Nifty Tools and Brainstorming


I decided that even though I have posted for this week, I would post again for the weekend because I’ve come up with some interesting information for those of you who are writers, and presumably this same information could come of use to perhaps businessmen and the like as well. At least I suppose so.

First, I’d like to thank all of you who have commented and have said nice things about my writing. I greatly appreciate it and I hope that all of you will continue to read.

I discovered this program called FreeMind from the blog of Jason Penney (Using a Mind Map to Organize Novel Notes). It essentially organizes notes for you into Mind Maps. What are Mind Maps? Well, remember when you were a kid and your teacher said, “Write one idea in a bubble and then start drawing lines to new ideas and thoughts, and then more thoughts and ideas on those”, so that you ended up with this paper of connected thoughts and information? That’s basically a Mind Map, albeit less complicated. Now, this isn’t to say that using FreeMind is complicated. Not at all. In fact, once you figure out the very basic commands it’s incredibly simple to use. Here’s an example of one I’m working on right now. Albeit, I have some things closed off (lines that end in little ‘o’ things are ones that can be further expanded for more info within the program), simply because they would make it too big to get an accurate image of.
(Clicking the image should make it larger so you can see the words better)This makes organizing my thoughts so much easier. In fact, when I started doing it, I only have some minor ides of certain things. After a while I had huge lists of stuff on there because the Mind Mapping process allowed me to come up with more ideas. Now, this isn’t to say that I use this to come up with story ideas, but it is saying that I’m using this process to organize valuable information. In the case of the above image, I’ve had to keep note of different stars, their types, and various other information that would come in use during the story that I’m modeling on this subject. So, essentially, that’s Mind Mapping.
Now, this is a whole new thing for me and I’m still not entirely sure how I will utilize it for all my writing efforts. In the instance of science fiction the program comes in great use because it allows me to keep track of various little minor facts that otherwise would get forgotten–physics, star system information, and the like. With fantasy, I imagine I could do much the same, but I have yet to start Mind Mapping all my info for The World in the Satin Bag yet. Perhaps it will happen.

Alternately, I’m wondering what all of you do in your brainstorming sessions–you being the reader of course. Before this program, it was mostly coming up with a basic plot or event. In the case of The World in the Satin Bag, my first thought was of a boy who gets sucked into an alternate world. Originally I had no idea it would be at the state it is now. I had no idea that his friend would get sucked in first, nor that war would break out, or anything of that nature. I had expected that he would just gain magic from being there, and not because he had a Fearl–a concept I didn’t come up with until more or less by accident while writing the scene when Laura gets sucked in. So my brainstorming starts out to be very basic. I don’t flesh out entire ideas on purpose. For me, fleshing out ideas tends to leave me with little ‘freedom’. I know I can change anything at any time, but the problem is I’ve already come up with a story I like. I’d much rather leave the majority of the plot unwritten in my mind so that I can have free reign in the direction of the story. The furthest I think ahead is what the next chapter is ‘basically’ going to be about. This is all of course referring to fantasy.
But for science fiction I have a lot more issues to deal with. I tend to have grand scale ideas of a aliens and Earth and humankind. So, my first thoughts are: How am I going to get Humans from here to there in reasonable time? How did they get there in the first place? Did someone help us? Are we alone in our fight for whatever might need fighting for?
I try to answer those, because they serve as the backdrop of my science fiction world.

So, I’m curious what those of you do to flesh out your ideas, or if you do that at all. Are you the type to simply sit back and go with the flow? Or do you like to work out the story ahead of time?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

9 thoughts on “Nifty Tools and Brainstorming

  1. My brainstorming involves clear folders for every subject and lots of pieces of papers labelled and noted.

    My current 2 comic projects have each 5 odlers filled each, with the story from the beginning to the end, and empty pages between for mr to toss in the filling.

  2. I normally just write out everything thing. I design my characters, the rules of my world, my history, and then list the events I want to happen and call it a story line.

  3. As a reader, I go with the flow of the story. If the characters & surroundings don’t seem to mesh then it does lose interest.

    Your writing is very easy to follow & enjoyable as it sucks you into thinking more of what the story could be which keeps you interested.

    As for writing techniques, it sounds like the process of game masters for role playing. You have the basic idea, a map to follow, and then go with it.

    I like the idea of the mind map to get it basically out. I wonder if that is what Tolkien used with his map of Middle Earth?

    Anyhow good luck & thanks for the nice comments also 🙂

  4. I’m not even sure my ideas or any of our ideas on brainstorming can even remotely compare to the level of brainstorming that Tolkien went through. His son is still going through his notes left behind…still. And he spent a good 12 years prepping The Lord of the Rings, which is phenomenal when you think about how he hadn’t even published any of the LOTR books yet. Not to mention when he would write, if he hit a snag or went in a direction he didn’t want, rather than going back and fixing it, he just started over altogether, from the beginning.
    I think if we were to think of Tolkien’s brainstorming as a form of Mind Mapping it would have to be the most insanely complicated Mind Map in existence…lol. I wonder if Tolkien cataloged his notes in any way…

  5. I have a unique way of organizing. I write the first 500 words very quickly. Then rewrite and cut to get to the essence. Then rewrite and cut again to add rich ambiguity. Then rewrite and cut again to the clarify and find roundness and closure. When I get to 299 words, I stop. I guess that wouldn’t work for everybody.

    If I wanted to write something longer, I’d still start the same way. Tell the whole story in very very few words, then expand each word to a page.

  6. Very interesting about Tolkien 🙂 Eloquently stated & I appreaciate the info. It’s amazing the depths that the great known authors go to write their stories/novels.

    Well, whatever process is used for all writers, I think the key is to make it your own & everything will flow.

    Take Care!

  7. Glad you found my site useful. Freemind really helped me during the worldbuilding process.

    I write somewhat detailed notes about the world and character before starting. I don’t look at them too often. The things that stick in my mind after I write them down usually make the book. Some that I forget I re-use elsewhere or work in later.

    I usually write from an outline, but I’ve learned to not make it too detailed or I tend to follow it too closely.

  8. I write, and then think about what to write the next day whole at work. I have a mindless job. By the time my next writing session comes, I pretty much know what’s going on paper.

    I never plot out the entire story before a project, though. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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