Brainstorming Strategies for Writers

No matter what is happening in a writer’s life, the one thing you can count on is we always have an idea for a story. It may be the tiniest of seeds, but we know we can water it and have it grow into something quite magical. The problem, however, is that we usually have about ten other ideas swirling in our heads at the same time. So, how do we cut it down? Or how do we make sure that tiny seed explores all its possibilities? By brainstorming, of course! 🙂

If you have too many ideas or feel stuck with one, brainstorming can help you collect and organize your thoughts. Just keep in mind that you’re not to evaluate anything you write down. You’ll make sense of it as you go along. And if you’re not sure what brainstorming strategy to use, here are a few different options to consider:

– Talk it out
Yes, sure, this one seems easy, but it’s effective. If you have no one you feel comfortable with, then talk to yourself. Don’t worry about your sanity at this point—as a writer, you already hear voices in your head constantly. What have you got to lose? You could pretend you’re a reporter and ask all the questions you’d need to know for a factual report. Write it down. And make notes of any holes along with all the elements you love about it.

– Make Lists
Even if you’re not sure how the story will develop, you’ll have some ideas of different things you need to happen—maybe a specific argument, certain facts, a dream, or questions that will need to be raised and answered. Write these down along with a list of your characters, their values, and goals, locations, obstacles, etc. This will serve as a good starting point for your creativity to shine.

– Cubing
Cubing is an instructional strategy that asks students to consider a concept from a variety of different perspectives—six distinct viewpoints to be exact. In your story, for example, you would:
1- Describe your idea—what is it?
2- Analyze it—what are the elements/important aspects of it?
3- Associate it—what does it remind you of? (Other books, movies, experiences.)
4- Compare it—what is it like or unlike?
5- Apply it—how would you use it in your story?
6- Argue for or against it—how can you support or oppose it?

– Mapping
A mind map is a diagram that connects information around the central point. Think of it as a tree. In the middle is your main idea, and as you jot down subplots, scenes, characters, etc., you link them back to their respective branches.

– Research
When in doubt or when you’re stuck, start your research. Geek out on all the scientific facts you need, learn the various types of spells in existence, list all of the supernatural beings, or study personality traits. Even if your story doesn’t require many facts, every little thing counts and helps your brainstorming become more detailed.

– Freewriting
Write anything. Write Everything.
You don’t know what to write? It doesn’t matter. Write that down: “I don’t know what to write.” And keep on going . . . the point is to ignore anything that usually stops you. No editing, no spell checks, no cohesiveness required. Just write. Don’t slow down. You can set a timer and go as fast as you can. Give Flash a run for his money. If anyone can do it, it’s you. #TrueStory

Don’t forget to make it fun! The goal is to find what is most alive in that mind of yours. And if you allow it, brainstorming can inspire you to get to the heart of your story.


S. Katherine Anthony


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