Random Provocations into the Dark Side by Michael Arnzen

Tips for Working the Strategies

Below is some advice for getting the most out of this website. But if you’re simply confused , then you might want to research Oblique Strategies, since this project is a lovingly twisted homage to the infamous lateral thinking deck of cards. You can also learn more about Diabolique Strategies right here.

In a nutshell, this “creativity generator” is a website that randomly takes your current trajectory of thought and turns you down a darker alleyway of ideas.


  • ADD THIS SITE to your mobile phone or tablet’s homescreen as a webapp! It is designed to be as mobile-friendly as possible, so you can keep these strategies in reach, ready whenever you need it. Just load it in your mobile device’s browser and you should automatically be invited to “add to home screen” — that will create an icon that will always be just one tap away. If you’re viewing on the desktop, bookmark diaboliquestrategies.com in your browser, or drag the URL to your desktop to make a quick access icon.


  • Rule #1: THERE ARE NO RULES. You’re brainstorming, and no one is watching you, so do whatever works. Bend the meaning or apparent intent of the strategy, negate or deny it, mix and match them, add prefixes/suffixes, change the spelling, add the phrase “in bed” to the end of them…please do whatever you like, so long it helps you create something new.
  • Despite Rule #1, you will probably be most successful if you have a topic, outline or draft already in progress before consulting the strategies. They are not really starting points so much as they are redirection cues.
  • If you are a writer starting from scratch, here’s a random list of simple tricks to attempt:
    • Use the prompt as your TITLE and freewrite.
    • Try to come up with a RATIONALE that connects three of the random prompts in sequence.
    • Sketch out a CONVERSATION about the prompt.
    • Respond to the prompt very personally — generating a MEMOIR about the concept.

  • If you are experiencing an “I’m staring at a blank canvas!” crisis, it might be wise to consult a “story starter” app or book of prompts. There are many online (such as the free prompts from Writer’s Digest or the great app at writing.com).

  • If, like me, you are actually working on the “dark side” of things, investigate my ebook, Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side. In fact, you can start right now with a big meaty free sampler online. You also might enjoy The Fridge of the Damned horror poetry kit from Raw Dog Screaming Press. (See images below).
  • Still stuck with an empty screen or blank slate? Start by thinking about a text / story / film / song / artpiece you are already very familiar with by someone else. Then bring the diabolical strategy into play with that original concept to bend it into a new, fresh, original — and sick — idea.
  • Nothing is stopping you from clicking again and again on the refresh button until you discover a prompt that “works” for you. But the prompt does not DO the work. You must. So don’t be a monkey hoping for a nut. You have to stop at some point and accept the challenge it poses, even if it doesn’t immediately gratify. Try to intellectually grapple with the given concept by either closing your eyes and daydreaming or sketching your ideas out on paper and see what ideas turn up before you click for alternatives. You might be surprised by what emerges. Embrace the thrill of the unknown…become comfortable with uncertainty…and you’ll get better at this business of working in the shadows.
  • Challenge a friend. Hit that “tweet” button at the bottom of the front page or share however you like.