I’m writing this before I head out to the Romantic Times convention— a week ahead of the posting date, because I won’t be home until the night before I’m supposed to blog. I won’t be at RT all that time. Part of it will be spent brainstorming with a couple of the other wenches, which leads to the subject of this post— brainstorming.
There are as many reasons to brainstorm as there are fish in the sea. Officially, brainstorming started as a business method of breaking out of established patterns of thought to develop a new way of thinking. Obviously, as creative writers, we hardly need to be encouraged to think creatively! Our problem might be on the flip side—we have excessive numbers of ideas floating in our separate universes, and we need to narrow them down into a new and original structures.
According to business guidelines, brainstorming is what is called a “lateral thinking process.” To a business mind, that might mean thinking of a can of Campbell’s soup as square and blue instead of cylindrical and red and white. Shocking stuff! And then the stormers are supposed to create something useful out of this wild idea. I doubt any of them thought of painting a soup can on canvas and selling it for millions, ala Andy Warhol. Really, I think all
businesses ought to have creative people on staff to shake it up a little. And governments could use us to imagine future scenarios, the “what ifs” that never seem to occur to them as they march off to war or hurricanes.
But I digress. As writers, we use our sessions to access each other’s wide variety of experience and knowledge. Most of us have written well over twenty-five novels apiece, so we’ve spilled a lot of our own knowledge into print already. We could let that back list form a foundation for dozens of more similar novels, but we’re writers. We like a challenge. We like trying new things. We like stretching our wings and soaring into uncharted territory.
So we dig into books and locate gems of material that fascinate us, but then we need to produce entire stories to fit these historical treasures. Or we may have characters in our heads who insist on time
traveling or building churches or other impossible feats about which we know nothing. As these idea germs start to form into nebulous clouds of creation (just imagine the scenario accompanying this photo!), it’s extremely convenient to let the cloud coagulate over more than one brain. (Did you know that rain is produced by germs in cloud particles? Ponder that for a while!)
After we toss excited “what ifs” around for a while, each outdoing the other (with much screaming laughter and moans of torment), we’ll have three books worth of characters and some degree of plot. At that point, we’re forced to filter the stream of ideas through our various backgrounds and interests, each adding a new twist or turn that one mind alone couldn’t produce,
creating—we hope—something useful. It’s up to the “owner” of the original nugget that seeded the clouds to sort through the glittering gems remaining to find the ones that make the necklace work. Which may be why we end up beading before the session ends. <G>
Okay, I stretched that metaphor to a painful end. Anyone else use brainstorming—at work or elsewhere? What are your methods?