-boosting strategy.

When you’re designing your dance, you’ll have a blast of fresh energy that comes from thinking with a different part of your mind. Chances are, choreography isn’t one of your daily tasks, so the process will feel novel and will likely remind you of being a kid. After you’ve designed your dance, you will have a solution in your back pocket anytime you feel your energy lagging.

Try This:

  1. Choose a favorite song.
  2. Clear some space to move.
  3. Turn on your song. Experiment with different steps as you listen.
  4. Go through the song piece by piece, adding movement. Simple movement is perfectly fine. Remember, this is a happy dance! You’re supposed to have fun with it.

Hints:

  • Big movement tends to be more fun than small movement.
  • Repeat patterns to keep things simple.
  • Listen to the words for inspiration. Many words or phrases provide excellent ideas for simple gestures.
  • If you have kids, make your dance together! Your happy dance can be a gloom-buster for the whole family.

 

Change Up Your Route

Visit the Writerly Play Attic to collect experiences and sensory detail to bring your creative work to life. Never heard of the WP Attic? Learn how Writerly Play thinking strategies supercharge your creativity here.

 

As many as 45% of our daily choices are driven by habit. What does this mean when it comes to developing characters?
 
  1. We need to know what they do every day.
  2. We need to know what circumstances might alter their routine.
  3. We need to know what impact “waking up” might have on their personality.

It’s easy to assign habits to characters unthinkingly.

Without intending to, we give our characters actions, thoughts or habits that actually are our own. What do you pay attention to when you go for a walk? Do you notice every leaf blower, and find detours to avoid them because the dust makes you sneeze?  Do you cross the street to say hello to every dog you see because you simply can’t resist?
 
You might find that these same habits show up in your characters. That’s okay, of course. Every character a writer creates is somehow woven out of his or her experience. However, sometimes we let these assumptions slip through unchecked. Or worse, we might create characters who walk in their neighborhoods without noticing anything at all. We’re so busy driving toward our next plot point that we allow our characters to be bland. They don’t have little quirks or pet peeves. They’re too busy saving the world to have a favorite snack or secret obsession, such as perfecting their cartwheel.
 
The best way to shake up our thinking is to start paying attention to our own habits. When we see the many small choices we make every day without even noticing, we can start to think about how our characters might choose differently.
 

Try This: Change up your Route

Is there somewhere you go weekly, or even daily? What if you took a different route? The fresh scenery might help you to notice what captures your attention. What do you see, smell, and hear? Take the time to notice, and as you do, also consider your character. Would he or she notice the same things? Something different? Would his or her reaction resemble yours, or would he or she feel differently than you feel about leaf blowers or dogs?
 
Try it out and then come on back and share what you notice. I’d love to hear how this strategy works for you. You can also connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

SaveSave

Your Character’s Birthday Wish

Visit the Writerly Play Studio and play around the edges of your work to get to know your character. Never heard of the WP Studio? Learn how Writerly Play thinking strategies supercharge your creativity here.

Whether you love your birthday or hate your birthday, it’s a day that celebrates you! That’s why it’s such an excellent opportunity to get to know a character. 

This month, I posted over at Smack Dab in the Middle on using birthdays as a character development tool. Check out the post here.

Or, if you want the cliff-notes edition, here’s a list of birthday-related questions to help you explore unexpected corners of your character’s personality.

On your character’s birthday:

1. What does she love to do?
2. Who does he spend time with? Does he prefer large groups or small ones?
3. Do her friends make her gifts, or are the gifts store-bought?
4. What do the gifts given reveal about him?
5. What does the reaction to the gifts reveal about her?
6. How does he change from birthday to birthday? What remains the same?
7. Does she plan her own birthday? If not, who plans the day? Is this what she would choose, were it up to her?
8. How does he feel about people singing happy birthday, or not?
9. What surprises come up on her birthday?
10. Which birthdays are most meaningful to him?

How do you use birthdays in your writing? Do you have favorite literary birthdays? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter

The Shape of Words on a Page

Visit the Writerly Play Workshop and build your revision skill set. Never heard of the WP Workshop? Learn how Writerly Play thinking strategies supercharge your creativity here.

the shape of words on a page

Word after word on a page can easily lull our minds into numbness.

But when we see

word

after word

on a page

suddenly we see

differently.

A few summers ago, I took a revision workshop with Linda Sue Park. What an incredible experience! One of Linda’s strategies has become a standard part of my writing practice. She asked us to take a manuscript page and break it into lines. No line could be more than five or six words. With breathing room, it became immediately clear where prose could be tightened, where words were repetitive, or where weak verbs or nouns could be strengthened.

Somehow, when the shape of the words on the page changed, I could see my writing with new eyes.

It’s a simple but powerful tool. Many, many thanks to Linda Sue Park for adding such a transformative strategy to my bag of tricks!

Try This:

  1. Copy a page of your manuscript into a new document.
  2. Break the paragraphs into short lines of no more than six words each.
  3. Read through and finesse the sound, rhythm and tone of your words.
  4. Once you’ve revised the prose in this format, put the writing back into paragraph form.
  5. Do a before/after comparison. What do you notice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights! Share below or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.