I remember, when I was all of 12, sitting before a blank piece of paper on which my creative English piece was to materialise.
I can still feel my despair at the lack of inspiration. Back then, the advice I received was either to think harder or not to think at all and start writing.
Nowadays, if you witness any student in your class stuck in the same quagmire, ask them to reach for their mobile phone.
A raft of apps and programs are geared to stimulate the creative literary instinct of struggling writers. The ones listed below, which I have used in class, are among the best:
This is a fun iOS app that randomly generates narrative elements, such as character profession, setting, themes, plot twists and more.
You can reject, accept or rearrange these on screen in order to build what becomes a detailed plan for a story.
I’m not sure how the app’s algorithms select the narrative elements, but they always seem to be plausible yet not predictable, offering fresh, unexpected storylines.
A+ Writing Prompts
The raison d’être of this iOS app is to spark narrative ideas by allowing you to choose which prompts you prefer. Inspiration for settings is delivered by hand-drawn sketches.
The challenge of starting off is resolved by a vast list of quirky, narratively effective openings (eg. “As the frisbee left his hand, he knew…”).
And for those running out of vocabulary, clusters of themed words (mind: not simply synonyms) help writers explore ideas and build tone without repeating themselves.
This quirky iOS displays words (drawn from different forms of speech) that you can move across the screen.
The app’s “Mix-tionary” allows you to set rules which inform the type and number of words displayed.
Most impressive among the set of rules is the ability to narrow words to their stylistic identity, such as: ‘hip-hop words’ or ‘beatnik words’. Never has teaching narrative styles been easier.
Elegy for a Dead World
Not an app, but rather a Steam game (yes: that’s right!), Elegy for a Dead World is a wonderfully produced program that immerses gamers into mysterious sci-fi landscapes.
The imagined worlds are visually stunning and the subtle sound effects are artfully rendered.
As you travel through them, you discover unexpected and enticing sentence starters which reward endings with originality and depth.
Completing various stages allows you to view the short stories composed by previous gamers that have harnessed the highest amount of reader votes. Many of them are quite brilliant.