I usually get my story ideas through the dreams I’m having at night. Sometimes I would rush to the notepad on my desk and write it down before it fades. But when I’m reading it a few days after, I suddenly realise the idea is too thin to be turned into a novel or even a short story. That’s where brainstorming story ideas come into play.
We’ve all heard about the advantages of brainstorming but, I don’t know about you, I’ve always found it hard. Why bother writing all these silly ideas onto paper when I had them all in my head? The reason is simple though: it helps to clear your mind and make the best choices. But if we agree on the advantages of brainstorming, it’s helpful to remember some rules to get the most of it.
Getting started with brainstorming story ideas
Brainstorming helped me on two occasions: finding the subject of my thesis and getting some general ideas of what my next project is going to be about. On those two occasions, I would take a notepad and write down 100 ideas of any kind, even the silliest ones. However, specifically on a story idea, you’ll need to focus your mind on five questions:
Who? What? When? Why? How?
Those questions are the basics of every storytelling and are even taught in journalism. They will help you shape your story and make it real. No more excuses, it’s time to get shit done.
Answering the good questions
- The general idea
What is it going to be like? Do you have any idea of the plot and the characters? Write down everything which occurs in your mind, without any fear of being stupid. After all, you’re doing a brainstorming with yourself (except if you’re co-writing).
- The genre/tone/point of view
That’s certainly the most important thing to know before you actually start writing. Will it be fantasy, science-fiction, contemporary, romance, thriller,…? Will it be at the first or third person? Maybe even the second person of the singular if you dare? Will you narrate it through one character’s eyes or many characters’ eyes? Will it be serious, dark, humour,…? All those questions will help you shape your story idea and give you a hint of what you’re about to write.
- The characters
Talking about characters, it’s now time to determine which ones will be in your story. Of course, you need a main character (the protagonist or hero) and some other characters to give life to what’s in your head. Maybe an antagonist or a secondary character. Think of physical and emotional characteristics and, always on your notepad, write down everything without fear.
- The settings
Same as the characters, do you have an idea of the places where the scenes will happen? Will it be in the forest, by the ocean, in the mountains? In a big house or a tiny flat, in the countryside or in a gigantic city? Of course, take your genre and characters into consideration while thinking about your settings.
- The ending
Knowing your ending can help you shape the whole plot. What do you dream of happening in your story? Do you know what you’re trying to say with it? Will your characters survive it?
Brainstorming is a meeting with yourself. Don’t be afraid of being silly and write down as many ideas as you can during a short period of time. Then close your notepad and cool down for a couple of days, before opening your notepad again and have a look at the results of your session.
And if it doesn’t work out great? Try again.
Have you tried brainstorming before? How did it go?
Do not hesitate to tweet me @vdvestelle