B is for Brainstorming #AtoZChallenge

A guest post by Derek Thompson

Over the years I've heard many writers talk about the difficulty in coming up with ideas. I even attended a writing workshop once, where, during the introductions, someone declared, "Someday I really want to write a book - I just don't have any ideas for it yet." And then I really wanted to murder a wannabe writer - only I had plenty of ideas of how to go about it. But enough about me...

Every waking minute of every day, we are bombarded by stimuli - much of it, but not exclusively, external. TV, radio, magazines, advertising, overheard conversations, things we see, things we think we see - all these and more are constantly feeding the brain with information and interpretation. In parallel, our internal thought processes relate to the external stimuli based on what we have experienced before and our internal values or biases. Unless you're meditating, it doesn't stop. For a second. The only activity that keeps the noise down is focus.

Now, you could cut up some magazines and go arrange some pretty pictures. That's a start; it's true. But why not take the information you've collected and do something else creative with it? Pretend you're a comedy writer.

At first glance, comedy writing and other forms of creative writing are very different. Every genre has its rules and expectations, while comedy seems to be about one rule - being funny - right? Well, wrong actually. Comedy writing, in my experience, often relies on set formulae and techniques, and most of these can be applied to brainstorming.

These include:
  • Exaggeration - Making someone meaner, stronger more dishonest or needier. Or upping the stakes, so that the everyday consequences are magnified x10?
  • Misdirection - Sending the reader in one direction and then pulling out the rug from under them.
  • Similarity between things / People that are different - the cop and the bad girl have the same attitude to the law and normal social conventions.
  • Difference between things that are similar - Two sisters grow up together (perhaps even twins), but their lives take very different paths.

Intermission - a few jokes to be going on with...

  1. One of the first Disney artists has died in California. Doctors say the colour just drained out of him.
  2. Originally, brides were married in blue. It was a sign of both purity and substandard washing powder.
  3. Scientists have confirmed that pig organs are completely safe for human beings. If only as a breakfast after the transplant operation.
  4. A survey has shown that men pay more attention when they have a woman in the car...telling them how to drive.
OK, where were we?

Brainstorming. So, it isn't just a slew of ideas that gets the brain changing up a gear, there also needs to be a context or a dynamic tension. What is it about two ideas / characters / subplots / ideologies that ignites our interest? I think it's the dynamic between them. Juxtapose two people with conflicting ideas, or strangers locked in a room, and you have the beginnings of something interesting.

Still stuck for ideas? Get out your dictionary (remember those?) and use the power of random. For example, the finger of fate has selected professor, puppet and sleep:
  • A professor who performs sleep deprivation experiments on his students.
  • A professor obsessed with an antique puppet that he has to possess.
  • A professor being manipulated by someone else in the faculty.
  • Teachng people good sleep habits.
  • A puppet that comes alive in people's dreams.
  • A puppeteer who calls herself The Professor, but who is she really?
  • The tale of a disassociated child, whose parents dress him up as a puppet.

Enjoy your brainstorming - observe, play, and juxtapose, and see where it takes you!

Derek Thompson is a freelance writer and humorist.
Web: www.professional-writer.co.uk
Blog: www.alongthewritelines.blogspot.com
Twitter: @DerekWriteLines

Get the InLinkz code