Over the next few days, I’ll be going over nine aspects of writing. Today I’ll be talking a bit about brainstorming. Let’s begin!
Topic A: The Plot
Categories: Brainstorming, World building, Story Set-up
Topic B: The Characters
Categories: Initial Creation, Background, Complexity
Topic C: The Writing
Categories: The Vital First Chapter, Your Inner Editor, Writers Block
Writing is a hobby shared among millions of people, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. This short guide will cover just a few aspects of writing, but it will help new writers or writers who just need to look back at their work with fresh eyes.
Topic A: The Plot
It’s early morning. You’re rushing to get ready to start your day, getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing your teeth- and then it strikes you. Out of the blue, after all of that time you spent trying to think of something to write. Somehow, now of all times, you’ve got this brilliant idea for your next (or first) novel.
Write it down.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a notebook around, or even a scrap of paper. Use something, because if you don’t that thought’s going to be gone. Maybe it won’t disappear altogether, but that initial spark that built up in your mind to become that amazing idea will be gone. Write it on a napkin. Write it in your phone. If you really don’t have anything you can use, push away any pride and say it out loud. I don’t care if you’re on a bus full of people or if it’s just you and Mittens the cat, say it out loud, and you’ll remember. Putting the idea out into the air will make a stronger connection in your brain than a passing thought will, so do it. If you think this idea will make you a bestselling author within a week of publication (as most of us hope to do) then you need to do whatever it takes.
Good. Now you have your idea, and hopefully some time to work with it. You’re sitting down at your computer (or a notebook, if that’s what you prefer) with a warm mug of coffee or tea and your veins are pulsing with inspiration.
Now it’s time to brainstorm. Some writers are better at coming up with ideas when they’re sitting at a table with a notepad, others when they’re going about their daily lives. It’s okay if you can’t seem to get any ideas down. Sometimes the inspiration doesn’t hit until you aren’t looking for it, almost like when you stop searching for the TV remote and find it in a couch cushion a few days later. Every once in a while, you just have to wait for the ideas to find you.
If you’re set on coming up with some ideas for your plot now, there are many techniques that are commonly used among writers. Here are a few that you can try and see what works best for you.
. Start with a character. If you have a character in mind and the story revolves around them, then you can just imagine it from their point of view. For example, think about C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Maybe Clive was sitting at a desk, trying to come up with a plot as you are right now. He had a character in mind, a young, imaginative girl named Lucy. He began to ponder things that could happen to Lucy.
What if Lucy was playing a game of hide and seek with her brothers and sister? Where would Lucy hide? She’s clever… so what about…. What about in a wardrobe?
Yes, a wardrobe. Lucy hides inside of a wardrobe, but there must be something special about it… what if the wardrobe is a portal to another universe? When you walk through it, you enter the magical world of… Narnia.
Bam. The creation of the Narnia series.
. Free association. Write down every word that comes to your head. Completely uncensored, put down everything that you think of during this exercise. I’ve had a few writer friends tell me that this method was the base for some of their greatest ideas! Don’t believe me? Alright, then…
Scarf, Monopoly, shoes, game, ponder, think, logic, focus, the, cat, was, walking, down, street, oak, pine, river, fountain, fish, Sweden, map, globe, explore, alligator, crocodile, Amazon, jungle, banana, monkey, baboon, kite, Santa Claus, tadpole, Cod, beach, coral, reef…
Alright, let me read over this. Maybe, looking back at what I wrote, I decide that I want to write a kids book about a feline explorer traveling through the Amazon. Maybe it’s a series about his adventures.
Okay, that sounds a little bit like Skippyjon Jones. But still, it works.
. Take a walk. Outside, inside, it doesn’t matter. Look at the objects you see around you, and brainstorm. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. What’s that you see? A tree? Well is it an ordinary tree, or is it a magic one? What’s happened to that tree? What lives have been touched by that tree’s presence? Maybe it was the special place of a child who was an avid reader. She would climb up into the branches and let them cradle her as she journeyed to other worlds just by holding books.
Look at little things you’ve never bothered to think about before. Give life to inanimate objects. Imagine things happening that wouldn’t normally happen.
Those are only a few brainstorming techniques, but I hope they’re helpful. Tomorrow I’ll cover world building.