Out of Ideas? Play Narrative Bingo!

Forget ordinary writing prompts — create your own!

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Photo Credit: Lua Ahmed via Compfight cc

Word Museum has told you about how to find the time to write, but new writers often struggle with a different problem altogether: figuring out what to write. While most people write when they have topics in mind, new writers will often want to challenge themselves by writing about different topics and scenarios, adapting their writing styles and learning as they go along. More often than not, new writers will find that they’ve run out of ideas, and they often seek other sources for help.

The community over at GoodReads.com has some great discussions about possible writing exercises, and there’s even some mention of a Facebook page that gives creative writing prompts to aspiring writers. However, you don’t always want to go with the prompts presented by others, and when this happens, a short bingo game could help.

You might think that bingo is a game left to the elderly in nursing homes, but the game has seen an unthinkable resurgence in the past few years. Reports by the BBC have shown that the number of online bingo outlets in the U.K. have increased from 20 in 2004 to 350 in 2012, with much of the increase in popularity coming from the sense of community built in online bingo. As bwin.party explains, their decision to bring Cheeky Bingo to Twitter has helped them reach out to more players and maintain “strong player loyalty with friendly, engaged chat hosts who hold regular chat-based and social media competitions”. Bingo is becoming quite the popular game as well, with the industry making upwards of $557 million in the U.K. alone.

Many different kinds of bingo have emerged throughout the years, and you too could play your own version of bingo in order to stimulate yourself to write about a wider range of topics. First, make a list of 5 of the five elements of a story: Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme, and Setting. You can then arrange these into a bingo card, like so:

narrative bingo

Whenever you find yourself strapped for ideas for things to write about, simply take out your bingo card and roll a die for each element. Should you roll a six for any element, you have free choice over what to write about. At the end of the game, you should have a selection for each element, and the challenge is then to build a narrative fulfilling these elements.

As you go along, you can then create more bingo cards with more elaborate items, making for more complex storylines.