Once Upon a Lucky Break

Today’s post is a short story prompt written for my friend and fellow New Jersey author, Amy Holiday, who is hosting 30 Days of Short Stories over at her blog. Each day you’ll find a new prompt, and throughout the month she’ll be featuring many different methods for generating your own prompts. Today I’ll be talking about Once Upon A Time, a storytelling card game by Atlas Games.

I first learned about Once Upon A Time in an oral storytelling class I took as part of my MSLS* degree. It’s a card game for 2-6 players (ages 8 and up) where players collaboratively build a story using the “ingredients” on their cards. Despite the collaborative nature of the story, the game is competitve — each player has their own ending card, and the goal is to turn the story toward your own ending, using interrupt cards to jump in and take over narration. It’s a lot of fun with a creative group of storytellers, and I recommend giving it a shot with your local writer friends! The rules can be found online here.

However, the cards don’t have to be used to play the game. Honestly, my deck has been used for its intended purpose exactly once, because Once Upon A Time also makes an excellent brainstorming tool and writing prompt generator.

Once Upon A Time has three main types of cards: ingredient cards, interrupt cards, and ending cards. Ingredient cards come in five flavors: Character, Aspect, Item, Event, Place.

Interrupt cards provide impetus for change in your story.They’re the “until suddenly” that every story needs (as in, “It was a normal day, until suddenly a dinosaur fell out of the sky and vomited tarantulas everywhere.”). Ending cards are just what they sound like: the last line, the final goal.

Below, I’ve generated a short story prompt for your writing pleasure using one of each type of card from the deck. Feel free to use any number of them, or all. Interrupt cards may be used as general (the interrupt is a place, an item) or specific (the interrupt is a palace, a hammer). The deck lends itself best to fairy tales and fantasy stories, but I’ve used it for other works before with successful results. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think in the comments! And of course, if you write a story using this prompt and feel like sharing, link to it in your comment here and on Amy’s blog.

(click to enlarge)

Character: Enemy
Item: Window
Place: Ruin
Aspect: Lucky
Event: An Object Breaks
Interrupt: Monster (or Character)
Ending: She always wore it to help remind her.

If you like the feel of Once Upon a Time, you can buy the updated third edition of the card game on Amazon, and there’s even a Once Upon A Time Writer’s Handbook all about using the game as a writing tool for $2.99 on Kindle.

Happy writing, creatures!


* MSLS = Master of Science in Library Science. Not even lying, Library Science is a real thing. And I am a master of it, bwahahaha!

1 Comment

  1. Amy
    January 8, 2015 at 2:26 pm — Reply

    ooOOoo interesting! This one will be fun. 🙂 Thanks Megan! I’ll come back and link up when I finish 🙂

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