(Sorry this is so late. [It is still Monday, right? In… Hawaii?] For the last three days, literally every single time (until a few hours ago) that I sat down to work on a blog post- not writing, not art or reading or outlining; just blogging- my children would make some horrific mess. Blow out diaper on the couch? Sure. Spill an entire bin of Israeli couscous? Go ahead. Pull out every single puzzle we own and pile up all the pieces in the living room? Why not. Dump a pitcher of orange juice across the floor? Please do! Sigh. C’est la vie d’une mère.)
One of the writing gifts I received at Christmas from my fantabulous in-laws was The Amazing Story Generator, a mix-and-match collection of creative writing prompts by Jason Sacher. And it is trés fun!
Fun for all ages, in fact. My kids spent literally hours making me read random mishmashes to them. It’s pretty entertaining to listen to my kindergartener chortling to himself in the living room and then shouting, “Moooom! What’s this word?” ‘Incessant’, honey. And the next one is ‘hallucinations’.
But entertaining my children isn’t the point of this book. Inspiring me is. So how does it stack up?
Truthfully, this book probably won’t become my resident muse and go-to idea handbook. For a couple reasons. First, a lot of the ideas it turns out are so off-the-wall goofy that I have no idea where to go with them. They’re good for a laugh but I wouldn’t know what else to do with them. And two, a good chunk of the partial prompts would fit best in genres I don’t typically write. This could force me to stretch myself as a writer, but typically I just move on to the next random prompt. I suppose I could rip out all the ones that don’t work for me, but I think I’d rather gnaw off my own pinkie than mutilate a book.
That said, it does have a few things going for it. It’s an easy thing to share with friends and get talking about writing. A good coffee table sort of book. It’s light-hearted and it’s goofy and I can count on it to pop out on ideas that I would never have come up with on my own. And every now and then, when the planets align while the seventh son of a seventh son goes adventuring, I dredge up something actually good, something I not only can work with, but something I want to work with.
But its chief virtue is that it gets me thinking. And me thinking is (almost) always a good thing. Even if the prompt is completely oddball and not at all my style, just opening the book gets me into a writing mindset. So even if I end up completely disregarding the prompt, I at least feel somehow magically more creative.
Just for the sake of pointless fun, and the illustration of a point, I had my three year old, ever eager to help, flip to a random triplet prompt, determined to write a short story for it. He came up with: “Upon winning the lottery, a reformed hit man meets the ghost of Ernest Hemingway.”
Um… right. I’ll, uh… get on that. Actually, maybe I’ll just get to work on something else I need to write. But the seed is sown!
All in all, this is a fun book and a good warmer-upper before writing, but don’t expect it to imbue you with cosmic literary powers.