This is my recycled post for the Déjá Vu Blogfest! I originally posted it this past April as part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge for the letter I. A great big twinkly thank you to DL Hammons @ Cruising Altitude 2.0 for putting together this clever blogfest!
Index cards have many uses in a writer’s world. Anne Lamott suggests carrying a couple cards on you at all times so when an idea smacks you upside the head, you’ll have an index card with you to write notes.
Other authors suggest outlining your novel with index cards by writing scene notes on them. By laying out the cards, which are all your scenes, you can visualize the novel in a more concrete way and test how scenes might work elsewhere in the novel.
I have another way to use these delightful index cards: creating a Personal Universe Deck! My college creative writing professor had every student do this exercise. It’s a way to spark new ways of thinking, break through writer’s block, create fresh unexpected angles for your story, or to ignite a new story idea. This is how it works:
• Get 100 index cards (they come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors)
• Write one word on each card: the words are to be significant to you for any reason and sound good to your ear (whether it’s a favorable or unfavorable word)
• Write 16 words for each of the five senses and be specific; can be adjectives, things, people, places, or whatever you think of for the senses (80 cards)
• Write 10 words of motion; these words don’t have to be only verbs or adverbs (10 cards)
• Write 3 abstraction words (3 cards)
• Write 7 words of anything you want (7 cards)
Once you have your 100 words on your index cards, it’s time to play! Shuffle the deck and lay out 15 cards. Do the words suggest any scenes, narrations, voices, characters, stories? Group them by categories to see if you can find or forge connections. Write down what you discover. Play another 15 cards and do the same thing. Play fifteen cards as often as you need to in order to get over your writer’s block or start writing a new scene or story.
I made my Personal Universe Deck my junior year of college, and I’ve used it ever since. Since my deck was created five years ago, I did it all over again and made a new one. I was surprised how many of the words had changed. So now I have two different decks to work with. If you like this exercise and it’s helpful for you, I suggest updating your Personal Universe Deck at least every five years!
What are other ways you use index cards? I hope you make your own Personal Universe Deck. Let me know how it goes!
Have a happy and sunshiney weekend, Zigzaggers!