M.A.S.H. Your Ideas

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Will I write a graphic novel, fantasy, contemporary romance, or horror? Circle one.

If you’re a child of the 80s or 90s, you totally know what I’m talking about when I mention M.A.S.H.

And if you’re anything like me, you just about lost your mind with pure joy.

M.A.S.H. is an acronym for “Mansion, Apartment, Shed, House” which is a fun little game I grew up playing with girlfriends on my rainbow-stained rug. We’d use it as an oracle to predict which type of dwelling we’d live in, who we’d eventually marry, and what type of pet we’d end up with (ahem, still waiting for my baby koala, Universe).

Here’s what you do:  Either pick a number between 1-10, or if you want to go old school, draw a spiral on a blank sheet of paper. Keep drawing until your friend says “stop.” Then count the number of rings on your spiral. That’s the number you’ll use.

Once you have a number in mind, it’s time to play what I call M.A.S.H. Writers’ Edition. 

  • Step 1: Download your free M.A.S.H Writers’ Edition template here. Print.
  • Step 2: Fill in the lines for each of the four categories (Meaning, Main Character, Plot Twist, Unique Elements). 
  • Step 3: Once you have the page filled with unrelated ideas, it’s time to snap them together. Start at the first idea you wrote (it should be Line #1 under Meaning) and count until you reach the number you previously chose. When you hit that number, circle whatever idea you landed on.
  • Step 4: Keep doing this until you have one idea circled in each of the four sections.

That’s it! You’ve just M.A.S.H.ed the hell out of all your awesome ideas. You may be looking at your paper going, “Erm, this didn’t work. I can’t possibly put robots with grief, or a factory explosion with a love triangle.”

That’s resistance talking. That’s the fearful part inside all of us that is now telling you that you can’t possibly pull together such disparaging ideas, that you aren’t creative enough to pull this off. Luckily, it’s wrong.

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Listen to that voice—tell it that you hear it—but you’re going to write this anyway. Because even if this idea doesn’t become the basis of your next novel, all writing is valuable. And this is an exercise in creative confidence, trust, and the ability to connect unrelated ideas.

AH

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