1. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Brainstorming

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by seta, Aug 10, 2009.

    A lot of conversation goes back and forth about creation and plot ideas so I figured I'd share my personal method for creating stories from beginning to end:

    First, I set a "Premise" - this premise is very simple, such as "Rogue vampires in a world with no day."

    Second, I start envisioning the world in which it is set. What time frame? What is different/similar to the regular world we see every day? What animals/races/people are there? Etcetera

    Third, I imagine the main problem. What is wrong with this world? Is there a war going on? A magical amulet has been stolen? Or maybe someone is just hunting the MC.

    Fourth, I imagine the characters. I start with a few archetypes and I think of what each character is good for. What will the reader see? Is a character funny or morose or weak or strong.

    Fifth, I write it all out. I start by writing the premise and the Dramatis Personae. I write a brief description of each character and their relations to the other characters.

    Sixth, I write out plot points. This is literally just a list basically constructing the flow of the novel. I try to keep in mind conventional rules for story construction. The opening, the event that sets things in motion, the build up and the climax then the resolution. This is by far the part which is the most fun for me. It is here that I let my imagination fly.

    I say to myself "Okay, now the characters need to face some strange and exotic problem, something completely outlandish." and I let my imagination come up with something interesting. Then I'll say something like "Now we need to illustrate some internal conflict within the MC or within his group of friends.'

    Each plot point is laid out roughly in chronological order as I tell a very short version of the story in my head. I later expound on each plot point eventually having about a paragraph describing each plot point.

    At this time, I'm finally ready to begin writing.

    The only problem I've come across with this structured writing is that it is sometimes easy to get captured within the walls that I made. It is important to leave the plot points flexible enough to allow for creativity along the way as some of the best writing is completely spontaneous.
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    My stories tend to spawn without much planning or formulae. They are usually a vast collection of ideas that somehow come together to form a foundation upon which I can build plots. . and usually at least half of the plot is somewhere in the mess.

    To illustrate my 'technique,' if I have one, I'll describe how I came up with my most recent idea.

    I was thinking about mysterious MCs one day, how sometimes the motives and history of a character can be entirely unknown to the reader. You read on, both to find out what happens next, and to discover where the character came from, what he's thinking/planning etc. . It's the ultimate question-raising story, where everything that happens only adds to your curiosity, until finally, near the end, you learn what it's all about. "AHA!!" you say.;)

    A great example is Garth, the one-eyed mystery man from "Arena," a Magic: The Gathering book. His true identity and purpose is unknown to the reader until near the end.

    While pondering this, I realised that one of my earlier novel ideas, which I had discarded, actually served as the perfect foundation for one such mystery character. In the original, (now the mysterious back story) the MC is a slave boy who is purchased by a reclusive necromancer to aid with his experiements, and to be experimented upon. In the end, the boy kills his master and assumes his identity.

    I also wanted to explore the idea (which I've also done in previous 'concept planning') that all things are connected. . especially in regards to spirituality or 'magic.' So, for example, in my book, the greatest healing magic (dealing directly with the soul) is but the flip side of necromancy. The same basic principles can be used to accomplish great evil or good.

    I also wanted to write a story of revolution, where a character is able to single-handedly change the status quo, or at least make a valiant effort.

    What I wound up with is a mix of Ghandi, Garth One-eye and an assortment of manipulative types. My MC is a necromancer/philosopher who wants to affect some major changes in society. Instead of going on hunger strike (the powers that be, in the brutal world I've created, would only laugh at this and applaud his demise) or peacefully protesting, (he'd be killed or ignored) he carefully manipulates the masses, as well as key authority figures. Thus, he's also a bit of a 'chessmaster,' using people as game pieces.

    The way the story is told, combined with the MC's questionable methods, might have the reader wondering whether he's really a 'good guy' or not. IMO, this is also good. I love those stories.

    There's also a ton of conflict, beginning right from the first chapter. And the plot, (though complicated) as a result of much thought in the past, has materialised almost effortlessly.

    So I guess my story ideas mostly come from themes I want to explore. I sit down and think "revolution," and everything branches out from there. . Thoughts I've had in the past just slide into place like so many puzzle pieces.

    I have an absolute blast dreaming up stories.:D

    In reviewing what I've written here, I realise my post is a total mess. But my story planning is also a mess, so consider this post accurate representation.:p

    It's all just general brainstorming until I decide to actually write the story. Then I focus more on the plot(s).

    As for conversational brainstorming, I think it's fantastic. I've come up with a lot of ideas, just chatting with creative friends. Threads like that are all too often discouraged here, though. . . I think people tend to miss the point. It's not about having someone else come up with your story for you; it's about bouncing ideas to kick your own brain into gear.
     
  3. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Well this thread is called "brainstorming" for a reason.

    I'm actually fascinated by using the "chessmaster" as the MC. It would be like writing a novel from the perspective of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

    However, being "in the know" and in power I think would become too boring for the reader unless your Chess Master is still learning the ropes and making mistakes and making connections through investigations and contacts.
     
  4. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Agree. But the point is that the reader is never 'in the know'.

    For example, my main character says something to character B. Character B then acts on this information. As far as the reader knows, the information is accuracte, or the MC is expressing his honest opinion, stating the truth as he knows it. The reader doesn't know that it's all BS until the MC tells another character something completely different.

    Etc.

    When you realise what's going on, the only way to understand it all is to observe what is actually happening. You'd just logically assume that whatever character B did in response to what the MC said, was intentional. So you'd try to figure out the MC's motivations from there, or just 'wait and see.'

    It is a challenge. . but I think if I can write this well, (and I have had some practice--hopefully it shows) it will be the most interesting story I've attempted so far.:)

    The point is that you can keep the reader totally in the dark, even if your MC is a know-it-all. This is achieved by exclusively showing and not telling.
     
  5. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Oh okay - so you're doing Third Person Limited - that's good.

    Still I think that level of detachment might be difficult and/or dangerous. Granted it's a different kind of novel, not necessarily based on emotions for tension so you could be okay.

    ~~~

    I described a concept in another thread about a character entering into the world of secrets in the modern day. It's pretty fantastic and I'm enjoying the brainstorming process.

    It's very Tom Clancy-esque except there are some very fantastic elements, like vampires and werewolves, though they aren't a major component. It's kind of like a story that explains EVERYTHING that's unexplained from UFO's to ghosts to psychic ability to immortality and Atlantis. It's not an "infodump" per se - but it's about secret societies which control and manipulate information about the above listed subjects.

    For instance, one chapter will be something like hunting down a mythical creature that is running amok in a backwater town in Texas.

    The theory is that things like Bigfoot and Chupacabra aren't actually real animals - rather they are what you might call "spirits" which can take physical form and then disappear at will. Hence the reason no bones or anything have ever been found.

    I'm afraid, though, that very sober and mature readers will be looking for something like "Hunt for the red october" and get something a little more "out there". But who cares? Maybe this will become a new classic!
     
  6. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Ahahaha, I love that idea.:D

    But, as always, it's all in how you write it. Are you actually writing anything atm? Or still brainstorming?

    As for 'sober and mature readers' . . Just look at how many adults enjoy Harry Potter.;) It was well written, and explored a wide variety of themes and characters, so the improbability of the basic premise wasn't really important.
     
  7. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    True about the audience.

    Actually, last night I wrote an epic 8,000 words on a new autobiographical self help book.

    It's literally called "The Book of Life" and it teaches lessons based on anecdotes from my life.

    The first chapter is called "C**k and B***s" and discusses what I call "Confrontational skills"

    My brother and I were looking at our first house and discussing further investment options and so I was pretty revved up. I went for a run at 9pm last night and subsequently couldn't sleep. So I wrote until about 2:30am.

    Now I'm at work.
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I stare at THIS image as I think of my story structure and plot. First, I think of all the things listed at the top, then I work out the basic plot by going through the plot points.
     
  9. sorites
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    sorites Senior Member

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    Here's what I do to brainstorm plot, story, characters, world, etc. My idle moments are spent thinking about that stuff, for one, especially when I'm getting ready for work in the morning. Or, I'll just sit at my desk at home (after work) and not do anything except zone out and think. Usually when I do that I've got a problem to figure out, like I want X to happen, but I need a reason why. Beyond that, I read about story structure and what makes a good story, and I try to implement some of it.

    For my last story, which died at around 18,000 words, I had a rough outline of all my scenes, but I found that as I was writing I strayed from the plan. For my current story, I'm trying to think about the big picture. Who are the characters and what is the problem at hand? I'm trying to get my head around the people and their motivations and personalities. I'm not sure right now where the story is going or how it will end -- and I've read that this is a problem. I wish I had the ability to see it all in advance, the wholly formed story complete, but unwritten. Unfortunately, that's not how it is.

    I've made it to 16,000 words in my new story. Plus, I have a Background/Character file which is about 5,000 words. The background file is mostly stream-of-consciousness style. Sometimes I can get usable ideas through writing about the sparks in my head.

    I think the biggest problem with writing without a plan is that it's so much more difficult to make sure you're including good story elements like sub-plots. Maybe you would include sub-plots intuitively -- they would happen despite a lack of planning. I haven't planned a lot of my story, but I can at least see the potential for a sub-plot or two in what I've got down so far. Hopefully I can see this one through to the end, and if necessary, maybe I can fix up those shoddy elements in rewrites.
     
  10. Jim224
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    Jim224 New Member

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    I can't say I really have a concrete method that works for me. Usually my best works are formed somehow like this...

    A very vague, random idea kinda pops into my head while I am thinking of something, for example, 'man that lives underwater' or something.

    Then I basically think of the story in a completely nonlinear way, focusing mainly on the literal surroundings, what it all would look like, and then all the different characters, then eventually I start imagining bits and pieces of random events that would happen throughout.

    Then eventually I begin to mold all this stuff into a linear storyline. It takes time. Lots of time. And most of that time is just dead thought.

    It's a sad process but it is what works for me.
     
  11. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    I like journaling from the characters perspective. I also made a questionaire out and filled it out like my main characters were filling it out. It helped expand them, and got me more in tune with thier personalities and what they did over the ten year span the book takes place. The biggest help from it was it let me gage how they would talk, and the dialouge got much better.
    As for plot, I have no method. I just started from the end, then I had the begining, and I fiddled around with notes till I got a good path in between.
    Red wine also helps me in the brainstorming. My best work has been fueled by it, and so in my thank you section, it will be just under the husband and the child. haha
     

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