Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brainstorming 101

by Savannah


You can use NaNoWarmUp to work on a current project or a new one, but for those of you who'd love to join and don't have a project planned, we want to give you a crash course in Brainstorming to help get your plan in place before you start writing.

I posted an immense article on my personal blog about growing ideas from inspiration to novels, but here's a list of shortcuts and resources you might find handy!

Hand Writing: No, not handwriting; writing by hand! Manually writing out ideas has been shown to increase your creativity and concentration in a way that typing doesn't. I strongly encourage brainstorming to be done by hand; you can cross out, insert little asides, draw arrows, and even write in circles if you feel like it!

The 'Then What?' Method: As explained in detail by S. Jae-Jones here on a Pub[lishing] Crawl post, this method involves 'telling yourself the story' in a simple way by asking yourself, "what happens next?" It's a great tactic for figuring out the heart of the story. For example:

Harry Potter is a perfectly ordinary boy (or so he thinks) mistreated by his aunt and uncle who are perfectly normal in every way, thank you very much. (Then what happens?)

Well, one day letters start arriving addressed to Harry, but his uncle won't let him read them? (Then what?)

Even MORE letters start arriving! They fill up the house to the brim, but Harry still can't get a hold of one! (Oh my gosh, THEN what?)


Reference The Hero's Journey: Did you know most stories share a very common plot? It's called The Hero's Journey, and if your idea feels flat it might be because you're neglecting an important step. Check it out! (For more examples of Hero Journeys, check out Julie Eshbaugh's detailed post here on Pub Crawl)

Loglines: As the wonderful Miss Snark shares with us in this wonderful blog post, you can use loglines to help identify your primary plot and problems, like this:


For example: When the Pevensie children find a secret world in their great-uncle's wardrobe, one of them is ensnared by the evil White Witch due to his own greed. The other children must help save Narnia from the tyranny of the White Witch, or risk not only losing their brother, but letting down the enslaved citizens of Narnia they have come to love.

Talk (write) it out: Perhaps it's just my logic-minded brain, but when I get stuck on a plot point it's helpful to 'talk it out' through detailing every option and the possible consequences. This helps me find the path to take that gets me closest to my ultimate end goal.

For example: Jane needs to get to the library before it closes, except her car won't start. What if she called her best friend to come get her? But if we did that then they'd have to have the confrontation talk too soon, and I want to save that for the next chapter. Maybe she could ask a neighbor? But then I'd have to introduce a whole new character, and ugh. Maybe she calls a cab to take her, and then once she's at the library the love interest could offer to drive her home! Yes, that's it!

Scene-Setting: Once you have your general idea, you'll need to get down to the nitty gritty details. When I'm summarizing my chapters, I like to envision each scene and how it's going to flow. Picture it as positioning the camera on a movie set: Where are we going to focus? How will the conversation start? How will the characters react? How will the scene end? Then write a small summary of the scene to help you remember later. This will be an important method for subsequent posts about Synopses and Outlining.

World-Building document: Save all your ideas for rules and world-building in a separate document so you can reference when you can't remember if you assigned your goblin society matrilineal or patrilineal inheritance rights. You know, important stuff like that.

Share how you're doing! Is brainstorming tough or easy for you? Do you use any of the methods above? Do you have any other tips or tricks to share with us?

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