Tag Archives: brainstorming

Second Thoughts

I didn’t get a lot of work done last week. I took a little break to read a new book from one of my favorite authors, Alex Bledsoe (it was great, by the way), but after I finished my reading I had trouble getting back to work. I think that a big part of my problem is that I am having second thoughts about both my character and my story.

Like I was saying last week, I would love to get some feedback about my story idea to see if it would be something that people would like to read. I’m still waiting. As for my character, I’m having trouble with the idea that a man would still be in such pain over his wife’s death as to be suicidal after twenty years. That just doesn’t seem very plausible, does it?

I was basing my character idea on the main character of the Lethal Weapon movies, Martin Riggs, played by Mel Gibson. He is so distraught by his wife’s death that he has trouble going on without her. He considers suicide, but is unable to actually pull the trigger. The only thing that keeps him going is his job as a detective, but even there his behavior clearly shows he has a death wish, as he continuously takes extreme risks that could easily get him killed.

The problem is that, with my character, he has had twenty years to move on and learn to live with it. You would expect that after that much time he would either have pulled the trigger or taken that one step too far and gotten himself killed. He wouldn’t still be pining away and sticking his gun in his mouth whenever he gets depressed.

So there goes my first scene. I was planning on opening the book with him having a nightmare about her death and reacting by reaching for his gun. Now I’m thinking that I should drop both the nightmare and the suicide attempt. I can open with him having a nightmare, but I don’t have to describe it. I can mention it, and leave the reader hanging as to what it was about. And I can work in something about his attempts at suicide as a reminiscence he shares with one of the other characters later on in the book. For now, I can simply get him up and moving towards meeting the rest of the cast.

So that’s what I’m working on now. I’m also rethinking how the whole University of Magic comes into play. I was planning on having the young mother he helps to get there be involved somehow, and I think that now I know how. They were going to be working on summoning spells, and maybe she could be involved by trying to contact her recently deceased husband.

I guess what I need to do is nail down how each of the major characters is going to fit into my story. The main character isn’t the only one that can have a story arc and learn something from their adventures. Maybe he can teach her how to deal with her pain. After all, he has been there himself.

As for my need for feedback, please leave a comment if you have something to share. Otherwise, maybe what I need to do is get back in touch with my writing group. I haven’t participated in several months, and maybe it’s time I check in and see how they are doing. I’m sure they could help me fill in the holes and brainstorm stronger plot lines.

That’s it for this week. See you next Sunday!

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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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