There’s a lot to say about plot. Some people like to wing it and make it up as they go, others spend a lot of time mapping out every little detail along the way. And still others have no idea where to start and end up paralyzing themselves into doing nothing at all.
That last group is who we’re addressing today.
Sometimes all your brain needs is a bit of a kick start. Brainstorming is a tried and true method of loosening the hold that over-thinking has on us. Brainstorming allows us to think without boundaries. Whether it’s words or images sketched out on paper, we are free to put down whatever comes to mind.
Some years ago I realized there was always one question I started any of my brainstorming sessions with: What If?
What If is a very powerful concept. By asking yourself this leading question you erase any pre-conceived notions or limits you may have placed on yourself. You’re wide open and that blank page is just waiting for you to dive in. Try it now. Close your eyes and think of that one scene or chapter that has been giving you trouble. What happens the moment you ask yourself What If?
The energy has changed, hasn’t it? You bet. Possibilities you haven’t seen before suddenly crop out out of nowhere.
Now here’s the hard part: Try not to tell yourself a certain direction won’t work. Let go of the idea of the perfect scene and experiment with a few bad ideas to see if they can grow into something worthwhile.
Your characters may have a few surprises of their own up their sleeves. When you do the What If, absolutely anything goes. It’s the rough sketch no one else ever has to see…unless you want them to. You’re allowed to let your characters and situations act as crazy as possible. You’re in the playground now, so play! Write a scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the current novel you may be working on. Throw two characters together who may otherwise never have the chance to meet. When you do that, guess what happens?
I’ll tell you. After a while you start to see the viable possibilities. You start thinking, well, maybe I can’t use this exact character to interact with my other one…but I could create someone like him! Or maybe the situation is just so good you have to use it and you begin to figure out how to tweak it to fit someplace else.
You start to get all these little bits and pieces you can pull apart and use elsewhere. Sometimes you end up with a complete scene. Better yet…sometimes you end up with a whole novel.