Summer has eaten me alive, as it always does to public librarians working in youth services, but I always make sure I have the time for my bimonthly writing group meetings. I’m the co-coordinator of my local group, along with crit partner extraordinaire Lisen Minetti, and we’ve been making a lot of changes lately to try to appeal to the needs of our local writers.
We’ve recently changed to an alternating structure where we do group critiques one meeting and prompt writing the next meeting. To keep it fun and engaging, I’ve designed two ways to build prompts with group input. These both work best in groups of 5-7 people, so larger groups should be broken down to allow everyone a chance to contribute and share their final story. For each exercise, either go around the table in order, or have participants draw scraps of paper with the various elements written on them.
The group builds a character together that will feature in each person’s story. Each person contributes one of the following pieces of information about the character:
- Something they’re carrying
- Something they feel
- Someone they know
- A strong personality trait
- Something they did recently
- Something they said
- Wild card
Each individual writer then chooses the age and gender of their character and writes their story.
Collaborative Story Elements
Each person contributes one of the following story elements:
- Main Character
- Character Trait
- An Item
- An Emotion
- Wild Card
In both exercises, you can increase the number of wild card entries to account for more people. At our last prompt writing meeting we ended up with a terribly funny version of the prompt and seven very different takes on the same story elements. My sense of the group was that there was much more buy-in for the prompt because everyone contributed, versus being fed a pre-written prompt. We’re trying out the collaborative character build tonight, so we’ll see how it goes.
In the meantime, I’ll be doing my best to survive the last month of the summer reading program at the library. Keep me in your thoughts, and if you hear uncontrollable screaming, just tune it out.