The other night, I couldn’t get the characters from the short story I had submitted to a competition that day out of my mind. Due to this, I could not turn to my chapter book and start the editing process, so I decided to do some brainstorming instead.
An hour later, not only had those characters fled my mind, I had twelve short story and chapter book ideas. Twelve!
One was so fully formed that I’m going to plan it out properly and write it as a short story for children. The two main characters are so completely different from each other, and one is going to be such a laugh, that I’m going to enjoy writing that story.
Another came to me in fragments, a clear beginning, a mischieveous middle and an uncertain end. That one will also be planned out and written as a fun chapter book.
Yet all the ideas, no matter how vague to begin with, can be built on and made into a story readers will enjoy.
This brings me to the topic at hand – brainstorming. How is it done?
The key is to free your mind. Let the thoughts bubble to the surface and accept them for what they are…ideas. Getting started is the difficult part, for some. What I did was think back to my own childhood. I remember a deserted house my brother and I were forbidden to go to. It was in an isolated place. Away from prying eyes. We did go there, along with the other kids in the street – who were also given strict orders to stay away. We had some brilliant times in that old house, but once…we discovered why our parents didn’t want us to go anywhere near the place. This was the first thing I wrote down in that blank notebook.
Other childhood memories were added – ghostly experiences, camping misfortunes, even something from my horse days.
Then I turned to a blank page and looked at the community around me. The ideas continued to bubble, I twisted simple situations into something exciting. I even looked at the animals and birds and found more ideas to write on my list, which generated other ideas. And it was at this time that the fully developed story popped up. Two well formed characters placed in a ideal situation. Perfect! The story title is Squatters and it will be a short story for children.
Yet another blank page, and this time I took normal situations and turned them into fantasy stories instead. The “what if” question comes into play here. What if the man didn’t get into a car, he rode a carpet instead? What if the carpet talked? What if the man was a murderer, a mage, a robot, a prison escapee, etc? What if the building blew up, stank into the ground, disappeared mysteriously? What if the hole in the wall was a door to another dimension? What if there was a camera watching our every move, even in the toilet?
It was at this time that another story came well developed, the one I mentioned before with the uncertain ending. That one will be a chapter book for sure.
Ideas are everywhere we look. It’s just a matter of writing them down and asking ourselves questions. Normal is boring, so twist and shape what you see into something worth reading. Never say you don’t have an idea, you can’t think of anything. There are clues everywhere, it’s up to you – the writer – to see them and use them.