I think of January as a time of new beginnings and when I start a new project I like to brainstorm as many ideas as I can. Some of the things I try are: mind mapping, doodling, running what if scenarios, listing random ideas, reading the newspaper, researching a place or thing, and playing with plotting generators.
My goal is to bring together enough random ideas that go together, or don’t, and break them down to see how they may fit.
If I’m are unhappy with the results I’ll change location to a: coffee shop, play ground, riverbank, bench on a busy street, pub or library. It doesn’t really matter.
The trick is to breakthrough the usual barriers and find a new place where fresh ideas ignite the creator in me. I’ll list several inciting incidents, possible twists, and unexpected/unavoidable outcomes.
Once the links are made, I aim at an audience. Knowing who you are writing for makes it easier for the publisher/agent to sell your project.
Brainstorming doesn’t stop when my writing begins. It continues throughout the whole process. If I’m hit by a new idea as I work, I take a look. No doubt something inspired me.
I’m not saying go off track, but be aware. Our brains are wonderful things and whether we are aware or not they will take us where we need to go.
What do you do to bring ideas to your writing?
For the previous sections 1, 2, & 3 please click the numbers.
It’s funny how letting your mind roam can create so wacky or scary writing ideas. Sometimes the first instinct is to back away and drop it. The story is traveling into the realm of another genre, or way beyond your comfort zone or where it may make you blush and you’d never want anyone to know you wrote it never mind thought it.
Well, here’s some news you might already know. No one will know what you’ve written unless you show them. So I say go for it and let it loose. It might be the best writing you ever do and no one wants to miss that.
Think of these great words:
“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. And live like it’s heaven on Earth.”
– Mark Twain
I’d also like to add:
“Write as if no one will read it.”
Holding back or stopping because it isn’t what you normally write is the biggest mistake a creative person can make. Sure we may be afraid of where it might go. Writing is about self discovering. It’s about digging out pieces of gold and dazzling yourself later when you read your words and are marveled that they are not just insightful, beautiful, wondrous, but they are your words.
So as you brainstorm, remember you are searching for a great story. And it’s inside you. Don’t let yourself down. Don’t give yourself a reason to stop before typing. Because it’s in you. The amazing thing is the next one is too.
Any inspiring words you’d like to share? I think today we’d all love to read them. 🙂
So far we have explored brainstorming plot ideas and writing prompts. So where do we go from here?
Think tropes. How many times can a story be told? Sure, we can do it again. Our words are not their words, but is that enough?
Of course not. Not only do we need to explore our imaginations to write every scene, we need to incorporate conflict, push the story forward, and increase the tension. We also need to surprise, entertain and maintain a hold on our readers.
My favorite twists are:
- Let the reader think one thing when something entirely different is going on (makes the reader read the story again)
- Make a list of all twisty possibilities and pick something random and unexpected (but logical and within the realm of the character’s character)
- To come at the plot and subplots sideways. (try to anticipate what the reader will need an supply it) Hopefully, making it as original as possible.
From here I’m assuming the story is strong enough that the reader will continue to read and discover the twist(s). Never think that the twist is enough to temp anyone to read on. If every sentence is an effort, the book is going to be put down and the brilliant twists will be lost. Twists don’t carry a story; they enhance it.
For every author the method will be different. For me, because I plot, I make lists of all possibilities. Then try each one for size. Some twists will be small almost unnoticeable, and because I like them they stay. Although small twists can be fun, they also hint at more to come. The big twist is something I work out before I write a word.
It has to be incorporated from the start. Think The Perfect Getaway, or Perfect Strangers. If you want to use a twist, both what is happening and what the reader assumes must be solid. Beta readers are the only way to test your twists.
Do you like to incorporate twists? What angle do you take? What rules do you follow?
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.
Can the idea be expanded into a possible plot or subplot. Is the idea wild or off beat enough to make the story fresh or unique? Can I see it adding flavor to a old 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. Some ideas are meant to be tacked on as a subplot.
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 are 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. 🙂
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?
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 where 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.
Every 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?