The Turntable Group Writing Exercise

Gather ‘round writers and wordsmiths, it’s time for the Turntable Group Writing Exercise, from Story Science. This is a great exercise for writing groups, classrooms, teams, comedians and friends. Think of it as improvisational writing in a collaborative environment, a group brainstorming session.

Story Science atom logo for the Turntable Writing Exercise blog article.Why: Because two (or more) minds are better than one. Writing is a very solitary activity, requiring the storyteller to isolate himself for many hours at a time in order to tap into the creative energies fluttering about inside his or her brain. Today we are going to be social and write together.

Purpose: To engage in a group improvisational freewrite. Also, it’s fun.

Challenge: Your group is going to write a collaborative story, scene or sketch. Come to an agreement on the exercise terms before you begin, such as length, format, and if any house rules apply. On a piece of paper or using collaborative document software*, every person in the group will take turns writing a sentence, line, or short beat before passing it on to the next person. This repeats until the agreed upon length is reached or someone writes “THE END.” Don’t be surprised if the final result looks like something out of a comedy sketch show or an episode of a daytime soap opera (that’s part of the fun).

RULES:

  • Start with an opening and end with a conclusion.
  • Use a stack of paper or some form of collaborative document software so everyone can read the results.
  • Come to a group consensus on terms before starting, including length, format, and any house rules.
  • Screenplay or stageplay formats work very well for this exercise but prose, rhyme or poetry have their place too if your group is up to the challenge.
  • The action must occur within the same scene/location.
  • Do not hog the table. You are allowed to write more than one sentence, but limit the length to one beat or less. Pass onto the next person.
  • The exercise is over when it has been concluded and someone has written THE END.
  • At the end, assign segments to members in the group and read the entire piece aloud.

VARIATIONS:

  • Anyone can “cut” to a new location or scene.
  • Place a time limit on each person’s turn. When the time is up, control must be passed onto the next person, even if the current writer is mid-word.
  • Every other line must rhyme.
  • Make it a musical: insert song numbers/lyrics like a musical libretto.
  • Make it a piece of prose short fiction with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Add a tag or postscript after THE END.


*See examples here.

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