Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Beauty of Brainstorming

I am a ceaseless advocate of the importance of brainstorming. Without it, my stories would be flat and confusing - and extremely short.

Brainstorming gives you the opportunity to take a question or concept of your story and let your mind run with it, asking what it will and throwing out ideas - good, bad, and off-the-wall - to see where they lead. Eventually one of those ideas will make you pause and think: yeah, that might work. So you run with the idea some more. When you are done asking questions and testing ideas (or until you can't think straight anymore), you [should] discover that your questions are answered, and your story has expanded exponentially with even more complex characters and layered plot. (Make sure you give yourself a few uninterrupted hours to hold the session, though - your brain needs a continuous thought stream or you'll lose track of those ideas, and possibly even the questions.)

A few days ago when I sat down to write, I was pondering an article I had read that morning which pointed out a blaring problem I had been wrestling with. "They" say (and I do listen to "Them," occasionally) that a good story has both an external struggle and an internal struggle - meaning both an outward situation and a personal conflict that your character must deal with. And a time limit. For ID, I had my outward situation set, but I hadn't come up with a personal problem or a time limit for EP to deal with. And as I found myself scrounging for more plot at only 15,000 words, I could see there had to be more to the book - or it was doomed. It was time for a brainstorming session.

What spawned out of those hours of brainstorming gave me not only a personal conflict and a time limit, but the back story for the antagonist's motive, a few new key characters (who only help by being murdered, but still), future tension and danger, and...well, the list is quite extensive.

When I finally stopped (my head dizzy with intersecting plot points and characters), I had more than enough material to run with (80,000+ words, here I come!), and was really excited to begin writing again.

Brainstorming can be used for plot, character, or both - or anything, really. By writing down your chaos of thoughts, patterns emerge. And once it's down you can organize it, discovering what your mind was trying to say but couldn't through the tangled mess in your head. And once it's untangled, you'll be surprised by what you can come up with, if you only let your imagination run free.

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