A Story About a Story …or The Exquisite Corpse

I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to write a children’s book, but I wasn’t sure where to start. I wanted an idea that inspired me yet appealed to children from six to ten years of age—maybe because my twin grandsons are seven years old. To appeal to children, my children’s book would need an authentic child’s voice. And as often happens with creative impulses that bounce around in my subconscious, something serendipitous happened.

That serendipity came in the form of a video call with my grandchildren Noah and Hugo, who live too far away in California. We usually talk on Sundays. Besides catching up on the week’s activities, I will either read a book to them or they will read a book to me. When we got to storytime I didn’t have a book handy. So, I improvised and said let’s play the story game.

Nougo and the Basketball

Drawing by Noah Levin

The Story Begins

“What’s that?” Noah asked.

“I’ll start the story off with a couple of sentences and say ‘and then…’ and you continue the story and say ‘and then…’ and we’ll take turns.” Well, this was the greatest thing I’ve ever done with the kids. They got it immediately and were totally engaged and excited.

I started with, “There was a boy who loved basketball. Everywhere he went he dribbled his basketball and then…”

Hugo answered, “He dribbled the basketball to school and then…”

I answered, “The ball hit his foot by accident and rolled into the street, and then…”

Crazier and Crazier

The story moved on from there and got crazier and crazier as the ball rolls through the streets of San Francisco. After the phone call, I loved the story we had created together so much, that I wrote it all down (and embellished a little). So now, I have my children’s story.

I plan to do a layout with one short paragraph per page, leaving a big blank space, and ask the boys and maybe a talented illustrator to illustrate it. When we’re all done, I think we’ll have created an amazing children’s book that my publishing company, the Munn Avenue Press, will publish. (Update. The book is done! And available).

The working title was Nougo and the Basketball. And I’m happy to say it is now available on Amazon with glorious illustrations. It’s a kids’ thriller with an authentic kid’s voice, a tour of scenic San Francisco, even some fun learning about sailing in San Francisco Bay. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Try the story game with your kids and grandkids. You will all have a blast,  spark your creative juices, and who knows, maybe publish a book when you’re done.


I later learned from my son, with the MFA in creative writing, that the real name of the story game is The Exquisite Corpse. I was introduced to it some years ago by the bestselling writer Jon Land at a writers’ conference in New York. He led the game with a room full of forty people all taking part. I thought he was so creative to come up with this clever idea. As it turns out, The Exquisite Corpse was invented by the surrealists in 1920s Paris and was a favorite among writers and artists of the time. To learn more about it and why the real name of the game is The Exquisite Corpse, click here.

To real this rollercoaster children’s adventure story, Nougo and His Basketball, click here.

Read for FREE some of Charles Levin’s short stories:

Nora Delivers the Package
The Permission Slip
Missing the Ghost in the Palace Theater
Florence Remembering
Moon Landing Memories
Zombie Phone
Word Drunk

P.S. My original fast-paced thriller NOT SO DEAD and the Sam Sunborn Series are also available on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com

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