Now that you have that novel idea, it’s time for the fun part! Brainstorming! Brainstorming is my favorite part of noveling. This is where you get to start developing that “what if” idea.
Brainstorming according to Merriam-Webster is:
: a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also : the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem
According to that definition, you have a problem that needs to be solved. That problem is your novel, and you’ll solve it with a story. So we’ve got our idea now we need to figure out the Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
Who are your characters? Characters in a story generally include:
- supporting character(s)
Identifying them is just the basics. The fun part is when you start fleshing out your characters, which I will expand on in my next post.
What is your plot? For every good fiction novel there is a plot or a conflict that your character faces. And what is your character’s goal. Usually this goal is what leads him into this conflict in the first place.
Conflict is the keyword here. Conflict is what drives your characters to do what he needs to do, whether it’s to save the world, drive across the country, or just get out of bed, there needs to be something thwarting them or giving them a challenge.
So remember Conflict!
When and Where?
I am going to combine When and Where because both of these questions deal with setting and location.
“When” is important since if your character has a time deadline to get something done, a time constraint will affect your plot and your character’s action and choices. If you are setting your story in a historical or future time period, this will also affect how your characters will act, dress, and speak.
“Where” is of course very important because a setting can provide more conflict and obstacles for your character as he tries to attain his goals. Also having a clear setting and location helps in developing your character’s background.
Why? Is always the big question. Why would our character do what he does? Why does he want to save to world? Why does he want to drive across the country? Why does he want to get out of bed? Why? Why? Why?!
Asking “why” forces you to dig deeper into your plot, and usually it will lead you to your ending or your character’s ultimate goal.
Now you know “why” your character is doing what he’s doing, but you also need to know how will your character resolve this conflict?
I know figuring out the beginning and end is usually the easiest part, but getting TO the end is the hardest part. I have this problem every year!
However, having an idea on how your character will save the world or finally get out of bed gives you a way to fill that empty space between the beginning and the end of your novel.
Here’s an example of this brainstorm exercise of the 5W + 1H:
Cinderella (Disney Version)
- Lady Tremaine
- Anastasia Tremaine
- Drizella Tremaine
- Fairy Godmother
- Prince Charming
- Jacques (Jaq)
- Octavius (Gus)
- Various Friendly Animals.
I sure I’m missing a bunch of minor characters, but it has been a while since I’ve sat down and watched Cinderella.
- Cinderella wants to go to the ball, but her wicked stepmother and stepsisters prevent her from going by giving more than necessary chores and destroying her dress.
Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsister cause the conflict for Cinderella, preventing her from going to the ball along with making her life miserable. There is also a minor character story conflict between the mice and the cat.
- Cinderella’s house/garden
- Prince Charming’s castle
I honestly have no idea where Cinderella is located other than “Fairy-Tale Land”, but I’m taking a wild guess and say France in the 1800s according to how to costumes are drawn.
Why does Cinderella need to go to the ball?
- Cinderella just wants to get out of the house and go to a fancy ball for once and maybe even dance with the prince.
- If Cinderella goes to the ball, the prince will see her and fall in love with her, which will cause her to lose her glass slipper. In turn, this results in Prince Charming searching for her with her slipper and eventually their happily ever after ending.
How does Cinderella try to get to the ball?
- First, Cinderella tries to get all her chores done in time, and her animal friends pull together and make her a pretty dress for the ball, but that gets ruined by her wicked sisters.
- But Cinderella manages to go to the ball because her fairy godmother makes an appearance and gives her a ballgown.
As you can see this brainstorming exercise is not an outline, facts and information are all over the place. This is just a good way to get your ideas down on paper/screen. I would recommend making an outline after you have most of your details fleshed out.
Unless you’re a pantser (“seat of your pants” pantser and not an actual pantser), then you’d just go with what comes to you!
Now it’s your turn to try it with your novel idea! I find that doing this type of brainstorming eventually helps when I start outlining for my book since a lot of the main ideas are already on paper.