Brainstorming, Spitballing, and Other Creativity Boosters

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I’ve probably mentioned before how much I love brainstorming. My creative streak is like a bouncy ball – give it a little push in any direction and it will fly.

I’ve been neck-deep in work the last few weeks and the creativity has taken a hit. The creative voice, however, never truly stops. When I watch a movie and see the trailer or read the blurb before the film starts, my brain starts working. What would I do with this plot? Where would I take the characters? Who would I make the good guy or the bad guy? It never fails. I compare what I would do with what the writer does. And yes, I judge. I hate a lazy ending.

There are several methods I use when trying to figure out what to do with a storyline. The most obvious is brainstorming, tossing around ideas with a partner. I like it even more if they are someone who writes differently than I do. They will think in a new way.

Spitballing is very similar to this. It’s a technique I read about in a book on conflict and I’m sorry to say I can’t recall where I read this so I can’t give credit to the author. But the idea was to list anything and everything that could happen at a point in the story. If someone shows up at the door, write down every conceivable option, both practical and impractical, for who could be there. Ed McMahon with the Publisher’s Clearing House check. Long lost father. Aliens. Terrorists.

A new technique I’m using is intended to help me flesh out my scenes, to give them texture. If the setting of my scene is the parking lot, I’ll take a sheet of paper and divide it into the five senses. Then fill in things that could conceivably be experienced in such a place. Is there a playground nearby that would contribute sounds of children playing and laughing? Cars thumping over a speed bump. Engines roaring.  Or is it a high rise parking structure? Would elevator doors swish open and close? Horns echo against the cement walls. The smell of exhaust.

I do this for every scene in some way. Texture is important, it adds dimension to your scene and characters. It also helps me with body language and action sequences when I need to create dialogue tags beyond “he said” or “she said.”

These are just a few of the tools I use to kickstart my brain if it’s been quiet for a bit. All of them can be done solo but also work well with a partner, even a non-writing partner. Sometimes it helps just to say things out loud.

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