Can I tell you about my favorite writing tool? Yes? Okay, then pop a squat and check this out. It’s a deck of cards put together by a publisher called Mythulu. These cards are amazing and I use them for all things storytelling. They help with fresh ideas, or when I am trying to keep from getting stuck in the same storytelling ruts we have all seen a thousand times. I use them when I want to create unique characters, settings, creatures, plots, and… I think you get the idea. This is not a blog about the parts of story. It’s about the cards.
Curious how they work? Let’s go for a test drive. I’m going to draw a few card from the deck and try to come up with the basis for a new story. So let’s begin.
I don’t know why, but today I’m feeling monster. Mythulu recommends drawing 4 cards to start a monster: 2 texture, 1 habitat, and 1 character to define the role in the habitat.
First two cards are textures: Eroded and Fuzzy. So now I go wherever these ideas take me. It could be fur that is partly disintegrated or rubbed away. Motely. And I like the image of the fox on the card. So this is a monstrous fox with maybe half its fur missing. That feels like a pretty appropriate monster image, but also a little trope-heavy. Let’s see if what comes next helps with that.
The habitat card is Hive. Okay, that’s different. First of all, I don’t think of fuzzy creatures living in a hive. But the last card represents the role of the monster in the habitat. And I pulled the Monk card. To me, that says this monster is solitary. It is last standing of its colony, but still holding to its post. Its queen is long dead, so there is no hope, but what else is there to do but carry on and survive?
Are you getting an idea of how this helps? A few minutes ago, I had a blank page. Now I have a complex monster that has all kinds of potential. Let’s do one more, a character to pit against this monster.
The character is a Magician, which I’m going to say means wizard or mage to me right now. Now for a character card to represent his worst relationship : Debtor. I pulled an extra character card to define who he is in debt to: Cyborg. Wait, what?! Okay, that’s a weird pull.
I’m a little tempted to scrap that card because cyborgs don’t really fit with a mage. Fantasy vs. sci fi. But I’m going to stick with it for a second. Let’s instead use a fantasy analog to a cyborg. This is someone who isn’t fully human. Maybe a monster themselves. Or has cobbled together a body. Maybe sewn together? Actually, I’m going to flip it. Our mage lost an arm, and his debtor is an arms dealer who attached a new one for him. So the mage is in debt because he now can’t pay for the arm, and the debtor wants it back.
Now for the mage’s best relationship. I get the Yin and Yang card for the relationship and for the character card defining his best relationship: Monster. YEESS! I don’t know what the odds are that I created a monster and then pulled the monster card for the relationship, but it’s like it’s meant to be. And I don’t think I would have thought of that connection otherwise.
Okay, so a mage is in debt because of his new arm, but has a love/hate relationship with the last monstrous fox of what used to be a hive. One more card for good measure on the character. The element card: Blood. Does he have blood on his hands from past mistakes? Is he going to have to kill the monster to pay his debt? Does he go on a rampage to kill the debtor? Who knows.
I hope you see the power here. That was ten total cards from the deck, and I have the basis for a really unique story. I could pull some more cards to flesh out the arms dealer, and a few more to define the type of habitat the mage lives in. Maybe a few support characters if I need them.
Now you might wonder if the utility would run out, because that was my initial fear. But my experience has been anything but that. If anything, the utility of them keeps growing the longer I use them and the more comfortable I get with them.
The cards are a spring-board for the mind, a primer. They offer a boost to come up with ideas. And the best news of all, there are about to be even more cards! They have an app with some of the cards you can try for free, but I highly recommend investing in the physical set, so check out their website or the kickstarter for pack B. I got to have a sneak peak at a few of the pack B cards before the Kickstarter and they are gorgeous.
So check out Mythulu, and happy writing!