Thursday, December 9, 2010

Parlor Game: Alphabet Stories

Players: 2 or more

Equipment: None necessary, but if you'd like to randomize topics and starting letters, then have some paper and pencils on hand.

We've been playing this game around the dinner table lately, but it's also good for long drives or as a party game. It's adapted from other alphabetical conversation games in which you write down a series of subjects on slips of paper, choose one randomly, and then take turns having a conversation on that subject. The catch is that each new sentence in the conversation must begin with the next letter in the alphabet.

Alphabet Stories uses the same structure. If you want to keep it simple, you can just pick a subject, or you can write 5 or 6 subjects on pieces of paper and draw one randomly. These can be broad subjects like "Christmas" or "Summer" or "Harry Potter," or narrow ones like "Homer's Odyssey set in contemporary New York" or "Santa and the Easter Bunny go on a pro wrestling tour." The subject can be as broad or as specific, as serious or funny, as high-minded or immature as you like.

The idea is to use this subject to create a story, with each person taking turns adding a single sentence to the story. The sentence needs to connect to the previous sentence and must be on topic. It also needs to begin with a word that starts with the next letter in the alphabet. You can start anywhere in the alphabet that you like, going from A-Z, or from M all the way through and back to L.

For example, if we start with the letter "S" and take the Santa & Easter bunny idea, the story could go like this:

Player 1) "Santa entered the ring in his red tights, tucked his beard into his shirt, and looked dubiously at his new partner."

Player 2) "'This is gonna be a bloodbath,'" growled Jolly Old St. Nick.

Player 3) "Us Leporidae are natural fighters thanks to our giant feet," the Easter Bunny shot back, waving the appendage in question.

And so on.  You can set limits and rules so that people are "out" if they don't come up with a sentence within a few seconds, or if the other players think they aren't following the narrative closely enough. But, really, this is best played as a casual game, particularly with kids on a long trip. The stories get silly very quickly, and often take off on funny tangents. You don't need to set particular time limits, but do try to keep the game moving quickly: people come up with wilder ideas when they don't stop to think for too long.


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