OLD TREE TRUNK WITH NAMES AND DATES ETCHED IN
© Nick Stubbs | Dreamstime.com
© Nick Stubbs | Dreamstime.com
The Writing Scavenger Hunt by Miss Good on Paper
I used to love scavenger hunts, searching for items and crossing off the found objects on my list. Who am I kidding? I still love scavenger hunts. It’s why I must make a list before going to the grocery store. It’s why I love holidays like Easter, when I can hide eggs and watch my nieces and nephews discover each hidden egg like it is buried treasure.
Writing can sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt, too. You search through your mind and your notes for the right detail, the perfect setting, the ideal word. Yes, it is sometimes tedious, but you have to admit that it’s pretty fun, too.
The scavenger hunt activity is one I use with students to help get them out of their chairs and into the world. After all, so much of the inspiration for writing doesn’t happen when staring at a blank page or screen. Real life is where you meet people who will become the basis of your characters. Real life is where all your story’s amazing details begin (even if you don’t realize it at the time).
Below you will find a list of items. You’ll need to get out of your seat and start searching. You may even need to leave your home to find some of these items; take your time and take the list with you on your next outing. Try jotting down your results because you’ll need all of this later.
When you’re finished finding each item, there is a related writing activity to help you quilt together all of the items on your list.
Writing Scavenger Hunt:
One piece of graffiti
One name of a store or restaurant·
One vivid and specific description of a person
Two pieces of dialogue (overheard from someone besides you)
Two smells (be specific)
Two hand gestures or facial expressions that a person makes
Three names of food and/or drinks you’ve never tried before
Three sounds (be specific)
Touch something and write down a description of how it feels
Listen to a song (any random song will do) and write down one lyric
Find one specific thing that is beautiful, one thing that is sad, one thing that is grotesque, one thing that is funny
Writing Activity Fiction writers: Write a scene involving that uses as many of the “items” from your scavenger hunt as possible. Try to incorporate at least one character in your scene. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.
Poetry Prompt: Write a poem that tells a story and uses sensory details from your scavenger hunt. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.
As a writer your job is to pay attention and observe the world. Try to imagine each day as a scavenger hunt in which you are always collecting snippets and details to use for your writing. Let me know what you find on your scavenger hunt. I’d love to hear all the wonderful details!
Miss Good on Paper is a writer, blogger, and English instructor. She writes literary fiction and her writing has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, The Potomac Review, Pank, and many others. She is also the author of the blog, The Writing Apprentice. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.