Can A Scrabble Game Launch A Rock Song?

by Kevin Burton

   You’ve heard of writer’s block, when a writer either can’t think of new ideas or has trouble developing them?

   One of the things writers do for each other is provide writing prompts.  These are words or phrases you’re supposed to use and elaborate on to create a story. 

   So last week I was on a call with the writer’s group from Hadley Institute for the Blind.  One of the prompts at the end of the call was to use words from your scrabble games. 

   Interesting. I immediately challenged Jeannette to another game.  She is learning scrabble, but these games are not as competitive as the big Yahtzee games.

   I didn’t tell Jeannette this game had sprung from a writing prompt. I was a little worried it might change what words she used and the one that I used for that matter.

   It didn’t come into play. When I play, I play to win. Very little gets in the way of that.

    I recall one uncomfortable time I was playing against my mother and I saw where playing the word “vagina” would get me about 45 points.  I said a quick prayer: “Dear God pleeeeease help me to see another word, because if not, I am sure enough going to play this word…”
   As I recall I played the word without incident. 

    That brings to mind the time we had a big turkey dinner feast on Thanksgiving and I played mom right afterward.  That tryptophan from the turkey and perhaps also the thought of watching an entire game of scrabble inspired Jeannette to take a nap. 

   I was way ahead when Jeannette went off to dream land.  By the time she woke up I was behind in a game I would eventually lose. 

   Why? Because my mother played “coolies.”  That is a derogatory term for migrant Indian or Chinese laborers.  I had never heard of it. It’s not the kind of word she would ordinarily use, but hey there were 50 extra points on the line here for playing all her tile.  So you can see she plays to win too.

    I think these writing prompts work best for fiction writing, which is not a focus of mine.  After the board we came up with in this game, I am thinking of turning it into a song rather than a blog.

   There are some words that could work together.  “Wed” and “ring” could go into a love song. “Raid,” “hurt,” “gun” and “bad” could go into a song about current politics.

   Of course there is no way I am slogging into that quagmire. 

   “Surge and “power’ go together, as do “boosted’ and “raise.” 

   One other thing: after the game was over we discovered we had a missing tile, of all things, the J.  This would never happen at a big scrabble tournament because they always count the tile.  If they somehow did play with 99 tiles it would invalidate the game result.

   For my writing purposes here what that missing J does is give me options.  I plan to inject the J wherever I see fit to help with my song. So “cam” can become “jam” if I want it to.  “Fog can become “jog.”

   “Token” can become “joken” or “joking.” 

   Hey, this is my game, my song, my rules.  Get off me!

   Wait a minute, that’s it! Maybe this should be a song about an artist defending the creative integrity of a song against some baddy, a label rep, maybe a co-writer.

   OK, I think I’ve talked myself into this.  Music is where I really need a prompt these days. 

   So stay tuned kids! Some really cool songs have come from material thinner than this. 

   Jeannette will absolutely get a writer’s credit if this song ever turns into anything. But maybe I should spell her name without the J?

  I’m paraphrasing here, but her response to that idea can be pulled right off our scrabble board.


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  1. LOL! Could be interesting. I love to play that game, but I never, or very rarely, find the great opportunities and I’m not creative enough with my letter to pull off really good words. Thing is, I don’t read Braille that much any more either and so I don’t know the spelling for some words. An example is that I knew the word your mom used, but I do not know how to spell it. I’ll have to look more closely at what you wrote.



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