by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A great road trip game is called “No, It Wasn’t.” It’s played with partners. One begins telling a story—any story. The other interrupts as often as desired with, “No, it wasn’t”—or any grammatically-correct contradiction.

It may sound like this:
1: One morning, Jane went for a walk.
2: No, she didn’t.
1: That’s right. It wasn’t a walk. She was running. For exercise.
2: No, it wasn’t.
1: Actually, it was because someone was chasing her. A bad guy.
2: No, it wasn’t.
1: No, it was the police. Jane is the bad guy.

And so on. The challenge to the storyteller is to instantly change direction, as often as they’re prompted. As the story continues, the predictable story lines usually fall away, and the requirement to make changes opens the doors to great creativity. A new story begins to emerge, one that goes in radical new directions. In the example with Jane above, it would’ve originally been a story about her going to visit her friends. In only three twists, Jane is on the run from the police.

This can be a useful brainstorming game for writers too. Maybe you won’t end up writing the story in the direction the game led you, but it does force you to explore more options than Jane simply being out for a walk.

If you’re already working on a premise, write a quick logline for it. In your first sentence, try a “no, it wasn’t,” and see where it leads you.

Or start fresh. Choose a main character, any main character, then give them something to do. And so your game begins.

Need a prompt?

Here it is: When (Main Character) came home that day an old friend was waiting.

No, it wasn’t.

Jennifer A. Nielsen’s debut novel Elliot and the Goblin War was released in October 2010. And it comes with a warning–as of today, only 7 children who have ever read this book have lived to tell about it. If you’re very brave, perhaps you’re willing to take your chance with it.

The next book in the series, Elliot and the Pixie Plot will be released in May 2011. It’s pretty much like the first book, except it has a different plot. Different artwork too. Because that’d be pretty lame if they just used the same art all over again.