Brainstorming Partners

No one ever said pulling together a story with complex characters, an imaginative plot and artful descriptions is easy. There are times where the process is downright mind-numbing. Like last week. I was in the middle of a scene. I knew what effect I wanted to create among three characters and how I wanted it to relate to the plot. But somehow, I just wasn’t happy with where the scene was leading.

That’s when I asked my husband, David, also a writer, for a brainstorming session. We often do this for each other. This time we got in the car—often we brainstorm while walking—and I described the problem. David began by asking clarifying questions. Next he pitched me some suggestions and, by golly, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a solution.

So, how do we brainstorm? It’s common knowledge that the goal of brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as possible. To keep the ideas flowing, we listen to all suggestions without critiquing. This is very important.

Another thing we’ve learned is that brainstorming often leads the partner to ask questions—maybe a lot of questions. This questioning can feel threatening. In fact, there have been times when I’ve found myself going completely blank. Yet, given a period of reflection, I most often come away better off for having thought through my answers—and on occasion they have helped me identify a real issue that needs correction.

So what should you look for if you want a brainstorming partner and don’t have one who lives with you? Look for someone who doesn’t want to make your story theirs; instead, find someone who really cares about helping you write the story you want.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking your brainstorming partner needs to be familiar with your novel.

So far, all David and my planned or spontaneous brainstorming sessions have either resulted in a solution or started me in the direction of a solution. David and I brainstormed ideas for this blog. Thank you, David. Do you have a brainstorming partner or group?

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About Nancy Gardner

Nancy Gardner’s short stories have been published in magazines, anthologies and online. Currently she’s working on a mystery set in Salem Massachusetts and featuring a present-day Salem witch who uses her ability to walk into the dreams of others to learn their secrets and solve crime.
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6 Responses to Brainstorming Partners

  1. patremick says:

    How fortunate you are to have such a brainstorming partner! My spouse also fills that role for me, sometimes, and it is so helpful!

  2. Nancy Gardner says:

    We’ve learned over time to value the power! Glad you and your spouse find it just as useful!

  3. No brainstorming at home for me, but sometimes at my writers’ group, and often alone! Great ideas, Nancy.

  4. Beth Kanell says:

    Thanks for this post, Nancy — very helpful! My spouse doesn’t always enjoy batting the ideas around, but he’s patient as I spin them out, and often I’ll find my fresh solution in the process of explaining the Temporary Sticking Point to him! I like the way you’ve described brainstorming and its goals.

    • Nancy Gardner says:

      Glad if it helped, Beth. I agree that often the most important part of the process is explaining the Temporary Sticking Point!!!

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