Wow, I’m terrible at updating this blog, especially since I think I mentioned in the last post that I’d be adding a new one four Fridays or so ago. That never happened. But I’m here now, right? Anyway, let’s get to the fun part.
Welcome to the MASH game – for those of you who have never played MASH, I’m going to go over the basics real quick and do an example. First off, it’s easier to write this game on a piece of paper, though you’re free to use your computer if that’s what you want to do. At the top of the page you should write “MASH” in giant letters. MASH is an acronym for MANSION, APARTMENT, SHACK, & HOUSE (this varies regionally). Underneath that, you’ll have four columns. (Later you can add more or use less, but for now, let’s go with four). One column will have four jobs, one will have four numbers representing the number of children you envision yourself having, one column will feature cars, and the other will feature four people – men, women, mixed, whatever floats your boat. It should look a little something like this. (Since we’re playing, I’m going to feature four male celebrities and random stuff).
M A S H
Chris Evans Photographer Transformers Camaro 3
Hugh Jackman Veterinarian Ford Focus 2
Stephen Amell Actress Mitsubishi Eclipse 1
Tom Hiddleston Mercenary Ford Mustang 0
So you’d have it something like that, with your personal favorites, and then you’d take a pen and make a bunch of dots, roll a dice, or pick a number – whichever. Let’s say I got seven. I would start at “M” for Mash and work my way down until I stop counting at seven. I’d land on Stephen Amell. Sadly, I have to cross off his name. I then start with Tom Hiddelston and go to the next column until I get to seven. Ford Focus is what I land on, therefore it’s off the list. This would continue until I only have one left in each column. If I continued with seven, I’d end up with this result: I’d live in an apartment with Tom Hiddleston (hell yes), be a mercenary, drive the Camaro, and have one kid with Tom Hiddleston. Fun, yes? Not really believable, but hey, I don’t mind my results.
Anyway, let’s move on to character development. When you’re writing a new book, obviously you’re going to have characters. Let’s say I’m writing a young adult dystopian book I know I want to be narrated by a sixteen-year old male. I don’t know his name, don’t know what he’ll do, don’t know what he’ll drive, etc. So I’m going to run the gambit of options here for fun. I’m going to list four names, four random duties (be imaginative here, it’s dystopian, right?), four potential vehicles my character could operate, BUT since he’s a teenager and I’ve decided he won’t be a father – I have the last column to decide. Let’s go with the number of siblings he has. But realize, this will be YOUR game, so come up with something you’d want.
M A S H
Possible Names Job/Duty Vehicle/Transport Number of siblings
Jeremiah Scientist Hybrid car 4
Howie Actor Hummer 3
Grif Soldier Sports car 2
Nathan Janitor Truck 1
I roll the dice. I get eight. I land on Nathan and it’s taken off the list. My end result is: Grif lives in a mansion, is an actor who drives a Hummer and has two siblings. We have our start.
If Grif lives in a mansion AND drives a hummer, it’s reasonable he comes from a wealthy family or has made his fortune somehow. In some dystopian novels, the rich have the power. What if Grif is one of the elite class, depriving the poor of something? Or what if he’s from a family who discovered a cure for cancer and therefore, a legacy to all the riches? Is he a nice guy who donates to charity and helps the fallen world around him, neutral in his status to care and yet not care about what’s going on out there, or is he a jerky character who could care less about what happens because it won’t affect him? There’s also the point that he’s an actor – big time actors tend to make a lot of money for what they do. What if he’s rich and famous for being in million dollar movies but the rest of his family is not rich? Maybe he came from a poor family and made his way up. Maybe since he has two siblings, he lives with one and they share their fortune. Or maybe they’re both acting as thieves, swindling their way to the top?
The point is, there are a billion ways to go with it. I’m going to do one more example. Let’s go with a crime novel and rework the “career” column, using a femme fatale as the lead character. And instead of having siblings, let’s use the “number” column as a tally for how many people she’s killed.
M A S H
Virginia Mercenary/Assassin Convertible 20
Faith Terrorist Mini-Van 1
Patricia Sociopath Truck 3
Heather *Revenge killer Dodge Avenger 13
I rolled a three. Let’s play!
Heather lives in a house, drives a convertible, is a sociopath who has killed (or will kill) three people. Is she married? What kind of social disorder does she have? Does her husband beat her and she’s already had an abusive childhood? Does she accidentally kill her children? Think about what would motivate a sociopath, while staying true to personality profiling. Characteristics of sociopaths include: pathological lying, manipulative, shallow emotions, lack of guilt, need for stimulation, etc. It goes to say Heather could seem normal to anyone else but she’s killed just because she can. What if she kills with her convertible? What if she’s murdered three people, shoved them in her trunk, and then sinks the car in a lake before she’s led to buy a new convertible again? What drives Heather is where you’ll find your plot. Those three victims play an important rule to how she chooses her victims. Does she bury them behind her house?
It’s your turn to tell the story.
The best part about MASH is that you don’t always have to play by the rules. What if you reinvented the acronym? What if M stood for mall, A for attic? What if S was spaceship and H was hotel? There are thousand of variations. What if you already have a lead female character in mind for a romance novel, but aren’t sure who she should pursue to love? Even doing a side character will help build your main protagonist. Does the man of her dreams live in a spectacular mansion? Does he drive her favorite car? Does he work with her? Will he be smart, sexy, or a killer in disguise? Writing is about having options. Change what you want, come up with something you know you’ll love.
Feel free to play around, it should be fun. Like what you see here? I’d love to see comments on what you’ve gotten while playing this game. Stay tuned, I’ll have lots more fun games to help build your novels or get you out of writing ruts. Til next time!