23 August 2011

A Tree Full of Ideas

To this point, I’ve been offering insights like you already have an idea to write. Silly me, I forgot that this isn’t always the case. Though I will also note that you aren’t alone if you can’t sit down and just start writing -- that blank page intimidates people.

Some writers need to unwind their mind so that they can write. J K Rowling always talked about playing Mine Sweeper on her blog when writing the Harry Potter series. Personally, I play a few games of solitaire, either Spider or FreeCell, to release the burden on my mind.

But that’s just wasting time! Actually, it’s not. Most gurus of Eastern Philosophy would call it “freeing your mind of the mundane world.” Psychologists might call it “disassociation.” Creative types like us, we just call it “unwinding.” Whatever it’s called, the primary act is to open the pathways to allow ideas to flow. If the mind is stuck in the worldly problems of finances, home repair, work stress, and general life issues, it won’t want to allow that elf to frolic with the centaur through the trees.

As Morpheus told Neo in The Matrix – “Free your Mind.”

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

It’s still not working?
Okay, let’s try something else. Think about your favorite movie, television show, book, song, or webpage.

Whoops! Stay with me, I’m not done yet.

The trunk of your Idea Tree is the item you’re thinking about. Forget the plot of the item you’re thinking about and start writing down concepts that they throw out within the script or text. Just remember, as you do this, you’re not looking for plot points. What you’re looking for is the broad concepts. These create the larger limbs of the Idea Tree. Think of these as the limbs that you could use to climb the tree.

Once you have a list of broad concepts, start thinking about each of the concepts and breaking them down. These are the branches that fill the tree and make it large and fluffy. You may have to create a few branches from one subject to find a concept that works. Whittle the concepts down to find a unique idea that works for you.

The final fruit from this will be a concept from which you can write a story.

Let me offer an example to show where I got one of my many ideas.
The movie was I, Robot starring Will Smith.

Broad concepts:
Robots, police, motorcycles, cars, war, civil disobedience, war, medical advances, death

All of these are very broad categories. I needed something more narrowed so I started with the first one on the list.

Robots – artificial intelligence, androids, useful tools, human like, functional, mobile

As I did this, I realized that the narrowing might become something like a vine as it pulled in parts of other concepts already listed.

Robots – Useful Tools – in construction, in war, in medicine
Robots – Useful Tools, Artificial Intelligence – In War – revolts, revolutions, battle lines super soldiers

My final concept came out of this line:
Robots – Useful Tools, Artificial Intelligence – In War – Revolts

It became a series of questions: WHAT IF humans no longer fought wars, but they sent robots to do the fighting? And WHAT IF they lost control of their war robots as they developed an artificial intelligence?

This concept does draw some from its source. I won’t deny the inspiration of the story. It’s hard to avoid leaning on Asimov in science fiction when dealing with Robots. That said, I still must create a unique story. From my perspective, it looks like I might have.

Now I used a piece of popular media as a convenient starting point for these trees because they have base concepts that are easy to find and break open like eggs. After a while, you’ll find that broad concepts that want you’re writing to bring into focus. They don’t require a media focus for the trunk, they become the trunk.

For me, because I do these regularly, it takes five to ten minutes to develop a story concept. When you first start, it will take longer. It may absorb your writing session -- or the next two. That’s okay. You’ll have the ideas bouncing around your melon, forming plot, setting, and character, until you sit down again for another writing session.

Then you’ll be good to go.

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Today's post was inspired by the topic “Where did you get your latest idea?” as part of the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/. This ongoing tour allows you, the reader, travel around the world from author's blog to author's blog.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s posting over at: http://www.sjreisner.com/

If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour: http://merrygoroundtour.blogspot.com/

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