Michille: Brainstorming

"Activity conducting" by Gwaur - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Activity_conducting.svg#mediaviewer/File:Activity_conducting.svgBrainstorming is a technique to boost creativity popularized by Alex Osborn in his 1948 book Your Creative Power. He held group-thinking sessions in his advertising agency and saw a significant improvement in the quantity and quality of ideas although some research has actually disproved the idea that group brainstorming generates more ideas than individuals working alone. In my day job, I am a Facilitative Leadership trainer, which is a framework used in business to get maximum appropriate involvement from stakeholders. We taught brainstorming techniques and interventions for groups to help generate ideas and legitimize all the participants’ contributions.

I have done quite a bit of brainstorming over the last week, but not in the formal style that I teach in Facilitative Leadership. The bulk of the brainstorming was very informal group-style at RWA. On Friday night, six of the Eight sat in my hotel room eating pizza, raiding the minibar, and talking about our stories (and the sessions, the McDaniel certificate program, YouTube videos, blogging, etc.). One day, four of the Eight grabbed an empty breakout room and talked about the ending of Justine’s book 1 and the start of her book 2.

Elizabeth and I attended Sarah MacLean’s conflict session at RWA (which was fabulous – that woman has great external and internal conflict locks – try Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake for an excellent example). I got some new ideas to help move Genny and Luke’s story along and fix some of the broken parts. At lunch, Justine, Jeanne, Elizabeth, and I batted around ideas for changes I want to make and Elizabeth and I kept it going on our stroll over to the Alamo that afternoon. We didn’t always agree on the ideas generated and I found the disagreements to be very helpful in deciding if the idea should stay or go.

At dinner on Thursday night, I related a story about my daughter, a horse, and a jogger. Jeanne turned to me and said, “That is a great first scene for a rom com.” When I got home from the conference on Sunday, I related that to my daughter. Last night we brainstormed the characters and the conflict for a new adult rom com about a young woman, a horse, and a jogger.

There are a lot of other ways to generate ideas, like freewriting, listing, cubing, and mapping. I am doing some freewriting to refine some of the ideas for Genny and Luke that were generated at RWA. What are some ways that you generate new ideas?

6 thoughts on “Michille: Brainstorming

  1. The thing I like about brainstorming with other people is that it allows ideas to collide — sometimes totally random things! And the other nice thing is that sometimes ideas collide, a cute little explosion happens, and everyone in the room says, “OH! That’s a great idea!” (-: It’s a lot of fun. I love brainstorming with you guys over the internet, but it’s not as sustainable as a good session in RL . . . . Love this!

    • My daughter and I had some moments like that and on some interesting story points. Like what would compel someone familiar with horses to leave a rider on their butt after having been thrown from a horse – horse people just don’t leave other horse people on their own in that situation. It took a while to come up with a compelling reason but when we came up with it, it was an, “OH! that’s a great idea!” moment.

      • Michille, the brainstorming we did was very fun and I got some good ideas that I wouldn’t have found, had I been just working on my story alone. Looking forward to hearing more about the horse and jogger story.

        When it comes to my own brainstorming sessions, I’ve used a variety of methods, but found what works best is just free-writing around a particular part of the story that I’m trying to resolve – kind of “stream of consciousness” writing. Usually, I can find some idea that can help me move my story forward or some great nugget of dialogue.

        • It was fun. It had been so long since we’ve talked about each other’s stories, I got excited all over again at how good they are.

        • That’s a good idea, Elizabeth. I’ll have to try that.

          Kat and I have done some brainstorming sessions over the phone (for both of our stories) and Jilly and I have used a chat room, but I definitely think there’s something special happening when you put two or more people together. We each have our own experiences, histories, knowledge (some of it really arcane or crazy), and we’ve all read a variety of books…put all of that together and you get a ton of great ideas (or not-so-great, but at least you figure out which way NOT to go with your story).

  2. Pingback: Elizabeth: Where Do You Get Your Ideas? |

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