Here’s something quick for you that’s part writing prompt, part game review. Man Bites Dog, from University Games. The premise is simple: given a hand of five cards, each of which has a noun, verb (or verb-phrase), or adjective and a point value, construct a high-scoring, hopefully funny headline that the majority of players agree is cromulent. The first to 500 wins. You can play with two people, though it’s better and funnier with a bigger group.
So what’s this got to do with anything? Glad you asked. In one of my non-fiction classes at Warren Wilson, we did an exercise using a writing prompt with a similar premise; we were each told to write down some occupations and some unusual locations and put them in two pools. Then we each drew a few at random and mixed them around until we had a character and situation that provided good grist for some writing. Well, Man Bites Dog works just as well. The standard rules work just as well if you’re just using it as a writing prompt: draw 5 cards, take a look, and exchange up to three. Then start writing.
In case you’re wondering, my most recent productive headline-prompt was “Native Dreams of New Dog,” out of which I’ve gotten over 1000 words during a 45-minute sprint.