Use Homemade Card Games to Inspire Your Writing by Wyatt Bessing

Viola the SadWelcome back to another one of Writer’s Fun Zone’s monthly columnists: Wyatt Bessing. A writing coach and teacher, author, Wyatt Bessing shares his fun take on games, play, and how they help our writing. Enjoy this month’s post on using cards to inspire your writing. Have you used cards to inspire your writing? Please comment below on your experience.


Get Inspired, Get Writing!

Feeling overwhelmed and uninspired recently, I created this game to help myself break through writer’s block with a little imaginative chaos.  In this card game using characters, situations, and settings from your writing, you draw and read the cards as you would a Tarot reading. Or you can play any number of card games, all the while developing new writing ideas!

To create the game, all you need is 104 index cards, or you can go all out and visit a site such as, which will provide a template and ship to you professional-looking, customized playing cards that you design.

  1. Split your 104 cards into two equal piles.
  2. Brainstorm 52 characters from your own stories, works-in-progress, or favorite published fiction. (Just be sure to rename any published characters before using them in your own writing, and make their new story your own.)
  3. Make a list of these characters’ names, then rank them two through ace, and assign them the four suits (spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs). I made mine fantastic; earthy creatures into diamonds, my tough primitive types into clubs; romantics into hearts; and my sophisticated heroes into spades. Use any kind of system that makes sense to you.
  4. On each index card, beneath the suit and rank you’ve assigned, draw a picture of each character. A quick sketch is fine, or even a simple symbol or word, just something to remind you of this character. Beneath the picture, write what that character most wants in life, and what they most treasure.

b19nature_landscapes245Now, here’s the fun part.

  1. Using your other deck of 52 cards, you’re going to create the obstacles these characters face.  These come in the form of setting and plot. Recall some of your favorite plot twists from famous literature, or use conflict from your own writing:
  • Falls Down a Rabbit Hole into Another World
  • Father is Murdered, Uncle Succeeds Him
  • A Storm Brews
  1. Assign each obstacle a Power Rating of 1-5, with five being the most devastating event. On each Plot Twist card, draw a picture or symbol for the event. Finally, write the Power Rating and suit(s) it affects beneath the picture. For example, the Firestorm image above would subtract 5 from the card on which it’s played. Poor sad Viola is no longer a 10 of Diamonds, but a 5.

Playing the Game

Solo: Select a few cards and see how they interact. These combinations might give you some story ideas.

Imagine my sad elf just trying to get home when her beloved father is murdered.

Multiplayer: Of course, you can play any actual card game with this deck. Play as normal, but each player also receives five Plot Twist cards to play at any time during the game.

Imagine that you’re playing bridge and Alice, the Ace of Hearts, is about to take the trick. Suddenly she is Abducted by Aliens (a -5 to her power) and now Frank, the Busy Plumber wins.

To see a slightly more advanced game I created using this concept, Fortune: A Storytelling Game, visit


Writer’s Fun Zone readers, have you used cards to inspire your writing? What was your experience? Please comment below on your experience. Thanks!

Thanks Wyatt for your fun article! And congratulations on your engagement!


Wyatt Bessing, MFAWyatt Bessing is a writer, writing coach, and learning specialist. His stories and essays have appeared in, Outsider Ink, national educational assessment materials, and in the anthology Dance, Human Rights, and Social Justice. Through his workshops, website, and blog at, he guides new and experienced writers in crafting more effective, expressive, and striking work. During the day, he works at Star Academy in San Rafael, teaching reading and comprehension skills to students with learning differences in elementary through high school. He lives in Santa Rosa, CA with his wonderful fiance and co-creator, Sarah Laugtug.

You may also like...

  • What an absolutely brilliant idea! I have been writing a novel (historical fiction) for much longer than I would like to admit (okay, I admit, I have been toiling over it for 10 years now). This will be a fun way for me to get back into it and perhaps even finish it!

  • eyenie says:

    WOWZERS!! I LOVE this game idea! How very fun and creative, even for those of us who are not writing a novel (but with an idea like this, why not get crackin’, ay?!) Even for creative thinking and to stimulate imagination with my tiny human, I think this would be perfect! Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

  • Wyatt says:

    Thanks! I’m sorry my version is not up yet at, but I’ll let you know when you can purchase it!

  • >