Toolbox

What is the plural of ‘thesaurus’? ‘Thesauri’? “Thesauruses”? Google says either one works. Personally, I like “thesauri”. It sounds more classy.

I have multiple thesauri at my disposal as tools for the writing process. I mentioned one such thesaurus in my previous blog post ‘I’ll Tell You How I Feel‘, where I wrote about ‘The Emotion Thesaurus’ – here’s the link to the newest, updated version. This thesaurus is great for creating rich characters of great emotional depth.

I received a new thesaurus the other day called ‘The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus’ written by Fred White. It’s a collection of ’embryonic’ story ideas ready to be expanded into full-fledged novels or short stories (every one of them that I read played out as a movie in my head). The book contains 20 chapters of starting points. Within each chapter are ten idea categories containing ten idea scenarios each. For example, there’s a chapter on ‘the transformation of x into y’ and in that chapter, there’s a category ‘the transformation of the wild into the domesticated (or vice versa). In that category, there’s the idea that the beloved family pet turns into a wild animal when angry and when the mom tries to euthanize the animal it runs away. From that nugget of an idea, you can go on to create a story about a little chihuahua that eats up New York, or a hampster that, after a blood-filled rampage, discovers that it just wants to be loved. Whatever you can come up with. Obviously, it’s already spawned several ideas for me.

This book plays on a theme of products available that provide inspiration to writers when they’re experiencing writer’s block, or just don’t know what to write in the first place. It’s along the same vein as ‘Complete the Story‘ which I really enjoy. In this book, they give you the ‘hook’, the first two or three sentences, and then you take it from there. I’ve come up with some pretty exciting short stories from these ideas.

Another one that I use from time to time is ‘300 Writing Prompts‘ by the same publisher. In this book, the prompts are in the form of questions and have a more personal bent. These are well suited for journaling, though they can inspire some creative ‘movement’ when stuck in a particularly sticky spot with a character. There’s also the companion ‘300 More Writing Prompts‘ which has more of the same style of questions.

But I think the best writing prompt book by far is ‘642 Things to Write About‘ by the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. This is the de facto book in writing prompts. The story goes that all the ideas for the book were collected within 24 hours in response to a book idea presented on a whim. It goes to show you how you never know when it’s going to be your moment to be ‘hot’. You’ve got to just jump in there and get going and this book certainly is a great springboard. And if that’s not enough, there’s also ‘712 More Things to Write About‘ to keep you inspired for a long time.

You can’t build a house without good tools, and you can’t write a good story without them, either. These tools have helped me greatly with getting through some of the rough patches of my writing. I’m glad to have them in my toolbox and I’ll continue to add others like them as I go. And as I do, I’ll make sure and share them with you along the way.

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