English 281

Story Machine

(from What If?)

Create two lists: A list of relatively ordinary occupations (dentist, school teacher, welder, labor lawyer, etc.) and a list of slightly odd actions—not too odd, just a little bit off (free the parrot, wrap dental floss around the porch railing, cut off his/her hair, lie to a co-worker, etc.). Make each list reasonably long. Seven to ten items in each is a good start.

Shuffle the two lists separately. (Works best if they’re on individual cards, like 3x5 cards.) Then, pair up the first item in each of the two shuffled lists—say, “welder” and “cut off his/her hair.” Do this until you have found a pair that sparks for you, that sets off some glimmer of interest or excitement.

Then, plot a story whose climax will answer this question: “Why did the X do Y?” (E.g., “Why did the welder cut off her hair?”)

By “plot” I mean

Turn in a brief description of the conflict, the characters and the other actions. It’ll be easiest for me if they are formatted in a list: