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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | How Does Your Brain Storm?

How Does Your Brain Storm?

Pre-writing. What works for you? When you’re chewing on a story idea, how do you work it all out? Where do you begin?

I spend a lot of time just worrying the idea in my mind, like a dog gnawing on a bone. And I do a lot of reading – books and internet. I might read more in the genre, or maybe do some historical research, or just surf the internet looking for little real life gems that I can incorporate into the plot.

Do you have a character in mind? I did, this time, but it wasn’t the main character. I could clearly see his love interest (who also happens to be an antagonist in this case) but my main character was pretty shadowy. I didn’t know his problems, his goals, his backstory, and I especially didn’t know his name. (I threw a couple at him, but he rejected them.)

My idea also involves playing around with the laws of electricity and magnetism. I am absolutely clueless on both subjects, but luckily, I have an in-house expert. I’ve been bugging my husband for weeks on this subject. He’s drawn diagrams, used analogies, and recently dragged out Gabbey’s old circuit kit as demonstration. He’s been extraordinarily patient – anybody who knows me, knows I’m mechanically disinclined.

On Saturday, during a day trip to Philadelphia, I chewed his ear off in the car the whole way there – bouncing ideas off his head, and he didn’t even ducked them. By the time we reached the city, I had an idea that just might work for a setting – but setting is only a backdrop, of course. I still had no idea who the heck my nameless main character was. I had no story.

We were pretty busy all afternoon, but conversation resumed on the car ride home. This time, Bob came up with a brilliant idea for a setting that was possibly even better. We were only 20 minutes from home when I finally realized how this new setting connected to my main character. Suddenly, I knew what he was going to do – and I knew why he was going to do it – and how he was going to redeem himself afterwards. I had a story!

Am I ready to write? No way. I still have a TON of reading to do – historical and scientific research. My character has to develop some more … and he still needs a name … but I’m on my way now!

What’s your process?

11 Responses to How Does Your Brain Storm?

  1. salarsenッ says:

    I love how stories are born. I have the same kind of mental road-mapping. I talk it out with others–usually my daughter. Reading and research is also a big plus. The one thing I find that hinders me tremendously is worrying about it. Yeah, that’s tough not to do, though.

  2. I have an idea and I let it bake in my brain until it’s ready to come out. If I take it out too soon, the idea falls flat because it’s not fully developed. I need to let it bake, then perhaps cool a bit and then pull it all together with delicious icing and sprinkles and whatever else will make the cake irresistible. (Can you tell I’m hungry?) Sometimes, an opening line comes to me (this happened with FREAKY FRANK) and sometimes I dream an opening scene (ELLA’S DANCE) and sometimes I feel jazzed about a particular idea that somehow popped into my brain and I can’t let go of (THE LION AWAKENS). And, being a journalist, I am forever curious about the world around me and so I ask a lot of What if questions. Anyway, right now I’m baking this idea that came to me via this opening line: “The moment I did it I knew I was going to die.” Can’t wait to see where this character leads me. Have a super week Dianne.

  3. I’m learning that I tend to just let it stew. Let the characters show me things over and over in my head. Different scenes flash– possibly the end or the big climax, the first kiss, etc. Then the name of the character starts to develop. If I need to research, then I do.
    I had so many ideas flood my head this weekend. I’m not sure where to start.
    Have a great day!

  4. Jessica Bell says:

    Wow. Sounds like an inticate story! I just write blindly and ideas develop from there. I guess my stories develop after I’ve written a whoile lot of crap. :o)

  5. Linda G. says:

    Your story sounds fascinating already–lucky you, to have a husband so good at brainstorming with you. 🙂

    I tend to dive into a story as soon as I see a character I like floating by, and just go where the current takes me for a while. Eventually, I see the story in the distance, and start swimming purposefully in that direction.

  6. My process is similiar, minus the asking my husband a million questions part. 🙂 I’m a preplanner, so everything needs to be figured out before I work on the first draft.

  7. I’m doing it your way this time. Just like this minus the husband just like Stina! But I didn’t do it this way last time so I have no idea if it will really work. Makes me a little crazy.

  8. Marva Dasef says:

    There’s never one way that it happens. Sometimes, it’s a character clamoring to have her story told. Other times, it’s a title that needs a book. Yet others, it’s a theme, a flash from a news story, a song, or whatever.

    Lately, my brain has been storm-free.

  9. Renae says:

    Mine seem to take shape in various ways. Sometimes it starts with a small idea and others, I have to plot and scheme before I can even begin.

  10. I jot down notes, read in the genre, watch movies…

    Too bad I haven’t been able to get past the clean house and start to jot down the notes stage just lately…

    Nice post, Dianne!

  11. I do a playlist of songs that remind me of my characters’ emotional journey. When listening to that, I write scenes that come to me without worrying if they are actually going to make it into the book. I brainstorm everything that I can think of that goes into the story–with real brainstorming blobby type diagrams. I also talk things over with crit partners, read books in the genre, watch TV shows and movies… I let my mind go where it wants and let it stew and stew and stew until the top pops off to let out the steam, and then I write and write and write… I do a lot of prep, but I’m a pantser, and I then do a lot of revision…

    Dianne–it sounds like you are in a wonderful place to start this book. I’m so excited to hear how it progresses!