3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming

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Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Group work in the writing community can be wonderful, or frustrating. It becomes frustrating when individuals aren’t on point when you brainstorm your story, or you end up following story threads that eventually won’t work in your story. But the rewards of a group brainstorming session can be substantial.

So, how do you get brainstorming sessions to be effective ways to expand your story options? Gather your courage to share your story with others and ask for their help.

Brainstorming with other writers.can bring new life to an author’s stories. The challenge is often in finding the right group to brainstorm with and keeping the brainstorming session focused enough to be helpful.

Over the past few years I’ve watched some brainstorming groups succeed and some fail. Each group that failed got bogged down in one of three areas. Here are 3 tips to successful group brainstorming from my observations.

3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming:

  1. Select group members carefully. Keep the group small- 6 or less to allow everyone time to bounce ideas. Find group members who use similar methods to write, providing a commonality of terms and knowledge.
  2. Identify the focus of the session. A complete book is too broad of a topic to brainstorm successfully in one session. Instead, focus on one thread of the story. This allows everyone in the group to focus on the area of greatest need. If the whole story idea is the focus, recognize that it may take a few brainstorming sessions to complete it.
  3. Record ideas and follow-up. During the brainstorming session, record ideas without passing judgement on them. Occasionally, redirect the conversation back to the thread you want to explore. Have a follow-up brainstorming session to further develop the ideas from the first session. This follow-up will deepen your story.

What works for you in group brainstorming?

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3 Tips To Create Story World From Star Wars

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Photo by Spydermurp

Star Wars has captured the attention of the masses for years. The story world is so rich that it seems to stem from imagination itself.

From books to block buster movies, the series amazes us time and again. Although I am not a huge speculative fiction fan, I do love Star Wars.

If an author could create an intriguing story world like Star Wars, they’d have a great shot at being a best seller. What can we learn from the creator of Star Wars?

3 Tips To Create Story World From Star Wars:

  1. Create Character Diversity – Star Wars is rich with a variety of different creatures and personalities. Personalities can be created from the rich pallet of your own world and put in the skin of the characters your create. Think of the Pod Racer Business man, he reminds me of a car salesman.
  2. Scene Diversity – Showcase the world your characters live in by setting scenes in a variety of places. In Star Wars we see a wide range of planets and terrains. It makes for a more interesting movie. The same is true with our story. Variety in scene locations allows the author to use metaphor effectively and build an understanding of the story world.
  3. Rich Artistic Experiences – All of the qualities of artistry can be found in colors, costuming, textures, sounds, music, smells and more. Star Wars brings this to life in amazing ways. An author can create an artistic pallet with story world as well. It will leave a reader clamoring for more.

3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down

Photo by Kadri H

Photo by Kadri H

Authors look for that perfect formula to keep readers engaged in their stories. The qualities that make one book a best-seller and another at the bottom of the sales list can be illusive.

There are many secrets woven into the recipe for a can’t-put-it-down novel. Just the right blend of these ingredients can transform a ho-hum story into a best-seller.

Although there are many ingredients necessary for a best-seller, there are 3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down that stand out. If you make a purposeful effort to add these to your novel, it will drive readers to keep reading.

3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down:

*Cliffhanger Scene Endings. At the end of each scene and each chapter it is imperative to create a sense of uncertainty going forward. The reader must long to find out what will happen to the hero or heroine. Creating the perfect cliffhanger can be as simple as leaving the action hanging, showing what the hero/heroine has to lose going forward, or creating a mysterious element that a reader can’t wait to solve.

*Characters Readers Want To Spend Time With. Some of the most beloved stories have larger-than-life characters that readers love. For example, in Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Series, we all fell in love with her characters that were once orphans and created their own family. As each family member fell in love and tried to stay alive, we journeyed with them. Create characters that draw readers into the story’s family.

*Keeping The Mystery Of Discovery Alive Throughout The Story. Wondering how the story will unfold keeps a reader’s mind engaged in the story. Be unpredictable in your plot, intersperse small surprises about the characters or the story, create a uniqueness that makes readers wonder what is coming next.

What book were you unable to put down?

Super Sleuth Wednesday:Tele-drugs

I’ve read some crazy stuff, but this one takes the cake. I’ve actually worked at a tele-marketer in college to make some quick cash. Yes, I’m the one who interrupted your dinner with, “this will only take a minute” or thirty…

But I never called anyone and tried to sell them drugs. I mean, is this guy too lazy to comb a park, a school yard, the mall? (I’m being a bit snarky. I actually hate that people sell drugs anywhere.)

That’s what this cheeseball did though. He cold called people to sell drugs. So how was he caught? You decide.

A: He called and a teenager answered and agreed to buy the drugs. They set up a meet at Dunkin Donuts. A cop in the drive thru caught the exchange and busted them both. Maybe it pays for cops to eat donuts after all.

B: He called and got a mom who runs the PTO and MADD group in her community. She agreed to to the purchase and called the cops. They watched while the transaction was made and then moved in and made the bust. Don’t mess with moms.

C: He called and randomly reached a police officer, who agreed to buy the drugs. He made the arrest himself at the drop. Murphy’s Law. It’s a real thing.

*The answer to last Wednesday’s Super Sleuth Challenge is #2!

photocred:andongob/freedigitalphotos

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue Part 2 – Tips From The Show “Timeless”

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Photo by Bruno Sercocima

Plot has a rhythm that breathes on the page. Sometimes that rhythm goes rogue with a bit of help from the author. Not knowingly, of course, but rogue all the same. Getting stuck on a theme, or bogged down in the ordinary can create a lackluster plot.

If your plot’s gone rogue, there are a few things to analyze to salvage it from the heap. One of the key causes of a plot gone rogue is the lack of solid conflict and tension.

Let’s take a look at a clip from the new show Timeless to get a bit of insight into our stories.

How To Salvage A Plot Gone Rogue 2:

*Place the hero/heroine in the middle of the action.  Ask yourself if you have placed your hero/heroine as close to the action as possible. Notice in the clip of Timeless that the heroine is in the same booth with Abraham Lincoln. The writer realized how much more dramatic it would be to place the heroine there.

Removing the hero/heroine too far from the action, can make a plot grow lethargic and dull. Analyze your story and reposition the hero/heroine in the middle of the danger or adventure.

*Create an impossible choice between two competing values. In this clip the heroine is forced to decide whether to let Lincoln die, whom she has admired her whole life, or let him live, changing history forever. She doesn’t know whether her world will be the same, or not. A seemingly impossible choice. This is a part of plot I learned from my mentor Susan May Warren.

*Figure out what your hero/heroine’s fighting for. Recognize that deviating to far from the noble quest will result in a plot without an end point. The great climax will not occur. Slowly escalate tension in increments of least to most intense until you reach the climax.

Deescalating conflict can make for flat plot. Deescalation occurs when rabbit trails are followed away from the main plot. These can include over intensification of issues, unrelated story world or side plots, or even character distractions.

What television shows inspire you in plotting?

Music Monday: Evoking Emotion

Morning everyone! I am loving this fall weather. Crisp mornings and warm, but pleasant afternoons. Ah! I’m trying to ignore the fact that winter comes next. I’m not a fan of the cold. Since the weather has been glorious, I’ve been doing a lot of writing in my sunroom. Breeze. Sunshine. It’s motivating.

But what’s really motivating these romantic scenes I’ve been crafting is the following songs. They evoke such emotion. The lyrics. The musical score. Genius!

What do you think? Can you feel the romantic emotions? The angst? Do you like any of them? Have you heard any of these before? Can I ask any more questions? 🙂

 

How To Find Unique Flavor For Each Novel – Rearranging the Spice Drawer

Cooking at my house can be a blend of where east meets west sometimes. With a blend of Chinese and American cuisine you can imagine the amount of spices in our spice drawer. Make that two spice drawers.

The more variety of spices to choose from, the more diversity your dishes can have in flavor. This past week I organized our spice drawers and it made me think about what kind of spices I like best. Could I mix things up a bit to create more variety in our dinners?

Writing is much the same way. When we rearrange the spices we work with we create a more unique flavor for each novel.

Finding the unique flavor for each novel is as easy as changing up the following spices:

*Location. Varying the location of where a story takes place can change everything. It changes the details and richness that create story world.

*Occupations. Striving for more unique character occupations will change the direction of a story just because of the kinds of events and competence your character will inspire.

*Quirky Character Types. Not every story can have the same type of quirky characters. You select different ones for different novels. You may have a dry humor sidekick in one and a goth scientist in another.

*Who Gets The Point of View Scenes. You will always have point of view perspective from your hero and heroine, but the type of characters you give additional POV scenes to when developing a subplot can vary greatly.

*Villain Type. There are many different kinds of villains in all genre’s. Everything from the unintentional villain to the sociopath. Even Romance can have a villain of a blander variety. Mix up the villain type and adversity they create.

*Spiritual Thread. The spiritual truth in each of our novels should be varied. You may run into some that are similar due to series theme or focus, but you do want it to variate somewhat.

*Relationships. The success of different types of relationships for your hero and heroine should fluctuate. The heroine can’t always be adopted, or always have a poor relationship with her father. There should be a mix and match of different character relationships.

Remember that even though you rearrange the spice drawer, you are still the cook and your cuisine should have your signature style or voice.

What kind of things do you like to read in a novel that give it a unique flavor?