Brainstorming is the process of developing new ideas that can be used in meaningful ways. From a writing standpoint, brainstorming techniques are often discussed as a way to conquer writer’s block. Although this is true, a good brainstorming session is useful at any time to develop new concepts, ideas, plot points, or even content for a blog.
It’s a process which doesn’t involve magic and miracles. Brainstorming is a skill that embraces the creativity centers of the mind and encourages those centers to communicate. In doing so, there can be several unique and amazing ideas that spring forth in just one session. Here are some techniques to help get you started.
#1. Associative Brainstorming
When we start brainstorming, the first ideas that come out tend to be the ones that make the most sense. We’re trying to attack the problem we’re facing in a logical way, so our brainstorming produces logical solutions. To take the next step, associative brainstorming can help to generate new ideas.
Here’s how it works: you see a word. Let’s say you see the word “awesome.” What’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
Now let’s say you saw an image of Captain America when you thought of awesomeness. What’s the first thing you associate to this character about why he is so awesome?
Okay great. For this example, let’s say it’s his desire for justice. Why is that desire something you feel is important to you from a personal standpoint?When you can answer that question, you’ve just brainstormed something you can write thousands of words about potentially while thinking initially about one single word.
#2. Visual Brainstorming
Sometimes you know that you’ve got great ideas that are ready to come out, but the actual door that can let them out is stuck. The hinges have frozen with mental corrosion. Using visual prompts as a method of brainstorming is like applying some mental WD-40 to those stuck hinges. Now here’s the best part: anything you see can become part of a visual brainstorming session.
Let’s say you’re looking at an old family photo. What do you remember thinking about when that image was being taken? Or if you took the picture, what were you thinking about during that moment?
Now take that thought and expand upon it. If you felt love and contentment, why are those are important emotions to feel? If you were feeling disappointment, describe why that feeling was present. Then keep expanding each thought as the words prompt you. Use other visuals if you start feeling like you’re becoming stuck again.
You’ll find that through visual association, the writing which comes forth is cohesive even if the images come from very different sources.
#3. What If Brainstorming
Life is lived after the “What ifs.” These are the questions we always ask ourselves, sometimes unconsciously, to guide out path through life.
For example: a wife might ask herself “What if I left my husband today to be on my own?”
Or a child might ask: “What if I rode my bicycle down the basement stairs?”
Or an employee might ask: “What if I just quit today and never come back to work?”
We ask ourselves these questions to gauge our contentment with life. Most of the time, we look at the answer to the “What Ifs” and find the result to be unappealing. The wife might be lonely. The child might fear being injured. The employee might like having a regular paycheck.
So we ignore the “What Ifs” in real life. But what about writing life? Having characters follow those questions can create some incredible writing opportunities. That’s why this brainstorming technique can be so powerful.
#4. Switch Brainstorming
Sometimes you can have a great idea, but not know what to do with it. Using this technique, you can switch the concepts of one idea with another to begin building a new idea from that merger.
What if rich man woke up one day and had no money at all? Or what if someone who is white woke up as a minority ethnicity and had to face the challenges of racism that they’d never had to face before? Or what if someone with a beautiful home suddenly woke up homeless?Answer those questions. Follow the ideas. Put the homeless man into a home if you wish to switch things up. Have a poor family be given a major bank error in their favor and describe what they would do.
These brainstorming techniques for writing are designed to help you access the ideas that are likely already present within the creative centers of your mind. Take some time to brainstorm on your own, bring in some trusted associates if you wish for a group session, and then take the gloves off. Every idea has potential. Use these techniques to find it.