Have you ever wondered where authors get their crazy ideas? Or how they develop their thoughts? Does planning a novel happen in a vacuum, or do authors share their thoughts with others? I don’t know who Stephen King bounces his ideas off of, but I’ve heard J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to discuss their ideas over mugs at a coffee house . . . or was it a bar? Anyway, considering the popularity of their works, I’m assuming their discussions were beneficial.
Brainstorming is an important part of the writing process; in fact, it’s the very first step. This is when writers create characters, plan scenes, and choose themes. It is not a step to be taken lightly . . . not that you can’t have a little fun in the process.
My suggestion, get out a pencil and pen (or a blank Word Doc for you technologically savvy individuals) and record as many ideas as possible. Better yet, include a friend or fellow writer. You know what they say: two heads are better than one.
So, what does it sound like when a pair of writers sit down and actually discuss their ideas. To give you an idea, I have provided a dictation of a brainstorming session I shared with my sister a few days ago.
To give you a little context, it’s about one of my characters, tentatively named Kavik, who has, by random accident, turned himself into a platypus using magic. (I promise it’s not as crazy as it sounds!) He spends the entire first book stuck in the body of an animal, and because he can’t talk to anyone, spends a lot of time introspectively learning about what it means to be a leader and a man. In the second novel, I plan on breaking the spell he’s under, only I did not know how. Because the novel is comedic, I wanted the method to be . . . well, humorous, a satire on other fantasy works, so I spoke with my sister–an avid reader of fantasy–and we decided it would be best to satirize the ritual by having the character go, not on a soul-seeking journey, but on a trip down the street. Rather than break his bond to magic by traveling to a volcano and casting his amulet into the fire, we decided it would be better for my work if he take his amulet to the local blacksmith just to have it busted up. The adventure is still present, only the execution is unexpected.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy getting a taste of what the writing process looks like, and please do not judge too harshly. I swear the idea sounded a lot better in my head!
Sister: Start off with his interaction with other people: school children, etc. People are seeing this animal running around the streets; it would be unnatural, like a raccoon in the suburbs. So, anyway, animal control is called out. This could be a really intense scene. They suit up. They don’t know what kind of animal he is, and they are heavily equipped with nets, snares, cages, bait. So we get this intense chase scene throughout the city before they catch him. Kind of like when guards chase after criminals.
Me: I could actually develop the character of the animal control guy, you know like those soldiers who don’t let anything get passed them. (laughs at my own joke) He’s got bite marks and war scars.
Sister: It’s kind of like the horse and Eugene (from Tangled) in reverse.
Sister: What you’re doing is you’re giving people a break from the main plot. That’s the point of a side plot. Sometimes you have to breathe from the actual plot. They do say you can do that as long as it comes together in the end.
Me: Readers might enjoy going back to Kavik running from the animal catcher. The main plot gets kind of heavy at times.
Sister: Seriously, it needs to get dumb. Like, maybe the school children step in to help him.
Me: So, anyway, what happens when he gets to the blacksmiths?
Sister: That’s going to be the tricky part. How’s he going to . . . he probably ends up in more trouble once he’s a man again. He–oh my gosh, that would be great! So, the animal control chase him to the blacksmith’s, by the time they find him there, he’s destroyed it, and now he’s a naked man. And the animal control guy is like “He’s not an animal; that’s out of our jurisdiction.” Then maybe the cops come to get him, and he ends up in jail. Maybe it gets dumber.
. . . Just going to cut it off there . . . it does get dumber . . . waaaay dumber.
Anyway, just wanted to demonstrate what I’m talking about. So, on my own the idea starts off pretty basic and undeveloped but after tossing the idea back and forth with someone else, it develops into something a little more concrete . . . or as concrete as the idea of a platypus running from the law can get.
The point, share your ideas with others and see what comes of it . . . hopefully your ideas are saner than mine;)