Oblique Strategies


This is sort of a follow-up to the CD review in the last post, because Another Green World, like a number of other Brian Eno albums, was produced under the guidance of Oblique Strategies, a set of prompt cards Eno put together along with artist Peter Schmidt.

And discovering this inevitably got me procrastinating thinking: Hey, that might be a fun way to start a random writing project! I wonder if you can find them on the interwebs?

Long story short: of course you can. What can’t you find in the interwebs?

Originally, of course, they were intended to unstick writers block during songwriting and composition, and so some of the original strategies are completely useless when applied to, say, character development or short story plotting. But, as strategy #56 says (probably): Never let irrelevance get in the way of a good idea. So what the heck, I haven’t got anything else to blog about, so let’s fire up google our favourite search engine and see what we find…

Several minutes later…

Here I present a random selection of strategies from the various online decks that I shuffled; each of the following was generated randomly by a different website.

Disconnect from desire

You can only make one dot at a time

Children -speaking -singing

Go outside. Shut the door

Emphasize the flaws

Change nothing and continue with immaculate consistency

Just carry on

Ok, perhaps not as successful as perhaps it might have been, but emphasizing flaws or disconnecting from desire could lead to something interesting, and ‘Just carry on’ is plain good writing advice straight from the Chris Baty school of thought…

The sites linked above (and in the sidebar) are all good for an instant, fresh strategy, although I haven’t played around sufficiently yet to see if any are more random than others, or better suited to fiction writing. Some are more pleasing to the eye than others, if that sort of thing is likely to bother you (the more colourful pages made me less prone to repeat clicking); some give you an option on which version of the ‘hard copy’ they are based on; and one kept crashing Java on my laptop.

Based on a few clicks, my favourite so far is the heroku version, which has a nice clean look, and offers a choice from any or all of the five editions so far released.

As an alternative, there are a number of twitter options that will deliver a strategy every hour until you get fed up and unfollow them.

Or you can buy a deck of the actual cards from the Brian Eno web store, if you prefer.

In the meantime, feel free to assist in my research by clicking through and seeing what turns up. I may not fully utilise it’s story-powering potential for another six months, but when I do there will be an update here. If you join in and end up writing a story based on Oblique Strategies, please do comment and let me know what strategy you’re following 🙂


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