I use brainstorming when I'm fleshing out the main structure of my first draft. I also use it to develop my character sketches and explore character decisions, which leads to an understanding of how a character might think or react in a situation. I've even used brainstorming to explore storyline revisions, which I blogged about previously in this post: Brainstorming.
So what is brainstorming?
Here's how Dictionary.com explains it:
brain·storm·ing /ˈbreɪnˌstɔrmɪŋ/ Show SpelledThere are are a multitude of brainstorming techniques, more than we could cover in one blog post, but here are a few methods to consider.
[breyn-stawr-ming] Show IPA
a conference technique of solving specific problems, amassing information, stimulating creative thinking, developing new ideas, etc., by unrestrained and spontaneous participation in discussion.
The first one is a basic Listing method. My son came home the other day with a brainstorm sheet for a writing project he was working on in school. It serves as a good example of this type of brainstorm. Here he was brainstorming two different story topics, trying to decide which topic he wanted to write about.
And here's a Mind Map brainstorming technique from Gilman Performance System. The original use is for plotting an employee's responsibilities but this can be used to brainstorm story plots or even character development as well. This example is similiar to the bubble technique, which is what I use quite often. The main idea or item you're brainstorming about is in the middle, and then you can branch off with subs and it can just keep going to as many levels as you need.
I also use the Freewriting technique, which is jotting down as many ideas as you can, continuous writing without any editing - it's a free flow of ideas and you write them all down no matter how off-topic or silly.
You can also brainstorm from different Perspectives. Take your topic, or the element you're looking to brainstorm about, and look at it from different perspectives. It could be character perspectives, it could be reader/audience perspectives, or it could even be emotional perspectives. It's another way of exploring ideas.
And some helpful tips when brainstorming:
- Don't prejudge the ideas, but instead write them all down. You never know when a silly idea could link to the perfect fit to your problem.
- Keep your brainstorms. You may refer to it throughout the writing process. It can be a tremendous tool it exploring a scene with elements you brainstormed about earlier. You can also reference it for additional ideas of where to take your story if the first solution you used turns out to be a dud.
- Brainstorming can be done by you alone, or you can brainstorm in groups. If you have a trusted critique group or writing group that you work with you can utilize their ideas into your brainstorm sessions as well.
There are so many, many more methods of brainstorming out there. Do you have a favorite technique?