Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
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Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby RusticBohemian » Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:59 am

I've got a story coming along well. I've got an antagonist, and I know what his broad goal is and what he's trying to achieve.

I've come up with two specific "schemes" for him that work, but which are just too obvious.

I've also come up with another two that work well and are original, but don't fit into the tech/magic level of the setting.

So I've been grinding my gears trying to come up with something that's a better fit, but not getting anywhere with it.

Do any of you have any favorite brainstorming prompts, strategies, or techniques when trying to solve plot problems like this? Please share!


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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby RSchibler » Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:16 pm

Dave Farland suggested writing out a list of ten things that could happen in your story. The first few will be the "obvious" or "easy" answers, but as you get to seven, eight, nine, you'll be forced to really come up with something unique. I've found this can help with plotting.
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby RabenWrites » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:26 am

One thing that I find can jumpstart ideas is constraints. Your villain is trying to achieve a goal. Before the protagonist even registers on their radar, what obstacles does your villain have to face? Mentally sketch out a few try/fail cycles for them. Maybe even start with an obvious one and say your villain started down that path and figure out what went wrong. This can give depth to your presentation of the antagonist while mining for ideas.

Another angle is to consider what your readers are expecting/experiencing. Does the rest of your story run on a theme, and can the villain’s actions comment on that theme? Can an obvious or boring first-draft idea be used by the antagonist as a smoke screen for their actual plan of attack, subverting reader expectations and causing a roadbump for your protagonist?

Anything that can take the list of options from “Anythjng except obvious A and boring B” to “something that can be pulled off under these specific conditions” can help sift the sand of possibilities to find those nuggets of gold.

Keep up the good work!
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:35 am

I made a template for myself based on a class Dave taught. It's not 100% perfect for me (I tend to pants more with short stories and outline more with longer ones), but I feel like it's a solid idea to have in mind.

In order to begin your story, you need...

A Character:
In a Setting:
With a Problem:
And a Surprise for the Reader:

Take some time to brainstorm potential problems your character could encounter while in pursuit of a solution to their problem.


Choose your favorite three horrible things from the previous list.


Congratulations! You now have all of the basic information you need to write a short story.

This template doesn't specify between internal and external conflicts, but as writers we should definitely try for both whenever possible.
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Oct 02, 2020 10:11 am

Here's a fun one:

Have a Person in a Place with a Problem, Preferably in the first Paragraph. wotf013
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby Mr H » Tue Dec 08, 2020 1:33 am

Write a bunch of random words, I do it in a line.

Toothbrush, broccoli, ape, doorway, watering can, space port, whatever.

Just draw random lines and see what happens.

An ape with a watering can at a spaceport doorway going to water the broccoli. Story.

Or an guy in an ape suit with broccoli in his teeth reaching for a toothbrush.

A watering can holding open the spaceport doorway.

It probably works beast with a few items, a few locations and a few people and a few actions.

Snake, car, jump, house, boxer, ship, watch, surfer dude, hat, cry.

A boxer watches a surfer jump a car while running away with a hat he stole from a house.

So on.

You do a bunch, see what works, tweek them as needed.
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby BlackInk » Tue Dec 08, 2020 5:02 am

I suggest listening to the WE podcast on brainstorming stories to see how they get from one idea to an actual story. If I find the episode I'll edit this and link to it. It's not just brainstorming ideas but what to do with them once you have em.
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby Reuben » Tue Dec 08, 2020 5:46 am

It's called "No Seriously, Where Do You Get Your Ideas" (season 10) and was one one the most eye-opening episodes for me. Mainly, it was Mary's parable of oranges that did the trick. I git several ideas from that one brainstorming exercise, and my current WotF entry is based on one of them.
Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. ~ Winston Churchill
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby BlackInk » Tue Dec 08, 2020 6:03 am

Top one is the one Reuben mentioned. It is very good. I always find my problem isn't with finding ideas but what to do with them after the fact. Answer? CONFLICT!
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Re: Do you have tips for brainstorming?

Postby Pezel » Tue Dec 08, 2020 8:40 am

Such good brainstorming tips! A habitual pantser, I'm going to try and implement some of these ideas in the future. It would be a nice change to actually have things figured out ahead of time!

I do have a question for you, Rustic. You write that you've got your antagonist in mind, but you do not mention the yin to his/her yang. Is there to be no protagonist in the story? It just made me curious that you only spoke about the antagonist's goals and possible schemes. Who is the antagonist going to thwart, and why?

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