5 Ways to Use Gargantuan Orangutan for Creative Inspirationby Rachel Kobin
When Jay Kellett, developer of Gargantuan Orangutan (GO), challenged me to write an article demonstrating how writers could use it as their muse, my first reaction to the home page involving all of the rows of letters was “Whaaaa?” Once I dug into exploring its capabilities in greater depth, I started having the opposite problem: Gargantuan Orangutan sent me down so many fascinating wormholes that I had a hard time narrowing down my options.
Jay told me that among other factors, his interest in rhyming dictionaries and songwriting led him to create GO. In particular, he had taken an online songwriting course with Pat Pattison, a songwriting and poetry professor from Berklee School of Music in Boston. I began listening to a lecture of his on Youtube in which he paraphrases Aristotle as having said, “Creativity is the ability to choose the option that will work the best.” From my work as a creative writing workshop leader and an editor/coach, I know writers of all kinds often worry they haven’t generated enough ideas to begin with. Gargantuan Organtuan can’t tell you which option is the best one, but this tool will expand your options. For journalists, poets, fiction and creative nonfiction writers, screenplay and teleplay writers, advertising copywriters and brand managers, GO can restore the sense of playfulness that brought all of us to writing in the first place.
1. One Word and a Little Curiosity — Single Word Association
The simplest way to use GO is to type a word into the search box on the upper right. To follow along with this example, type in the word “baker.” GO will display the word “baker” with other associated words that have similar sounds in a similar order. The words are not listed by length, as they are in most rhyming dictionaries. Instead, they are listed by minimum edit distance calculation. The words closest by sound are listed first, followed by more distant words. Additions, removal, or movement of a sound from the original word is considered a distancing step. Thus, “Baker” and “Acre” are separated by one step while “Cake” and “Baker” are separated by three steps. “Daybreak” and “Break-in” are four steps apart.
“Acre” made me want to know how many cakes a baker could bake from the wheat grown in one acre. After asking Google how many pounds of white flour an acre yields, I calculated that the answer would be 1,554 pound cakes. Imagining a baker getting out of bed before “Daybreak,” evokes repulsion in me; I can’t remember ever having seen the sunrise. However, “Break-in,” reminded me of one of my favorite Italo Calvino short stories, “Theft in a Bakery” from his collection titled Difficult Loves. If this article about the book doesn’t convince you to buy and read the entire work, nothing will, but the PDF of the story is available for immediate consumption.
2. Phrases Philandering with Friends — Alliteration
If you want to use alliteration—words or phrases with the same first letters, or similar-sounding syllables—the index on the first page of GO is a good place to start. Click on the first two letters of the word on which you want to base your alliteration, and you’ll receive a list of every word beginning with those letters.
To follow this example, let’s stick with our “baker” from earlier. If I choose “BA,” I’m offered a vast list of words. I came up with the silly sentence below by incorporating the list of words that appealed to me and adding a few from my own brain’s database. If this is what can be done with minimal time and effort, imagine how you might use this tool to help you write songs, poems, and stories:
Backlogged from boiling bagels, the baker ballyhooed, “Balls, that baby baboon disembarking from a balloon bandying a bacteria-bearing babushka will befoul the batch!”
3. Productive Digressions — Cross-links to Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, Google™, and Google™ Images
Listed next to each word in GO are links to common useful sites with additional information about each word. Continuing on with my baker, I typed in the search box “Baker” and clicked on the link to Dictionary.com. I noticed it lists the fourth definition of “baker” as “(usually initial capital letter) a code word used in communications to represent the letter B.” Although I liked the idea of writing something about a baker, seeing this definition could inspire a spy story involving a code with “B for baker” as its first letter. Or maybe my baker is a spy…
When I looked up the “BA” of “Baker” to write the alliteration example, I noticed the word “bakker” listed as “0 Steps Apart.” I didn’t recognize “Bakker” as an English word. I used the link to Wikipedia and found out that “bakker” is a common Dutch surname. While this isn’t a typical dictionary word, it did take me down a delightful path. I went back to GO and clicked on “Bakker” The first word listed was “backer.” Maybe my original baker needs money to start his own bakery. The baker could appeal to a family of Dutch investors named Bakker to step in as the backers he desperately needs to keep him baking batches of baguette.
Jay promises a future version of GO will make dictionary words visibly distinct from proper nouns and other words.
4. Words that Click and Make Music — Rhyming
GO also has a strict-rhyming mode in which you select the strength of the word by selecting the sounds of the syllables from the word you want to rhyme. Then GO shows you the words that rhyme to that degree. For instance, if you searched for “Daybreak” it would show you associated words and the sounds that make up the word, “[ D EY B R EY K ].” If you wanted to know what rhymed with “break” you could select the “B” that begins “B R E Y K” and it will show you words such as “Outbreak,” “Bonebreak,” and “Heartbreak.” Here words are sorted by length instead of distance. Select the “R” to loosen the strict search a bit, which adds words “Rake,” “Muckrake,” and “Mandrake.” (Some words, like “Read,” have multiple pronunciations. These are listed separately at the top and organized into parts for each pronunciation.)
Inspired by this search and the baker character, I thought I’d try my hand at writing the first stanza of a ballad, which as a rhyme scheme of ababbcbc. I had a lot of fun expanding on my friend, the baker who needs backers. In this case, every final word of each line represents a word I found via the rhyming function of GO.
Open my eyes just before daybreak
still dreaming of having my hands in white flour.
Being a baker is my magical mandrake,
don’t mind waking up at such an ungodly hour.
Rob peter, pay Paul, make dough sweet and sour,
search lands high and low for some kind of backer.
I just want to make a cake that looks like a schnauzer,
add rosemary and thyme for a delightful cracker.
5. Down the Rabbit Hole – Combining Mind Mapping With GO
One way to jar your mind into taking an unexpected turn involves beginning with a phrase, or a few words from an existing poem or story. I chose Ezra Pound’s one-line image poem, “In a Station of the Metro”:
The apparition of these faces in the crowd; Petals on a wet, black bough.
I picked “crowd,” “petals,” and “apparition,” On a piece of paper, I made a mind map using all of the tools GO has to offer.
Could I continue my quest and write the second verse of my ballad of the baker? I didn’t end up using every word I found, nor could I top my Schnauzer moment, but the mind map brought me to an idea I liked:
Years later in Paris to learn pastry and fashion,
stepped out as children threw a cloud of white flour.
Saw my face in the mirror all wrinkled and ashen,
on All Saint’s Halloween, guess kids have all the power,
been banished to old age in under an hour.
So much for crafting sweet sugary petals,
my hotel room’s nearly too small for a shower,
hopes dashed of going home with honor and medals.
What I’ve created in this short time using GO isn’t yet a masterpiece, but I have had more fun with my writing than I’ve had in a long time. I hope you’ll find it just as amusing.
Rachel Kobin has over twenty years of experience writing in a variety of professional settings and continues to do so on a freelance basis. In 2011 she founded The Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. She leads in-person workshops designed to provide the structure and support writers need to discover and develop their unique voices and hone their craft. Rachel also works with writers privately as a coach and editor to help them make their final drafts as brilliant as their original ideas.
Jay Kellett’s career expresses his lifelong has lifelong passions for learning, technology, and creative experimentation. After earning degrees in Instructional Technology, Business Management, and Psychology, he founded BlueBox Software and Consulting, LLC in 1998. BlueBox helps local and national clients find opportunities to create value with technology and instructional design principles. In 2002 he co-founded TestTrack Learning Management System, which provides clients with turn-key solutions for designing, developing and deploying corporate training. Jay has taught Learning Management Systems Administration at his alma mater, Bloomsburg University and is a regular presenter at the Corporate Advisory Council. He has co-authored two books on web development technologies. Gargantuan Orangutan is one of several projects he has completed in his spare time as he expands his capabilities and inspires others to enjoy learning and creating as much as he does.