The title of this post is kind of misleading. No, this is not an instructional post teaching the handling of a device designed to make your brainstorming days disappear. Instead this is on using your own Idea Generator, God-given and made beautifully.
We only use ten percent of our brain. So let’s use that ten percent up! This post is similar to an old writing tip, but should be a bit more detailed and easier to understand. This post also comes with a great writing sample that I made when going through these steps myself. Before we go through this exciting journey however, know that your brain already has the ideas. It’s just about getting them out. OK, so I don’t really know that. But still, it’s a good philosophy.
Step 1: Getting Those Ideas to Come Out
Alrighty, so step one. This actually has two sub-steps, but I’ll overview it all first.
This step is focused on getting words. Yes, that’s right. Words. That’s what all stories are made of, right? So we just need a few to get started. But believe me, these will generate more and more and more. These words will form more feelings than ideas. But later these feelings will turn into ideas, and with a little guidance, maybe into a plot. So let’s jump right into the sub-steps!
Step 1a: Brainthunder
You’ve probably done this exercise before. Here’s how it works:
- Set a timer for about two minutes.
- Get a sheet of paper and a pencil.
- Start the timer.
- Write random words that come to you, and don’t stop.
- If nothing pops into your head, right the last word you wrote over and over until something else comes to your mind, or write “I don’t know” over and over again until something else comes, or take a quick glance around the room and write what you see and start fresh.
This is a very important exercise you should do every once in a while even if you have tons of ideas already. What happens is that you write random words like “mop,” “broom,” then finally “vacuum,” then “vacuum” brings “black hole,” “aliens,” “extraterrestrial” and so on. Do you get it? One word unleashes a stream of others. “Eyebrow,” “eyelash,” “lash,” “whip,” “lasso,” “laddie”…
When the timer stops you go back and reread the words. Circle the ones you like best. They can be related to one another or not. Already you start to get these feelings I was talking about. Not yet fully formed, solid ideas though. Hold onto these feelings. Implant them in your brain.
Here’s what I wrote when I did this minus one word. The circled words are in bold.
sleight of hand
I don’t know
I don’t know
I don’t know
You can tell that around some words, I was hooking around a theme. “Sleight of hand,” “robbers,” and “gang” can all sort of be connected. One word led to another, and the feelings were coming out. “Timer” is probably around when I looked around the room. I probably saw the timer or just thought of it. “Numbers” came after it, understandably. By they way, “shakens” are throwing stars.
Step 1b: Finding the Right Words
Great job so far. This next step is similar to the first, and a little bit easier. It involves other books.
It’s about as easy as you can imagine. Flip through a book randomly, stop at a random page, glaze over the words until a few words pop out to you. Write them down.
Done! And you can do this with an eBook too. Simply push through the book until you hit a random page. Do the same thing.
If you get enough words, you can circle the ones you like best. Here are mine:
The Two Towers: hills, travelers, pillars, victory, king
The Flames of Rome: colleagues, gray-haired, mood, aquamarine, senator
Inkheart: expert, nightdress, eyebrows, crack, chocolate
Dreamtreaders (eBook): nightmare, groan
These words aren’t quite as good, but with a lot of books, you can use it as a decent substitution to Brainthundering.I did a while ago and got tons of great words. As per Joking Koala’s recommendation, you can use a dictionary too!
Step 2: Freewriting
It’s time for Step 2. Freewriting. What this is is taking the words you circled and playing with them around in your mind. If you check back at my bold words, I focused on robbers and criminals. Also sleight of hand. So maybe it’s a gang of robbers that uses crossbows and does dragon training that leave their hideout and attack carriages with swords focusing on sleight of hand to steal. OK, so that was a run-on sentence, but you see what I did. I used the circled words to form an idea. Maybe the story can be a retelling of Robin Hood. You can do this too.
That’s what I started with in my freewriting! Freewriting really is taking those ideas from the feelings and using them as inspiration to write an unplanned story that can last three paragraphs or a whole ten pages. I used freewriting to help with Bayonet. And the best part? It’s fun!
In freewriting, the ideas flow. If you start down one path, another will open. More ideas will filter into your head.
If you want an example, you shall have your wish. At the bottom of this post is an edited version of my freewritten manuscript based off those circled words and the ideas they generated. Keep your eye out for those bold words above! If you like, say the ones you found in the comments! For now, however, let’s get right on to Step 3.
Step 3: Good Ol’ Brainstorming
All these steps generate ideas that start with simple thoughts, and those simple thoughts turn into those with complexity. Freewriting does this incredibly well, as do the other steps. More ideas jump in for a spot in the limelight and reveal themselves from the depths of your mind. Slowly basic stories turn into something more, inspiration into solid text. But you don’t stop there. Take your circled words, your freewritten text, and your Idea Generator 1.0 and brainstorm! That’s all! Slowly subplots will arise and settings and peoples. Characters will throw themselves in, antagonists and protagonists, and you’ll find yourself jumping around the room with each rising bubble of an inkling!
And that’s it. I hope my method works. Thanks. If you haven’t read it already, enjoy my freewritten sample, a part of a retelling of Robin Hood.
Jay loads his crossbow and cocks it back with his obsidian-tipped arrow intact. He feels the tension in the taught string, fighting to release the dart. But not until he pulls the trigger.
He takes several breaths of frigid night air, his unwashed mouth creating clouds of fog before his face. He hopelessly rubs his arms to keep his warmth after setting down the weapon. The boulder he hides behind is covered with twilight frost, chilling him even more, and his lack of winter clothes doesn’t help. He bites his tongue and leans back on the freezing rock.
I just need to get this job done, he says within himself. Then I and my colleagues will be able to afford all the warmth we desire. He smiles, then unleashes a hacking cough. He whisks a handkerchief from his sleeve and covers his mouth with it, muffling his cold. Soon. Soon warmth. Then again, maybe not soon, if that squealing senator they caught lied. Maybe the carriage wasn’t coming. Maybe he had only said it would with millions of gold coins to live. Fat lot of help it did him.
The shaky wheels of a carriage sounds not far away. Jay grabs his crossbow back off the icy boulder and leans out of the bush encovering him, shaking frost off his clothes and bushy goatee. He gazes down the quiet woodland lane and the forest around it. Trustwood Forest. His Trustwood Forest.
Looking through the first flakes of snow, he sees the silhouette of a buggy rambling down the road. Slowly. Too slowly.
The frosty white and green pines glare down at the covered carriage, boring down their thick elongated shadows. Jay squints to get a better look. It sure is moving slowly; it’s definitely a large wagon for the malnourished horse up front. And driver. It looks as if she hasn’t eaten in months, let alone bathed. This can’t possibly be the king’s gold.
As the wagon moves closer, Jay sees the reason for the sluggishness: one of four wheels missing. At the right side by the front, two men strain their backs, pulling up and forwards on the broken axle, tired legs just barely pushing on. The men, poorly clothed and dirty as pigs for the slaughter, seem to source their energy on nothing, neither food nor beating hope. Their dim eyes amidst their bearded faces show no joy at all. Just an empty barrenness. An eternal void. I know how you feel.
As the wagon moves on, the rear begins to show. Inside, under the scarce canopy of lambskin that makes up the buggy’s roof, sit four desperate skeletons, cloaked in a tightening canvas of pale skin and prickly hair, broken and beaten, thirsty and starving. The children.
And I think I have it rough.
The faces of the rich come pouring into his mind, much different from these skullish ones. The well-fed cheeks stuffed with food and drink, mirthful smiles on their prim-and-ever-so-proper lips. Jay had been starving, looking through a fogged up window, hoping for a servant girl to catch sight of him and try to smuggle some food from the noblemen’s mouths. His own was empty since the day the king personally oversaw the destroying of his stage of tricks and sleight of hand. But he wasn’t cruel to everyone. Those ones that supped with no limit were the favored of the king. They had but once done some dirty work, and the rich monarch funded them until they died. He still does, slamming down his red seal to issue money to everyone but the ones too far from his rich castle. The pure were left to be poor. And through their starvation they’re becoming less guiltless. They’re all thieves or dead.
Jay hears the sound of cracking. He looks back to the men. The shorter one bursts into a grating shriek. He tumbles, his right leg bending slowly in a way it shouldn’t. The other falls out of the way. The broken one trips downward, the whole carriage falling on an angle, axle landing on the poor man’s head.
The horse screams, and the driver and tall man just stare in horror.
Then comes the sound of chariots.
The king’s gold!
Jay turns his attention back down the road, bone’s chilling. He sees three chariots moving fast, much faster than the wagon stuck in the road. As they come closer, he sees the gold patterns crafted with Elvish words inlaid with silver. And the royal crest.
The drivers, three to each chariot, are knights in silver and black, each armed to the teeth. Behind and before their standing feet, the gold in massive chests.
Their horses whinny as they stop in their tracks in front of the stayed carriage.
There’s much more than what the senator described, Jay wonders greedily, examining the stuffed chests.
“You there, filth!” one of the king’s knights shouts at the peasants. The woman already is chirping hysterical weeps. “Move!” the warrior shouts.
Jay grits his teeth.
The tall man says something, to coated with phlegm to understand.
“I don’t care!” the knight barks. “Move, scum, or pay!”
“They can’t move, sir, on their own,” one of the other knights in the same chariot says, probably a squire. “I’ll go down and help them.”
“They help themselves, Gunivan!” the commander shrieks, pulling out a dagger. “Now go show who’s boss and make them move!”
The squire named Gunivan tentatively takes the dagger and steps out of the chariot. He walks near the carriage, the remaining paupers scrambling to their dead companion’s position at the axle.
“We can’t go with your wagon there,” Gunivan says. “Move it.”
“They’re pigs!” the knight shouts. “Don’t speak to them like men!”
The young one huffs. “Move, pigs!” he yells, his voice cracking. Jay sees tears. “Move or this’ll be in your rotten hides!” He raises the knife up.
Why am I waiting? This is my chance! Jay lays his crossbow back down. He’s not going to snipe with the peasants there. The knights might take them as hostages. No, he’s fighting them hand-to-hand.
The angry knight joins the squire with a smile that seems quite out of character. “Good,” he says. “But they’re not moving.” The beggar man and his wife share fearful looks and try harder at pulling up the wagon. The knight’s smile turns icier than the frigid night. “Hurt them.”
Jay runs up, unseen, unheard. He stops behind the knight. Then he pushes him. “What’s your problem?”
The knight turns, anger poured like burning tar on his face like normal. Jay throws his hands behind his back before the knight sees them and the prize inside.
“Down, dog!” the man orders. He reaches for his sword. It’s not there.
“Dog?” Jay smirks. “I prefer Jay Cloaked.” He whips the stolen sword from behind his back and slits the knight’s throat, years of practice filtering into one move. He grabs Squire Gunivan by his hair.
“You’re a good kid,” Jay growls. “Escape while you still have your own mind.” He pushes the young soldier off to run into the woods and turns to face the rest of the angry knights in their chariots. They jump down from them and lunge forward.
“Night night, knights!” Jay laughs, his conman and fighter training combining and focusing like an arrow upon the targets. He clumsily bumps into each warrior as they attack him, but never by accident. Pickpocketing and cutpursing came with the job of a cheater by trade. He puts that into use now. He grabs knives, darts, poison vials, and even admits a few wallets. Each item is slipped into his numerous leather pockets or used agains the knights.
Soon all of them are either slain or have fled. All but one. And Jay has his knife.
“Give it!” the warrior snaps, diving at Jay with hands out. Jay simply uses a false transfer with the dagger, and the soldier grabs the hand supposedly holding the weapon.
“Empty!” Jay shouts, thrusting the seemingly teleported dagger into the man’s side. Malice creeps into his heart. Revenge he’s been saving up for every battle. He fights down a cruel smile. I can’t be like them.
He drops the dead man’s corpse, guilt striding in with prickly feet. He just killed five men without a thought. I’m being just like them! He stares at his hands and drops the bloody knife. He’s drifted so far. He remembers the time he was a respectable man, a good man, and not a murder. A thief.
This needs to stop. No good will come of it.
Then slowly he turns around. The peasants look at him with their same dulled eyes as if they don’t know what just happened. So helpless. So worse than him.
“It looks like you need a new source of transportation,” he says. “Or two.” He walks to the last chariot. “Since I can’t take all of these home, you can have them.”
And off he rides.
Alrighty, so that’s that. Jay’s thoughts at the end seem a little random, but that’s only because I don’t want to glorify death at all. And the ending is a little rushed. I was getting tired.
So there’s my long post! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!