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?