In my undergrad and grad workshops at Columbia College Chicago, we did a lot of generative activities. In practically every class we did an activity called "One Word" which is exactly what it sounds like. We went around person by person giving the word that came to mind. After each person spoke, we'd take a second to see what the word gave us to see. One, or more often for me, several of these words would act like little seedlings. Plant an image here. A character detail there. A phrase. An action.
BALLADS OF SUBURBIA and I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE were both born of this fertile ground. A version of BALLADS started in my very first undergrad class. "Prince" was one of the words that fed my early draft--a line that is long since cut, but was important to get me going all the same. If you've read the first chapter of IWBYJR, you won't be surprised that "condom" was one of the words that seeded the idea for chapter one--though it wasn't actually the first bit of the book that I wrote. That was actually one of Louisa's stories and the world that sparked it is lost to time. I wish I had more of my old notebooks so I could tell you which words brought about which scenes from my two novels.
My friend Jenny and I brought these word games into our writing practice for years after grad school and we actually recorded a session recently for the "Creative Prompts" that I write for Rookie magazine.
Here is our video. Feel free to play along and give your own words or see what stories you might creatte from ours!Creative Prompt: Pick a Word – ROOKIE from Rookie on Vimeo.