Brainstorming: How Ideas Become Writing Prompts

If you are looking for part one click here.

Brainstorming is getting every idea (good or bad, brilliant or dim, old or inspired) down on paper or your computer screen. It can take hours; or if you’re lucky, it can take minutes. But once that is done, then what?

Once I have my list of every possible writing idea jotted down, I highlight anything that appeals to me. These ideas are what I test for substance. If they pass the test they become my writing prompts.

For Plots

Can the idea be expanded into a possible plot or subplot.Β  Is the idea wild or off beat enough to make the story fresh or unique? Can I see it adding flavor to a oldtree-151444 idea? Can I imagine writing 65k about that one thing?

Here I usually answer in bullet points and see where they lead. (Sometimes its the questions that creates new writing ideas or writing prompts.)

There is a great section in Now Novel called Story Tester. It asks some excellent questions. Gets the mind working on whether the prompt has enough power to carry a short, novella or novel.Β  Some ideas are meant to be tacked on as a subplot.

For Characters

Some brainstorming ideas hover around people, places or things. Places and things are usually the focus of a character’s reaction to them. These reactions can carry a plot. Think unexpected murdered body, or abandoned baby, or fancy new car with keys in the ignition. It is the characters strong reaction and writer’s focus on what they do next that can drive a story into creation.


The writing prompt expands the brainstorming epiphanies into something useable. Odds floral-304056_1280are I’ll put a few together and let my imagination go wild. Its a good time to explore my outside comfort zone. Stretch those wings. Break free and make something unique. It doesn’t really matter where it goes.

You and I know that revision is when we worry about that. πŸ™‚

When you find story ideas do you put several ideas together? Maybe you sling two genres together and pants it. Or are you more like me and bullet point forward?

Gleaned from:

42 responses to “Brainstorming: How Ideas Become Writing Prompts

  1. Nice post Anna. I haven’t thought about the art in brainstorming in a very long time πŸ™‚

  2. I remember doing a brainstorming session at a writer conference I attended. I didn’t want to, but was pleased with the results and then never did it again. Odd.

  3. sherry fundin

    More tips for my writing file. Thanks, Anna. Have a super day. πŸ™‚

  4. Brainstorming is always so much fun. πŸ˜€

  5. The only time I tend to consciously brainstorm is when I’m stuck…or when a writer friend is stuck, and it always helps. I suspect my subconscious never stops brainstorming, though.

  6. I definitely pants it. I need the freedom of less organization. I’ve been known to brainstorm once in a while, though.

  7. I should really try this. Lately, my ideas seem to fizzle out a lot. I really think this post is helpful.

  8. Terrific post, Anna. I’m definitely a modified pantser when it comes to long fiction, but more methodical with short stories. I’ve used brainstorming primarily for shorts. It’s especially fun to brainstorm flash fiction. Such a great way to test an idea (or twenty). πŸ™‚

  9. Nice resources. I’m never shy of ideas, but I know how the creative well can dry up.

  10. Fantastic post Anna. Even though I don’t write novels. I do use this method when writing a discussion piece or blogger tips and tricks. I get it all done and then weed and hone it.

  11. I think I do way too many linking of disparate ideas together, and then sort of mashing them like putty into a new shape. What I aspire to do as I grow with my writing is to conjure a complete story idea and landscape and characters in one go. Great post, Anna. I love brainstorming.

  12. jenniferbielman

    I love brainstorming, it really helps.

  13. I’m a pantser all the way! Yet I do let characters and story ideas mix around in my head before I start writing. Have a great weekend!

  14. Most of my ideas for plots come to me out of the blue, never when I’m actually trying to think of them. I write them down in a list so I don’t forget them, then hide them back in the drawer for later. The best part is when I realize how two or more of these ideas can fit together in one story.

  15. spunkonastick

    Hi Emaginette! You’d asked for info on the new publishing imprint. I can’t find your email address though. Send it to me at wolferock AT

  16. spunkonastick

    net – the T got cut off there.

  17. Hello girl,
    it’s been long since I’ve been here
    I can see that you’re giving some great tips for writers
    if I ever decide to write a book you’ll be first I’ll talk for advices.
    Ruty @Reading…Dreaming

  18. I love brainstorming, especially at the start of a story when everything is fresh and new. Most of my best ideas come randomly though when I’m doing the dishes or going for a walk — it’s almost as if because the rational part of my brain is occupied doing some mindless task, the creative part decides to wake up and throw ideas around.

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

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

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