I was just brainstorming with fellow Seeker Janet Dean on the phone the other night. I’m not sure why, but I like brainstorming in person or on the phone much better than on email. I figured I’d try to analyze to better understand why.
Why I Like Brainstorming On the Phone Or In Person
(Doesn’t it remind you of those “What I Did For Summer Vacation” essays in grade school?)
1) I can ask questions.
Janet had given a skeleton plot of her story online, but there were some things that weren’t completely clear, so I got to ask her about the specific things that confused me.
And then I realized I had misunderstood one part of the plot entirely, so it was really good I had asked questions, because then I was able to give plot ideas that pertained to the correct plot point, rather than a misunderstood one.
Takeaway for Brainstormers: Ask lots of questions because you can’t brainstorm effectively if you don’t have the story right in the first place.
2) I could gauge right away how Janet liked a particular idea, just by the tone of her voice.
I tossed out an idea, she gave that “Eh” tone and so I knew I was following the wrong rabbit trail.
I tossed out a completely different idea, and Janet’s tone told me she was intrigued, so I kept going with it.
I have been in some online brainstorming groups where I would try to tell people I wasn’t thrilled about a particular idea someone put out, but tone isn’t very clear via email, and so people would continue to build on an idea I didn’t even like. It was very frustrating, so I try to be really sensitive to the writer’s feelings about an idea when I brainstorm with others. If the writer isn’t really excited about an idea, I immediately toss it and try for something else.
Figuring out if a writer likes an idea can be hard via email, whereas on the phone it’s really easy.
Takeaway for Brainstormers: If the writer doesn’t like your idea, move on to something else. Don’t keep building on an idea the writer isn’t 100% excited about. If you ignore the writer’s intuitions about their book just because you like the idea you gave her, that’s just rude.
3) Brainstorming is easier when the writer can keep talking about her book.
I don’t know about you, but having the writer tell me more about her book makes it easier for me to latch onto a seemingly inconsequential detail and suggest a way to enhance it to make it solve a plot problem.
On the phone, Janet would just keep talking about her story as plot elements came to her (because really, who remembers all at once every aspect of a plot for a book you’re writing? I usually forget things that come to me later.) and as she touched on different characters and events, I could suggest, “Hey, what if instead of this person doing this, if you had them doing that and tying in to that other plot point?”
For my brainstorming with Janet, she was trying specifically to deepen the romantic conflict because there wasn’t quite enough to keep hero and heroine from falling in love and marrying, so we had a very specific plot problem to address. After listening to her talk about other aspects of the story, I could suggest a few things that might add romantic complications if she tweaked it slightly.
Takeaway for Brainstormers: Be sure to listen carefully to the writer talking about the story, because something they say could spark ideas that you can share with them.
So how can you find a brainstorming partner?
Some writers are lucky in that they already have a really good brainstorming partner to chat with. Others are still in need of someone or a group of people to help them brainstorm.
Brainstorming groups can be a bit like finding the right spouse. You just have to date around and try them out, and if they don’t work—don’t feel guilty, just move on.
So try out different brainstorming partners wherever you can find them: your local writers group, online groups and websites, discussion boards, online classes. You never know, you might find a true friend.
Or you might find 14 other completely loco writers who consistently take all your slots on the writing contest circuit, and you decide to join them because it sure beats competing with them in contests. ;)
Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novels Single Sashimi and Deadly Intent are out now. She runs the Story Sensei critique service, is a staff worker for her church youth group, and leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels and ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for giveaways!