How to use brainstorming to get writing inspiration
Brainstorming is the act of getting ideas out of your mind and on to a piece of paper or a computer.
Our minds are filled with memories. Literally filled. Think back to a time your friend reminded you of something. You may not have thought about it for years but suddenly many of the details come flooding back.
Similarly our minds are very creative and can come up with new connections and interesting thoughts very easily. In theory, they have a limitless supply of these.
However, our minds cannot hold many thoughts at their forefront at the same time. This is why you need pen and paper because your mind cannot consider twenty character names at the same time and decide which one it likes the best. The process of getting things out of your mind is pretty linear. You take out one idea, write it down and then take out another, then another. You’ll find that the fast you write them down the faster they will come out. If you don’t write them down they will just stay there waiting and in the process blocking new ideas from coming out.
Neither are our brains very good at recall. A friend may try to remind you of an incident but you just can’t remember what he’s talking about. When you finally realise (recall it) that’s when all the details come back.
Research is also a huge part of brainstorming. If you want to find a setting you might look at a map of your city and consider different areas. Or if your character is in the army you might research the different companies, ranks and jobs available. This research gives you the knowledge that you need and ideas that you wouldn’t have had. You might get a fresh idea by going to a new part of your city and trying out new coffee shops. But it also sparks old ideas that you’d forgotten about. Whilst looking at a map of your city you might see and coffee shop that you haven’t been to in years and realise that it would make a great setting. That’s what I call a ‘recall trigger.’
To trigger memories and ideas it can help to write a prompt down. These should be more narrow then you actually need. Instead of writing ‘Coffee shops I’ve visited in my life’ break it down:
– Coffee shops I’ve visited with family.
– Coffee shops I’ve visited with friends.
– Coffee shops I’ve visited with wife / girlfriend or husband / boyfriend.
– Coffee shops I’ve visited with boss / work colleague.
You see the power of this technique? That’s a superficial example but you can use this to recall times emotions like the spark of first love or crazy people that you’ve met or anything you want or need for your writing.
The same technique could be used if you’re trying to think of a way for a character to escape for example:
– Ways to escape by picking locks or cuffs
– Ways to escape through tricking captors
– Ways to escape through threatening captors
– Ways to be rescued by other people
Brainstorming is about unleashing the limitless potential of your mind. Ideas are all there ready to be used. You just have to recall them and write them down one by one.