There's no end
to the things you might know, depending how far beyond Zebra you go! {Dr. Seuss}

Friday, December 16, 2011

Déjá Vu: Creating Your Personal Universe Deck!

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!

33 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

What a different method for brainstorming. Cool. There are certain words I just love! :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Laura, that is really creative! I'm going to do that this weekend.

Jennifer Shirk said...

What a cool idea! I rarely use index cards. I'd like to try that though.

Sophia Richardson said...

This sounds so fun, Laura, and I loves me some stationery: I might have to give this a go!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

That's a really cool idea. I've got tons of index cards since I use them for story boarding. :D

Julie said...

Hi Laura! Checking in from the Deja Vu fest and I really enjoyed this post! What a creative idea. I love Anne Lamott but hadn't tried her idea of keeping index cards on hand like that, I'm going to give both of these suggestions a try. Thanks for this great tip!

Alison Miller said...

What an insanely cool idea! Love it!

Rachna Chhabria said...

What a cool idea, Laura. I love this unique way of brainstorming. I will surely try it.

Catherine Denton said...

That's brilliant! I can see how it would spark lots of ideas. I do use index cards but I've never done this. Great DejaVu post. And thanks for the sweet comment on My Blog. :)

Julie Dao said...

Laura, I cannot wait to try this out. As soon as I send my current WIP to my critique partners, I'll have a little writing break and see what new ideas I can brainstorm! I used to be obsessed with index cards in school - especially the fluorescent-colored ones!

Tara Tyler said...

what a great exercise!
so glad you reposted it! i will file it for future use =)

Laura Marcella said...

Laura- I know me too! I'm a word nerd.

Diane- Yay, have fun!! Let me know how it goes! I hope you come up with dazzling new ideas.

Jennifer- Definitely try it. It's fun to do and it's great for brainstorming ideas.

Sophia- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I'm glad you like the idea and I hope you do it! It's a fun way to brainstorm new ideas.

Stina- This will be a great way to use some of those index cards you have!

Julie- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I keep a tiny notebook with me all the time, but Lamott's idea to keep index cards on hand is great too. Have fun making your PUD!

Alison- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! Thanks and I hope you give it a try! It's a fun way to brainstorm new ideas.

Rachna- It's fun! Let me know how it goes and I hope you come up with some dazzling new ideas.

Catherine- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! Have fun doing this! It's a great way to brainstorm. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Julie- Let me know how it goes! It's such a fun way to brainstorm. Hope you come up with some dazzling new ideas!!

Tara- Definitely try it and have fun!

J.C. Martin said...

What an interesting way to jump start your creativity! Thanks for sharing!

mish said...

Brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing this!

Lydia Kang said...

What a fun idea. I'll have to try that sometime!

Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

Francine Howarth: UK said...

Hi,

Index cards!? OMG, I don't have time to jot down info beforehand: too busy writing... I can see the benefits, though, and the practicality of filing memos. I know lots of writers have sticky memos posted up around their work stations, and that works for them.

I kind of do similar with an electronic file per novel listing characters, their descriptions etc., their homes, their family as I write, which I can refer to for instant update/query if memory on blink. Said file always open alongside writing file and available with one click!

best
F

LD Masterson said...

I'm always open to something different. I'll give it a try. Thanks.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

What a GREAT idea! I totally have to try this! The hard part will be coming up with... or narrowing down... (one or the other!) the words! Although I can think of a few right off :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting idea! A new idea hit me for my third book - maybe this would help develop it.

DL Hammons said...

You are so creative! Okay, I know you actually learned this from your college professor, but I'm totally giving you the credit! Great exercise!

Thank you for taking part today! :)

LynNerdKelley said...

What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing this. I'll have to create one of these decks and pass this great tip on to my writer friends!

Sylvia van Bruggen said...

ohhh what a fantastic repost :) Going to do this one :)

Jemi Fraser said...

What a fun idea! I'm glad you reposted it! :)

Sarah said...

This is a very cool idea, Laura. I'm glad you re-posted it!

Misha Gericke said...

That's an awesome idea! I'm definitely bookmarking this for the next time I feel a little lost.

Maybe I'll even use them for Don't Look Back. :-)

Arlee Bird said...

That is a very interesting exercise that sounds fun. I think I have several hundred packaged index cards that I have left over from past business activities. Now I know what to do with them when I happen to run across them.


Lee
Journaling Woman at my memoir blog
starting Saturday 12/17/2011 with a special giveaway!
Wrote By Rote

Margo Kelly said...

Oh my gosh! I have never heard of this idea before ... and I LOVE IT!!! Thank you so much for sharing this concept. I'm going to put it on my to-do list.

:)

Pk Hrezo said...

Hi Laura! This sounds like a ton of fun! I use cards for writing scenes out before the first draft. I don't usually have nay trouble with writer's block... but this would be a fun idea for teaching a class. Thanks for sharing! :)

Laura Marcella said...

J.C.- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I’m glad you like the idea. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Mish- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I hope you have fun doing this. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Lydia- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I hope you have fun doing this. And it’s been a super fun blogfest! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


Francine- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! Your electronic character file is a fantastic idea! I hope you have a great week. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

LD- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I hope you have fun doing this and come up with something dazzling! Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Susanna- Definitely do it! I’ve come up with lots of ideas using this method. The trick is to put down the words that come to your mind first. Don’t overthink it!

Alex- Oooo, I hope it does! Let me know when you do this and if it helped!

DL- Heehee, thanks for the credit!

Laura Marcella said...

LynNerdKelley- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I hope you and your friends have fun doing this. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Sylvia- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I’m glad I reposted it too because it seems like a lot of my regular blog buddies hadn’t seen it either. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Jemi- So am I! I need to get my deck out again and start playing around.

Sarah- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I’m glad you like it and hope you give it a try! Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Misha- I hope you do use it! Let me know how it goes!

Lee- This would be a GREAT way to use up all those index cards!! I hope you try it!

Margo- I’m glad you like it and that I introduced something new! Have fun playing with your PUD!

PK- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I don’t have trouble with writer’s block either, but it’s a good way to generate new ideas and fresh possibilities! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Gail Shepherd said...

I used to use random methods like this when I wrote poetry: I love random!

Botanist said...

That's a fantastic idea. Jog the brain cells out of their comfort zone :)

Sorry I missed this post in my original trawl through the Deja Vu blogfest - there were so many entries I lost track of who I visited.

Laura Marcella said...

Gail- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! I hope you get to use this random method. Have fun! Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!

Botanist- Hello and welcome to Wavy Lines! Thanks. And I still need to get through everyone's posts! A lot of people signed up, which was terrific. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I appreciate the follow!