10 Apr

DIY MFA: Morphological Forced Connections

Posted in DIY MFA, Plot, Writing, Writing Exercises

Hello Friends of iggi!

Welcome to Week 2 of DIY MFA.  Last week we talked about using characters to spark ideas.  Now we’ll be shifting gears and looking at story elements that can generate ideas.

Today we’ll be talking about Morphological Forced Connections, a technique I learned when taking a creativity seminar in graduate school.  I’ve blogged about this technique in DIY MFA before, but this time we’re taking a slightly different approach.  Before, we used this technique to brainstorm ideas for new stories but today we’ll be applying it to your current work-in-progress.

Step-by-Step Guide to Morphological Forced Connections:

What you need:
• Paper and pencil
• Random.org

Step 1: Answer the following questions.

• What does your character want?
• List at least 5 possible obstacles that will get in the way.
• List a set of worst-case scenarios that could happen.
• List a set of settings where the big show-down could happen should a worst-case scenario occur.
• 4 possible outcomes to the story:

  1. Character gets what he/she wants.
  2. Character doesn’t get what he/she wants.
  3. Character decides he/she wants something else.
  4. Character gets what he/she wants but realizes he/she didn’t really want it.

Step 2: Make a pretty little chart, like this:

Obstacles   Worst-Case              Settings         Outcome

Option 1          Option 1                 Option 1        1.  Gets what he wants
Option 2          Option 2                 Option 2        2.  Doesn’t get what he wants
Option 3          Option 3                 Option 3        3.  Wants something else
   etc.                    etc.                         etc.            4.  Doesn’t really want it

Note that for this exercise, you don’t have to make the same number of options in each column.  You can brainstorm as many options for the first three columns as you like.  The only column with a set number of options is the outcome because there are four basic possibilities.

Step 3: Use Random.org to choose an option from each of the four lists.  Random.org will choose numbers at random from 1 to whatever number you choose.  Just plug in how many options you have for each column and it will pick one at random.

Step 4: Write!  Take that show-down scene where the worst-case scenario happens and write that scene.

Homework: Try out this technique, then check-in in the comments, to let us know how it went!


Comments on this post

  1. Bish Denham says:

    This is a wonderful exercise! I'm going to try it sooooooon.

    1. Bluestocking Mum says:

      This is incredible – very scienific sounding!

      I'll have a go as soon as this A-Z challenge is over.

      Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks for following my blog and look forward to catching up with you soon.

      warm wishes

      1. Jenn says:

        It's like MASH for your character. Fun! I completed the exercise, just need to write the scene–which I'll do tomorrow. Thanks for the activity. 🙂

        1. Michelle Gregory says:

          i'll take a look at this later. looks like good stuff. thanks for stopping by and following.

          1. Tioka says:

            It helped to think about all of the worst case scenarios and to be specific about the obstacles. I confess I gave up on the randomizer – anything dealing with numbers leaves me baffled.

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