Click here to download an assignment sheet I recently created using the popular and always entertaining Mad Lib format. I’ve been toying around for years with ideas for getting students to write something that then gets used in a completely different way in the final product simply as a way of jumpstarting their creative process. For example, if a student is asked to think of an object or a past time that reminds him of his mother, he might innocently write “glass of red wine,” but when that turns out to be a metaphor FOR his mother—”My mother was a glass of red wine”—oh snap! Shiznit just got real. Now maybe it’s not accurate or maybe it is, but that’s a decision for later. Years ago, after reading Anne Sexton’s “Young,” which begins “A thousand doors ago when I was a lonely kid in a big house,” I asked students to write a line like that using a different but unexpected noun to mark the passage of time (the way Sexton seems to mark time in passing “doors”). One girl raised her hand, and asked if she could use “a thousand pills ago.” The rest of the class gasped; it was the first time she had publicly addressed her battles with addiction.
This assignment doesn’t invite quite that level of darkness, and it actually has much more humor built into it. I hope you enjoy it.