Friday, March 18, 2011

5 Brainstorming Tips for Manuscripts

I don’t spend much time brainstorming my stories. I start writing the outline or the working synopsis the moment I feel the need to do so. But, the story has been buzzing around in my mind for several weeks, maybe even months, taking shape and growing bigger. Its not like  I get an idea in the morning and by afternoon I have decided  that it will be my current WIP.

 But, I have never spent time actually sitting down and brainstorming a story. I think it would  be a wonderful idea if  I  do that. I feel that the Brainstorming can be split in 5 ways;

1.       Protagonist. We can work on creating unique characters, perhaps giving them  a distinct personality or traits, or even a quaint way of talking or a different way of  dressing. Not just unusual but even individualistic and strong protagonists go a long way in helping stories. The protagonist can have unheard of hobbies ( like collecting lizard’s tails, wings of a butterfly) habits, interests, their choice of a career can be off the beaten track, they can have weird  friends and fetishes, they can suffer from strange physical or psychological maladies, or they can have social inhibitions that prevent them from forging  strong relationships and friendships.

2.      Setting. An original and unusual  setting will go far in interesting and hooking readers. There are several things we can add to settings: strange people, customs, habits, food, fauna and flora, rituals, way of talking and dressing, way of communicating. What has not been seen before will make for great hooks where settings are concerned.

3.      Antagonist. The amount of attention we pay to the protagonist, atleast half the amount should be paid to the Antagonist, as he/she drives the conflict and provides tension. The antagonist should be given a  literary makeover: he can be different from the antagonist haunting every other book. We should strive to create strong antagonists who are powerful enough to attract the reader’s eyeballs. We can give the antagonist plenty of qualities that will make him/her stand out: a sensory highlight where one of the senses is more powerful than the others, a cruel streak, a revengeful nature, a petty way of thinking or getting even,  or a funny sense of humor. Maybe we can make them a megalomaniac or a kleptomaniac.

4.       Conflict. This is where we have the reader caught and ensnared. A gripping conflict will ensure that a reader’s attention does not constantly waver.  Conflicts requires a lot of effort. We can try and make them unique and add obstacles and problems  like sadists. For a truly engaging conflict we have to get merciless.

5.      Resolution. Happy Endings are extremely important to give readers a sense of redemption. We can twist this by making endings happy but unexpected: the protagonist has reached his or her destination in an extremely unstereotypical fashion. The reader should be literally taken not just by surprise but also  be rendered a pleasant shock at the way the story has been resolved.

This is what I plan to do for my next manuscript. I hope to spend few days brainstorming. How do you all  work on a story? Do you all just plunge into writing the outline or do you all work on individual bits? We would love to learn brainstorming tips from you all?


  1. What a great and informative post. I love the tips you have given us. You are super.

  2. You're so right about giving more time to the antagonist! I really need to do this in my next WIP. I see the fruit of my labor when I do! Have a great weekend!

  3. Good info. I may need to bookmark this page. :)
    Happy weekend!

  4. I agree, Rachna, good stuff here!

    I like to go somewhere else (other than my computer) to brainstorm... a coffee shop, or the art museum... maybe the Missouri Botanical Gardens...
    I like to see color, and smell flowers, food, etc....

  5. Interesting post, Rachna, and food for thought. I probably brainstorm more for setting. I don't think I could really sit down and brainstorm characters or plot. That would feel too cerebral. The characters have to grab me first, or sometimes a "story idea" will come, and then I wait for the right characters to show up and watch how they turn the idea into plot. Once I had an idea for a story and actually did sit down to drum up characters and then drum up a plot, and I outlined the whole thing -- and that story is still sitting in my filing cabinet, collecting dust. All the fun of discovery went out of it. I think for me, there has to be "discovery" as I go along.

  6. Inspiration for my settings seems easiest for me, so I don't have to brainstorm that one, but for sure I go through a period of brainstorming for characters and conflict. I have to play around with ideas for what happens in that setting and why it matters to my character! Great post...

  7. Great post Rachna. I am mostly an organic writer but I do enjoy brainstorming What If's for my characters/plotlines. I use FreeMind to brainstorm. I enjoy brainstorming because you can do whatever you want when you brainstorm. Sometimes I use brainstorming to herd my ideas together. At the moment I have a storm of ideas for both storylines and characters flooding my imagination so by using visual mind maps I can harness the ideas into something that makes sense.

  8. Awesome post, Rachna. I've bookmarked it!

  9. Nicely laid out Rachna. One of my favorite ways to brainstorm characters is to interview them. I invite them into my kitchen as I prepare dinner, take them in the car while running errands. This sounds crazy to anybody but other writers. Hmm... sure.

    Spending time with my Antagonist though is always creepy and I have to emerge from my writing den regularly to connect with the sane world.

  10. my outline is my brainstorming in a way because I start with a vague, loose outline and slowly throw in more details as I think of them.

  11. All these things have been important ways for me to think of my projects. Rachna, you're right on top of it! I wish I'd found your blog a long time ago, you would have saved me a lot of trouble.

  12. I don't actually brainstorm either. I do more like you say you do. Good luck with your story!

    These definitely are the five main elements, especially conflict. Without conflict, there's no story.

  13. Rachna, I have pretty much the same approach. I'm not sure that I've done much that I could call brainstorming, but I'm into outlining in a big way. For me outlining is the way to avoid re-writes. I do think, though, that brainstorming is a great thing to do, and the seed ideas you've shown are a very good starting point for the process.

  14. I think I start breathing the characters long before I actually write anything. I know the protagonist and the antagonist and then all their friends or relatives depending on the story. Since starting my plot series, and reading the book that I'm basing it one, I have added a whole new depth to the initial idea.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium.

  15. I need to know what I'm writing toward before I start and I usually mull an idea over for some time. As things become more concrete, I'll jot some of the points down. I have a loose outline to start and 'attempt' to do something more detailed in revisions.