Archive for August 18, 2009

Brainstorming Ideas

Posted in Writing Related on August 18, 2009 by carltonmellick

Over at Bizarro Central, people are talking about how they get their ideas for stories. So I am posting my answer here. I usually get my ideas using a variety of methods, but the one I use the most is a variation of the Ray Bradbury method.

Ray Bradbury’s method for coming up with stories works great, in my opinion. He would write down dozens of words (usually nouns) onto a sheet of paper. He would pull them out of books by flipping through pages and pointing randomly at words. They were words like Skeleton, Scythe, Crowd, Maiden, Wind, Lake, Coffin, etc. Then he would pick a word from the list and think of it as the title of a story. He would try to come up with the most interesting and imaginative plot he could based on that title. So, the Skeleton was about a man who learns one day that his skeleton has awareness and is rebelling against its body. The Crowd was about a mysterious crowd that always shows up at every car crash. Basically, he used a word as a trigger for his imagination.

I do the same thing, but I combine multiple words. I create a list just as Bradbury did. Then I make random combinations of 2, 3 or 4 words. Then I have a list of combinations and if any of them seem like they would make good titles and trigger my imagination in any way I will write a book or story based on them. These books I based on random word combinations: Satan Burger, Electric Jesus Corpse, Razor Wire Pubic Hair, Haunted Vagina, Menstruating Mall, Steel Breakfast Era, Teeth and Tongue Landscape, Ocean of Lard, the Egg Man, War Slut, and the upcoming book: Handsome Squirm.

After I have a title, I think of the most interesting story that could go with that title. Sometimes the title gets straight to the point. Satan Burger is about a fast food place owned by Satan. Haunted Vagina is about a haunted vagina (well, sorta). Ocean of Lard is about pirates on an ocean made of lard. But some of them, like Steel Breakfast Era, really don’t make much sense as titles. However, the words Steel Breakfast Era triggered something in my imagination that gave me the idea for the book. Porno in August is another title that did this. When I randomly combined the words Porno and August together, I came up with the Porno in August short story. For some reason, the word August reminds me of the ocean, so it made me think of a Porno that was being filmed in the middle of the ocean. That’s where the story begins.

Whenever I get stuck while writing a story, I will do this word combination brainstorm exercise and sometimes it will give me an idea for where the plot will go. Perhaps I will combine words to create an object that a character will use such as a glass chainsaw or hyperspace panties. A lot of my chapter titles come from word combinations, especially in Satan Burger and Sausagey Santa, and then I have the chapter based around that title.

That’s just a method I use to trigger my own imagination. There are other ways. Tons of other ways.