Brainstorming can be a tedious process for some and a nonexistent one for others. For me, brainstorming happens over eight stages after the initial idea.
-Initial idea expansion.
-magic system revision.
-another character revision.
-another magic revision.
-ending with an outline and synopsis revision.
I want to discuss one of the brainstorming techniques: The sample scene. I don't do character interviews, though this may change in the future. For me, the sample scene gives me everything I need to know when I skeleton my world and my characters.
The sample scene allows a writer to put the characters into the world and see how they react.
When an idea comes to me, it's generally not just a standalone idea. It has hazy figures in my head using or interacting with the idea. Sometimes it’s a character, opening or even a society, but generally it's a magic system. This is my inciting idea. As soon as it comes, I pull out my Ipod touch and write everything I can think of about the idea.
The more I write down about it, the clearer the sample scene in my head becomes. Below the lines of raw idea, I write out the scene that came with the system. Save it and put it away. I have a huge file full of these lol.
The initial draw of the sample scene gives me a good idea as to how everything can fit together, but other than that, it gives my brain something to latch on to when I come back to the idea at a later date. Some ideas will never be fleshed out while others will be absorbed or combined. Though, every so often, a gem comes along and stands alone.
So, why is it important?
That's simple! You get to rip the idea in motion from your head while it's still fresh.
That sounds good, but what about after that?
Well, this is actually where the sample scene is king.
While I'm going through my ideas and one excites me, I go over it a few times. Jot down a few cool things about the world and characters before thinking of the awesome points that could come in the story. Of those points, I take the one I'm most excited about and write out the scene.
This allows me to rework the world and magic system to better fit into this world. It gives me a better idea of who the characters are and what they want.
From here, update the magic system then go through my important scenes and add/pick one where a ton of magic is flying around. I write out this scene, and it allows me to see the magic through a much clearer lens. I update my notes on the magic system. This is a sample scene from WATCHING at this point in my brainstorming process.
Next is the characters. For every POV character, I try to come up with a scene where they are interacting with their friends/coworkers/enemies where there is a lot of dialogue.
During this scene, I try to immerse myself in the character, but I take notes while I go. On the notes, I list each character's "Ten words" that they use in dialogue and direct thoughts. This helps as a reference guide later and helps to keep your characters' voices from sounding the same.
I also record five descriptive words they would use, two to five special mannerisms/body language tells they would use, and things they like/dislike. This gives me an idea of their style, job and hobbies which are added to the file.
Now that I've got all this wonderful information, I write out a one paragraph chapter outline and a one page synopsis.
I get people to look over the synopsis and get their opinions on it. Generally the good folks of Critique Circle. Then I let it sit and fester.
About a month later, I come back doing sample scenes for characters again them magic. I finish by revising the outline any synopsis.
Key points to remember.
-I never actually use the initial scene written as it is a throwaway so don't be afraid that it won't fit later on. Sometimes the idea for the scene will work, but not the scene itself. Chances are that no matter how good it is, it won't fit.
-Take notes as you write the scene. The flow of the scene from your mind to the page is important, but the fresh notes generated while writing are more important.
-Finally, rewrite each sample scene. Not for editing purposes, but to see if combing through it again will help you pull out more enlightened ideas about your story.
Well, that's the basics of how I use sample scenes. I hope this helps to improve your writing.
Next: Reverse event outline