July Theme: PLAY!
By Marcia Thornton Jones

Every Friday our local Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning (www.carnegiecenterlex.org) hosts a free ‘Writing Practice’ session. A creative prompt is provided for a 20 minute freewrite after which we each read our unedited pieces. No critiques are offered; we respond by ‘calling out’ words and phrases that resonated for whatever reason. It’s a playful and nonjudgmental way to get words on the page. So in honor of our month’s theme, I offer five playful ways to get words down on the page.

  1. Be colorful: Collect a handful of color swatches/palettes from a paint store. Back home, match a color scheme to the mood of your scene or character and use the clever color names as part of your description. (You can do the same thing with a box of crayon colors.)
  2. Ask your inner psychic: Use tarot cards for scene building. Draw cards for obstacles, characters, setting, and action. Don’t know how to read tarot cards? Who cares? Look at the pictures and go with the first thing you see. Don’t have tarot cards? Also not a problem. Tear out a bunch of random pages from a magazine and use those instead.
  3. Recite poetry: Rewrite your favorite poetry as part of a character’s inner dialogue or scene description (“I didn’t want to stop by the woods, I had to. If I didn’t, the damn horse I stole was going to drop dead in his snowy tracks.”)
  4. Get physical: Go for a walk, hike, run, bike ride, or just a stroll down the garden path. Look for things most people wouldn’t notice like a squadron of ants or the veins on the belly of a dandelion leaf. Go back and incorporate as many ‘unnoticeables’ as you can into your scene.
  5. Get Board: Remember all the games you played as a kid? What were your favorites? What ones did you detest? Write a scene showing characters playing an old-fashioned board game. Describe the sound of dice being rolled and the markers marching around the playing field. As the scene unfolds, reveal how a character feels about the game, and allow the game to evolve into a metaphor for something the character is experiencing in his/her life.

Now…go play!


  1. I used to get together with a handful of friends who were also fabulous writers and we'd do this every week. Writing, coffee, chatting - it was heaven. Thanks so much for the post!

  2. Another wonderful jog for me! We played Clue endlessly. We decided that whoever turned out to be the villain, according to the cards in the envelope, the REAL villain was always Mr. Green, and the other supposed killer was actually framed by him. The Mr. Green card was bent, battered, even spit upon. Oh, that Mr. Green!


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