I was teaching at a private school last week during their playwriting unit. One of their pre-writing exercises was to create an “Inspiration File” the point of which was to find, create, give opinions on different elements that may inspire a play. Poems, song lyrics, jump-starter writing exercises, personal credos, objects, and so on. Each student had to submit a booklet (folder, scrapbook) with 20 pieces of possible ‘inspiration’ for the plays they were starting to write. I was there when one class handed in their files, and they were fascinating to flip through.
If you are looking for a tangible way to have your students answer the question ‘Where do Ideas come from?” this is a great exercise. I’ve included below some of the pieces this particular school included for their Inspiration Files and added some of my own as well. Try it with your class!
Song Lyrics: Select three specific song lyrics (as opposed to full songs) and describe what inspires you about them. What type of character would say these lyrics?
Poems: Select three poems and describe what inspires you about them. What type of play could come from the poem?
Articles/Speeches: Select three articles or speeches and describe what inspires you about these pieces.
Pictures: Select three pictures. Why did you choose them? What is happening in the pictures? What do the pictures inspire you to write about?
Headlines: Select three headlines. Why did you choose them? What story could you write about?
Jump Start Writing Exercises: These are writing exercises that were done in class to practice writing monologue and dialogue.
- Scar Monologue: Write a monologue from the perspective of someone who has a scar, or is looking at someone with a scar, or from the scar itself.
- Impression Monologue: Create two characters. Come up with a name, age, physical appearance, and relationship with the other character. Write two monologues, one for each character in which they reveal their impressions. What do they think when they see that other character? What is their impression? NOTE: This exercises was also used when the students started work on their particular plays to allow students to delve further into their particular characters.
- I have to talk to you right now: The scene takes place in an empty classroom. Two characters enter. “I have to talk to you right now” is the first line spoken by one of the characters. Write ten more lines of dialogue between the two characters. NOTE: This could also be a monologue.
- We are in big trouble: The scene takes place at the mall. Two characters enter. “We are in big trouble” is the first line spoken by one of the characters. Write ten more lines of dialogue between the two characters.
- Change: Write a monologue where a person has changed into something else (an animal, an inanimate object).
- Emotion: Pick an emotion. Write monologue where a character experiences that emotion.
Personal Credo: Write out a formal belief statement with the following as the first line: “I firmly believe that…..”
Focus Objects: Pick out five objects from you life (letters, pictures, pieces of clothing, trophies, post cards, jewelry) things that mean something to do. Describe why they are important to you.
Character Profile: Create a character. Come up with the following for that character: Name, Age, Physical Appearance, Family, Job, Fear, Secret, Primary personality trait, Secondary personality trait.
Memories: Write down your favourite memory, your least favourite memory and your oldest memory.
Emotions: Write down ten emotions. Which one is your favourite and why? Which one is your least favourite and why?
Sentence Starters: Pick five of these sentence starters and finish the thought.
- I have always…..
- I remember…….
- It would be interesting if……
- I have no problem with…..
- I try not to…..
- I have never….
- I want…..
- I don’t want…..
- I know….
- I would like to…..
- Why does……
- I hate……
- I fear…..
- I love…..
- I wish…..
As you can see, the possibilities are endless! But a project like this can give students something to return and refer to when they say “I don’t know what to write about….”