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Author Topic: Brainstorming  (Read 2446 times)

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Bob Mueller

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« on: October 15, 2006, 12:59:32 PM »

Date:         Thursday, December 10, 1998 12:21 PM

BookMarc #5

Sometimes it's hard to figure out in what order these items should be taken up. Should I talk about outlines and blocking stories before brainstorming? Should I talk about brainstorming before ideas? These are some of the same questions you'll face in trying to figure out the order of scenes in your story. For me I choose to bring up brainstorming now. For now. Remember, folks, what we said about outlines--they're not Moses tablets.

My friend Marcy Heidish--A WOMAN CALLED MOSES, DEADLINE-- told me how in brainstorming with a buddy, batting things around for an idea she had, one of them took up a snifter full of marbles and emptied them on the floor where they bounced and rolled and scattered. If you read her book, THE TORCHING, you'll come across this snifter of marbles in the guise of eyes cut out of cadavers. A chilling thought for late at night.

I've tried to encourage this kind of brainstorming with writing friends of mine, but I've not been too successful. First of all, everything has to be onboard. Nothing can be ridiculed at as stupid or silly. That's part of the reasoning for bringing it up, to bounce wild and crazy ideas around to see what jells into a corpse pressed down into headcheese. But a lot of writers hold protectively to their story ideas, and there is also a strong feeling that if they talk the story out they'll never write it out. And I'm not so sure they're wrong.

The idea of brainstorming is a bit like that of writing an outline. First it's to clarify the total story in our mind. Then to bring about some order in the way we're going to tell the story. Finally, to consider, hold, or reject some ideas in the planning stage without waiting till half the book is written before we've found our idea ain't gonna work.

The problem is in finding someone you can trust, one w/o a hidden agenda, who will bounce alternatives back and forth w/o dumping the overall project as worthless. An embryo idea that might sprout into a masterpiece is vulnerable as a seedling. The mustard seed needs to be nurtured for it to become a tree.

Living out in the boonies, I brainstorm with myself. After all, I'm a nice guy, trustworthy, brave, clean, and reverent. And I am humble, recipient of the national humble award.

This idea I got from Elizabeth Neal's book, YES, YOU CAN WRITE. She calls it looping. I call it brainstorming with myself. You need a timer, one that will ring or ping. This is essential to keep from worrying about the clock. You set the timer for five minutes. Then you write like hell, never stop ping to correct anything, whatever pops into your mind, even if it's only, "This ain't working, Clyde." You probably want to have a jumpstart reason why you are doing this--how can I kill the grape-colored Barney w/o getting caught? I usually put that up top before starting. Anyway, after the timer goes off, you take a moment to put down the main idea to come out of this session. You reset the timer and go at it again, adding another idea statement. Then do it a third and final time.

This is the most valuable writing tool I use.

I should tell you it is an acquired taste. Like drinking coffee. The first few times I didn't get much in the way of results. And there was the thought I was wasting fifteen minutes of valuable writing time. But I kept at it and now I use it whenever I get stuck, outlines, new chapters, changes in plots, building characters, everything. I've heard of writers who start with this every time they sit down. And I think if you stick with it a bit you'll find yourself coming up with all sorts of twists and turns--ideas that had not bloomed at first blush, and most will not pop up till the third five minutes.

I usually end each session by listing all the ideas that have come to me, something I might want to explore next time, and finally some unresolved thoughts for the future. I do this a lot, especially when I don't know where to go next. I urge you to try it. And I'd really like to hear how you make out. I need feedback on things I recommend. Maybe it only works for guys who are nice, trustworthy, brave, clean, reverent, and recipients of the national humble award.

Next time, BookMarc #6, we'll take up composing.

Copyright Peter E. Abresch, BookMarc February 13, 1998

Date:    Wednesday, December 16, 1998 04:02 AM

Judith, Bob, Jane, CJ,
Thank you all for your replies, Judith, your two or three(G). I just used this timing tool yesterday on the new book Iím working on, reaching a hopeless situation. Iíve been doing it off and on in this first draft, and it have been carrying me through with new ideas, but the essential piece I needed for this mystery eluded me, but yesterday things all popped through. Hoo Rah.
I think one of the essential ingredients of doing this is to put down that summarizing sentence after each five minutes. That helps to keep the idea of that five minute session in the mind while you go onto the next. And at the end I always take the tome to write all the ideas that came to me in order of how I think they may be used in my writing. And I always SAVE IT. This allows me to go back whenever my forgetful mind deserts me--like all the time. In fact I keep a separate running outline file and I always add these conclusions to that.
One other advantage of saving these looping sessions, if you ever come up with a legal dispute of the originality of your work, I think these will help established how it all came about.
Hope this all helps and please remember to get back to me sometime in the future with how it has worked for you.
Peter Abresch
the Jim Dandy ELDERHOSTEL Mysteries
& BookMarc

Date:    Thursday, December 17, 1998 08:35 AM


Is this section open for discussion about the various info? I was wondering if you'd comment on this:

When you keep your brainstorming file, and a session has resulted in a major change from the original plotline, do you erase the original? Or do you just add the change?

I'm finding in my own brainstorm journal that when I read waaay back, my plot was so different, or I had a different vision of a character, and now it's changed drastically, and occasionally I am sorry I got rid of an element or two that I had in the original brainstorm. This mostly just confuses things and sends me back to the brainstorming drawing board. What's your take on this? Good or bad idea to keep the old stuff. And how do you keep it all organized? Sometimes I find this stuff purely by accident (scroll back too far, etc.).


Date:    Thursday, December 17, 1998 11:58 AM

Yes, all of these sessions are open for discussion.
And yes, Iím like you, I just keep adding the new ideas to the bottom, but I do it in a listing format, short sentences like
1. While girl kisses him she stabs him in the back.
Oh, yeah, that works. But this lets me see things at a glance. I always think itís good to keep the history around. Sometimes we might have to go back and see how things evolved, and maybe re-trench a bit. Usually with me, this is all taking place on the first draft. Once I get past that, I seldom do any more brainstorming.
Does that help.

Date:    Thursday, December 17, 1998 04:56 PM

On 12/17/98 11:58:42 AM, Peter Abresch wrote:
> Jane,
>Yes, all of these sessions are
>open for discussion.
>And yes, Iím like you, I just
>keep adding the new ideas to
>the bottom, but I do it in a
>listing format, short
>sentences like
>1. While girl kisses him she
>stabs him in the back.
>Oh, yeah, that works.

Peter, maybe this is where I go wrong...I always start my new work at the top of the file, so I never see the old stuff, unless I look for it.


Date:    Thursday, December 17, 1998 07:05 PM

Something for you to chuckle at: I know the principle of brainstorming and have for years, but without your post, I fear I wouldn't have thought of actually using it. So some of us you're talking to are getting what the vulgar call a useful kick in the butt. Well, let's see what it does to the brain.

Date:    Tuesday, December 22, 1998 06:24 PM

I canít emphasize enough the usefulness of this looping technique I got from Elizabeth Nealís book, YES, YOU CAN WRITE. I use it all the time when I get stuck and it almost always leads me into new ways of thinking, new twists and turns that never entered my head when I started out on a new story. Sometimes I might have to do it for three or four days in a row before I find a new path, but it always seems to work.
I wish you, and everyone else that finds their way to this path, a holiday season in which you find joy in friends and family.

Date:    Saturday, September 11, 1999 09:56 AM

Dear Peter, Thanks for your idea on brainstorming-teriffic. yesterday was the first I used it--first I saw it, and it went well. I expect to continue using it. As a teacher, that's what we did in writing with the kids, but that was a large group of people offering suggestions. this works for me too--got me over a hump and writing again. got stopped by a conversation between characters, and the silence got lo-o-ong-er.

Date:    Sunday, September 12, 1999 03:30 PM

Glad the looping works for you. It sure does for me. Always gets me going when I get stuck, even if it takes me a couple of days before the light dawns.

Sometimes it takes therapy to put the past behind you. Other times, it takes a 20 gallon trash bag and a couple of cinder blocks.
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