Thursday, September 1, 2011

Storming the Brain

Shiny new ideas are the bestest, most wonderful things in the world. There are few things that can compare to that “ah ha!” moment when something coalesces in your mind. Inspiration can strike almost anywhere and the excitement over building a new story is intoxicating.

But sometimes it isn’t easy to transition from The Big Shiny Basic Concept to a well-designed outline. Maybe your epiphany was so huge that it included world-building items, ready-made tension, and stakes so enormous that you simply cannot get them onto paper fast enough.

Or, if you’re like me, it was just single a character or scene and everything else is a fuzzy haze. It’s those times when I stare at the page and think, “Crud.”

When that happens, the best thing I can do is simply mull over an idea for a while. It takes time for an idea to take shape and my “time” is either the hour commute to the office or a nice, long jog. Whichever flavor I’m rolling with, I intentionally keep the radio off and just let my mind wander over ideas or characters. I’ll ask questions like, “Why would X do this?”, “What would motivate Y to act that way?”, or “What if Z was a tetrahedron instead?” Sometimes nothing happens, but occasionally this quiet mulling leads to The Other Big Epiphany.

That’s not to say that brainstorming is easy or that you shouldn’t knuckle down and write your story. It takes a lot of effort to transition from a vague idea to 500 or 100k words and nothing beats the actual art of writing. But sometimes silencing the world, closing the door to distractions, and letting the mind fill in the holes is exactly what the doctor ordered.

How about you? How do you brainstorm?

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