Monday, May 24, 2010

Brainstorming Up A Storm

Last week, I talked a little bit about how much brainstorming I do early on in my writing process. A few of you have asked about that, so I thought I’d share my brainstorming process in detail.

I do multiple sessions of brainstorming. The first is when I get the initial idea for a story. I use a technique called Clustering. Basically, you start with one thing, then you branch off that thing with the first thing that pops into your mind. Here’s an example:

As you can see, there’s a lot here, and I kind of got carried away. :) But that’s easy to do with this technique. It’s one of the ways that I can sit down and go nuts with the story’s possibilities. Then, when I’ve exhausted all avenues (even the silly/improbable/ridiculous ones), I start arranging them, keeping the ones that fit into the story arc and discarding the rest.

My brainstorming tables used to look like the one above, but not anymore. Now, it’s a huge mess of scribbles in a journal, so it’s doubtful that anyone except me would understand any of the connections. :) But the connections are there, and I eventually rewrite everything in the proper order.

I do this kind of brainstorming with various story elements, like plot, subplots, and character development. I will also do journaling from the perspective of my main character, which helps me to better understand him/her – thus, helping me make appropriate plot choices along the way.

This process allows me the creative freedom to explore without limits. When I’m done, I can turn it into an outline, which will keep me pointed in the right direction as I write my story. It’s never perfect, though, so when I get stuck, I’ll come back to this brainstorming process to get back on track. It’s gotten me out of many sticky situations. :)

Do you brainstorm? If so, how do you do it? If not, why?


Kelly Polark said...

I do brainstorm, but not to this extent. (WOW!) I have so many spiral notebooks with my poetry, chapter ideas, idea outlines...

Mary Witzl said...

What Kelly said -- WOW!

I make my students brainstorm. We'll take a subject and explore all the various permutations just as you've done here.

In my own writing, I do something similar, but not as extensive. I have it on a separate section, tacked on to my manuscript. I generally have a section for setting and another for all of my characters, but that's about it. I'd like to say it works for me, but maybe it doesn't: I still haven't found an agent...

Tabitha said...

Kelly - yeah, I have a bad habit of getting carried away when it comes to brainstorming. But my brain had a hard time stopping when it comes to 'what if' scenarios. It's very helpful when I'm stuck though, because I can explore *everything*, and will eventually find something to get me back on track. :)

Mary - I used to do brainstorming separately, and it wasn't as effective for me. So I integrated it with journaling from my MC's point of view. It's far more useful now (to me, anyway...but I'm positive anyone picking up one of my notebooks would think my brainstorming is the ramblings of a lunatic). :)

Christina Farley said...

Very, very interesting. Thanks for sharing your chart. I'll have to remember that.