Monday, October 17, 2011

Brainstorming: New Ideas

I've recently been to a writing conference (Moonlight & Magnolias 2011, hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers in Decatur, GA) and to a writing workshop (Cherry Adair's all-day workshop, co-hosted by the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers and the Carolina Romance Writers in Raleigh, NC). And, in case you're not aware, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - November!) is fast approaching! My friend Scribe has participated in NaNoWriMo several times in the past, and I've been reading over her blog posts as she gears up for this next one.

Between all these sources, I've collected a number of writing ideas, and thought I'd share 3 from each.

From M&M:
  • Write your characters' backgrounds. What do they do? This will effect what they notice. When writing from their point of view, make sure to include details that they'd notice. Writing a botanist? If he's walking through the woods, refer to a couple of plants by their proper names. Writing an editor? If she's reading a story, point out the errors she notices. This will help separate your points of view, making your story more realistic if you have multiple POVs.
  • Trying to come up with a character, but have no idea? Get a picture (if you can, don't use a model) of a random person. Look at the backgrounds, what they're wearing, where they are, how old they are, what their flaws are... Use these details to create a background for this character.
  • Be thorough in your world-building - even if you're not writing in another world. What curses do your characters use? What is their town like? How does this affect them? A good setting should help write the story.

From Cherry Adair:
  • Stuck on character creation? Choose a random date (without looking at a calendar or taking any time at all to think about it.) This is now your character's birthday (Sorry, no take-backs!) Grab an astrology book, look up their sign, and see what it says about them. (Adair recommends the book Sun Signs.) Doesn't match what you're looking for? Hey, look - Figure out how they went from that original personality type to what you think they are now, and you've got a great backstory!
  • Working on characterization? Choose 4 main character traits for each of your main characters. In every scene they're in, they must be demonstrating at least one of these traits. 
  • Every scene should have a point. Ask yourself, "What is the point of this scene?" What is it contributing to the story; what is it showing? If you can't think of a point for the scene, delete it. Immediately. (Or, you know, throw it in that "clippings" folder of things you don't actually want to get rid of. Who knows, maybe you can reuse bits of it later.)

From Scribe's Blog:
  • For each character, write a primary desire - the main thing that they want. Then write a (or a couple of) secondary desire - something else they want. These can conflict, but they don't have to. Beside each desire, write something that is keeping them from what they want. Conflict! Wheee!
  • Make a list of the things you need to reveal throughout your story before you begin writing. Then mark out exactly where you will reveal them. Scribe puts them on notecards, which allows them to be moved around as she sees fit. (Note: This will really, really help avoid the "first-30-page syndrome," when you put forth all your information in the first 30 pages and thus bore the heck out of your reader. Agents hate the "first-30" syndrome.)
  • Write a one-sentence description of your story that includes your main character's motivation, the conflict, the antagonist's motivation, the action (or the journey the character undertakes), and the consequences if the main character doesn't succeed. It doesn't have to be (and probably won't be) a very good sentence, but it will help in boiling your story down to the basics and keeping on track.

You can't attend already-gone-by conferences or workshops, but you can still read Scribe's posts. Here are her NaNoWriMo posts so far:
NaNoWriMo Outlining Workshop Part I: the Groundwork
NaNoWriMo Outlining Workshop Part II: Plot, Subplots, & Scenes
NaNoWriMo Outlining Workshop Part III: Finishing the Frame

Are you planning in participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you ever participated in the past? Did it help your writing?


  1. I'll be doing NaNo again. Great month and great time. Hope you enjoyed Moonlight & Magnolias and hope that we'll see you again next year. Happy writing.

  2. I had a great time at M&M! Thanks, Nicki! Good luck on your NaNo. Happy writing!