Random Provocations into the Dark Side by Michael Arnzen

About Diabolique Strategies

Welcome to Diabolique Strategies. A place to turn for “Random Provocations into the Dark Side.”

Diabolique Strategies is a creative thinking engine. It doesn’t give you ideas, scenarios or story-starters, so much as it bends your approach to any given topic in an offbeat direction. Some call this lateral thinking. I call it BENT thinking. Think of the prompts as redirection cues — turning your thoughts toward the underside of your imagination…the place where surprise lurks and originality dwells.

If you’re looking for instructions, help or inspiration, see the Tips for Working the Strategies Page.

You may have heard of Oblique Strategies by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt. This infamous deck of cards — one part thinking game, one part oracle — features lateral thinking triggers (like “Destroy the most important thing.” or “Give the game away.”) and simple word prompts (like “Courage!” or “Reverse.”) that rely on random draws from the deck to inspire musicians, artists, writers and other ‘creatives’ to experiment.

It’s infamous because it is awesome. David Bowie’s amazing albums, Lodger and Low, were created by drawing inspiration from it. The film, Slacker, features it prominently. It’s a cult tool in the creative toolkit for many artists, ranging from musicians in the studio to comic book artists at the drawing board. The deck features “Over 100 Worthwhile Dilemmas” and has been released in various collectible limited editions over the past few decades — in fact you can still acquire them directly from Brian Eno’s EnoShop, or hunt down limited editions on ebay. You can also visit one of several internet adaptations of the cards, like Josh Harrison’s Random Oblique Strategies online.

I’ve consulted the oracle of the Oblique Strategies before, but always wondered: What would they look like if Eno had been in a Death Metal band instead of Roxy Music? Or if Schmidt were a German Expressionist from the 20s? What sort of prompts could best work for horror screenwriters or novelists of the noir? How can writers on the dark side think outside the proverbial coffin?

THIS website — established in March 2014 and offered free online since — is veteran horror author Michael A. Arnzen‘s answer to those questions. It is a lovingly deranged homage to Oblique Strategies. What makes it unique is the way it features all-original and intentionally DIABOLICAL prompts. About 250 hundred of them, with more being seeded into the mix as the site develops. They’re derived from all things terrifying and Gothic — from the Seven Deadly Sins to the DSM-V — from the freaky tropes of horror cinema to the Freudian typology of the Uncanny. The strategies come from the author’s personal notes, teaching documents and published books related to the horror genre.

The site also functions as a complement to Arnzen’s e-book, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side, available wherever ebooks are sold, including his imprint, Mastication Publications. Click below to learn more.


Return to Diabolique Strategies | Meet Michael Arnzen | Join the Arnzen Social Network | Subscribe