The paperback game
There are many variations of this one, but I think Dwight Garner’s version as set out in his New York Times article a few years ago is excellent. Get yourself a pile of paperbacks – romance, crime, and other genre novels make the best candidates. The first person picks one out and reads the blurb from the back of the book. The other players then have a go at writing the first sentence of the novel, while the first person writes out the real first sentence, and then reads them aloud to the group. They must all then decide for themselves which they think is the real first sentence. 1 point if your fake sentence is voted as the real one, and 2 points if you correctly vote for the real first sentence.
It may be a game of your long-lost childhood, but that doesn’t make it a bad game. In fact, it gets better as you get older. All choose a line from a novel that marks the beginning of a dramatic scene. Write the next sentence, and pass it on. And so on. When your creative depths have been plumbed and no more tales can be spun, read them out. Stories will be enhanced by using names of other fictional characters as you go.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Take it in turns to read quotes by or about various characters – they could be from classic novels you all know or from your latest book group read. Others must guess who said what and when, and about whom, where relevant. Could be a quiet way of passing the time and patting yourself on the back at your astounding literary knowledge, or you could get competitive by dividing into teams and keeping score.
Call my bluff: dictionary version
This one is my favourite (dictionary geek alert). Similar to the paperback game, you take it in turns to pick a word from the dictionary, write out its definition, and then add two more definitions of your own. Then read the three possible definitions out to the group – or get your neighbour to do so if you have a bad poker face. The others must each guess which is the true definition. 1 point for anyone who spots the real one, and 2 points for you if one of your fake ones is voted the winner.
Name in the hat game: literary version
Give everyone 4 or 5 slips of paper and get them to write down one person – real or fictional – on each. Since this is a literary version they should all be authors or characters. Fold the pieces of paper and put them all in a hat. Or bowl. Or any receptacle you can find. Split into teams of four to five.
One person from team 1 kicks off by grabbing a slip from the hat. She can use as many words as she likes to describe the name on the slip; her teammates must correctly guess who she is talking about. Once they have, it’s onto the next slip from the hat, until 1 minute is up. Depending on how confident you’re feeling, you might decide to only allow one pass per round…
The team gets one point per correct guess in each round. When the minute is up, it’s the next team’s go. This keeps going until all the slips from the bag have been read out.
Round two: put all the names back in the hat. This time, you’re only allowed one word to describe the person on the piece of paper.
Round three: names back in again. This time: all acting, no words.
The winning team is the one with the most points across all three rounds.