Writing Wonder: Riff on a random Word

I’d like to share my ultra-favorite writing exercise with you.

  1. Pick up any book that’s close at hand.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Open the book and place your finger randomly on a page.
  4. Write a story using that word as inspiration (or move your finger until you can).

Alternate: Start your story with an eye-catching phrase near your finger.

What do you think of first when you read the word?  Where does that thought take you? If good idea after good idea arrives, make a list so you capture the cascading associations before your inner editor gets fixated or starts to criticize. If you can’t take time to write the story right now, make notes so it will be easy to write later.

Many unusual stories are born with this method, and it’s a thrilling way to excavate stories you aren’t aware of.

I think I first learned this exercise in a long ago workshop with Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. You’ll find it, and many more, in her fabulous book Poemcrazy.

Pretty please share some comments about where this exercise takes you in your storytelling.

Find more writing exercises here

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Categories: writing exercises

5 Comments on “Writing Wonder: Riff on a random Word”

  1. lucewriter
    November 4, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    I like this one. Nice and easy, plus it’s specific and yet can end up anywhere!

  2. galenpearl
    November 12, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

    Great idea! I tried it on the computer screen, and my finger fell on “leave you smiling” in your right column. I’ll give it a try.

  3. andreakbeltran
    August 3, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    A good exercise for writing poems, too. Thanks!

    • August 4, 2014 at 8:16 am #

      so true. thanks for stopping by, andrea!


  1. Make a list of keywords before you start writing | FlashMemoirs - December 17, 2012

    […] might also like to read: What makes a flash story? Riff on a random word Use distinct nouns & […]

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