For the past half year or so I have been a member of Delve Writing. We meet virtually once a week and are a group of writers who support one another to achieve our individual writing goals. Every week our moderator (I work with co-founder Aaron Brown) gives us some tasty treat for inspiration and then we dive into our goals and the challenges we face meeting those goals. At the end of each session we “dig-in” on a single challenge that we have been hitting and pick it apart in an effort to find a solution or at least give the sufferer a glimmer of a solution.
This morning we had a lively session filled with ideas for a magical helicopter to fly all of us to the top of Mt Evans where we could attend Hogwarts and write wondrous books that sell themselves along with discovering the usefulness of a Feedback Loop*. One of the dig-ins was “How to Brainstorm with Yourself.” Most brainstorming sessions I have ever attended comprised of three to ten people in a conference room with the doors closed and gallons of coffee. The idea of brainstorming alone presents a unique problem that if you run out of ideas then there isn’t anyone else there to kick in a new thought or angle. What if you are trying to come up with an idea for a new story idea and you have no clue of what to write about in the first place?
This was the question posed to our group and it was so amazing to see the ideas flood our meeting providing quite a few resources for story ideas. I haven’t had the time to check into all of these, but it is on my to-do list that, although never ending, I hope to get to next week.
- Look for intense moments in life. Being born is about as intense of a moment as you can get in life and it is right next to watching a loved one die. Do a little wandering through your life and pick out as many intense moments as you can find and write them down. These are just the beginnings of an idea list.
- Ask yourself “if” questions. The questions need to be thought provoking or at least questions that lead to a more extensive answer. No “yes or no” questions here…they don’t trigger ideas. Some examples of leading questions might be: “If I’m the last person on the planet what would I see?” “If my car sailed over a bridge what would that moment between the bridge and the ground feel like?” “If a ghost came to me and asked for help, what would they need help with?”
- Play with attractions. This is another part of your idea list. Write down one word bullets of things that you are attracted to. Have you spent your free time rock climbing, skiing, or parasailing? Maybe you love wandering through art museums, antique shops, or garage sales. What sorts of things attract you? What gives you a jolt of adrenalin? All these combined, or separate, can give color to a great scene or short story.
- Pam McCutheon’s Brainstorming Kit. I have ordered her kit but haven’t received it yet. From what I understand this has flashcards with ideas on them. You pull a card and write on that idea. Once I get her kit and test it out I’ll have a new blog post for it.
- Duo Trope’s Calendar. If you have never heard of Duo Trope then you are missing out. This resource for writers is chalk full of everything a writer needs for publishing. There isn’t enough space here to go into all the details, but trust me when I say, “Check it out!”
- Make an idea list. I am a list person. I have notebooks filled with to-dos, dones, and everything in between. I do have an idea list too. It is a very simple handwritten bunch of scribbles that have every story idea I have ever considered. So many times I’ve thought of a great idea that I might consider writing about and as soon as I think of it I forget it. These days (my mind is as old as dirt) I forget many things faster than I can think them up so I have learned to write them down. Now, when I haven’t a clue for a story I pull out my list and run through them to see if anything strikes my fancy.
Brainstorming is really just time spent with yourself pondering the next great American novel, or the next great short story by YOU. On the other hand, it is nice to just grab a friend and take them out for coffee and toss around a few stray thoughts and see what floats to the top. Remember that you are the one who has to write your great novel so be sure your brainstorming sessions bring out the best in you. Your story may take you on a helicopter ride to a magical land filled with ideas that float through the air waiting to be discovered by you. Pluck one of those ideas down and start writing.
*Note: Watch Delve’s blog for their exploration into a Feedback Loop – Coming Soon!