Writing Prompt 6: Story Spinner
The online Story Spinner is one of my favourite writing prompts. It’s great for anyone who freewrites daily but sometimes finds it impossible to think of something to engage the creative mind. Story Spinner comes to the rescue by providing complicated prompts that must be juggled into a unified story.
How does it work?
Go to the site, which has a Story Spinner wheel.
Each time you click on this wheel (not the one above but the one on the site), you get information in 3 separate categories: a setting, a sentence to begin your piece, and 4 words to include. Here’s an example:
Setting: at a tavern
First sentence: I felt so trapped.
Words to include: rock and roll, blizzard, cruise, reservoir
Then start writing.
The first time I tried Story Spinner, I vowed to write about whatever it provided on the first spin. When I read what came up, it seemed an impossible task to incorporate every element. But I started writing, and I was amazed how my imagination grabbed the information. I started writing a ‘quest’ tale, set in the Middle Ages. The characters and their activities seemed to materialise from thin air, with little thinking on my part. In fact, as my mind raced along with the story it wanted to tell, I found it hard to keep writing fast enough to keep up with it. My experience suggests that if we let our imagination off its lead, it can come up with writing that is both unexpected and engaging.
How to use it
This activity has no rules. Use it in whatever way works best for you.
- If you try a few clicks of the Story Spinner wheel but nothing that comes up grabs your attention, try mixing and matching. Take the setting from one spin, the first sentence from other, etc.
- If some elements are so foreign that they don’t make sense to you or don’t provide a clear mental picture (e.g. ‘Cape Cod’ to non-Americans), replace them with something familiar.
- However, don’t get rid of an element just because it doesn’t fit easily into your story. Try stretching your imagination to find a way to make it fit!
- Use Story Spinner as an exercise with your writing group. It shows that people can draw on the same pool of story elements to create quite different stories.
- Take the words and phrases that come up and see where they lead your mind. Maybe the exercise will take you to a new topic or give you a different take on an old topic.
- Use Story Spinner to generate ideas for non-fiction.
Let’s take the example I started with: tavern, ‘I felt so trapped, rock and roll, blizzard, cruise, and reservoir. You can explore non-fiction topics by asking yourself questions, e.g.:
- How does knowing rock and roll lyrics provide a reservoir of information to help conversations?
- What cruises go into blizzard–like weather (eg to Antarctica)? Who goes on them and why?
- When do people feel trapped at a pub/bar/tavern?
- Do people still use the word tavern?