In randomness I revel....

[and I suppose this could just as well have gone into creativity.... oh well, here's good....]

I'm a long time writer, though not published (but then, that's not necessarily the point....), and an equally long-time promulgator of P&P (pencil and paper) role-playing games. Anyone who's ever played AD&D understands randomness - as in dice rolls.... the dice rule your in-game character/persona's life, interactions, looks, dress, love life, death, reincarnation.... on and on, every possible minute detail (or as minute in detail as the DM/GM [dungeon master/game master] wishes to incorporate - and I was one who started with the amoeba growing legs and evolving.... etc.)

So it should come as no surprise that the randomness I incorporated into the games I ran for my daughter and her friends (junior high through high school - 30 years ago exactly....) flowed on into my writing. Or flopped over.... depending....

Then I hit a rough patch. Life does that. I forgot how to write, how to motivate myself TO write, how to "encounter" randomness and come out a winner. And that's when I went looking for inspiration - and stumbled into this method (actually, it's my own.... I read a lot of stuff which was silly and uninspired, and started just "throwing dice" one day....)

Literally, throwing dice. I sat down on the floor with my "twinky" AD&D dice from d4 through d20 (was before I bought some d100s), a deck of cards, and a stack of "coffee table picture books" (books about Matisse, Corot, Constable, the prehistoric French cave paintings - 10 or 15 different ones; a few expository books along the lines of "Life Under Mary Queen of Scots", or "What Was Al'Djezair?"; some glossy mags like Architectural Digest.... VISUALITY was the key). I rolled the dice and added up the total displayed on the faces - that was the page I would go to in the book on top of the stack (however they landed when I grabbed them from the bookshelves). Then I drew a card from the shuffled deck - which gave me a "jumping off point". Each suit was a "POV" - spades: the hero; clubs: the villain; hearts: the heroine; diamonds: the "overmind" or narrator (think Greek chorus....)

And then I'd look at what was laid out in front of me, and write something about it. It didn't have to be fiction. It didn't have to expand on anything I'd already written. The point was to write, to foment imagination, to keep from staring off into space until my subconscious demanded I clean house....

Variations: if I drew a face card, I drew another card and added 10 (jack), 20 (queen), 30 (king), 40 (ace - never did consider it a ONE!) to the number; if I threw the highest number on all the dice at the same time (a 4, a 6, an 8, a 10, a 12, a 20 = 60!) I got to have a beer or glass of wine while my daughter chose a book at (her idea of) random from the shelves.... (heh, maybe doesn't sound like a big deal, but that was when I had a LOT of books.... I'm down to only about 2000 now - not enough room....) If I got two face cards in a row, I went to the bottom book in the stack.... etc. etc. ad infintum ad nauseam.

I don't remember that this exercise materially improved my writing. I DO remember that it improved my focus on the mechanics of disparate input - and disconnected motives. If a book page was all text, I would read until something I read disengaged my brain from reality, and then I wrote. If the page was a painting or a photograph, that was easier in some ways to write about than was text - and more difficult in other ways.

The main thing I retain from this home-grown exercise to this day is the ability to produce SOMETHING from nothing at any given roll of the dice....

Syndicate content