I love brainstorming. It’s one of the most internally rewarding parts of writing. Every idea can parade through my mind, unfiltered and unjudged. Some don’t make it past that, though they get their amusing moment, while others become that singular idea that once written make me stop and pause and wonder if I really wrote that.
But, like the urge to write itself, brainstorming comes in feast or famine. That’s where I find it helps to have a little motivation to help capture the ideas as they flow. Some days it’s like I’m wandering through tall grass without any hope, while other days I’m writing in my notebook until my hand hurts and still only capturing a few of the many ideas that are swimming past me.
Something that’s become a ready resource for me when I need/want to brainstorm is genderbends. Also called genderswaps or Rule 63, it’s a favorite pastime for artists, cosplayers, and fanfiction writers. I have mixed feelings about fanfiction, but that’s a story for another time.
Here’s a link to my pinterest board on the subject.
Now, some of you are thinking that this is cheating, as per my argument about characters. I’m practically taking a ready-made character and throwing it into my own work.
Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. Below is a scene from my current work in progress, Critical. The novel started from seeing the latest rendition of Les Miserables. Most of the characters we care about are male, and there’s only one female character we care about that’s female, and I think she’s around only because one of the men needed to get married. I don’t think Cosette even does anything useful in the film.
So I started playing around with the genders. Writers can be like that. Anything is worth messing with.
Anyways, here we see the protagonist, Joyce Jonsdatter, about to pay off her debt to society and be released from prison. Literally her debt to society. Melbin prison colony is where people work and earn a wage by which they pay off a court appointed debt for their crimes.
“Heard you had a meeting with the officer today.” A shorter, broad-shouldered woman crossed her arms over her chest.
“You heard correctly, Abby.” Joyce stepped past the woman and reached the middle bunk. She ran her thumb across the cheap plastic plate tacked to the frame with her prisoner number.
“It’s Abigail to you, ya tosser. An’ what little chat did you have with her?” The inmates closed in around her.
“They’re scheduling my release today.” Joyce pushed her voice out in an attempt to hide her excitement.
“You’re release? You’re in for five grand.”Abigail’s jaw dropped. “That could set three of my girls free.”
“Well, I would suggest that ‘your girls’ put in half the work I do. They might get out sooner.” Joyce climbed into her bunk and pulled a wooden cigar box from under her pillow.
“Now, hold on a tic. I’ve been here since before your sorry hide fell in, I’ve got barely two thousand.”
“You also have four different settings for tea, two tea pots, a seemingly endless supply of cookies, and five different varieties of tea.” Joyce extracted a key from around her neck and opened the box. “I’d also bet that you’ve spent some money to make accidents happen.”
“That’ll start a fight, talking like that.” Abigail leaned against the frame of Joyce’s bed. “Come on, how about a little Christian charity? Spend a few more months here so one of my girls can taste life again. I’ll make sure you get treated well.”
“Not going to happen.” Joyce allowed herself one glance at the collection of crumpled bills and dirty coins before locking the box again. “And I’m the only one in charge of how I’m treated. I don’t need you there to protect me.”
“See? I thought we’d run into that little snag.” Abigail dropped her gaze and shook her head. “Because Penelope here has been here a long time, prone to violent rages, I understand.” She stuck her thumb out to a tall, ebony woman who boasted striped scars up and down her arms.
“I’m not going to fight. Especially since you know it’ll increase my debt.”
“You may want to fight, Dearie.” Abigail took a step back so Penelope could walk forward like a trained dog on a leash. “Last girl who didn’t ended up looking something fierce afterward.”
So, where do you stand? What helps you brainstorm? I’ve seen others use diagrams, index cards in complex tables, one even builds the scenes out of legos.