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Brainstorming Techniques

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I've been writing up the material for the Synopsis Workshop and I realized that it was excessively long, and that this chunk in the middle should be a separate topic anyway because it's not directly related to synopses. So here you go, have a list of brainstorming techniques. Please feel free to suggest more techniques, I'm always happy to learn new ones. "Yeah, yeah." says some frustrated writer. "What if I don't KNOW what the central idea of my story is, or how it ends." Well, if you don't have an idea, you need to get one from somewhere. The only two options are emulating another piece of fiction or going fishing in your subconscious. Emulation is a simple concept, and something I already covered in the previous workshop on plot. Basically, you just pick a story with a plot structure you like, analyze it to get a synopsis or plot outline, and then swap pieces out for ones that seem more interesting until you get something that's basically the same shape but has original details. Optionally, you may try to mix and match two or more example stories. Subconscious-fishing, on the other hand, is a very subjective activity where you try various brainstorming techniques and hope you get enough interesting results to build a story out of. If you have planned ahead, you may have a file or notebook of story ideas – looking through that is a good first step. If you don't have a file like this I recommend starting one. I've written elsewhere about how to examine your favorite stories and previous writing to come up with a list of ideas that "resonate" with you and thus fire up your creative passion. If you have any kind of idea you want to start with, clustering is probably the way to go. Clustering is a simple brainstorming technique where you write a keyword in the center of a page, then write all the related ideas is makes you think of around it, then go through those one at a time and write what they make you think of. If you have no idea what to start with, come back and try this once you do get some idea fragments. Another exercise I like is going to a bookstore or library, looking at just the titles of books, and from each title, imagine what you think the book might be about. For the most part what the book is actually about will be completely different, so you've just come up with an original idea for a book. Tarot cards are another possibility. Whether you have studied tarot symbolism or know nothing about them, tarot cards have pictures that tend to spark the imagination. Cards can stand for characters or for events. You can either look through the deck and pull out the cards that remind you of something, or you can ask the deck for a card to symbolize a particular character or event, then draw a card and see what you get. Similar mystical systems like astrology can also provide character ideas. There are also idea generator programs and books you can play with – StoryBase is a program specifically designed to generate plot ideas, and it is based on the book Plots Unlimited. You can find books of writing prompts such as 3 am epiphany and 4 am breakthrough in the writing/publishing section of any bookstore. And there are many free text generators available online, such as the collection hosted at Seventh Sanctum. Ultimately, although I'd be happy to tell people what to write about (in hopes that they'd write something I'd enjoy reading), that wouldn't work. You have to pick an idea you care about, otherwise it won't be compelling and motivating.

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I like the notebook thing, I always have one around and it is filled with drawing and piece of idea I had. So whenever i need it, I just open the book and flash of idea come quick.

Music can help a lot too (for me at least). Just put a song that give you the feeling you want to give to your player and start thinking about the story you "hear" (be careful not to listen too much to the lyrics or you are likely to end with no story of your own).

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