Susan King has been buried under an avalanche of work and while we’re busily unburying her, we thought we’d throw in part of the outline for the brainstorming sessions presented by Mary Jo, Pat, and Susan K (in absentia)presented at RWA last month. It would be wonderful to hear how other people brainstorm their ideas! (The full session can be ordered by download or CD from RWA)
The photo is of the stained glass crab at the Baltimore airport where Pat flies in to join MJ and SK when they have a Creative Cauldron stirring.
Brainstorming—Alexander Osborn’s Definition
# a method by which a group tries to find a solution for a specific problem by amassing a list of ideas spontaneously contributed its members.
Osborn’s rules for brainstorming sessions
# judgment of ideas is not allowed
# outlandish ideas are encouraged
# a large quantity of ideas is preferred
# members should build on one another’s ideas
Suggestions for Building a Brainstorming Group
*Start with several fairly harmonious, committed writers. Three to five is a good number—enough to avoid slipping into polarity, not so many as to be overwhelming.
*It’s useful to know your group strengths and weaknesses:
-One person may be stronger on character, weaker on plotting, or whatever. Work at filling in the gaps, either consciously for current members, or bring in someone who is good with the weaker areas of the others.
-Be happy with each other’s successes—writing is not a zero sum game
-Recognize that it’s serious work, no matter how much you’re laughing
-Be flexible and respectful of whatever project is on the table
If members believe they are being evaluated they become generally ineffective. (the purpose of brainstorming is a freespirited, from the subconscious, barrage of ideas–quantity counts)
Members must be part of the group simply because they wish to contribute; there are no other rewards or incentives.
Members of the group must view themselves as peers; there can be no rank or pecking order. All participants regardless of experienced or position must participate as equals. Similarly ideas generated by the group belong to the group, not to individuals.
Too large a group tends to reduce some members to observers rather than participants
*Develop ground rules for the group
Respect each other’s ideas
Respect the story and its originator
Decide what people should bring, whether it’s written pages or vague ideas
Start by each participant stating what she hopes to achieve from the session
Think in terms of parity so everyone gets equal attention for her project
When energy starts to flag, drop that project and move on to the next
Take breaks to rejuvenate the energy:
Meals, tea breaks, jug wine,
Walks—park, beach, labyrinth,
Fun stuff like beading, on-line tarot readings (try www.facade.com),
Baking cookies, making soup, et al.
Verbally kick one person’s story or element around. She’s responsible for taking notes.
Conference call for telephone storming session
E-mails to all. (This seems to work particularly well for storming book titles.)
Online live in a chat room
V: History and Resources
Holler if you have any questions. We obviously can’t post an entire 40 minute session here but we can answer over the weekend! (and here’s the San Francisco version of the crab)
Okay, I already tried once to add an addendum to Pat’s Brainstorming post, but I came back from San Francisco to find my cable modem fried, one of the mirrored hard drives on my desktop paws up, and the network scrambled. This is my second attempt at a post–the first one blanked out claiming not enough memory. (?????) I can’t even add my usual cat graphic!
We came up with a brainstorming exercise for our panel, but didn’t have time for it, so I toss it out to you:
If time, EXERCISE: Brainstorming Heathcliff
I have a concept for a new women’s fiction series: taking classic novels and rewriting them as contemporary stories. The first one I want to do is an updated take on Wuthering Heights. My heroine, Catherine, has been trapped in an abusive relationship with Heathcliff, who has done his best to isolate and control her. There’s another man in the picture—her sensitive, nurturing therapist, Edgar Linton. How do I update this abusive classic into a modern story of a woman’s empowerment as she escapes a catastrophic relations ship and must discover who she really it??
So have fun with it! Do you have any classic stories you’d like to brainstorm into something different?
And did I mention that on my laptop, I can’t even find Notepad so the formatting on this problematic post will probably be weird?
MJP, in cyber purgatory–but it could be a lot worse