If you follow me on twitter you’ll notice I sometimes mention ”story meme cards”. I use them to plan my stories and to break writer’s block, and I find them usefull when I need to come up with a story fast. Indeed, I came up with the idea when I applied for a scriptwriting course and needed to make up a story over a night.

 

So, how do they work? Well, every story you write have a main theme, which is built up by several memes. A few memes in the story I’m about to publish are

-the value of a human

-roots

-blood

-human sacrifice

-consecration

-coup

When I plan my story I write every meme, big or small, on a piece of paper roughly the size of a business card. (I use a pile of outdated cards when I do this, but any paper will do.) Then I write down all characters, one card for every one of them, and I include groups that functions as characters. In the same story I have

-the Little People

-the clergy woman

-the police

-the victim

-the gnome of Old Uppsala

-Baba Yaga

(Yes, I keep most of the names to myself for now – you’ll read the rest when I release the story. 🙂  )

Then I take down cruical events I want in the story, like

-swordfight

-meeting with the king

-falling from a building crane

 

Well, my exemples add up to fifteen – when I do this in reality I end up with more than a hundred cards. The next step is to sit down at a table and group the cards. I may chose to place the cards like this:

 

Group #1

[Baba Yaga] + [the gnome of Old Uppsala] + [swordfight] + [roots]

Group #2

[blood] + [the clergy woman] + [falling from a building crane]

Group #3

[the Little People] + [meeting with the king] + [the value of an individual]

 

It is possible to make up a story from just these three groups. I’d probably chose group #3 as main story and make group #1 and #2 supporting storylines. Now I can build the story by writing more memecards and adding them to the appropriate group.

 

Or I can shuffle them to make a new story.

Group #1

[the Little People] + [falling from a building crane] + [roots]

Group #2

[the police] + [Baba Yaga] + [meeting with the king] + [human sacrifice]

Group #3

[the clergy woman] + [the gnome of Old Uppsala] + [sword fight] + [consecration]

 

When I’m done shuffeling and adding new memecards as I see fit, I stack them in a pile, roughly in order. ”Roughly” is the key word here. When I get stuck in the story I take out the cards and reshuffle them. Many of the memes can fit in several groups, and in this new round I may see new points to the story, and can conjure up new scenes to support the story line.

 

The difference between this method and using a written storyline or a mindmap is that in this way I keep the plasticity of the idea. When I return to the cards there’s still room for a totally different ending than the first planned, a new event or charcter or place is easy to fit in – without using ereasure or correction fluid. On the other hand I have enough information to keep the original story if I want to since the cards are in order (mostly in order).

 

So why don’t I use the computer for this? Scrivener would handle the cards beautifully! I know. It’s because I want to handle the story with my hands. Before I decided to crank out two stories a year I wrote every draft, and sometimes edited, with pen on paper. My new stories are written on the computer, but I still like being ”touchy feely” with them. (Mind you, I’m not a touchy feely person in other ways.)

 

The other fine thing is that you get new ideas when you see the cards on the table. I hope you can handle that my second story for this year started with the card ”potty”. I know; veeeery mature, but that was what came up, quickly followed by ”horse”. Horses actually had something to do with the story I wanted to write, and I added a new card, and a new, and an old one from the old story, and suddenly my ideas set off. From the look of it now neither the horse or the potty will be included in the story, but I keep the cards in the pile since they were the starters.

 

I don’t know if this method will work for you if you’re fighting writer’s block, but I write it down so you can try. Regardless of if it works or not envision me cheering you along with pompoms and all while you’re working 🙂