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Brainstorming with Buddies

Yep, it's blog chain time again. Terri asked a question similar -- yet different -- from Elana's question about getting out of a writing funk. While some of the other blog chainers are tackling that question, I'm going to go with the alternative one:

Do you brainstorm with a friend when you are plotting, or do you prefer to be the only one who knows what your characters are going to do?

It's kind of funny the way Terri worded her question: " you prefer to be the only one who knows what your characters are going to do?" I generally don't know what my characters are going to do until they do it -- that's the problem!  *grin*

I only recently discovered the magic of brainstorming with buddies.  (Or...most likely in all actuality torturing said buddies with my confusion and indecision.)

It's hard for me to talk about where I'm going with a novel, because if I talk in any detail about something I haven't written yet, I can't write it.  The magic is just...gone.  But I tried writing up to the point at which I got stuck and then hurling myself on my friends' mercy during NaNoWriMo, and it was helpful.  My favorite was when people would just start extrapolating from what had happened so far in my novel.  "What if this happened next?"  "What if that got in the way?"  Anything that forces me out of my mental set (ie my normal way of thinking) is welcome. In fact, I kept wishing people would extrapolate more wildly and really jar me.

I view being stuck as an inability to see options for my story when options always exist.  Thanks to my thinking patterns (which normally work for me), I have trouble seeing alternatives for my characters -- perhaps because many of those alternatives are actions that I, personally, might never take.  I see brainstorming buddies as people with different perspectives and approaches and blind spots, and my hope is that they will show me different possibilities and open my eyes to fresh alternatives.  Once I've been pushed out of my mental set, the wheels usually start turning.

I'm curious, dear reader -- what kinds of things do your brainstorming buddies do to jar you out of your stuckness?  What is most helpful to you?


  1. Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...
    I generally don't know what my characters are going to do until they do it -- that's the problem!

    This describes my writing routine to a "T". The problem is it's really easy to get stuck in the rut of your own thoughts.

    As writers, I think the most important thing to do when brainstorming is to keep an open mind about all of the ideas presented.

    About three months ago, a friend read my mss and made a suggestion that I'd never considered. It meant drastic changes. New scenes. New plot points. New characters. Chopping off 12 years inside the story. More research.

    After making the suggestion, she was afraid I'd be upset because it meant so much extra work. But I took her advice with an open mind, played with the idea for a few days and the story fell into place.

    I'm so grateful for her suggestion now.
    Anonymous said...
    Nice post. I always talk through my novels with close friends or family. I need to bounce ideas around. My characters typically do not turn out th way I originally see them - taking actions in the story-line that are sometimes VERY different than I planned.

    My friends help me sort this me the sounding board I need when the story takes a weird left turn.

    Friends also come in handy when I am compeltely stuck. Since I write YA, my teenage daughter and her friends are the BEST and helping break through writer's block.

    Thanks for the post - nice!
    Unknown said...
    For the most part, I'm also one of those people who can't breathe a word of my writing. I don't like outside influence. I want to get my writing as absolutely perfect as I can, then send it out into the world for the advice and constructive criticism of others.

    But I have found that it helps to have at least one person who's slightly in the know. Sometimes it helps to have face to talk to, even if that face doesn't really understand what exactly you're talking about!
    Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...
    We have similar habits. I too tend not to know what my characters will do until they've done it, and I don't like discussing things I haven't written down yet. That's probably why I have so much trouble outlining.

    You can always get by with a little help from your friends. ;)
    Michelle McLean said...
    I usually try to keep things to myself :D but really, sometimes other people can see possibilities that just don't occur to you. I always kind of feel like I'm cheating though :) However, if it wasn't for a few "cheat" moments with some good friends, I'd still be scratching my head over what to do with a few aspects of my book :)
    Elana Johnson said...
    I sorta like other people to know what I'm attempting to pen. (that sounds sooo professional!) It helps me to, like you said, see options I didn't know existed. I've written a couple of books now, and I just went back to my NaNo novel. It's, um, remarkably similar to the other two I've managed to pound out. That's scaring me, and I'm really at a point where I have to stretch beyond my "normal" thinking to find a new way to write.
    Elana Johnson said...
    Oh, I have to leave another comment. My verification word is "outhonse". Maybe someone has a really bad cold--and lives in England...a long time ago! LOL!
    Carolyn Kaufman | @CMKaufman said...
    Thanks for all the great comments so far! I'm really like KM -- I want everything as perfect as I can possibly get it before I show it to anyone. Brainstorming with others during NaNo this year felt like cheating (as Elky said), but it did help.

    I also have a huge problem with my stories heading down the same road as previous stories, as Elana mentioned. Now THERE's a blog chain question I'm going to ask when it's my turn, so everybody start thinking about it -- How do you keep from telling the same story over and over?
    Kate Karyus Quinn said...
    I just can't discuss my writing with other people at all - because as you said - the magic is then gone.

    I also think there is an element of not being confident enough in my story - I'm afraid that showing it to the rest of the world before it is all down on paper it will just sound stupid.
    TerriRainer said...
    I have to partially agree, I don't know what a character will do to get from point A to point B, but if I haven't plotted what point B is, it turns out a run-on disaster (been there done that).

    I do bounce ideas off of a friend, but it usually ends up in a heated arguement about how my character "would never do that, but maybe they will do this..."

    Great post!
    :) Terri
    H. L. Dyer said...
    It's SO intriguing to me when writers say they just found out what their characters were going to do. I'm such a hopeless plotter. *snort*

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