Writers – looking forward to Christmas Day? Do you think you’d make a better job of writing Her Majesty’s speech, if only they would ask you (and pay you)? Will you be itching to get back to your characters, your setting and your plot, but obliged to spend quality time with the family on activities that all ages can enjoy? Well, sigh no more!
The Writer’s Bored Game is the green, cheap, fun answer to Christmas Day family entertainment you’ve been looking for. If you’re a Good Housekeeper you can prepare this in advance, but it only takes a few minutes on the day and the rules are easier to understand than most board games. You can delegate children to run the preparation if you’re smart.
You will need:
A large piece of cardboard – packaging from expensive new electricals will do.
Black, red and blue felt pens (or any two colours plus a dark one)
About 30 bits of red and blue card, or white card marked with red or blue. Or paper. Or post it notes. But they must indicate two different colours. On one side draw a line to divide them in half (below right). On the other side draw a happy face / remark (e.g., “whoopee!“) on the red ones and sad face / remark (e.g., “oh no!“) on the blue ones*(below left). That is the hardest thing you have to do – I said it was easy.
Pens or pencils
A dice and things to use as counters.
- Draw a track on the card with numbers 1 – 40 ish (not more than 50 or everyone really will get bored). Write “The Writer’s Bored Game” in large letters on it and draw one red and one blue rectangle. Make bridges between numbers if you wish for lucky or unlucky people to land on (see picture top right). Or don’t bother.
- Invite children to ring some of the numbers in blue, others in red. More red than blue, though, or they might cry.
- Give out the red cards, maybe four to each person.Each person must write above the line on the card WITHOUT SHOWING ANYONE ELSE, a GOOD thing that could happen to a writer. (A brilliant plot occurs to you! Current affairs suddenly mirror your idea! You get published! The BBC buys the rights! JK Rowling writes you a 5* review! etc). Then under the line write a good thing that can happen in a game: Go forward 4, have another go, kiss the person on your right, hand round the chocolates, invite your favourite person to join you on your space etc). When all are done shuffle them and place them face down on the red rectangle.
- Give out the blue cards, maybe three to each person. Each person must write above the line on the card WITHOUT SHOWING ANYONE ELSE, a BAD thing that could happen to a writer. (You lose all your computer files. Youll never understand apostrophe’s. Someone else publishes the same idea, better. Your partner says it’s crap, etc). Then under the line write a bad thing that can happen in a game: Go back 6, lose a turn, everyone can overtake you, eat those cold sprouts up now, etc). When all are done shuffle them and place them face down on the blue rectangle.
- The board should now look like the one below. Play the game. Take a blue card if you land on a blue number, a red one on a red number. See, it’s easy? First one to the end wins. The rule in our house has always been: the winner has to tidy away the game.
This is considerably less boring than it sounds. For example my son once wrote above the line on a red card: You are a fish. You cannot read let alone write. And below the line: Stop playing and drink wine. Teenagers are especially good at anarchic input. However, sometimes it does turn out boring. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles (when I resort to clichés you know it’s nearly the end of the post).
Variations: Actually you can choose any subject you like; it doesn’t have to be about writing. Everyone could jot down a subject and you pick from a hat. A cousin once chose golf – horror! But it was ok. (You are a fish. You cannot play golf. Go to the end and drink wine.)
When the game is over, simply throw it away. In the recycling box, obvs.
This amazing idea is my intellectual property. I used to do it (on fairy story themes or topic based ideas) with groups of children when I was a school teacher. If any designers would like to try and market it more attractively, do get in touch. Otherwise, just enjoy. Remember, you can always be a fish. Or whatever you want.
I drew the Christmas Eve straw for the Britfic.com blog post, so for another amazing idea from me, please head over there from 24th December. Why not – it’s better than peeling spuds.
Happy Christmas and see you for a more serious discussion in the New Year.
*Screenshot from dianaurban.com, a very useful site for writers from an industry insider
**Come to think of it, happy/sad faces and “whoopee” etc aren’t strictly necessary. You can skip that bit, or keep children quiet for ages making them do it.
©Jessica Norrie 2016