Writing from The Bingo Book

~ Two years ago on New Year’s Eve, I was sitting back, relaxing, and watching The Twilight Zone marathon. Thinking about the year ahead, about my life, my career {which has nothing to do with writing}, and my as of yet uninitiated idea of sincerely starting a writing habit. I was six months into a new job, living in a new city, and situating myself into life after college. Up to then, I had been journaling here and there, writing some poetry on the tailwinds of random inspiration, and had tried my hand a few times doing some short fiction. But this kind of writing was intermittent, and merely when I felt motivated to try to put some words down on a page with purpose (which was rare). It’s somewhat true that time was a limiting factor, with work and friends, extracurriculars, and many other forms of entertainment {easier, less fulfilling forms of it} readily at my disposal.

But time wasn’t the real issue. It was ideas. Over the latter part of the ending year, I felt this vague pull to write. But I didn’t have any concrete idea about what to write about. Thus, no motivation, and no consistent form of writing, had yet formed. And it wasn’t going to, I realized, unless I got to work. How? By committing to brainstorming ideas concerning what I should maybe write about. As I sat and watched these timeless scenes of classic, absurd science fiction and fantasy, I decided to put my mental energy toward a radical notion. In the remaining hours of the old year, I would set myself to coming up with my own Twilight Zone plots.

One after another, thinking of them as fictional prompts, I would try my hand at entering the headspace of one Rod Serling to dream up strange stories within that middle ground between light and shadow. I determined that each idea would be confined to a single sentence, a hook or premise, with no thought to the progression of the actual story to follow. I would devote this formerly passive time to actively drumming up random ideas that could fit into the half-hour frame of a single TZ episode. And while attempting this, something strange happened — sitting there, focusing solely on this feat of generating ideas under this familiar canvas, of the absurd TZ tale — the ideas came easily, like a flow. And they proliferated, building atop one another. No matter to whether or not they were good or bad, worthy of eventually being penned or not, they came to me. Soon enough, the list grew:

  • Man encounters the devil on his hike up a mountain.
  • Man sees an Elder God in the clouds off the coast during a storm.
  • Man walks a dog through a lost world.
  • A deep sea diver discovers a new species.
  • A composer becomes his final composition.
  • One who does his best thinking at night makes a wish.
  • A silent observer navigates a masquerade party with an eclectic guest list.
  • A man wakes up to realize he is the God of a strange new world.
  • A woman finds a vault from a bygone age.
  • Two opposing commanders negotiate a peace on a hill in between the armies.
  • 4 people are trapped in a bunker after a catastrophic event, and a 5th person begs to be let in to escape a monster.
  • One man starts a bloody revolution in a shopping mall by invoking the God of Mob Mentality.
  • A scientist creates a machine capable of transferring the consciousness of a man into the past.
  • Crew of a ship goes mad.
  • Legendary boxer fears a mysterious opponent.
  • A man is ‘resurrected’ who has no memory of ever being alive.

This is a portion of the list from that night, and the next day {All I have now written into being as short stories in some form or fashion, save for the last three}.

Some premises were more or less defined, and I knew from the jump what the story might be. Others were vaguely intriguing, the bulk of the story having to be hashed out in the process of writing, whenever that may come. The details were less important than the crux of the idea spurring one to think about its possibility, and the process. By the end, the essence of the exercise had been captured — the ideas were flowing and they were exciting me. These were precisely the kinds of stories that I thought would be fun to write.

Needless to say, this kind of brainstorming for fictional prompts did not end there, it has continued ever since. My list of story ideas has expanded into something truly absurd, and increases every day…

I started by writing these story hooks into a simple bulleted list on my phone, for future reference. But then I had the idea of putting them as ‘cards’ within a Trello board {a multi-functional project management app I had recently downloaded, recommended from my brother for effectively organizing your ideas and/or life}. Each card allowed you to comment on it, add tags, images, links and could be moved around between boards. Using the functionality of Trello would allow me to specifically design and expound upon each idea individually, within its card, when the time came to write it or as more ideas came to me. So I went all in on it. I created a board titled “Writing Ideas” and threw all of my mad TZ brainstorming efforts into it.

I didn’t know it then, but I had just laid the groundwork for the creation of my very own Bingo Book, as well as — most importantly — the formulation of a genuine writing habit.


Bingo Book? Ha! What am I talking about? Other than it’s fun to say, what the hell is the relevance of these two words together?

The “Bingo Book” is a concept {like many other primo concepts} that draws its existence from anime and manga. Specifically, from Naruto. In the ninja world, Bingo Books are used to codify the hierarchy of criminal, highly dangerous — “black-listed” — ninja among them. The Anbu Black Ops uses the Book to identify and evaluate their prospective targets for capture or assassination. Simply put, it allows ninja bounty hunters to organize, contextualize and prepare themselves for their marks.

A somewhat similar concept is used in the TV show Arrow. In it, the titular character, Oliver Queen, comes back from five years on a hellish island, decked out with top tier archery and parkour capabilities, and a mission: save his city. Naturally, Star City is in need of saving because it has been taken over by a syndicate of shadow persons — black market dealers, corrupt politicians, super villains.

The MacGuffin the show uses to convey these persons, and the procedural superheroics of the first 25 episodes, is a notebook Oliver’s father left him, as a tragic, parting gift, before killing himself so that Ollie could survive after their shipwreck. Within this notebook are nothing but names. By his father’s admission, they represent the people responsible for corrupting the city. As Oliver sets out on his mission, and takes down each of these persons along the way, he satisfyingly crosses their names out of his little “Bingo Book.”

In each of these instances, the purpose of the Bingo Book is to focus the user to its informational contents, and to the resulting mission of crossing off the names within its pages. The Bingo Book, for the ninjutsu-wielding bounty hunter and for The Green Arrow alike, becomes a supremely clarifying and motivating force within the course of their work.

By the very same notion, my Trello board of writing ideas of all kinds became a recursive form of motivation for me to execute my newfound writing habit — my own work. From this whimsical Twilight Zone brainstorm extravaganza, I had created a canvas for me to return to, again and again, as I naturally began to produce new ideas for writing. I knew from the start I would be interested in many different formats for my writing, outside of just fiction. So they came in the form of short stories, essays, musings, poems, game concepts — all categorized and contextualized into a sensible format within the pillars of Trello’s code.

From then on, when the time came to write something new, working from within the pages of the Book, I set myself to focus on one idea, one name, at a time. From there, using the functionality of Trello to keep track — each card was workshopped into a story structure from commentary and imagery within the card, ‘drafted’ into existence, {i.e. written}, moved to “Editing,” and finally to “Done.” From there, I would post the writing onto this blog. In effect: A name crossed out of the Bingo Book.

The endgame? My writing habit, and my blog, had its masterstroke, its all-powerful dynamo for continuous content production — my personal Bingo Book of daemons to explore and kill.


I say ‘writing habit’ because that was my goal, and it has truly become one over these last two years, as a result of these events. Not unlike exercising, meditating and especially reading, I don’t know what my life looks like without it at this point. Ever since early high school, I’ve been reading at least one book at a time, continuously. I can’t foresee a time in my life where I am too busy, or too tired, to be reading some kind of fiction or non-fiction. It’s a habit, and one that has become ingrained within my life course. I didn’t necessarily set out for writing to become the same sort of super habit. But I believe it is now well on its way. For the future, I now can’t foresee me not in the ongoing process of writing something, or brainstorming new writings to come.

This is because I have forged a writing habit. And it has been created directly out of the pages of my Bingo Book, and that inaugural brainstorm of my TZ episodes.

In retrospect, this whole culmination of events for me is not unlike an ongoing Twilight Zone plot itself… 🌀 ~