Back to Basics: Brainstorming

A couple of days ago I lost my mind. I couldn’t seem to focus on the outline I had started. It seemed like it was going nowhere, and I kept getting ideas for different ways to write the story. So I started over. My 30 day plan has been shot to hell. Funeral on Saturday, 1:00 PM, viewing starts at 11:00 AM. Donations to the Plotters Memorial Fund will be graciously accepted.

What I ended up doing was starting over, at the most basic level: What if?

I settled on a starting point. What if four kids are at summer camp, having a good time, and find a box of MREs stashed in the back of a cupboard? Then I asked myself a followup question: What if they decide to eat them and get sick? And another: What if the MREs were contaminated with some kind of radiation or toxic waste? And so on, until I had a whole list of related What If questions that almost resembled a simple plot.

I knew that wasn’t going to be good enough to write the story though. I needed some depth. Some detail. Something that would fill in the rest of the blanks. So I started at the top of my list and examined each of my What If Questions in turn, and I started asking more questions that were raised by the first one, like these:

  • Why were they nosing around the cupboard?
  • Where is the cupboard?
  • What else is in or around the cupboard?
  • How many more boxes are stashed back there?
  • Where is the summer camp?
  • Are there any particularly friendly or unfriendly counselors or kids at the camp?
  • Will some of those people cause trouble for the kids, either intentionally or accidentally?
  • What kinds of activities are available at the camp?
  • Which activities are the kids’ favorites? Least favorite?
  • How much supervision do the kids have?
  • How much free time do they get?

When I ran out of steam on the first question, I moved on to the next, and the next, and so on and so forth, until I ran out of questions.

Each question evoked more questions, and those questions sparked ideas which led to more questions, which led to more ideas. You get the picture.

Brainstorming, pure and simple.

The difficulty I think I was having before was that I hadn’t done enough brainstorming before I started this outlining process. I’m fixing that problem now, and hopefully by the time I am done I will be able to salvage at least some of the schedule I had originally started on.

I guess the main idea to take away from the is the lesson that you can’t force a story. If it isn’t ready, it won’t come out. Sometimes you just have to sit back and let the ideas gel in your mind before you will be ready to write anything.

That’s the moral for today, kiddies! Come back again on Sunday for another update on my project. See you then!

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