Working through a bit of writer’s block recently, I began searching random words and collecting them for inspiration for a project. Once I finished the research, I sat down to a large and seemingly random collection of words, I was reminded of an activity we used to do in a college poetry class called Exquisite Corpse.
Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist parlor game where people assemble a group of words or pictures given some loose parameters depending on the desired outcome. Sometimes it is a poem, a story, a picture, or any number of things. The etymology is a bit awkward, but it makes a bit of sense once you start seeing the end results because they turn out strangely beautiful. After creating my own Exquisite Corpse, I thought it would be fun to put together a few ideas on how this can be done in the training room. Let’s look at a few ideas below.
One-Word Exquisite Corpse
One-word Exquisite Corpse activities would best be played given a set of parameters such as sentence structure- Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun- where each member of a group is assigned one word of the sentence. This activity is great for an icebreaker or a brainstorming session and instructions can look something like this:
Divide participants into groups and distribute flipchart paper and sticky notes. Each participant is assigned one word of the greater sentence to write on a sticky note. Once complete, assemble the Exquisite Corpse sentence on the flipchart and allow other groups to review.
One-Sentence Exquisite Corpse
One-sentence Exquisite Corpse is more elaborate and is best played when they can build off of the last word of the previous sentence. This activity is great for brainstorming or teambuilding where storytelling is a part of their work. Instructions may look like this:
Divide participants into groups and distribute two pieces of flipchart paper to each group. Each participant is given an opportunity to write a sentence on the flipchart which shall remain covered by the second flipchart paper. Reveling only the last word of the sentence, the next group member will then write their sentence. Continue this for as many rounds as desired to complete the story/poem/etc.
Drawing an Exquisite Corpse
When doing an activity where groups are drawing an Exquisite Corpse, it will be important to have parameters defined before participants put pen to paper. It should be clearly stated what each group member is responsible for drawing and that they should bring their own flair. There is a great PBS video on YouTube about this practice if you need inspiration for this activity. Suggested instructions are as follows:
Divide participants into groups and distribute flipchart paper and sticky notes. Each participant is tasked with drawing their portion of their group’s exquisite corpse on their sticky note without looking at each other’s drawings. Once complete, assemble the Exquisite Corpse on the flipchart.
Have you ever played Exquisite Corpse? Do you see any other applications in the training room? Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below!