Tag Archives: writing exercises

Writing Prompt: Dungeons & Dragons

D&D Books

If you are a writer then you have inevitably run into the dreaded writer’s block. You have probably scoured the internet for writing prompts that might just yield something. You may have even dived back into your own favorite stories in the hopes that something will inspire you. Well, I’m here to provide you with one more tool to combat this unwelcome guest.

Play Dungeons & Dragons.

Aside from the fact that geek chic is apparently “in” at the moment, renewed interest in this classic table-top game seems to be growing. Perhaps this is because it was featured prominently in Stranger Things, or maybe the 5th edition release made it easier for new players to join and became more accessible. Either way, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a group of willing victims to play with you while you battle your own personal writer’s block demon. Here’s some of the intricacies and how it can help you with your own writing:

Start with character development: Build your own character
Having a tough time creating characters that are likable? Untrustworthy? Or just down right evil? D&D can absolutely help with this. To even start playing, you need to build character on your “character sheet.” This includes picking a race, class, backstory, and alignment. (Actually, it includes quite a bit more than this, but these elements help you write a story for your character.) If one were to purchase the 5th edition Player’s Handbook for D&D, one is provided with extensive race and class break-downs that also give you some insight as to the kind of character you would create, should you choose those prompts. For instance, elves have three different sub-races with drastically different characteristics. High elves, as one might imagine, are often arrogant, but incredibly noble. They are wicked intelligent and are often interested in their own self-preservation. Wood elves, on the other hand, are a bit more mischievous, sometimes to the detriment of themselves or their team. Dark elves, known in the game as Drow, are dark and mysterious beings, and at times very dangerous. There are many other races and sub-races within the game to choose from, each with general strengths and weaknesses to play on. Selecting a class also adds some characterization. Druids are keenly and primarily concerned with nature and gravitate to the more natural elements of the world. They can even transform into animals, and some druids even prefer that form over their human one. Clerics are a bit more complicated, but incredibly fun to create. You can have your standard, holy cleric driven by a divine deity aimed towards healing the weak and innocent. Or you can create a trickster cleric that does best when they deceive and talk their way out of confrontations. Your deity could be, oh I don’t know, Loki? Characters are so customizable in this game that creating something as contradictory as that actually works!


Next, you work on the backstory, but perhaps that writer’s block is just too darn heavy to push, even for this. Do not fret, you can turn to the backstory chapter in the Handbook and roll for it. That’s right, roll the dice and leave it to chance. What are one of your ideals? Roll a 2: To protect myself first. What is a weakness you have? Roll a 4: I am incredibly clumsy. Now how would a character constantly worried about their own self-being be able to survive in the world by being a klutz? You get to act that out. Lastly, your character alignment helps make your character more complex. You have probably seen those memes floating around on social media where they place characters from popular television shows into an alignment chart, starting with lawful good and ending with chaotic evil. While these are fun to look at, they actually go a bit more in-depth. One character I currently play is chaotic good. This means that she is drawn to freedom and kindness, but has little use for laws and regulations. She performs good acts to help others achieve their own freedom as well. The way this is enacted in play is by keeping my actions in check and making sure I stay true to my character. Killing someone out of spite would have negative affects on my character, whereas showing mercy would be more in line with her views. Dungeon Masters will also help with this by giving you real in-game consequences if you stray. It is possible you can change your alignment, but that requires cooperation with your DM, which leads me to my next point.

I Hate Twitter, But It’s Good for Writers

I don’t like Twitter. Now, I do have a Twitter account—two actually! But I never use the damn things. Why? Because I hate it. I feel like I never have anything worth saying in 140 characters. I talk a lot. I write a lot. I’m a wordy person and I love my words.

And that’s exactly why Twitter would be good for me, if I so committed myself to use it. Wordiness is an issue in my writing, and Twitter would be a great way for me to practice being concise with my diction.

I won't be winning any popularity contests any time soon.
I won’t be winning any popularity contests any time soon.

Being concise is a good thing for a writer. I know it’s fun to create intricate yet grammatically correct clauses that make your reader go “wait, what did I just read?” But there’s something to be said for being short and to the point when it comes to what you write. Academia especially appreciates this trait. As a writer, it’s good to know your grammar and how to manipulate a clause, but it’s also good to get to the point.

Movie Haikus

Buzzfeed ran a cute listicle (list+article, emphasis on the list part) turning Disney movies into haikus. We all found it pretty amusing:

(Credit: Buzzfeed)
(Credit: Buzzfeed)
(Credit: Buzzfeed)

I liked these so much I figured I’d making a writing exercise based off of this article—I was going to turn other movies I liked into funny haikus.

You see, this week I’m going to revise and edit some of my own poetry and submit it for publication. I know that writing these haikus will help warm up my creative bone, and I plan on having fun with it all at the same time. In my book, warming up and having fun at the same time is a win-win.

Haikus are a great poetic form to warm up with. They have a controlled meter that force the writer to not only think of syllabic count, but to be extra careful when selecting words. Each word used in a poem adds meaning and counts towards the overall message/theme of the poem, but this is especially true with a haiku where there are so few words, a writer really can’t spare any.

Without further ado, here are some movies I made into haikus:

Star Wars:

In a galaxy
Far, far away. Incest and
You know, clones and stuff.

Character Lottery

Little Saigon: Poultry worker
Who is this man? What’s with the chickens?

Another exercise, my friends!

1) Grab as many outdated magazines and newspapers within your reach. I would suggest hitting up your local thrift shop for an inexpensive variety, searching around the house, or check out a newspaper online for images (Note: Before opting for online images please consider number 3).

2) Snip images of as many people and creatures and remove all textual content that may be attached.

3) Avoid reading the article content that is attached to photos (Note: This is important! Reading text attached to the image may corrupt your fictional interpretation of the person in the image. Try refraining from using article content so that you can generate your own authentic material).

4) Fold pictures in half (If you’re using online images this is unnecessary. Simply create a folder with images that you selected and select an image at random.)

5) Find a large bucket or container that you can place pictures in and shuffle the images around.

6) Select a picture.

7) Now, open the picture and observe the image. While observing the selected image, note facial characteristics and body type. Write down as many physical characteristics of the person or creature that you chose and get as creative and detailed as you possibly can. Pay close attention to the face of the individual and what these facial characteristics portray. Keep in mind posture and the action that the individual is displaying. What is she or he doing? What is the manner of their action or inaction?

Next, consider the background of the individual and absorb the setting that the image was taken.  Create the character in medias res. Why is this person doing whatever he or she is doing in the photo? Or you can create the beginning as to how he or she reached the very moment that the image was taken.

Make sure you cover all of your bases. It’s always best to use the 5 W’s: What, Where, When, Why, and lastly Who.

By the end of your writing exercise you should be able to identify “Who” your character is by addressing all of the previously mentioned questions. Also, remember to have fun with this exercise! Character Lottery is, yet again, another way to consistently perpetuate creative writing skills. Keep your buckets or folders next to your place of writing and keep writing until you have completely emptied your character receptacles. And just when you feel like you’ve done it all, pick up your scissors and snip away at some more images for ongoing practice.

– Lauren Sumabat