View Full Version : How Do you Brainstorm Book Ideas?

06-02-2012, 03:53 AM
Is there a right or wrong way to brainstorm book ideas?

I find when I talk through my blots either face to face or via instant messaging it helps them come a live to me, but this can take a few hours per book. My friends and family have tired of these sessions and I'm thinking what can I do differently.

Does anyone brainstorm plots and ideas with others? If so how do you make it work? If not, what to do you. I'm really eager to get some advice on this.


06-02-2012, 05:47 PM
I typically do a lot of brainstorming on my own at first - just tossing ideas around in me own leedle haid... Then when I have a semi-coherent thread, I toss it around further with my betas, total time maybe 1-2 hours. Then it's up to me again, unless/until I get to a point in the actual story where I need some additional brainstomping.

06-02-2012, 07:49 PM
I brainstorm on my own. Then I get to a point where I either get stuck, or so excited by the idea, that I need someone else's opinion about it to keep moving forward. So who do I bother with this? It usually is my family. Then I see they're not much use, or not for long, so I go back to square one and brainstorm on my own.

06-02-2012, 07:59 PM
Violeta, you're so much like me, except the family part. When I get stuck, I leave the story alone until I find a new scene or something, and even then I hesitate, if I should put it in or not.

06-03-2012, 12:41 AM
I start making notes. What does this character want? Where do I want her to end up? What is the most horrible thing I could do to her that would force her to go in that direction? How would she react?

I only brainstorm when I am really, truly stuck and have painted myself into a corner, but am not willing to give up on the story. And then I brainstorm with someone who is genuinely interested and wants to discuss the storyline (there's, like, one person on the planet who'd qualify). Or I go to a workshop/critique group and ask for help on a quid pro quo basis.

06-03-2012, 02:50 AM
Unimportant: I know where I want my female character end, but there are some things that should be written...and right now I don't know, how I do it. And all the things related to it.

06-03-2012, 06:40 AM
Well, brainstorming and writing lists of questions and answers are techniques for generating ideas, plot, storyline, character arcs, plot twists, etc. From there, you can sometimes break them down into scenes. But how to write those scenes -- how to make them effective and well-paced and tight and active and vivid, how to make them full of tension and three dimensional characters and emotion and realistic dialogue and sensory details and imagery and theme -- that's not something you can come up with by brainstorming. That's craft. It takes a lot of time and hard work and practice.

That's why it's really easy to come up with good story ideas, and really hard to write good stories.

06-03-2012, 04:36 PM
I don't typically brainstorm with others for precisely that reason. After a while the other person gets tired and wants to move on.

Mostly, I use a blank piece of paper. And, you're gonna laugh, a crayon.

I'm brainstorming, right? So no one is going to see it. There's something fun about using crayons, different colors and all. And since it's a brainstorming session it doesn't have to be neat. I'm not plotting out anything yet, I'm brainstorming.

And since it's brainstorming, it becomes a free-for-all. Anything that pops in my head gets written down, nothing gets censored, nothing gets questioned. No matter how ridiculous it appears at first. Remember, this is brainstorming not planning anything.

From there, when you feel like you have reached the tail of your creativity, that's when you look back, read it, absorb it, let it percolate before you start trimming things away.

Brainstorming then gives me the first glimmers of a story/plot idea. From there, then the work starts of asking the What Ifs, which is close to brainstorming but this time more with the specific story/character in mind and trying to find some sense of cohesion.

Old Hack
06-03-2012, 05:36 PM
Coloured pens and a roll of lining paper works for me. It's great to have such a big area to write on and the colours are really helpful too. We have a big kitchen table--it's over two metres long--which means I can really spread out, too.

I only involve other people when I'm writing for them, but my preference is always to work alone.

06-03-2012, 10:32 PM
...That's why it's really easy to come up with good story ideas, and really hard to write good stories.

Why is it the opposite for me? I have such a hard time coming up with ideas for books. Seriously. I'm querying my novel right now and still haven't come up with an idea solid enough to outline for the next one. This is starting to worry me. So many of my friends have more ideas than they know what to do with, and I have a dearth. It's like a bit of magic when the idea grabs and won't let go. *prays it will happen soon*

Anyway, not to derail. I brainstorm in my own head - usually while doing something that takes little active thought like showering, washing dishes, folding laundry. When I have a pretty clear idea, I start writing down a basic plot arc. I then run things past a trusted friend - by phone or IM - just to gel things a bit more.

06-03-2012, 11:07 PM
I find I can't brainstorm with another person unless we're talking. Not writing. The phone works, although face to face works better.

But as the OP notes, it takes a very long time, and few of us can type as quickly as we can talk.

With so many cell plans offering unlimited free long-distance calling, plus Skype and internet phone services, I would think a pre-arranged conversation might suit you.

Maryn, who tends to brainstorm with two people, both local

06-06-2012, 09:13 AM
See, for me, I HAVE to brainstorm with another person. Its weird, they don't actually have to contribute anything, usually they just make small noises at appropriate times, but just the knowledge that I'm talking to another person about it makes it a mini form of storytelling for me, and the story just kinda....unfolds for me. I can sit on my own with a blank document in front of me for hours with a basic concept and not get anywhere with it....but give me that same basic concept and a gmail chat with a friend, and I can just tell them the story, making it up as I go along.

06-07-2012, 01:40 AM
I'm with Unimportant on the 'easy ideas, hard writing' front. As is Neil Gaiman, if you read his old website essays.

Anyhoo, I don't usually brainstorm at all, certainly not in early stages. Usually if I have any kind of idea I like, I write it down immediately (meaning I have notes on my phone, hand, paper in my car, around the house, on several different computer programmes...). If they start to slot together (e.g. a 'world' and plot and MC seem to fit one another) then I'll intentionally go to bed early and kinda think obsessively about where I can go with it, what would be good etc. Or on a journey, same thing. I find I can get pages and pages of notes, just going from that, not limiting my ideas at all (like, write it down, however initially ridiculous something sounds).

With my current late-stage WIP, I didn't discuss it with anyone for like 3 months, since I was already happy with all the key features. But when best mates have opinions on the kind of philosophical themes, I like to bash ideas out to see if they're inconsistent.

Otherwise, nothing 'till beta-ing