I have decided to open up “Play With This” for guests to add their own essay. As soon as I floated the idea, people asked for guidelines. I am frustrated once again by people’s inability to read my mind so I will post some hints.
My inspiration for Play With This came from role-playing blogs. In those blogs, writers will create monsters, locations and items for other players to use in their games. Someone will come up with stats for the Purple Cock-Eater and then release it into the wild. Other plays are free to use the Purple cock-Eater in their game however they wish. There is no licensing fee, no legal disclaimer or paperwork. It is just players tossing out ideas for other players to use.
Writers understand that an idea is not a story. I could create The Crystal Lake Killer and other writers would use him differently. One writer would tell the story of Killer’s first time getting laid while another writer would tell the story of the summer camp gangbang that came to a tragic end. That is the beauty of ideas. They are just components to be used as the individual writer sees fit.
I was also inspired by the pilot episodes of Alton Brown’s Good Eats. In these pilots, he closes with the phrase, “Play with your food.” He was referring to the newbie chef’s fear of treating recipes as something sacred that you can not modify. Brown’s entire approach is to educate you about food to the point that you feel confident enough to create your own permutations of recipes. I want my readers to feel the same freedom of experimentation with these essays.
There is something similar to Play With This and it is called the Prompt. Perhaps irrationally, I am not fond of prompts. They tend to be really vague like “a guy finds out his wife is bisexual. Big whoop. To me they sound like anthology pitches. Everyone write a story about the bisexual wife! Whooo! What creative writers we are!
I envision Play With This as a bit more modular. It creates concepts that can plug into other stories. Like say you are telling a story about a guy and his bisexual wife. Know what would jazz it up? A Crystal Lake Psycho Killer. Don’t have a psycho killer? That’s cool, I got an essay that breaks down the character for you.
The Crystal Lake Killer is an extreme example but hey, it’s Halloween. The concept is still sound. Odds are, a typical Play With This article will describe a person, place or thing that will inspire a writer to do something with it. It is not about everyone telling stories about The Crystal Lake Killer, it is about how each individual writer reacts to the concept. Maybe you are disgusted by the fascination with Killers and you decide to write a scathing deconstruction of the concept told through a wild threesome. Good for you! Want to make the Crystal Lake Killer into the Crystal Lake Kitten Kisser? Hot dog! More power to you!
Another way to approach Play With This is think of the coolest person you know in real life. Think of the most exciting place you have ever been. Think of the strangest object you ever saw. Think of these things and remember the feeling that you could write a dozen stories about that cool person, that exciting place and that strange object. Capture that feeling and reverse engineer your own exciting concept that inspires those feelings in other people.
So make some shit up. In my essay about Trailer Parks of Bondage, I listed how why I thought it would be a good setting from a writer’s point of view. In the Dom Identity, I laid out a rough outline for a story without an ending. In Dreams in the Whorehouse, I gave some in-character information for readers to riff off of. Your approach can be just as personal. Kick the idea out there and let others run with it.
Which comes to perhaps the scariest part of this whole concept; you are letting these ideas go. Oh, you can write about them in your own stories but when Some Writer takes your cool idea and makes a story about a guy who finds out his wife is bisexual, you don’t get to cry foul. You don’t get a royalty check. You don’t even get a credit though credit would be nice. You only get the satisfaction of knowing you gave some other writer a building block for their story.
So email me your articles. My yahoo email is shonrichards. You can send it my gmail of shonrichards, but I will roll my eyes. I will credit you when I post the article and I will post them on my own whimsical schedule.
Play With This is a series of articles designed to give you things to play around with in your writing. Feel free to borrow, modify, or completely change for your own stories.