Today we are going to venture into a crucial part of developing a story, characters, setting, plots and just about any other piece that you might write in your manuscript: brainstorming.
Contrary to popular belief, a writer does not just birth an idea and not have to think about a single thing from the point of conception. I do not know of a single person who merely sat down at a typewriter, computer, notebook, or scroll and wrote down a complete manuscript without an iota of thought.
Whether it is a large cycle or whether it is a small cycle, the art of brainstorming comes in fast and furious in a writer’s process. Anyone who has taken a writing class will be told that the simple act of prewriting or fleshing out an outline is a form of brainstorming. Whenever I personally think of brainstorming, I am taken back to second grade. We were given a topic such as “juice” and told to write down as many words as we could find to deal with juice. Then, we were given the same word again and required to write down every single word that came to our mind in succession, i.e. stream of consciousness.
I’m not going to lie, to this day, I still do this. And when this method doesn’t work, I go for a jog or hit the yoga mat. There is something about a little physical activity that really gets the brain firing and ideas pounding. This works so well for me that I am actually contemplating pulling a John Green and getting a treadmill desk. (Any thoughts on this from blog land?)
So why then, does something so crucial and seemingly effortless in our process make our stomachs toss and turn and our inner writer cringe? Is it because the thought of stopping to formulate a collection of potential ideas makes us feel like less of a writer? If we need to stop and work out ideas does it mean we aren’t able to craft a masterful story?
Absolutely Not. Shake off that mindset.
My favorite rule for brainstorming is to throw out the idea that it has to be organized and follow any set of rules. When you try to approach the creation of ideas, instilling mandatory organization is only going to stifle your potential output. Open the window, throw that rule out, and get on with it.
Get messy. Sketch. Draw. Scribble. Write random words. Make charts. Make graphs. Rewrite something you have already written word for word and draw around it.
Draw one of your characters and put them into a new setting just to see where it goes.
Take your ideas and write out a list of opposites or things that would negate them. I can’t tell you how many ideas have come from looking for the opposite of what I had planned. Sometimes, finding the opposite helps me progress in the original by shedding light on something I may have not thought of before.
The final piece of brainstorming that really ticks me off is when people say it has to be used appropriately to be effective. Brainstorming is meant to create ideas, drive progress, and take an idea into reality. Is there really an appropriate way for creation to be effective? I would like to hear your thoughts on this and we will address that in a future blog post.
Talk to us in the comments and let us know your thoughts! What are your favorite ways to brainstorm with your works? Is there something such as effective brainstorming or is that someone just trying to impose rules on something they tell you to take the rules off of?