Fun with lists


Are you someone who enjoys making lists? Are you a compulsive list maker? You are not alone. List-making is an activity most of us do without even thinking about it. Crossing off a finished task is high on my list of “free activities that give me pleasure.”

Thomas thinks deep thoughtsws

“Free” cat

Lists can be productive tools for writers, not only for organizing and getting things done, but also for creating a scaffold for a piece of writing. Lists can be used to clump disparate events together, for example “five major life mistakes I wish I hadn’t made,” or lists can group similar items together, like “five great novels about coming of age.” Allyson Latta has a blog series called “Seven Treasures” wherein contributors are asked to write about seven items that are deeply significant to their lives. Check out Janis’s list.

As a fan of Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap on CBC I am often delighted by the musical lists that the producers compile. This past Saturday night featured a play list of songs about being alone. Hearing these songs grouped together allowed me to listen to them in a whole new way, and to pay attention to lyrics that I’d never really caught before.  (Incidentally, I’ve only just realized that Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again, Naturally is woefully sad …the tune is so jaunty that I never paid attention to what he was saying).

Some stories are based around the idea of lists. Take for example, The Bucket List, or one of my top five favourite movies of all time, High Fidelity. The plot of High Fidelity revolves around the protagonist’s decision to reconnect with all the women he had relationships with in the past (listed chronologically) in order to figure out why his relationships never last. One of Rob’s favourite activities is discussing lists of “top fives” with his staff, and ordering and reordering his extensive collection of albums according to new criteria, including, hilariously, the order in which he purchased them. Lists are about pattern making, and sometimes about pattern discovering. In that spirit here are some list ideas that should work well as writing prompts.Quill pen

  1. Just to get your pen moving, try making a list of every word you can think of that starts with the letter “d.” Set a timer and see how many you can write in a minute.
  2. List your top five favourite movies, and write about why you love them.
  3. List your top five favourite writers and why you love them.
  4. Make a list of things that irritate you.
  5. Make a list of all the pets you’ve ever owned.
  6. List all of the people you’ve kissed.
  7. Make a list of your favourite character names.
  8. List ten things you want to do before you die.
  9. List five secrets you have in your family.
  10. List ten songs that express your personality.

Have fun with these. Share them with your friends.  Or share them in the comments below.

Happy writing, until next time,


Our next writing retreat will take place on Sunday, June 22, 2014.  We hope you can join us.

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Photo Credit: for list srsldy via Compfight cc

Photo of Thomas Caligula Pierce (by me)

Quill pen drawing by Janis McCallen.

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