The Inspiration Behind CHSL Cards

Written by David Brooks on January 15, 2016 2:45 am

In a round-about way, CHSL Cards came as a response to a question posed to my writing group.

“How do you get past writer’s block?”

Nobody had ever asked me that question before, but after a second to think, I realized that I do something naturally. It’s just part of my personality and quirkiness.

First, I give myself permission to write the dumbest possible thing.

Second, I look at the scenario and just throw something at the characters.

What I’m saying, is that I inject a big dose of randomness into the scene and try to figure out how everyone handles it. Sometimes you win, other times you have to throw something else at them and ask forgiveness. You can read more about that in an article I wrote on my blog.

I thought about my answer after the writer’s group had ended and it occurred to me that if I made it into an app, it might help other people.

But there’s no way that I can predict what kind of randomness you need in your story. Saying “your main character trips over a magical artifact” doesn’t help you if you’re writing a story set in a modern high school. (Maybe it does. I didn’t attend that kind of a high school.)

Peeling the concept back further, all banana-like, I realize that what I was doing wasn’t about being random. It was about forcing myself to think about the scene differently and shaking the immediate grip of Writer’s Block.

The randomness became a deck of cards where you draw a single word. After some more time to think, it was obvious that nobody would find a deck of cards with a single word on a card useful. I mean, I would, but it’s light on application for most people.

But it was the right place to start. Drawing that word is the first point of entry to a card, the first thing that attempts to make your brain re-focus.

The natural thing to do was to give a bit of variance for the words, to force you to think for a second time. But that paragraph holds a variety of possible applications. It’s not just a quick summary of the word, but a collection of ways it might be useful to you in your scene.

I sat on the concept for awhile, even building a prototype of the app at one point. But it wasn’t until I brought Dave onto the project that it started to take flight.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say it, but I got swept into other projects and left Dave to fight the wolves for survival on his own. Metaphorically, of course. When I talked with him a month later, I realized it was the best thing that could have happened to the project. So, I asked him to write about how the process of shaping the cards came to be.