A New Tool for Story-Writing

A review of The Story Engine by Peter Chiykowski

By Derek Newman-Stille

Earlier this year, I came across a kickstarter that I just had to support. In addition to my work on Speculating Canada, I teach writing classes, so I am always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to teach. I have a particular interest in teaching through games and play. So, when I saw the Kickstarter for The Story Engine by Peter Chiykowski I thought it would be a fun way of engaging my students in another method of storytelling. The Story Engine involves a set of cards that can be used for writing inspiration. They are divided into multiple different types of cards that are meant to be used together: agent cards, engine cards, anchor cards, conflict cards, and aspect cards. Together they make up fundamental parts of a story and allow for the development of writing prompts.

I bought The Story Engine itself as well as the many booster packs that come with it. These include: horror, fantasy, science fiction, eldritch horror, dystopian fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, mythology, cyberpunk, and steampunk. The booster packs can either be used separately for genre stories or mixed in with the main Story Engine to give different flavours to the original stories.

If you are more of a visual person, each card also comes with an image that can either enhance the language of the card or provide you with some visual inspiration. As someone who collects images for my stories, I thought this was a powerful starter for those who enjoy image-based story development.

I have spent most of the day playing with these various decks in The Story Engine and have found them incredibly fun and a great way to get creative ideas flowing. I think The Story Engine will be a powerful teaching tool, especially around genre fiction and will allow students to engage differently with aspects of the story. The different categories of cards such as agents and engine cards will help students to think about the various aspects of story like characters, motivations, drive, and conflict. The cards also seem like a powerful tool for getting through writer’s block and the playful aspect of it takes off some of the stress associated with being blocked.

I wanted to share some samples of writing prompts that I have created using The Story Engine to illustrate the adaptability and fun of the deck:

– An underworld God wants to save a loved one by using a hardwired cult, but they will likely lose their life.

– A corporate addict wants to gain the power of a gilded drop of blood, but they will lose part of their humanity.

– An arcane teacher wants to stop being haunted by a rave, but they will lose their closest friend.

– An oracle wants to save the world from a protective mecha but it will mean forever living a lie.

For these prompts, I mixed in the booster packs with the original deck and then just drew them at random. It felt like a fun way to develop some strange and unique stories.

If you are interested in checking out The Story Engine you can access it at https://storyenginedeck.myshopify.com/

To find out more about Peter Chiykowski visit https://lookitspeter.com


If you are interested in checking out The Story Engine you can access it at https://storyenginedeck.myshopify.com/

If you are interested in checking out The Story Engine you can access it at https://storyenginedeck.myshopify.com/


A review by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them)

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