The Art of Brainstorming

Aaron and I just spent the last couple of hours brainstorming for the next installment of Brother Dust. My favorite part of brainstorming is that it can be light and fun. It is the part of writing where you can come together with people of like mind and dream of what could be.
Writing is difficult work. Writing is lonely work, even with a partner. You get lost in the story. But when you sit down, two year old running around the house screaming, a plate full of baby back ribs in front of you, trying to talk in code about ideas so that your wife doesn’t have the story ruined for her, and just throw out any potential scenarios your characters might be in, it becomes social and if done right, fun! (Sorry for that run on sentence!)

The best part about writing a story is that your characters take on a life of their own. I’ll tell you the most common phrase that happens at a Hall and Beaulieu brainstorming party: “well, maybe he’s doing (fill in the blank).” We don’t have a clue!  We allow the characters to dictate what they will do next based on their individual motivations and personalities. If you learn this piece of simple truth, you become part of the story instead of just someone telling a story that already occurred.

With that said, here’s a quick break down of our brainstorming process:

We are working on a sequel, so for you, some things might need to be tweaked but the principles stay the same.

 • Who are your lead and secondary characters?

Aaron and I made a list of our main characters. The ones who survived the first book now get to play a role, no matter how large or small it might be, in book two.

Where did they end up (physically) at the end of the first book?

For you, the question might need to be, Where do they start out? For us, we had about 10-12 characters all in varying places across a massive universe. We needed to know where they all ended up so that those of which we want to come back together can do so in an organic fashion.

The last thing you want is for your characters to end book one several galaxies from each other only to magically, without explanation, end up together again in book two.

Where are your protagonists? Where is your antagonist? Did they die? Was it a cliff hanger? Figure out where they are.

What are my characters motivations?

What is driving them so hard that they don’t simply turn the ship around and go home? For us? Many of their homes no longer exist for a variety of reasons. Do they have a savior complex? Is there a loved one in dire peril? Become your character for the moment and ask yourself, “is this motivation enough?” Will the reader buy it?

Never underestimate the power of a brainstorming session. When I first started writing I was the kind of author (which I don’t think many of these exists because I don’t think it works!) who just started writing and hoped I’d come to the right conclusion by the time my word count was where it needed to be. Aaron was always the outliner. I still struggle with outlines. Brainstorming is excitement for me. Outlining is work. But I’ve seen it WORK for him.

What are you waiting for? Go call a friend who thinks like you and brainstorm!


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