The Next Sentence
Tell a story. The first sentence is going to swing a lot of weight, yet it needn’t appear to. The vote may well go to a modestly intriguing first line like “Dogs will eat anything” over a bolder beginning like “The coroner found three stones in the corpse’s mouth.” What matters is that one sentence out of the group of postings attracted the most interest among the players as a possible opening for a story. Where the group chooses to take the narrative with the next sentence is anyone’s guess. Remember, that in all likelihood, the resulting narrative will not be short-listed for a Mann-Booker prize. Nevertheless, the experience of observing what sentences draw the group forward in an unfolding narrative could be useful to a future storyteller.
Here’s a chance to create an op-ed piece for a general readership. You will probably have to agree on the subject: sibling rivalry, global warming, college admissions, abortion, flossing. In most cases you will have to also agree on a general pro or con position – although it is interesting how, even without any prearranged position, a rather sharp point of view will develop as the sentences are voted up or down by the group. Stylistically, relevance and provocativeness are the salient features of a best sentence.
You can try this one, but it may be problematic. A good review of anything, a book, a play, or a musician, is more often than not, backloaded in that the reviewer's true opinion only emerges in full fledge near the end of the exposition. The pleasure of reading the review is in the unfolding revelation of a critical perspective. To even approach this subtle dynamic, you might counsel the players to build their case slowly, premising their predilection for or against the subject on careful observation and interpretation.
A procedure could be anything that a person or a group does to navigate the world. It could be applying to college, selecting a cellphone, planning a dinner party, getting ready for bed, choosing a travel destination. A procedure can be quite narrow and specific like booking a room at the DuMaurier hotel in Ho Chi Mhin City, or finding someone whose name you have forgotten on the internet, or wrestling and alligator – as long as the whole group has some idea of what is involved.
There will inevitably be a question as to where or at what point the instructions (that’s really all they are) should begin: “Rub something abrasive, like chalk or talcum on your hands before approaching the alligator” might be right. “Get a good night’s sleep,” might be overdoing it.
The goal here is a seamless combination of thoroughness and empathy. You can’t leave any step out without undermining your chances of success, and yet you must not muddy the instructions with unnecessary or distracting information. What would you need to know at every step to accomplish the procedure? Concision and consideration are the keys.
Here the idea is to come up with the most intriguing use of a particular word. The players are given a word, let’s say for example the word “allegiance,” and the challenge is to create the most interesting sentence that employs that word. The sentences can be provocative, poetic, or humorous, even sarcastic. The goal is to create a sentence that causes some cognitive or emotional turbulence in the brains of the reader (a). Then follow with a second sentence that raises the stakes of the first sentence (b).
1) a. I feel no allegiance to my race.
b. After all, I had no choice in the matter.
A wrinkle here might be to require the players to skip passed the denotative meaning of the word to a connotative or metaphoric sense.
EXAMPLE: The word is “incontinence,” and a denotative implementation like “Harry was embarrassed by his uncle’s incontinence,” is no fun at all, while “Allison’s posting of ten selfies of herself eating oysters is a classic case of photographic incontinence,” is a more artful use of the word.
Some possible word choices (selected pretty much at random):