Writing and Getting Inspiration with Story Cubes - A Guest Post by Pepi Valderrama

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Writing can be challenging when we get stuck. Story Cubes are a great way to get inspiration and continue our story. Sometimes games can help us develop characters, build worlds, and come up with incredible battles. These cubes are similar to dice. However, they have simple images printed instead of numbers. The target of the game is to create a story using the cubes as raw material.

So, how can we use these cubes for inspiration? There are many different sets: history, action, magic, Superheroes... You can mix all the cubes and play them together, or you can decide to create a story using different sets. For example, action cubes are great to determine what can happen next in the story. Although it might seem a little bit surprising, you can also use action cubes to describe the personality of one of your characters. 

To flex your story-telling muscle, however, I recommend playing with the cubes first. Choose at least two or three sets, mix them, and take six cubes from the pile. Throw them on the table and take a look at the images. You have to come up with a story with those six images. If you find an elephant in one of them, you can imagine a fantasy world. You can even make the elephant the main character of your story. 

When you're writing a scene, Story Cubes can come in handy if you don't know how to proceed with the action. Simple images are crucial to fire imagination into more complex stories. A combination of simple images can help you create complex characters or even monsters. Imagine you get an elephant, a question mark and a sheep next to one another. You could envision a beast as big as an elephant, with fluffy fur, cold eyes, and the power to make you question your entire existence. Or, if you're working on a character that you've already built, the elephant could help you refine the character's personality. Stubborn and yet soft, plenty of doubts. (Elephant, sheep, question mark.) 

Story Cubes also help us in flexing our eyes. Look around and try to see the most straightforward parts of the image you see in front of you. I can see the street from where I work. A huge window allows me to stare at the world outside without being noticed. It's raining, and the wind makes the glass shudder. Cars and buses pass along like pebbles in a stream. What if I transform it into cubes? I have rain, a wild wind, buses, cars, a trembling glass. Instead of describing what my eyes already see, I can try to make up something fantastic with those images. For example, my main character could be a being made of glass. It's so windy and rainy that it trembles, fearful of the strange devices that come up and down the path. 

As you can see, Story Cubes are easy to use. You only need to allow yourself some time to flex your imagination muscle. I have seven different sets in total. And I mix all the cubes. What I do is the following:

  • Put the cubes in a bag where you can't see anything.
  • Choose the number of cubes you need without looking at them when you mix them in the bag.
  • Throw them on a table like if they were dice.
  • Stare at the pictures and imagine a story, a character, or a world.
  • Repeat until you're satisfied.

Story Cubes have helped me get out from procrastination and stuck moments where I couldn't get over the blank page horror. Playing with the cubes and allowing myself to be free creating stories out of elementary images has also helped me grow a healthier imagination muscle. 

Another thing you can do is keeping a journal of all your story cube tales. Even if the results aren't useful for the moment, you use the cubes, maintaining those ideas somewhere is a great move. Sometimes, short stories make the best ones if you allow them to grow. Hence, never get rid or forget the stories that you tell. Although the cubes are used for telling stories, you can take your time and write down all those stories and keep track of all of them. Even if you think it isn't worth it at that moment. 

Allow your imagination to spark and arrive further with something as simple as the Story Cubes game. If you feel stuck, or fear a blank page, take your cubes collection and play. You'll be back on track in no time.

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