A few years ago, I was teaching a workshop-style creative writing class to middle school and high school girls and decided to focus on “horror” as the genre for October. I did a different warm-up exercise each week, and the one that turned out to be my favorite was writing short stories based on funny tombstone epitaphs. The girls had a blast and came up with some amazing material! I have kept this trick in my bag and use it myself from time to time. This exercise could be simply that – a writing exercise. Or you can take it further – it could turn into a poem, a work of flash fiction, a short story, or even a full-blown novel if you take it and run! Even better? This exercise is one that the whole family can do together. It can easily be adapted for younger children by having them draw a picture and only a few short lines, while middle grade and high school children can join in the short story fun.
I’ve included a few epitaphs (supposedly from real tombstones) to help the juices flowing. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Don’t see one that calls to you? No worries! Check out this list from BYU, this collection from Amanda Chatel at Bustle, or this list (also linked above) from My Time Matters for more inspiring (and funny!) words from the graveyard.
If you try the exercise, let me know – I’d love to hear what you think!