The art of brainstorming – Research? Or Magic?

January 7, 2009 at 9:41 am (Teresa D'Amario)

Hi all.  Sorry to be a little late today with the post, but I was up verrrry late last night, and I thought I’d share with you a little of what made me late.  Every author gets the question “Where do you get your ideas?”  We get the question in almost every interview.  Invairabley I tell people I get ideas from movies, tv, books, things my dogs do, or anything along those lines.  These things are true, but rarely is life so simple.

We write the complicated, each shifter author.  We write about worlds that exist only in our minds.  But those authors who tell you a world comes to them fully formed is… well, I won’t say they’re misleading you, but maybe misleading themselves.  Each detail an author ads to their paranormal world comes from somewhere.  Sometimes we don’t know where it comes from, but it does have an origin.

Last nite I was busy brainstorming for a non-shifter paranormal.  I Don’t want to give too many details, but I thought I’d share the actual process with you.  First, there are two characters in this play.  Real characters.  Me.  And my Friend.  My friend has a knack.  She asks the questions that send my mind spinning into the world of the beyond, into places never before trudged by man, woman or beast.  How she knows what to ask, I have no clue, but she does.

Me:  I’m stuck.  I have a scene I wrote before and it is just anti climatic.

Friend:  Tell me the scene.

Me:  Hero takes initiative to go stop the villain, but when he gets there, the villain isn’t there.  Instead, he finds himself battling villain’s little cult of followers, all human, so it’s an easy battle. I need something better.

Friend:  Maybe you could have another of villain’s people there?  A 2nd in command.

Me:  I tried that, only he turned out to be a wimp.  Guess I could make him stronger.

Friend:  Maybe you could make the 2nd a woman.  Maybe have the woman try to seduce the hero?

Me:  Hmm, Maybe.  Hero is unseduceable though.  It would fall flat…. Oh wait.  Hero is unseduceable but his friend isn’t.  His friend is a ladies man.  He’ll fall for anything in a skirt.  I could have him be the one, and the hero ends up having to save his butt too.  It would lead right into his book. Hey, that would be absolutely awesome!

Friend:  That could work, she could be a sorcerer (Magick is involved in this story).

Me:  No, not a sorcerer, she’s the priestess of the cult.  She’s taking this friend BECAUSE of is virility (sorry you have to be there to understand that), to cast a spell to steal that part of him for the villain, who well, for all intents and purposes is a bit distressed in that area.  This is perfect.  I can see it now, the priestess having him tied up, preparing her destructive spell.  Hero will have to come in at just the right time.

Friend:  That could work.

Me:  Great!  You’ve done it again!  I owe you a bouquet of flowers if this works!  (By now my mind is spinning in full living color, shapes and images no longer blurred.  An entire scene is growing in my mind, begging to escape. )

So the next thing of course is to write, and I was up until three am and am still not finished with the series of scenes required to set this up and carry it through.  It’s alot of work, for just a few moments in time.  I spent the rest of the night going through the ins and outs of the scene, how the hero finds the cult headquarters, how he discovers the new character with his friend, how he has to save him, the friend’s reaction to all this mess, and what this had to do with the overall plot.  I had to download google earth (New computer) to determine the distance from point A to point B in the story.  I had to research the powers of said priestess.  And I had to sleep?? sleep?  Yeah, the sleep of the damned…. dreams invaded by images of magick and danger. LOL.

The thing is, none of this would have worked if I hadn’t made my husband have dinner to another boring National Geographic special on ancient Egypt earlier in the night.  LOL.  He just shakes his head and takes it in stride, then the instant it was over, changed the TV to NCIS.  LOL.   I’ve seen them all.  Not a single one has offered me any new and surprising tidbits for more than a year, yet still I find myself drawn to them, seeing life as it was once, skewing it to my own personal brand of fiction.

As you see, Brainstorming for an author is not the simple act of a word or phrase, and image or an action creating a scene.  Yet at the same time it is.  My friend offered two pieces of advice that guided me to the creation of this scene:  Make the 2nd in command female, and a sorceress. Combined with my previous research and my previous knowledge on the subject, an entire event was created off those two pieces of advice.  Oh, and don’t forget the magic.  The real magic of the author’s mind.

So the real bit of brainstorming isn’t the simple phrases suggested by my friend. It was the back research. The knowledge already sitting in my brain of how the world really worked, how it works for this story, and what affect the actions of the priestess and the hero’s friends will have on the overall concept of the book.  These things work in tangent, creating a beautiful picture to be read and enjoyed by the masses.

So pick up that next shifter book – and when you read the turning point, the one scene that the entire crux of the plot sits upon, think about it.  How did that author do that???

Yes, well, some things still have to remain secret, or everyone would do it, right? It’s magic!



  1. Karin said,

    Wow. I’m always amazed by how some things that appear so simple, like your friend’s suggestions, can really spur on some great ideas. The scene you described sounds very interesting.

  2. Cathy said,

    That sounds so close (no seducing part) to a conversation I listened to for 3 hours by my granddaughter and her friend. They are 11 years old, the result: an acrylic painting 14 x 20. You HAD to be there to understand everything in the picture! LOL Ah creativity can only be achieved by imagination that never grows up!

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