Linguistic Playfulness – technique for creative writing

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Playing around with words, thoughts, feelings and even sounds can have a positive impact on any design process. The following linguistic playfulness ideas can be used as an ideation tool, but also potentially to create a final product.

This is something which can be done either alone or in a group. It can be done as an ideation tool but also potentially to create a final product.

There are quite a few different options for this:

  1. Automatic writing. Write the first thing that comes into your head and keep writing not analysing or evaluating what you write. Notice the mental layers which try to take over and rationalise the flow. This linguistic playfulness technique can bring up ideas and paths that may not have been obvious before.

  2. Write a short narrative. For example, of an event, like an accident or a particular noteworthy occurrence. Then rewrite it from different viewpoints. E.g. from the dog’s perspective, 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person, as a spectator, as the protagonist, as the news reporter afterwards, as a gossiping teenager.

  3. Replace words and characters.

Metaphor and metanomy (substitute an associative part for a whole). Literary forms tend to gravitate between the poles. Look at


(French pronunciation: [ulipo], short for French: Ouvroir de littérature potentielle; roughly translated: “workshop of potential literature”) is a loose gathering of (mainly) French-speaking writers and mathematicians which seeks to create works using constrained writing techniques. It was founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Other notable members include novelists Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, poet Oskar Pastior and poet/mathematician Jacques Roubaud.

Constrained writing

literary technique and another form of linguistic playfulness, in which the writer is bound by some condition that forbids certain things or imposes a pattern. Constraints are very common in poetry, which often requires the writer to use a particular verse form. In the literary sense, which is motivated by more aesthetic concerns. For example:

  • Lipogram: a letter (commonly e or o) is outlawed.
  • Palindromes, such as the word “radar”, read the same forwards and backwards.
  • Alliteratives, in which every word must start with the same letter (or subset of letters; see Alphabetical Africa).
  • Acrostics: first letter of each word/sentence/paragraph forms a word or sentence.
  • Reverse-lipograms: each word must contain a particular letter.
  • Anglish, favouring Anglo-Saxon words over Greek and Roman words.
  • Anagrams, words or sentences formed by rearranging the letters of another.
  • Aleatory, where the reader supplies a random input.
  • Chaterism Where the length of words in a phrase or sentence increase or decrease in a uniform, mathematical way as in “I am the best Greek bowler running”, or “hindering whatever tactics appear”.
  • Univocalic poetry, using only one vowel.
  • Bilingual homophonous poetry, where the poem makes sense in two different languages at the same time, thus constituting two simultaneous homophonous poems.[1]
  • Limitations in punctuation, such as Peter Carey‘s book True History of the Kelly Gang, which features no commas.
  • Mandated vocabulary, where the writer must include specific words, chosen a priori, along with the writer’s own freely chosen words (for example, Quadrivial Quandary, a website that solicits individual sentences containing all four words in a daily selection).
  • E-Prime, where all forms of the verb “to be” are disallowed, for clarity.

Death of the author

The author is no longer seen as a special chap who creates wonderous material which the readers then passively consume. Readers, read into, and appropriate content. The story is written with the objective that the reader appropriates the text.

Structuralism asks us to reconsider the image of the individual and the strength of the individual’s power.

Umberto Eco – the structure of language is equal to the structure of society.
Idealogy interpellates or hails us and we respond to it’s signs in a reflex-like fashion. What does not fit in the sign system is discarded.

Derrida / Foucault – critique of structuralism because it classifies and categorises. Derrida’s binary opposites e.g. Man-woman – loaded binary opposite.

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