What I'm working on:

Various write-ups.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Picture Me This

Here's a little thing I put together a year or so ago for people that enjoy writing. I haven't gotten to try it out much in my circle of friends, but I figure there are some folk out there that might want to take a crack at it.

So I've come up with this simple exercise to help me get back on-track with creative writing. After a while, I’d started toying around with how it could work in a more collaborative environment, and it’s become a game that I think is both fun to play and a useful way to get your creative and interpretive juices flowing before taking on a project, or even to come up with a project.

The game is called Picture Me This.

It’s a form of ‘Round-Robin Writing’ in that multiple writers are involved in the construction of a story by assigned portions, but differs from the more standard methods in its restrictions, application, and layout. These things will be covered in the following overview so anyone who’d like to have a little bit of creative fun or maybe do something with their kids, friends, or whoever can give it a try as well. The game requires at least 2 people (3 at most) and can be played over long periods of time (days, weeks, or even months).

This is a 2 player game, and the Layout and Rules reflect that. Though this true, a third player may participate as an illustrator for milestones and contribute in other creative ways, which will be briefly noted below.

Layout and Rules

  Picture Me This consists of 3 stages including 'Setting the Scene’, ‘Construction’, and ‘Transition’. These are the fundamental building blocks of the game and are detailed below.  
  • Set-up
The Set-up stage is where the most basic terms of the game are agreed upon. This includes scheduling of turns, round limitation, a win/completion condition, and Stipulations. (Detailed in Stipulations) Whatever is established in the Set-up stage layers atop the standard process and must be adhered to for a successful game.

  • Setting The Scene 
This is how every game starts. Setting The Scene involves precisely that: the first player establishes a moderate setting, detailing things like location, weather, the number of characters involved and their respective genders. The depth of information should never go beyond the basics; characters aren’t to be assigned names, and their motivations, conflicts, relationships, or intentions should not be defined. Depending on the players involved, the setting may be more detailed to help things move along more smoothly but never anything too concrete with character. This stage only occurs once in a particular game and is simply the catalyst of the creative process, allowing ‘Construction’ to take its course and fill in those blanks. A functional alternative to writing in Setting the Scene is illustrating a sketch that reflects the above conditions.

  • Construction
This stage involves the second player taking the scene that’s been established by the first player and fleshing it out. A primary focus here is character and world building, as the first Construction stage allows for very broad development. Nothing is off limits here outside of new characters: although they may be mentioned, new characters aren’t to be physically introduced to the scene in the very first Construction stage. When a suitable amount of development has been made a ‘Transition’ occurs and the first player takes over to continue the narrative.

  • Transition
The Transition is an important and constant part of the game in that Construction is a shared process; both players involved will contribute to the development and expansion of the narrative and do so repeatedly. The restriction to introducing new characters in the very first Construction step does not apply moving forward. 

The game goes on for as many Transitions as is considered suitable for that particular narrative.


             Sometimes, the standard rules of Picture Me This aren’t enough of a challenge or aren’t focused enough to help develop the particular skills that are being tuned by the exercise.

That’s where Stipulations come in.

Stipulations are conditions that are established in the Set-up phase that serve to change the flow and output from each player during Construction. General examples include (but aren’t limited to) time limit per-turn, the number of characters that can be introduced per-turn, round or set of rounds, and the capacity to change setting or perspective. Usually, stipulations on character progression and conflict are discouraged at a basic level unless it is a primary objective of the experience (i.e: Characters can’t be killed, Characters cannot engage romantically, Conflicts cannot be resolved through external circumstance, etc). This is because -unless thought out- character restrictions tend to unexpectedly limit the variety of options each player has and possibly undermine a well-conceived train of thought.

Stipulations are a great way to proactively build a comfort with certain restrictions and work towards improving personal problems in one or more of the player’s writings, so be thoughtful and take advantage of them when you can!


             For reference, a simple round will be provided bellow, including a set-up, ‘Setting the Scene’, a ‘Construction’ stage, and a single ‘Transition’.

For this particular exercise, only one round will be played. The only stipulations are that the entirety of a turn in ‘Construction’ may not exceed 300 words (This is to make this a concise demonstration; this is not a useful stipulation under most circumstances), there must be more than one character, no two characters may directly communicate, and this must be a third person narrative.

Setting The Scene
One man is on a moderately sized deserted island with at least one other indiscriminate character. There is a private ship within range of the island for which any purpose can be assigned. It is a brightly moonlit night.

Few sounds but the slow, rhythmic chirp of crickets permeated the thick, frigid forest air. Densely vegetated and unwelcoming, this natural crypt proved to be far safer than anywhere else he could possibly think to go. Though the dirt was cold on his belly as he slinked quietly by, Jonas could only sweat in an adrenaline fueled panic. Trying to relax, the palpitations of his heart were enough to unsettle the steadiness of his eyesight. It had only been days since he’d been washed ashore, but even now it was a wonder if anyone else had survived the hunts. This coupled with a sprained ankle had made the situation all the more dire.

A low buzz faintly picked up across a nearby path, undermined only by soft, rhythmic tremors. 


Jonas froze, head and heart to the ground, only his eyes moving to scan above the bush for his pursuer. A large, unearthly creature was just barely within line of sight, the buzz emanating from it now silenced: a 12 foot giant of a man slowly trod ahead, if it could even be called that. A sniff of the air accompanied an otherwise silent moment as the beast surveyed the area immediately within range of Jonas told him that any errant movement he made would be noticed. A jagged, bloodied stone in the creature’s left hand matched its dull and dry coat of naked skin, and the thick build of its body suited the booming footsteps that warned Jonas of this dangerous encounter. Seemingly satisfied that nothing worth its time was currently within reach, the monstrous form continued onward, once again buzzing, leaving the forest around him shaking with every step.

Assured of the fading threat, Jonas crawled slowly and carefully westward across the path through heavy bush to find a safer cluster of foliage to spend the night.

The smell of rotting flesh was overwhelming. 

Guttural screams were common on the first two days, continuous on some instances and quickly cut off on others. Blood stains were telling of a monitored shore and an unlikely escape. Jonas climbed across a now jagged incline, listening closely to any sign of unusual activity with every hobbled step. About a half hour of this and the ground had evened out enough for him to return to a more comfortable prone position and crawl center to an obscure cluster of trees.

Readjusting himself to sit up against one of the thick tree-trunks, ‘God dammit!’ was as best Jonas could muster in his frustration. Gingerly dusting off loose dirt from his chest, he surveyed his current surroundings.

The trees were tall and generously dense in branch and leaf, providing shade from the sweltering sun of the mornings. Tall bushes made this particular bit of land very difficult to get to, but with some effort, there were no tell-tale signs of Jonas' presence or the path he'd taken to get there. Safer and deeper in the forest than he’d been on previous nights, Jonas closed his eyes, uneasily waiting for sleep to take his mind off the idea that he’d soon be found. 

Somewhere off to the eastern shore, the cruise-ship he’d fallen overboard from lay anchored and unattended for the fifth day in a row. Whatever it was, the beast seemed to take little interest in the ship, though its passengers were far from safe. Jonas hadn’t really known much of his in-laws, all of which he’d first met on boarding, but they were all very likely dead now.

Further transitions are made until the game has met its assigned win/completion conditions or both players mutually agree to stop. 

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