An Interview with Gary Zenker
One of the best things about plugging into the writing community — online and off—is that you find yourself surrounded by people with creative and innovative ideas that spark your creativity as well as their own.
One such person is Gary Zenker who is, among other things, a writer and a game designer.
Gary’s new storytelling game, WritersBloxx is the perfect tool for StoryADay writers, who already enjoy writing prompts and want to be more productive.
I used Gary’s WritersBloxx game at two Flash Fiction workshops this spring. The prompts got the workshop attendees writing, laughing, applauding each other and, in a few cases, wiping away a tear or two.
The game’s up on Kickstarter until July 31, 2017, and I highly recommend you check it out.
Recently Gary and I got together for an interview. He’s also going to be featured on the podcast soon, so watch out for that.
What is WritersBloxx?
Gary: WritersBloxx is a storytelling party game and a writers prompt tool.
You use 20-sided dice and special PromptGrids to generate random writing prompt combinations. There are six categories of prompts: Timing, Genre, Object, Setting, Character and Event.
In Party Play mode, you have six minutes to create a story using all of them.
At the end of the round, you compare the stories and score a point for each prompt used and an additional point for each player vote for Best Story.
Can people complete an entire story in six minutes?
Gary: Some do. Others don’t. The goal isn’t necessarily to finish the story, but to get a good piece of it done, work all of the required elements into it and make it interesting. Six minutes go fast.
So are there any plot twists in the playing of the game?
Gary: Absolutely. The ultimate version of the game includes a set of PlotTwist Cards.
Midway through the story, the card gives you a direction to change something. You might add an object, make your entire story as written so far a dream sequence, or even be forced to kill your main character.
So there’s always something to make it more challenging if you think it was too easy.
How does it work for writers?
Gary: Individual writers decide on their own time limits depending on what they are trying to do.
If they want to challenge their writing speed, they can stick to short time limits like the party mode. If they want to test their ability to write more complete stories, they can set longer limits or not have any limits at all.
Groups of writers can use it to examine how they think and approach the same words and concepts differently.
How does a short time-frame and words that don’t go together solve writers block? You would think it would make writing much much harder.
Gary: It’s ironic but sometimes the more restrictive prompts spur creativity greater than easier ones. When faced with a much harder task, our subconscious goes to work.
Of course, it could just be desperation as well (laughing).
Either way, the entire goal is to challenge yourself and have fun while doing it.
And you’ve done some special things to accommodate writers of different genre?
Gary: Yes! The PromptGrids that come with the game span all genre and offer a wide selection of prompts.
WritersBloxx users can get PromptGrids for specific writing genre, like crime, horror, romance, even erotica. And there are two designed specifically for younger kids.
There’s a last part of this that makes it much bigger and different than other tools and games. Posting the stories publicly.
Gary: Yes. I like the idea of taking a table game or a personal writing tool and it becoming something that creates a larger community. Sharing the stories online with others who can see your prompts is just a natural for a tool like this.
Well, our six minute interview round is up!
Gary: See, six minutes goes faster than you think!
There’s probably just enough time left to thank you for interviewing me and recommend that all the writers who use WritersBloxx to use Story-A-Day to further leverage their creativity.
Gary Zenker is the developer of WritersBloxx and a writer himself of flash fiction (stories under 1,000 words).
Check out the Kickstarter for WritersBloxx, and tell him I sent you!