I’m not a massive fan of writing exercises. I don’t like being told to write on a certain topic about certain characters. I have a clear idea of my characters in my head, and I want to write about them, not someone else.
But sometimes, the ideas don’t flow, and you need a bit of help getting started. This is where I love to use Rory’s Story Cubes.
The Story Cubes are a set of nine cubes that feature a series of images. The images are of a variety of things – some very clear, like the apple above, others more open to interpretation. (Does that wheel of arrow heads signify a compass? Chaos? A Ferris Wheel? )The idea is that you roll the dice and use the images to tell a story.
What I love about this is that it’s utterly open to your imagination. You can use the images in a very literal way – have a character literally eating an apple. Or the apple can represent gravity, or health, or any number of things. There’s nothing prescriptive about the exercise of getting the cubes into a story. You can use as many or as few as you like, and the images can be adapted to any situation, including a scenario you’re already working on.
The Story Cubes come in sets of nine, with additional ‘booster’ packs that have three cubes. You can buy physical versions, though with prices starting from £4 for the pack of three cubes, they are quite expensive. Lovely and tactile to use, definitely worth it – but if you can’t justify the expense, there’s the App.
You can see in the screen shot that there are several sets. And that’s not all of them – there are also ‘Score’, ‘Fright’, ‘Animalia’ and ‘Mythic’ sets. These smaller boosters sets are genre based. Sci-fi writers might wish to use the intergalactic set to infuse their cubes with a sci-fi flavour. Fright will give you horror story ingredients. Whatever your particular genre of choice, you can tailor your cubes to suit.
The disadvantage of the app is it will only ever give you nine cubes, whereas if you own all the sets, you can roll as many cubes as you want to generate your ideas. But then, you can randomise your cubes and roll again, take screenshots of your rolls and display them on your computer or tablet device, so there are ways round that.
I love to use these to generate short story ideas set inside the universes of my stories. I love to use them to get myself thinking outside the box when I’m stuck. I really want to own all of them physically rather than just a few sets on my phone.
I think they’ll be the first purchase I make if I’m ever successful at selling my writing!