Brainstorming: Where to Begin

I don’t know about you but waiting for acceptance or rejection can stress me out. To fill in my time I decided to start another project. My first step is brainstorming.

Everyone has a different angle when it comes to this. I’ve made a little list of squirrel-304021_1280_nobgwhere to begin:

  • Play the ‘What if…’ game
    • With me this starts off with daydreaming. I’m looking out a window or up at the sky letting my imagination loose. I come up with too many wacky ideas and write them all down. I’ll sift through them later hoping it sparks something that gets my writing juices going.
  • Write about a place, object or person
    • Here is a little different. I focus on one place, person, or thing and describe the heck out of it. Slowly expanding its history, why’s its where it is and what affect it has on the things around it. I have landed up writing about magic, dragons, and places faraway.
  • Write with only tone and atmosphere in mind
    • When I start here, I’m feeling some emotion that has unsettled me and I need to get it out of my system. It will be black, angry, gloomy and sometimes dangerous. I let my fingers speed along as I do my best to capture the darkness. This almost always leads to a murder and the surrounding mystery.
  • Draw out a mind map
    • I use this more of the second stage of brainstorming, but I know that’s just me and many people go straight to the drawing paper and jot down ideas and how they make link together. It can be very colorful and expressive. Here’s a link to download FreeMind (mind mapping software)
  • Spend time with a plot generator
    • Can’t think of one idea or where to begin. There are generators for everything today. Need a name of person, place or thing? It’s on the web somewhere.
  • Read the newspaper, a magazine, or book and wait for inspiration
    • Some stories start as close to the real world as possible. Some are going to take us on a ride we didn’t know possible. Sometime letting go and reading about what is happening in our town, province, state or country is all it takes to start spinning the next tale.

storm in a cup cropEvery time I’m looking for a new idea I begin with a list like this. I never use the same technique two times in a row. I’m thinking that we need to click with the story idea on many levels.

I don’t just write one type of story. What about you? Where do you begin? When do you know you’ve hit gold?

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38 responses to “Brainstorming: Where to Begin

  1. I know I’ve hit gold when the story will not leave me alone. πŸ™‚ I’ve written several types of genre – mystery, horror, science fiction, fantasy, alternate history — but my fiction is always speculative in some way. Great ways to brainstorm here.

    • Thanks. I’m glad you like them. I’m sitting on pins and needles since I submitted and needed something to do. Brainstorming was the answer for me–this time anyway. πŸ™‚

  2. Starting on a new project always helps me, too. I’ve taken to self-publication, tired of waiting for editors and agents. My current blog is on blogger:

    My latest post there you might find interesting — the ghosts of Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Marlene Dietrich discuss with me a post by a friend, Milo James Fowler, who asked: “Does the world need another writer?” πŸ™‚

  3. I always start on something else. As soon as I finish a project, in fact. And I don’t have to hunt for an idea because I have a list of them! haha

  4. I like the idea of a plot generator. I’m going to hunt for one. For me, I use a spreadsheet to organize everything up front, but it never survives the cognitive awaking of my characters. Once they realize their power, my plot changes.

  5. sherry fundin

    Some great ideas and the ones that really hit me are 2 and 3. I write almost like I speak. I wrap things up in a small package. I am going to try them and see if I can develop my thoughts in depth. Thanks, Anna.

  6. I don’t actively (or consciously) brainstorm, unless I’ve hit a snag in a novel, which doesn’t happen often. But I will get an initial, “What if?” idea. If it’s a winner, within a week, the protagonist will show up and start talking to me.

    I just have to get down his or her story as quickly as I can so I don’t fall behind.

  7. I like your starter ideas. Very creative. So far all my stories started with a scene that invaded my thoughts when I least expected it and kept coming back. I eventually ask who is this person and what are they doing? That turns into what if? Since this usually happen while I’m working on a project, I have plenty of time to think about the new idea before I start writing it.

  8. For me, I’d say that setting and characters start to take shape almost simultaneously. The characters start talking to me. Others enter. I picture scenes and how they’ll unfold.
    Great tips, Anna!

  9. Great brainstorming tips, Anna. Starting on a new project is the best advice of all. In many cases writers never hear back on submittals (or maybe that’s just me?). In those cases, waiting for a response might mean waiting forever.

    VR Barkowski

  10. I jump around ideas all the time – sometimes the character seems to talk to me over extended periods; other times, I imagine a world with all kinds of creatures but there isn’t a central character… Good advice there; will definitely see what I can do from your list πŸ™‚

  11. Those are some great brainstorming ideas! I usually start with a character and a situation and see where it goes. When it’s right, it just flows.

  12. I love a good brainstorming session! πŸ™‚

  13. jenniferbielman

    I do all my brainstorming right before I go to sleep. I don’t know why but I play out hole stories in my head while in bed.

  14. I’ve already got enough ideas for stories. My problem is the time it takes me to get them down onto paper. By the time I’ve finished writing a book, I’ll have more than enough ideas for the next one.

    • Well, that’s good. Throw some over here. I need a bigger distraction than I thought. A Rejection came this morning. Giving myself twenty-four hours to get over it and I’m diving in again. πŸ™‚

  15. Thank you for the brainstorming ideas! Think I’m going to try the What If game and write down every idea that comes to me, no matter how silly. Who knows, I might strike gold! πŸ™‚

  16. I didn’t know there was such a thing as a plot generator! I often look at pictures for inspiration.

  17. Pingback: Brainstorming: How Ideas Become Writing Prompts | Elements of Writing

  18. Pingback: Brainstorming Plot Points: The More Twisted the Better | Elements of Writing

  19. Pingback: Brainstorming: Having Faith in your Choice | Elements of Writing

  20. Good info. I use the bubble story to get out the ideas in my brain. Drawing circles and connecting them to a large center circle with my character’s name. Then I fill in the circles with my ideas about the character.

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